How are you feeling about the response you’ve been receiving for ‘Echo’?
It’s been amazing for me so far with the kind of response that the fans have given to the song and its video. You know, given the current times, the fact that we’ve been able to put together a song and a video for fans–which was a big task for all the teams across LA, Korea and Mumbai–make us happy. We made it happen and the response is phenomenal. People are loving the crossover kind of collaboration of an Indian artist, Korean artist, and an Indian American DJ. I think the words are somewhere relatable to what’s happening to us at this point. So, I think it has struck a chord with a lot of the listeners, and I’m just glad that people love the new music that I’m putting out.
You and Eric Nam have been internet friends but how did you decide to collaborate?
Initially, we had a conversation on Twitter. Actually, Eric tweeted, saying he had just heard a bunch of Armaan Malik songs and certified it to be ‘dope’. I responded to that; we had a conversation on Twitter. It was just a very cool internet friendship that had begun between me and Eric. A mutual friend of ours then introduced our teams and we started discussing a potential collaboration because both our fandoms wanted us to collaborate, and we had to make it happen. I think I-pop and K-pop coming together was a big thing for all of us involved.
I had already recorded a few bits of Echo with KSHMR in LA and I had the song on me. So, I shot Eric an email and said, “Hey, Eric, this is a song that I really like and I think like we could get you on board for this”. After I sent it to him, he immediately said, “I’m recording my vocals and sending it in”. So, it was pretty organic.
Your brother, Amaal Mallik has been a great influence on your musical career. How did he react to this collaboration?
Oh, he’s absolutely thrilled because he is a big fan of KSHMR and his music. He has always wanted me to do something with him. He had not heard a lot of Eric’s music before; I introduced him to some of his songs when we started talking. And he was particularly very excited about this collaboration. We’ve all been very silent; no one knew this was coming. A lot of people a lot of our fans felt like we were going to collab, but they didn’t know it was going to drop so soon. So I think, just like the fans, Amaal also was really surprised because he was working on his own music and stuff.
I think as someone who I consider to be my musical mentor, he was the first one to introduce me to Western music, western pop music, and also EDM. I think the way that I perform; the way that I sing has a lot to do with my musical influences over the years, which has been through Amaal. I remember long back, I had this iPod, and he had filled the iPod with all these amazing global songs. And that was, how my love and interest for pop music and world music began. So in a way, I think Amaal has sparked off a lot of this creativity in me, and he’s definitely been a huge musical influence on me, and whatever I do.
Armaan, you are pretty active on social media and often interact with your fans. What’s your take on trolling?
Over the last few years, I really haven’t cared about what trolling is happening online because it can really affect someone. Even though it is an unknown person behind a screen just writing rubbish, but it can really affect you and your mental health. So, I follow this very simple system called ‘scroll the trolls’. As soon as I see something that’s negative, I just scrolled down, that’s what I follow. If you spend too much time, you might want to respond, you might say something wrong. You don’t want to get into that zone. So I feel like the best way to stay away from negativity is to, okay, you saw it once scroll down. So, ‘scroll the troll’ is my mantra.
You’ve been a part of music reality shows as a contestant and even as a judge. Do you feel that over the years Indian music reality shows have shifted to the drama and not the ‘talent’ in question?
I’ve been part of the reality show long back, even when I was a kid. Back then obviously, there was a very different atmosphere. My only hope and wish is that these shows should be more about music and less about other things. That’s all. As a singer, as a musician, I feel that’s what the focus should be. So, I hope going forward, all the shows that we do in our country, we focus a lot more on the music. Obviously, there are certain elements in a show that do entertain people and audiences sitting at home. But the core of a singing reality show should be music. And, I feel like music should be the focus and the focal point of every show.
What do you think of the journey you’ve had so far?
Wow, that’s an interesting question. I was just thinking about this a few days back. I’ve had such a crazy journey, because I started out as a child voiceover artist and then I went on to this reality show ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’. And, you know, I got a lot of love on national television. And then, after that show, I started singing for children’s Bollywood movies like ‘Taare Zameen Par’, ‘Bhootnath’ and those of my early projects as a child playback singer. To see that transition from a child playback singer to then obviously, my voice changing because I grew up, and then transitioning into doing my own non-film album at the age of 17, then doing ‘Jai Ho’, which was my debut with Salman Khan.
Not a lot of people take into account the whole, you know, the first half of my career which was spent as a child singer, I think that is, that is where it all started. That’s where the seeds were sown. That’s where the Armaan Malik you see today is, you know, a continuous effort from those experiences. And now I’m going into a completely different direction. I’m doing international singles, songs in English, which has been my lifelong dream. And I’m so glad that even though I’m doing that, I’m still doing regional music. Even though I’m really passionate about what I’m doing right now and taking this whole International Music very, very seriously. I love that I’m still staying true to my roots, still doing the things that I’m known for.
A lot of people know me as Armaan Malik, because of all the work that I’ve done in India. And I really want young musicians to come up. Not a lot of Indian musicians have been able to do stuff, go global, tried to do international pop music, and I feel I want to open those doors. I really want to because I didn’t have anyone else to open that for me. I hope that I can open it for a lot of people in this country. So fingers crossed, I wish that I have the country’s support in whatever I’m doing.
With a project like Echo, Priyanka Chopra Jonas cutting her singles, AR Rahman winning the Oscars and hearts around the world, and BTS’s popularity, Asians are now represented well on the global stage. What changes would you like to bring to contribute to it further?
I personally feel that in the last few years, I’ve seen a lot of artists from South Asia, especially from the Indian subcontinent, and obviously, from Asia, like BTS, and Korean pop stars, making a global presence. And I think it’s really encouraging for everyone from Asia, because this is a moment that we’ve all been waiting for. We’ve all always wanted to take what we know and what we do, to a global level, and make it much more massive. And I think, now is the perfect time to do that.
So for me, I’ve always wanted to see someone from my country representing India on a global stage and AR Rahman sir has done that in the past. You know, Priyanka Chopra has been such a prime example of how an Indian can go on and achieve so much in the world. So I really want to do that as a young Pop singer, songwriter. You know, there’s Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Beyonce and others, every country has its own pop stars. India has never had that one pop star that they can be like, yeah; this is our guy or girl in the world and doing us proud. So I really want to be that and I want that through my journey, and I’m able to inspire other young people who want to do the same. I would definitely give props to Priyanka Chopra and Rahman sir, because they’ve made our presence felt in that part of the world, they’ve made Indians really proud. So, I feel like they have done the initial part of the work. But a lot of work has to be done by the other artists from India to make it happen.
Did you ever feel that you were being typecast as a romantic singer in Bollywood films?
In the Bollywood film industry, when you sing a certain type of song, and that becomes a big hit, everyone really wants you to sing more of those. They call you to sing only more of those kinds of songs, whereas the singer may have the versatility to do different genres and styles. I personally feel it’s not a thing that the industry is probably doing. It’s more of the fact that if a song gets popular, you really want to ride on that wave and do more with that artist in that space, I think it’s upon the artist to make that change happen for themselves. Because I am known for romantic Bollywood songs and I’m really happy singing those songs because I feel like that’s something that I’m known for. So, I don’t want to lose that identity or don’t want to lose that special place I’ve made through my romantic songs. But what I can do is put out songs like Control or Echo on the side that I would never be able to do in a Bollywood film. So my fans and listeners can say, “Wait, you can do this as well. This is what we never knew that our man was capable of doing”.
I feel it’s the responsibility of the artists to take it upon themselves to show their versatility and not feel like they are being typecast. Yes, you will be called for those songs because you are famous for doing your songs. For instance, Sonu Nigam used to be very famous for romantic songs, Mika Singh is really famous for dance numbers, Honey Singh, Badshah, these guys are known for their rap numbers. It’s not that they’ve been typecast in that; it’s what they are famous for. Now, it’s upon those artists that they do stuff to show their versatility through on the side. I’m glad that I’ve been able to, in the last two years, put out songs like ‘Control’, ‘Next To Me’, ‘How Many’ and now ‘Echo’, so that listeners can see me in a very different way.