- Nikhil D’Almeida on the art of making music
Hailing from a family with a wholehearted appreciation for music, Nikhil D’Almeida too was inspired by the variety of musical influences that was a part of his childhood so it was the next natural step that he too broke into the music industry.
Brunch spoke to him on how his journey has been, and he shared his opinion on the current industry in Sri Lanka as well.
What inspired you to get into music?
I come from a music-loving family; a large one as well, so the variety of musical influences spread out over the decades is bountiful indeed.
Apart from having good music played around me constantly through my dad’s CD and tape collections, where I was introduced to bands like The Beatles, Toto, The Eagles, to artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and David Gray, my family also has deep choral roots with almost everyone being part of a group at some point in time. So the choir background really helped me build a strong foundation.
If there was one particular moment though, I’d say it was when I stumbled upon The Script play a live show on TV one day and 15-year-old me thought that was just the coolest thing ever and it gave me an itch that I still haven’t managed to shake.
Not long after, I picked up a guitar and started teaching myself and after successfully annoying my entire neighbourhood to death, there was never another option really – I was going to be a musician!
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career?
I think the biggest challenge has not been one particular thing but one that’s more constant – trying to navigate the harsh industry in a part of the world that doesn’t really have the tools to propel artists into the international arena.
There’s also an abundance of con artists in this industry, as I’m sure there are in the music industry worldwide, so working with people who are on your wavelength, people you can trust and aren’t waiting for you to fail, is another challenge for sure.
Which song of yours is closest to your heart and why?
It’s a song I haven’t released yet, but as for why, I think it’s because that was one of the most cathartic experiences I’ve had writing a song and it came about so organically.
What is the procedure behind your song-making?
I always write a song on my own. Songwriting is a very intimate thing for me. I’m not that artist who can sit in a room full of people and just get into an emotion and write away. I’ve always admired people who have that personality because it would make collaborating so much easier, but I work best when I’m in my own little bubble.
When it comes to producing the song though, I’d say I’m still experimenting with methods. I’m only two songs in, so in terms of trying out a number of different techniques and shaping something permanent, I’m figuring it out as I go along.
I am very meticulous and can be uncompromising when it comes to my music, although this sometimes can lead me to try and do too much or reach for something that isn’t accessible to me yet in terms of a sound, but every day I work on it I learn a ton and eventually, I will get to where I need to be.
How important do you think it is to write original music?
It’s the most important thing for me. And it’s great to see the quantity of original English music rise in the country of late. There are a lot of artists popping up and releasing music, it’s what we need.
We’ve been stuck in the cycle of covering the same songs from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s and that is still very much the prominent commercial music culture in Colombo at least, but the more original music released, that culture will start to change.
What is the message you want to send out with your music?
Currently with my first EP, I’ve kept the message very personal. Internal battles I have with myself, navigating trauma, frustration, healing, and hope are some of the themes.
The songs I’ve directed outward, thoughts about the world, or love and relationships with people, are in the bank for the next EP.
What is your opinion on the music industry in Sri Lanka?
English music makes up a very small portion of the music industry in this country. I can’t speak for the larger portion of it as I’ve not experienced it first hand, but as far as the niche goes, I can for certain say it’s growing. Just last year alone in the midst of a pandemic we saw a massive amount of new music released.
As for the direction, there’s a lot left to be desired.
There are no big labels or big distribution services for artists making English music and there aren’t any real artist management options that have the necessary resources to back an artist and propel them to higher levels.
Just touching on my experience here, I’ve been handed fully fledged contracts from people trying to start “labels” with no resources, no distribution channels, or production teams set up, but they want you to sign over your art to them with zeo guarantee of it amounting to anything. The approach is all wrong and sitting at these meetings are very telling of the mentality behind the industry as it stands. The message is the same every time you walk out the door as well and it’s that you missed out on the next big thing, only to see that venture collapse and have to close shop eventually.
The talent is clear as day, but the execution of growing into an industry that keeps up with the rest of the world needs a ton of work. There are a few good people doing the best they can for the industry here but even they aren’t backed completely by the people above them so at the end of the day, their hard work doesn’t pay off as it should.
I remain positive that with the right tools and systems in place, our talented artists will captivate the world.
In terms of Covid-19, how do you think this third wave will affect the music industry and do you have any suggestions or plans on how to keep it alive?
I don’t see a dip of late.
Musicians are playing every night of the week! The first and second wave did affect those of us playing in the commercial circuit quite significantly and I’m sure all of us contemplated our life choices in the last two years, but things are pretty much back to normal now albeit this isn’t the case for everyone just yet. Some people were really affected to a point where recovery isn’t as straightforward and it isn’t fair to leave them out.
In terms of original music, it’s only gone up since the pandemic. With people forced to spend so much time indoors, I’m sure that had an effect on the volume of music being released.
The industry is well and truly alive!
What is 2022 looking like for you? Any future plans?
A lot more original music! Last year was an introduction. This year I’ll be looking to establish myself a bit more as someone who’s consistent in churning out original work.
The third song on the EP is currently in production and will be out soon…there’s a fourth that will follow and then it’s on to the next bunch of songs.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you want to follow my journey and my music, connect with me on Instagram, subscribe on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music to hear what I’ve released so far. @nikhildalmeida will work for all these platforms.