Words by Keane Fletcher
I think it was John Lennon who first sung 'life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.' Well, not only can I not think of a more apt way to describe 2020, but the lyric also calls to mind a philosophy that artists of all disciplines must grapple with from time to time: that sometimes the best ideas come to you when you least expect them.
After all, that's exactly what happened when Sydney-based non-binary musician Nikhil Murthy (aka THE VIOLET WHISPERS) sat down to pen their latest release 'FLOATING', a catchy, guitar-driven piece of alt-pop that will have your dopamine receptors firing on all cylinders.
'With this song, it just came to me in pieces. So like I would write a guitar riff, then I’d be walking around and the trumpet solo section came to me fully formed out of nowhere. And then sometimes in the studio itself you realise that something that worked at home is void now and improvise & come up with something way better. So there’s no set way. What is key is being open to the universe and not being so tied down to a plan.'
A change of pace from the raucous & exuberant sounds of past singles 'Heaven Knows' and 'Roads in Paris', 'FLOATING' captures the fragility & vulnerability in Nikhil’s voice as it soars over folk-laden acoustic guitars, tranquil pianos, and subtle electronic soundscapes.
'This is me at my most honest & raw. This song acts as a diary of a time in my life when I felt so emotionally, physically & spiritually removed from the core of myself that I felt absolutely disillusioned by the world I existed in. Sometimes we need to turn to our loved ones to nurture us back to health & to simply remind us that we are worthy of all the wonderful things in this life.'
With 'FLOATING' hitting all good streaming platforms right this very moment, we sat down with Murthy to talk all things music, inspo, and how music can help bring people together. Check it out below!
1- Where in the world are you based at the moment?
2- How would you describe your sound? Who are your musical influences?
Really diverse because all my songs are quite different from each other but are unified by the fact I have my own point of view. Influences include Modeselektor, Frank Zappa, A Tribe Called Quest, Carter Burwell, Jorge Ben Jor, Pig Destroyer, Kehlani, Laura Marling, Dan Deacon. So many more as well!
3- How does the songwriting process usually work for you? Do you have a routine when it comes to writing and recording, or does inspiration usually take you by surprise?
With this song, it just came to me in pieces. So like I would write a guitar riff, then I’d be walking around and the trumpet solo section came to me fully formed out of nowhere. And then sometimes in the studio itself you realise that something that worked at home is void now and so you improvise and come up with something way better. There’s no set way. What is key is being open to the universe and not being so tied down to a plan.
4- Tell us a little bit about your upcoming single 'FLOATING'. What was the genesis of this song and the process behind it? What do you hope listeners take away from it?
You know I really wanted to showcase a vulnerable and gentle side to my artistic expression. The previous two singles ('Heaven Knows' and 'Roads in Paris') are epic productions. I’m really passionate about making sure I’m not pigeonholed into a sound or mood so this is the first single that is giving people the wider palette of what I do. The other major thing was working extremely hard to find my literal voice. I’ve never sung better & it’s the first so my that sounds like how I wanted to sound vocally. So I’m very chuffed.
5- With the state of the world as it is, do you believe music can help bring people together? In what ways can it be used as a tool for bridging differences or addressing difficult topics?
Yeah absolutely. It’s one of the greatest art forms. At its highest form, art can immediately connect & communicate to people difficult, poignant, complex ideas in a digestible manner. Even the recent viral trend of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams being used all across social media is potent example of this. A song written in 1977 connected people across the globe no matter what their age, colour, gender etc is. That’s the power of this art form.
6- How do you feel the internet has affected your career as a songwriter? Do you believe streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud are making things easier or harder for artists?
I think on a great level, we are able to have our music easily accessible to the whole world without having to spend a tonne of money on distribution (vinyl, compact discs etc). So it’s powerful that people can access and listen to our music without being ostracised because of their income or social status.
But for people to really pay attention I don’t think anything builds your audience better (or at least an audience that stays with you) than getting out there, playing shows and performing for an audience you can witness with your own eyes. That’s why it’s important for live music to come back so that upcoming bands can build their audience and not to mention have fun playing their songs they worked so hard on to people.
7- Who would be your dream collaboration?
I am not collaborative kind of artist. But I love the idea of being a fly on the wall in someone else’s session and learning.
8- If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
The major thing I would change honestly are the sexist, gender, racist, toxic attitudes that are still ever present in our industry. I’m very lucky to not have had bad experiences (even though I’m a brown skinned, non binary person) because I work with wonderful people. But the things I hear from my mates really saddens me because I thought we’d come pretty far, but really we have so much to do.
9- What's next for you?
Just to keep on working. About to track instrumentals and vocals for two new songs which are my best yet ('Red Flowers', 'Blue Skies of an Idealist'). People will not be able to guess the sound of these tracks. I’m determined a eclectic & wide ranging discography. These two songs illustrate this step.
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!