Meet Nikhil D’ Souza, singer who launched a love song about soulmates
They say that two souls do not find each other by accident; the whole universe conspires to bring them together.
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Nikhil D’ Souza has communicated just that with his new single ‘Sitaare’ which brings together two beliefs - first that we are all fundamentally stardust and second that our destinies are written in the stars.
The song is an ode to the idea that it is ‘pre-ordained’ that we will meet certain people in our lives. They might come to us in the form of lovers, friends, or enemies; some might even call them soulmates.
Composed by Nikhil, and with the lyrics penned by Pinky Poonawala, Sitaare was launched by the 37-year-old on September 19th, and can be found on several musical platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, YouTube etc.
Nikhil, who is known for his Bollywood hits such as Mere Bina (from the film, Crook), O Gujariya (Queen), and Vaaste, which he sang along with singer, Dhvani Bhanushali, is also known for his participation at the BBC biggest weekend festival, Live at Leeds, and the Great Escape.
He has done supporting gigs for Zac Brown, Striking matches, Lizzie and Xavier Rudd at the O2 institutes, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and headlining his own shows at the Waiting Room and St. Pancreas Old Church.
In 2017, Nikhil released two songs, ‘Beautiful Mind’ and ‘Still in Love, which were hits.’ Beautiful Mind made it to the playlist on BBC radio and was critically well received. In the following year, he released another single ‘Silver & Gold’ and ‘Blind’. His new single ‘Sitaare’ is his first non-film song in Hindi.
Ever since he signed up with East West records of Warner Music, he has since been releasing English songs from the United Kingdom. His music has a distinctive alternative pop, folk styling to it.
Two of his unreleased songs- a remix of ‘Blind’ by EnginEarz and ‘The Fire’ written with Nitin Sawhney were used in the trailers of the popular Netflix TV show ‘Selection Day.’
In a conversation with YSWeekender, he speaks about his musical journey, his early inspirations and personal style, as well as his numerous collaborations with the Bollywood industry.
Edited excerpts from the interview…
YSWeekender: Tell us about your childhood and what made you get into music?
Nikhil D’ Souza: I grew up in Santa Cruz East in Mumbai, Maharashtra and have spent majority of my life there. It was only last year that I moved to Varsova. I majored in Geology in St. Xaviers College, and worked for an oil company in the Middle East for some time. Somewhere along the line, I realised that I was not cut out for a corporate lifestyle, and decided to return to my first passion, which was music.
YSW: Can you tell us about an early musical memory that you look back on fondly?
NDS: While growing up I used to watch a lot of cartoons. What captivated me about them was the background music, which constantly kept me engaged. I would always focus on the beat, the classical rhythm of the track, despite the comedic aspect that was happening on screen. Tom & Jerry was something I loved. It tells the simple story of a relationship between a cat and mouse, with hardly any dialogue, but what kept me going back to watch this TV show was the music.
I remember back in school too, during singing lessons, I was usually called up in the front of class to sing, while the teacher played the piano.
Even when not in class, I was always listening to songs and singing the lyrics.
YSW: What was the first instrument you picked up and how did you go about writing your own songs?
NDS: The acoustic guitar was the first instrument that I picked up. My neighbour had one and he left it at my house one day. I was curious about the instrument, so I picked it up and started strumming it. Since Simon & Garfunkel, Eric Clapton, and artistes who featured on MTV Unplugged were some of the musicians I listened to during my early days, I would attempt to play their songs on my guitar and sing along.
Once I taught myself how to play the guitar, I started playing songs by Sting, the Police, and Jeff Buckley. These singers were my biggest inspirations and it was because of them, that I was inspired to write my own songs.
YSW: Did you ever have your own band?
NDS: My first band was formed during my college days in Xavier's. I used to be part of an acapella group in the college when a few musicians noticed me in our hostel and asked me if I was interested in forming a band. We called ourselves, Mr. Jons Band.
My parents have been a huge support when it came to me following my dreams and passions. The hard work that they put in is almost like a religion, and their work ethic is something that has made me work hard to do what I do.
YS Weekender: Can you tell us about your musical preferences?
NDS: I think great vocals are something that captures me. I tend to gravitate towards the melody of a given song and its structure. Radiohead and Damien Rice are some of the bands that influence me when it comes to vocals. When I sing or compose a song, I ask myself ‘Is this something they would be proud of?’
I have often been told that my voice is special, and I believe that as a singer any song should feature your voice. Every singer has his or her influences, and ultimately, we are the sum of our influences.
YSW: Can you talk about the launch of your new single Sitaare? Who worked with you on the track?
NDS: Sitaare is my first non-film song in Hindi that I composed and the lyrics were written by Pinky Poonawala. Initially, I only had the verse and chorus and it felt enough. Later, I realised it needed more to take it further and give it depth and so, Pinky wrote one of my favorite lines which became the bridge section. We only stopped working on the lyrics when we had something we absolutely loved and the message was clear.
Our next step was recording the song and I finally had the chance to work with one of my favorite producers in the Indian Indie scene, Rohan Ramanna, who instantly understood the vibe of the song. We quickly completed the recording process at Island City Studios and Rohan took it to the next level, by producing a song that has been played on loop ever since we finished it in July.
YS Weekender: What is your advice to aspiring singers and songwriters?
NDS: I encourage aspiring singers to incorporate unpredictability in their music. You need to see where this unpredictability can go, and the places it can take you. Keep things natural and interesting, and never go about something, which is forced. I think the key to what makes a good song, is to not be predictable.
YS Weekender: What do you enjoy doing most in your free time?
NDS: I like cooking a lot and baking bread is one of my favorite hobbies. I like to try my hand at various new types of artisan loaves. Besides this, I love running. I go for a run at least three times a week. It keeps my mind fresh and leaves me feeling rejuvenated.