With a mix of Indian and European heritage, Ajay Mathur is a talented singer/songwriter who is truly a master of his craft. His musical abilities (especially the brilliance of his guitar playing) and methodical lyrics show his passion for the human condition and our place in the world. With a worldwide following, Ajay’s success has been plentiful and he continues to soar on the charts with his newest release “A Matter of Time.”
Melissa Arditti: On your Reverbnation page, it lists “Sounds Like” John Mayer, John Butler Trio, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Matt Nathanson. I personally found some of the music, especially the tracks How High, Making a Fool Out of Me, and Rise and Shine, along with the lyrics to be akin to Tom Petty. Was he ever an influence for you?
Ajay Mathur: Yes, Tom Petty is in a class of his own. I admire him as an inspired artist who has always gone his own way. His music and especially his lyrics have a depth and maturity that I love. I take it as a wonderful compliment to think he could be seen as an influence on my music. I would absolutely love to open for Tom Petty when he plays live someday. That would be my musical nirvana.
M.A: The song “Mister” definitely has a feel of Bob Dylan meets the Beatles. Listening to it, there is an essence of a classic mid-western bar love song coming into fruition. When your write a song like this, do you ever envision the type of place or surrounding that the song would work well in?
A.M: I think people associate many different things with songs – memories, sights, smells, and feelings. Part of the beauty of music is that it enables people to create images to associate within their own imaginations. I do have my own pictures that go with songs and they come in with the flow. When I write a song, I don’t try to picture what surrounding it would work well in, at least not consciously anyway. I did get messages from my listeners like ‘waking up to this song every morning makes me feel really good!’ or ‘we did the opening dance at our wedding to your wonderful song.’
M.A: The album title “A Matter of Time” seems like a cathartic one, what was your inspiration behind the name?
A.M: I wanted to pick one song that would represent the true essence of the album and I chose A Matter of Time. That became the title of the album as well. The message is close to my heart. I believe that a lot of the struggles we have – personal, political and economical could be solved with real, genuine dialogue and a belief that compromise is not only possible, but also essential. A Matter of Time also combines my Indian heritage with my European roots.
M.A: Your music has reached across the globe with continued acclaimed success. Do you find that there is any difference between your European and North American fans?
A.M: So far I haven’t really seen a difference as to the popularity of specific songs. I do know that mainland European listeners are more receptive to melody and groove and because English is a second language – except for the U.K. and Ireland – there’s a lesser focus on the lyrical content. My album is getting a lot of exposure in North America too where people go deeper into the lyrics of my songs and enjoy better what the song has to give as a whole. Everyone seems to appreciate and enjoy the excellent guitar playing, which doesn’t fall short on my album.
M.A: Can you describe what a “live” performance would be like for someone who has never been to one of your shows before?
A.M: I love playing live. I really enjoy the intimacy of performing in small concert venues where I can feel the audience breathe. The conversation and interaction that takes place during these performances is magical and very fulfilling for me. I love to experiment and interpret my songs a little different each time I perform and tend to open up the songs for improvisation and new grooves. I loved the way Eric Clapton took ‘Layla’ from the album and completely transformed it for MTV unplugged live version, turning Layla into a new song – fantastic! That’s how I like to play my music live.
My basic live setup is a trio – drums, bass and me on the guitar and I love the elements of ‘jams’ during a live performance and tend to bring in guest musicians. These performances sometimes take my songs in a different direction and give them new and usually very interesting twists. Playing live gives me the freedom to interpret my own songs and they can sound different at each performance. That’s what I love most about playing live.
M.A: It is evident that you use a plethora of instruments, are there any specific ones that you have yet to use and feel passion about to include in future albums?
A.M: I love to experiment with different instruments. When I start writing a song, I have yet to discover what the end result will sound like. In my head, I do hear the song in a specific sound, a mood or a groove and I look for the instruments that would add the right flavour to the song. I have the advantage and the privilege of having been exposed to instruments that other songwriters might not have. I am intrigued by the combinations of instruments that might not normally fit together and I’m not shy to use them. I think that especially the combination of rock guitars with Tablas on my current album is unique and fits perfectly. I’m sure my upcoming songs won’t fall short of rich instrumentation and there are many instruments out there that will find a home in my songs, especially some lesser known but very exciting string instruments.
M.A: What challenges do you find with being a singer/songwriter in today’s competitive music industry?
A.M: I think the music industry has always been competitive and good songs have always managed to attract listeners through proper exposure. The challenge for an independent songwriter/artist today is the exposure. Since there are so many more opportunities and channels to expose your music through, singer/songwriters today have the freedom to make music and market it they way they want. But, unless you have a management and A&R working for you, managing and finding the time to do all that’s required to promote your music and at the same time create new music does become a huge challenge to overcome.
Another challenge to overcome lies in the prevalent mind-set of some highly formatted mainstream media who are still caught up in the out-dated notion that if an artist is not represented by a record company or a management, the artist is not worth looking at. This out-dated notion and format constraints block out the independent artist from these mainstream channels, thereby cutting off a huge potential audience from some excellent new music by independent singer/songwriters.
Thank you Ajay for making this interview happen! I wish you the best in your musical journey ahead.
Fore more info on AJ Mathur and to listen to his music, visit: http://www.reverbnation.com/actofchoice