BBC Radio-backed Asian musician Druv Kent gears for new EP ‘Don’t Burn Away’; talks about journey

For over two decades now, indie singer and musician Druv Kent has garnered worldwide acclaim for his music. Being the first Asian musician, whose work has been backed by BBC Radio, Druv brings a blend of Indian and western music to the plate. His recent song, Bit At A Time talked about the loss of innocence in current times. In an exclusive interview with Music Beat, the popular artist, who has over 110K Spotify listeners, talks about his music, story behind every song, his lockdown phase, their upcoming live but different concert, and his second mini-album, Don’t Burn Away, which will be releasing tomorrow.

With nine English and two Hindi singles, 110K Spotify listeners, over two million YouTube views and now releasing your second album … how do you view your journey so far?

The journey’s been rather extraordinary … for a banker who wrote his first song in 2013 … to receiving international acclaim for my releases … it feels very gratifying. When BBC Radio 2 playlisted my debut single, Little Bit of God, it set the bar high and put the pressure on from the get go. I feel fortunate that some of music’s legends in the UK, US, and India have helped me polish my recordings, sourced collaboration opportunities, and spoken loudly about my songs. So, while on the one hand it’s been like riding a roller coaster – akin to jumping off a cliff without a parachute –I do feel super blessed as to how fulfilling and fun it has been.

Be it your recent single, 'Bit At A Time' or others, your every song has a story! Can you tell us more about it?

There’s an inner child in each of us that believes in goodness, purity, love and where, our heroes are larger than life and life is beautiful. That was – for many of us – our view of the world, when we were very young. This song is about finding that part of us again. How we can uncover that inner child, before we began to lose our innocence … a little Bit At A Time.

Your music is both contemporary and yet comprises of bass, blues, guitars and meaningful lyrics. Can you tell us more on the song ideation and it’s making?

Songs are really stories set to music that come from either an experience or even a magical world you’re trying to recreate … and often a combination of both. Ideas for instruments, words, and beats – all come in snatches during the song writing process. How they interact and best convey that story is key – and the permutations can be intimidating. So it really is a process of trusting your instincts and it’s all one crazy experiment until – almost rather astonishingly – the song unveils itself and… a song is born.

How was your lockdown phase? What key things have you learnt or done, apart from music?

I’ve learned to appreciate bars and restaurants more, value medical staff even higher, and to be grateful for a world where some of us have a comfortable space to socially isolate ourselves – not everyone does. And I’ve poured my heart into my family, staying in touch with friends, staying healthy and sane, and into my music.

Your Covid-inspired song 'Till We Meet Again' struck a chord with the audience. Can you tell us about it more?

I think the lyrics of Till We Meet Again hit a real nerve as the song is about our lives ‘today’ –the family and friends we can’t be with thanks to this awful pandemic. The track is still breaking new ground because the world has not moved on yet as this crisis sadly remains very much a part of our lives.

Let's talk about your EP 'Don't Burn Away' and the songs it comprises

Don’t Burn Away is a five-song mini-album, my second album offering, which was to be released in April but, along with a massive international tour, was pushed out due to Covid, it will now release globally tomorrow on 30 October 2020.

The track Don’t Burn Away is a song of hope and a call to change how we treat our precious planet. If there ever was a time for us to share a unified view on global warming, it is perhaps now. I hope the song can help capture some of that. The song Higher Ground is a racy, pulsy, hooky track I pre-released as a single in July to wide, international popular acclaim. The track In Your Name is a new song about our political climate and standing up for what we believe, particularly relevant in a post George Floyd world. The singles Till We Meet Again and Bit At A Time are also part of the five-track EP, all songs about the current world we live in.

Was 'Bit At A Time' inspired by your life?

Yes, to the extent that all my music seems to at some level have something to do with my experiences. I started writing the song first about my two young boys … and it slowly meandered into thoughts about my early years growing up. Now when I listen to the song it sounds as much about that as it does about a world we are all part of that is slowly losing its innocence … a little bit at a time.

How do you manage blending Indian and western music?

This mostly happens subconsciously and non-deliberately. If I have to think about it … my instrumentation sensibilities are more instinctively ‘Western’ leaning … but I grew up listening to Kishore Kumar and RD Burman, as well as James Taylor and Fleetwood Mac. So, it’s all one beautiful amalgamation in my head, which is what I feel my melodic patterns often are – a blend of both. What I do find is that my lyrical sensibilities – in both my English and Hindi songs – tend to cover topics that I found a love for through Urdu poetry and ghazals … around the soft and the sublime. So, for me the fusion is in the musicality, melody line and the lyrical direction of the song. For example, the song Little Bit of God has been playlisted at several US gospel stations in Texas, but it comes really more from a Buddhist or Sikh spiritual thought – that we are all one.

The Druv Kent Band has a live digital show on Sunday, 8 November. How different is a digital audience … do they match the live stage feel?

I think the live digital musical experience thus far, has been lacking on two fronts. Too many musicians have not given it their all – performing at short notice from home and without great sound. Equally, the audience watches these on their personal devices for a few minutes – and then is understandably happy to be distracted away to the other things going on in their day. What we’re trying to do is different – to try and get as close to the real thing as we can. We will have the full five-piece Druv Kent Band performing live (we can gather – socially distanced – in Singapore) and with concert-quality sound, lighting and using multiple cameras. We request audiences to earmark 45 minutes of their Sunday to sit down in front of perhaps a Smart TV with surround sound with family, friends, drinks and food, and kicking back to have a genuine live concert experience. The audience may be masked and it may be less interactive than the real thing, but if both sides invest in the live experience, I think it could rock.

Our first gig is on Sun, 8th November online at 5:30 pm India time and tickets are already available on the Druv Kent Facebook page and Druv Kent website. I would love a large audience keen to immerse themselves into a great evening of entertainment.

Since your debut in 2014, BBC Radio has backed your work. How does it feel to be the first Asian musician to earn support of a globally renowned radio station?

As an independent musician to get the backing of the largest radio station in the world is a massive pat on the back. To be the first – and among the only – based in Asia for 20 years, is a badge of pride. It opens many doors for me to have this backing. But, I am equally proud of being featured at live festivals, having songs playlisted on Spotify or Apple Music, or performing at large venues internationally or even performing intimately to new audiences. It is all a part of the journey of trying to go where artists from India have had little opportunity to go, outside of Bollywood.

What next is in the making?

I am hoping to use the Don’t Burn Away campaign to raise awareness about global warming, something I care deeply about. Separately, I have been approached by several corporate houses to create specific music for them, which I have been doing. And, the Druv Kent Band will also continue performing private, online live shows.

On the creative side, I am working on a set of songs I have written in Nashville and Sweden in collaboration with some of the biggest names in both those musical centres. Those songs are absolutely beautiful, and different in feel and style from what has come so far. So, exciting stuff waits in the near future!

Are there any Hindi songs you are working on?

I am working on two Hindi songs about themes close to my heart, and I am separately in discussion with a Bollywood filmmaker for two tracks in a film. The film needs more time though given the pandemic. But, I will certainly be creating more Hindi songs as well.

Lastly, how are you handling music making during corona times? Any message you want to give to the people?

Do as much yourself as you can. This is the time to learn new related skills. I have learned more about home recording, mixing, and video editing in the last five months than I have in the last five years. Stay positive. This too shall pass. If you need positivity, join me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and on Spotify and Apple Music. Music can always put a smile on your face.