Mikey McCleary, composer of the recently released film Waiting, wears many hats. He collaborated with Lucky Ali (his brother-in-law) on three albums and cites that as the reason why he moved to Mumbai from New Zealand. The singer, composer, performer and songwriter who is known for his unique style of music talks to Pandolin about the music of Waiting and his upcoming project with Yash Raj Films.

Mikey McCleary

Mikey McCleary

You are a composer, songwriter, producer and performer. What are your first memories of getting inspired by music?

My parents tell me that I used to love classical music when I was about 2 or 3 years old. My strongest memories are when I was 12 and started playing drums along with all my favorite rock albums.


Tell us a little bit about your music journey and what brought you to Mumbai.

After I finished my studies in New Zealand I moved to London and worked in a music studio in Soho. One day an Indian man came to my studio and introduced himself as my new brother – in – law. My sister had been traveling in India and got married to an Indian man (our family found out after the marriage). He was a singer but had not recorded any music. I spent a weekend with him and we made two songs together, ‘Oh Sanam’ and ‘Sunoh’. That was Lucky Ali. And we then did three albums together and it was this collaboration that brought me to India.

Having lived in several places, how have the various cultures influenced your music?

I’m lucky to have had a wide range of cultural experiences and this has really had a valuable influence on my music. However I do believe that we now live in a world where music belongs to everyone and any composer can take musical influences from any culture and blend them however they choose. Music is global now and anything goes.

You have done covers for a lot of Bollywood classics. How do you give them a fresh spin? There must also be a lot of pressure since you’re working with a classic.

Personally I think these great classics suit a live band approach rather than an electronic music approach. I like using the trumpet and sax. I also like unique sounding singers. But the original versions are simply beautiful, nothing can come close to replacing them.


Mikey McCleary

When it comes to Bollywood, what kind of movies do you associate with?

A mixture. I like to split my time between more independent global style cinema such as Waiting and Margarita with a Straw, and full on Bollywood projects like Befikre – Aditya Chopra’s new film for which I have produced the songs and am also composing the background music.

What thought goes into selecting your projects?

A combination of connecting with the content and the sensibilities of the director.

How did Waiting happen and which songs have you composed?

I’ve composed all the songs (of the film). Anu Menon, the director, approached me. We met and spent some time discussing the music and watching a rough cut of the film. We were on a similar wave length about what the film needed musically.


What’s your approach to composing when you’re signed for a project?

(I) try not to have a predictable approach. Be instinctive. Experiment.

Who are your favorite composers and singers from Bollywood?

Vishal Shekhar, Amit Trivedi, Shalmali Kholgade, Suman Shridhar, Anushka Manchanda, Rachel Varghese and Saba Azad to name a few.

And which upcoming projects are you currently working on?

Befikre, starring Ranveer Singh, is the next big one. Other projects are on the way but haven’t been publicly announced yet.

Photo ofMikey McCleary
Mikey McCleary
Job Title
Composer, Song Writer, Singer