While most stars arrive on cover shoots with music blasting from speakers, Darshan Raval made a rather subdued entry on the cover shoot. His only request was a black coffee, which he sipped while waiting for the team to set up the shoot. Unsurprisingly, music flowed into the room quite naturally. The singer started humming a song from Laal Singh Chaddha, transporting everyone around into a state of nirvana. The calming voice set a soothing tone for the shoot, putting a smile on everyone’s face, and I guess that the kind of power Raval’s music holds on his fans.
The singer, a passionate young kid in college, channeled his love for music into making covers initially and posting them on YouTube. The songs got much love from musicophiles, which then led to live shows in Ahmedabad. He was then discovered by Bollywood after his stint on India’s Raw Star in 2014. While his first 2014 original composition, Pehli Mohabbat, was an instant hit and gained him fans by the hordes, Raval still considers Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo as his biggest break. The 27-year-old piped Jab Tum Chaho for the 2015 release, for which he credits Himesh Reshammiya for helping him bag the song. And the rest is history.
The young musician has an impressive number of songs to his credit, both from Bollywood films and originals. His fan-following on social media is strong, with 15.4 million on Instagram to be precise. And well, Raval feels proud of his Blue Family (a term he uses for his fans), and says he’s looking forward to making them groove to his new tracks.
The singer sits down for a chat with us, and discusses his career, Instagram trends, and reels, the changing movements in the music industry, and his plans ahead.
Starting a career fairly young has its pros and cons. Looking back, do you think you missed out on some of the experiences that your peers might have seen?
Once I gained popularity, I think I missed out on many things, usually the smaller joys like picnics, going to movies, and spending time with friends. But, I always used to tell myself that one day it will be all worth it. I missed going to the Navratri grounds. This year, luckily because of the masks, I could attend a few events. I cannot eat anywhere outside and I just miss being able to do that without any disturbance.
You decided to pursue music when you were still in school. How did your parents react when you told them about your interest to pursue a career in music?
My mother was always okay with me doing this. She just wanted me to be happy. My father, however, thought of it as a hobby that I have taken up. He thought there could be no career in this field. Back then I used to feel bad that he did not understand my passion for music, but I was able to prove myself. Now, he is very happy to see me in this position.
When you started uploading music on YouTube, your covers got more viral than your original tracks. Now, if asked for a preference, which would you choose?
I stopped doing covers a long time back. I did them only because no one knew me and I wanted to gain some popularity. I used to sing at events in Ahmedabad and people used to ask me to sing songs that they knew. No one knew my songs. But they appreciated my style and I then took my passion for singing to YouTube. However, now my original songs are loved equally and people wait for them so I am going to stick to them. But in concerts, till today, I do sing some covers because I really love those songs and the artists.
Social media has changed the game. Many social media stars have gotten work due to their popularity on Instagram. Do you think it is in a way a drawback for artists who have entered the industry in a more old-fashioned way?
I don’t think it does. Nothing is a drawback until it is overdone. It is wrong if bad songs pick up or bad artists gain popularity through these mediums. If there is a good talent, a good voice, and if he/she possesses a good personality, and their music works regardless of how they got there, it is a good thing. I feel it is an opportunity. It was just a little different back then. Just that, things have become very easy now. You can be in your comfort zone and get recognition still. It may happen that you stop working hard after one of your songs become a hit. Drawbacks are different but it has nothing to do with the struggle.
How, as an established singer, does the platform help you?
I have always found social media to be a way for people who love me, to connect with me. So when I started my journey on YouTube, there were a lot of negative comments. Back then only I had decided that when people will start liking my work, I will only look up to them and not the negativity. And I got lucky that I have so many fans who I call ‘the Blue family’. So it is a way to connect with them and show them who I am.
Talking about the negativity on the Internet, how do you deal with it?
People are really insensitive nowadays. It is okay when they are talking about something they did not like about my work. I respect that. But they also need to understand that as an artist, we are very emotional sometimes too. I try not to think about it for a longer period of time. I keep taking breaks and I try to focus on my music. One thing I learned the hard way was no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to satisfy everyone.
With so many music apps, do you think YouTube has lost its charm?
I don’t know about the charm. But yes, initially there was only YouTube and people were always on it. Now, there are so many platforms where people can consume content. The audience has divided and I don’t think there can always be just one platform anyway. If one platform will work, I am sure 10 more will come up and create a competition.
Music has become so important for film promotions. People judge whether they want to watch a film based on music. Do you agree?
100 percent. That is why this phenomenon of releasing songs right after the trailer has become so popular. Music plays a great role in setting the mood and I feel, it is true that if the music is not good, people might not watch the film. Good music will always get the audience. Promotional songs are now being shot separately on a grand level so that they can give you an idea about the grandness of the film.
Does it put any kind of pressure on you that you have to deliver certain kinds of songs?
I feel that for something to go viral or to work, you have to sing with a lot of true emotions. If you try to make a commercially hit song, it doesn’t work. I have stopped myself from being in the race that I have to make commercially hit songs. I don’t care if it does. I am blessed to have so many fans who love me for the kind of music I make and that’s it. I am a little old-school person and I want people to enjoy my songs rather than just use them for an Instagram reel.
As you said, Instagram has introduced the concept of 1-minute songs for reels. Are you hoping on the trend soon?
It is a task to create a one-minute song. I like the idea of it, but for me, it has to be a song that I then create only for reels. My routine songs cannot be turned into a song for reels. I will have to work differently to make songs for Instagram.
Do you think this is diluting the essence of classic Bollywood songs? Do you think more artists are focused on making songs for reels?
Of course, they are. It is because it is a trend, artists are doing it. If I was not successful, I would have also made music for reels because that is a good way of gaining an audience. Artists always do what the people want them to do. For anyone who is just starting, they will make reels because you never know what might work for them and go viral. In my case, my fans wait for my songs to release. I already have an audience so my focus is not on that.
Looking back from 5 years, how do you think the industry has evolved?
The duration of songs has become less and that has happened because people’s retention to listen to music has gone down. People don’t listen to songs anymore, and hence the concept of reels is so popular now. Nowadays, we don’t even take out time to listen to music. We are just using music.
What changes do you think the industry still needs?
I think there have to be more original songs. The artists who are doing original movies should be promoted more. People should listen to different kinds of artists who are doing independent music, and not just film songs. We need to give more respect to independent music.
What kind of music are you looking to create now?
I think I want to change my sound a little bit. I am working on a new EP and an album as well. Since albums are a long process, I am also working on a couple of singles. I am experimenting and now I want to work on something that comes from my heart.
A favorite song from your own albums?
Tu Mileya, Nayan Ne Bandh Rakhine
An artist you want to collaborate with?
Arijit Singh / Harry Styles
A singer you look up to?
Kishore Kumar, Sonu Nigam, Arijit Singh
A social media trend you hate?
A lot of them.
A food item that you can say no to?
A wardrobe essential that you cannot survive without?
My perfumes and my hair products, cannot live without them
A go-to movie that you can watch anytime?
UP or any animated movie
Your celebrity crush?
Samantha Ruth Prabhu