Interview | FFS 5 with Ajay Mathur

Ajay Mathur has lived a life worthy of a motion picture. A Switzerland import by way of New Delhi, he grew up surrounded by music and the arts. A painter, singer, and songwriter, Mathur found inspiration in meeting his idols—the likes of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and the Beatles—while coming up in India. Since, he’s topped charts throughout Europe, flourishing into an artist skirting psychedelic folk and good ol’ rock’n’roll, much like his legendary contemporaries. On top of it all—as his entry into our ongoing ‘FFS 5’ series will attest—he’s a dog lover.

Mathur’s latest tune, ‘I Need You Now’, recalls 70s and 80s era psychedelic rock. Its music video sells it best, replete with gorgeous, seemingly hand-drawn graphic designs that sell Mathur’s Sgt. Peppers influences. Hot air balloons, sunflowers, castles, and sphinxes are only the half of it—it’s a fun sight to see. Occasionally, Mathur himself explodes from the videos center, performing an inspiriting tune that waxes a philosophical line with notes on peace, love, and togetherness. Its driving melodies, meanwhile, are enough to make Jackson Browne blush.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

Gladly! I was born and raised in India and spent my education years in the capital New Delhi. After graduating from the university, I flew to Switzerland and have been living there ever since. I’m a Swiss citizen. I grew up in a family of artists and successful musicians, so music was all around me growing up. At school, I was a passionate painter artist and loved to write. I remember wanting to become a journalist back then. It was probably meeting the Beatles in India that sparked my interest in making music. It was my cousin who showed me the first three chords and got me started on my exciting musical journey. I started playing in bands shortly afterwards, in the final years of school, playing n clubs, concert venues and campuses across the major cities in India. Playing in a club in Mumbai is where I met Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and that was another one of those defining moments.

Coming to Switzerland opened a world of possibilities. I recorded five albums with my band Mainstreet in the 80’s and 90’s with multiple chart successes and tours across Europe. As an independent solo artist, I’ve so far released four albums that got me a nomination for Grammy awards, Germany’s “Best English Language Album of the Year 2018” award, top chart rankings on US Top 50 Rock, US Top 80 Independent, US Top 50 AC and Americana (AMA) airplay charts as well continuous ranking on the European Indie Music chart. All these have been defining moments in my music career.

As an artist, how do you define success?

When lot of people listen to my music and I become a household name, I’d call that success. The fact is that “success” doesn’t really define or drive my creative process. It is the joy that I’m looking for when I compose, produce and record and when a song feels and sounds just the way I had it in mind. Once the song has been released, I look for engagement with my audience and with music industry professionals. Engagement like when my song is streamed and downloaded by listeners and people start adding my songs to their own playlists – this is what’s happening now with my single, ’I Need You Now’.

I love to engage with radio and media professionals look forward to hearing what they have to say about my music. I look forward to every radio playlist addition and every review or interview in magazines. The real bonus for me is, when my song moves something in the lives of my listeners, and when they sit down and write to me and share their experiences with me. I guess that’s what I would call success when conversations like these happen. I am fortunate that lot of my listeners and fans share their thoughts with me regularly via email or on social media. I love these conversations.

What do you find your greatest struggle to be when it comes to the music business?

I guess the greatest struggle independent artists have, is to get noticed and to get their music played. That’s common knowledge. While there are a plethora of experts and gurus giving advice to independent artists, I feel that I must do things that feel right to me and not blindly follow expert advice. The greatest struggle, or I would rather say the greatest effort I put in is to find the best partners who would help promote my music. I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve been working with since the last two albums.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist and as a band? What do you hope to achieve?

Making music for me is a journey with no final goal or destination. Along the way, I hope that the community of people who enjoy my music grows with every song I release.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

I love my dog Mojo – a black Labrador Retriever – and I love going for long walks with him. As a dog owner, it’s quite common that you get into conversations with a lot of people. I love conversations with people, especially strangers and listen to their stories. People love to talk and tell their stories if you let then. Trust me, there are so many great stories out there and lots of songs in those stories.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm