At eighteen years of age, Vishwa R. Shankar from Chennai has more than a decade of Carnatic music experience under his belt and is a Western Classical/operatically trained tenor singer. His extensive training has now led him to teach Carnatic and Western Contemporary vocals at the Timbre School Of Music (online).
His melismatic style of singing and lyricism is largely inspired by various R&B, pop, and classical artists; mostly Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, and Pavarotti. He describes himself as a ‘90s RnB junkie’, and much of his fondness for the genre can be heard in his covers and debut single ‘Warm Moods’. The Ticket Fairy had a chat with the spiffing Vishwa to know about his incredible feat in music!
The Ticket Fairy: Your debut single ‘Warm Moods’ was released recently. How did it come into being and what went on behind it until its release?
“Warm Moods’‘ is a super vibey jam with a blend of R&B and light electric music. I started writing this song around February and it wasn’t really serious ‘cause I’m not someone who writes a lot. From the beginning, I gave my all to my vocals and the intricacies of singing. It started very blandly and I did give up a lot. When quarantine started, I got very serious with so many people releasing music around me inspired me and pushed me to show what I had to bring as I’ve been posting covers and whatnot for quite a long time.
This song is pretty clearly about love and intimacy and was written in the theme of being in solitude and yearning for someone you cannot meet and are left in a web of fantasy! Meeting Sanjeevi Easwar (the producer of ‘Warm Moods’) was a blessing. I got a vast view of how much I can do with this song. He produced every intricate part by balancing out the classic R&B theme we all know and love, but along with electric music. I wanted to make sure I give a good melody ‘cause most R&B “songs” now are more rap based even if they don’t have a rap verse in them. I didn’t want to do that because my biggest influences and the R&B I grew up with or listen to now show really good vocals while making a vibey track. Long story short, that’s how this song came about!
Whom did you work with for ‘Warm Moods’?
I’ve extensively worked with Sanjeevi Easwar before for covers the whole of 2020, and I did speak to him about doing originals in March when we re-did an Alt-R&B version of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black (which is out on all streaming platforms). When I wrote this song, I was unclear about the result. So, when I approached him with this song and an idea (to execute it), it was all completely clear for me. He helped me a lot and also brought his style of production to this song which gave an amazing result.
Talk about your musical background!
At the age of three, I was enrolled to learn Carnatic music under Dr. Salem Gayathri Venkatesan from whom I’ve learned for fourteen years. Her amazing skills introduced and perfected me to the basic foundations of singing. I don’t professionally do (sing) Carnatic, I do teach Carnatic and western contemporary vocals as well in the Timbre School Of Music (online) with a good set of students.
Although I don’t play the instrument while I sing, I did do a few grades of piano and theory and it does help me to teach. I am a Western Classical/operatically trained tenor learning under Gayatri SG for the past ten years from her institute G3 studios located in Kottivakkam, she has been my mentor since then. Her extraordinary teaching skills inspire me so much and make me want to learn more. Under G3 studios, I was lucky to do three stage operas. I’ll always continue with western classical music for a long time as it’s all about amazing technique and improves my singing and agility the best. R&B is what I strive to do and I want to challenge myself with this genre as I best identify under it.
Will you be adapting your extensive musical learning experience and familiarity with multiple genres of music into your original compositions?
Yes, most obviously! I want to challenge myself because I’m such a perfectionist, it’s annoying. I am critical of my singing. What I’ve learned extensively over the years is definitely going to show in my original music both knowingly and unknowingly.
You seem to have quite an experience in performing live! Tell us about your most memorable performance and any upcoming live shows you are looking forward to?
I love performing live solo and with bands. It’s where I most feel myself and belonging too. I’ve done stuff in groups with my choir with whom I’ve done a lot. I always look forward to every Christmas for rehearsals and all the gigs.
Around the time I was thirteen, I did two musical theatre shows in the Music Academy Auditorium of Chennai under Pop Shalini. It helped me earn a few grades in theatre and acting, and the experience was really rewarding. Through Shankar Mahadevan academy, I finished their major Voice Gym training during which I was lucky enough to have gotten a chance to sing in front of him thrice in the NCPA – Mumbai and I was really grateful to have done it.
My first solo open mic almost a year and a half back is something I won’t forget. I was the most nervous mess and might have sounded terrible, but I’m glad I started. Fast forward around 10 months from that open mic, I performed live in the Chennai central metro. I honestly am so grateful for that because it was the first show where I was very vulnerable . Really learnt a lot from that one.
How do you feel now that live performances are halted due to the pandemic?
Quarantine was bleak, but I got opportunities to do a lot of online shows and many successful fundraisers. Though the live gigs are halted, I feel every artist should do a few online shows as A.) A lot of shows in the future might be online and also B.) It brings in a whole new dimension. Post September, I did do some little live gigs while taking precautions.
How was quarantine for you?
Honestly, not a lot of people are going to agree with me, but the best thing that’s happened to me till date, both personally and musically, was this quarantine in so many different aspects. Lot of crap did happen too, however the good outweighed the crap haha! I learnt so much this year and I’m really grateful for it!
Do you have upcoming projects in the pipeline?
I have many projects planned out for 2021 especially my second single, which I plan on releasing next month hopefully.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Stream Vishwa’s Music on all streaming platforms: Here