Important to give a personal edge to every song you sing: Ash King
His versatility is driven by his need to be the best that he can be. He is the voice behind chartbusters like Meherbaan (Bang Bang), Aunty Ji (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu), I Love You (Bodyguard) and several others. Ash King has had the entire nation swaying to his songs. He describes his latest song ‘Baarish’ from Half Girlfriend as an ‘intensely romantic and easy listening number.’ Known for his R&B style, Ash who hails from a family of musicians indulges us in a conversation about his personal influences, the changing trends in Bollywood music and his upcoming tracks.
Given your lineage, was music an obvious choice or more of a personal progression?
For me, it was a personal progression and not an obvious choice because we (my family) didn’t do music as a business. We do music in my family because it is in our heritage. But when you are doing it as a career and making money, it is going to have a business edge involved. So you need to learn the business, you need to be ready for it and you must know what you need to do and what you don’t. These are not obvious things; these are things that you learn, so yes, it was a personal progression.
I have the best of both worlds since I’m from the West and I’ve also grown up listening to Hindi music
You started with a lot of R&B influenced music, how was the transition to Bollywood music? Do you still pursue R&B?
I definitely still pursue it. I’m making some singles and working on independent music. And I think that R&B is definitely doing well in India. I use my R&B style in Bollywood music. The transition comes from the composers, who are making songs that suit my R&B style. That’s good for me, because I get to be myself in the songs that I sing in Bollywood.
You’ve lent your voice to diverse Bollywood songs. What do you attribute this versatility to?
My eccentricity! I’m very daring and I love singing different types of songs. At times I think I could be overconfident, but then necessity is the mother of all creation. You have to have that need to be the best that you can be; that need makes me try different things and hence I’m singing songs from ‘Dil gira dafatan’ (Delhi 6) with A R Rahman to ‘Aunty Ji’ (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu) with Amit Trivedi and ‘I love you’ (Bodyguard) with Pritam. They are three completely different genres!
Now with ‘Baarish’, I feel like I’m expanding myself into different genres and singing what my take of that genre would be.
Do you have a signature style that you add to every song? If yes, how do you define this personal style?
I don’t actually do it (my style) on purpose. I just the sing the song the way I feel. The only thing I make sure is that I’m not putting on a pseudo personality or character. I don’t like pseudo characters in serious songs. If it’s a comedy song, then it’s funny, but not everybody can do comedy. I think it’s very important to give a personal edge and personal feeling to every song that you’re singing.
At times I think I could be overconfident, but then necessity is the mother of all creation
Coming to your latest song, ‘Baarish’ from Half Girlfriend, how would you describe the melody?
The melody is very intense and romantic. It shows the insecurity of the lead hero, who is an alpha male. His insecurity being that he cannot speak English. It’s ironic that I am singing this song, given that I have come from outside India and my first language is English. I’d describe ‘Baarish’ as a very romantic and easy listening number, something that you could listen to over and over again and not be bothered by.
How do you prepare or rehearse for a recording?
I sit with the composer, write the lyrics and then read them to ensure that I am pronouncing them properly. I understand the meaning of the lyrics; I think of what situation in my life can I relate to with those lyrics. In terms of the melody of the song, I make the melody very simple in my head and then slowly get into the song. It’s very hard, because nowadays, you’re introduced fresh to a song and are expected to deliver it in three hours as though you’ve known the song for years. Some composers are kind enough to let me hear the song for a couple of days and sing it after.
Having been around in Bollywood for a while now, how do you see the trends in music changing? Are the songs being offered to you also changing with time?
I see the trend changing with western vocal delivery definitely coming in big time. But I think the songs being offered to me are not changing as quickly. Because you have to understand that the mass audience and their taste in music isn’t changing quickly. India is one of the biggest countries in the world; you can’t expect everyone’s taste to change. Plus the territory is so big! If you look at the majority of the country, they are still listening to Kumar Sanu from the 90s.
I think that the tastes aren’t changing so quickly, but with new composers coming in, matching a new sound with a more accepted and digestible composition is possible. It suits me fine because I have the best of both worlds since I’m from the West and I’ve also grown up listening to Hindi music.
Nowadays, you’re introduced fresh to a song and are expected to deliver it in three hours as though you’ve known the song for years
Which other songs are you currently working on?
I’m working on a couple of new singles and some regional songs. I have a new Marathi song releasing in at end of May and a new Bengali song coming out soon. Bengali songs are quite important to me because I do a lot of shows in Bengal and I really feel at home when I’m there. Singles are the way forward now for me. I look forward to making videos and releasing them. Bollywood when it happens is great and I’m always ready to sing for another movie.