Interview: Indian singer KK relishes freedom to create
Ahead of his latest performance in Hong Kong, Krishnakumar Kunnath talks about moving beyond playback singing in movies, his family and working with his son
48 HOURS: You studied commerce in college and worked briefly as a marketing executive in the hotel industry. How did you end up as a singer?
KK: I am one of those guys who have a natural affinity for music. I was born into a musical family: my grandmother was a music teacher and my mum used to perform. I picked up music from an early age and I learned songs and sang them. I loved performing in front of my family and friends and I really enjoyed the applause. I had to get a job so I worked in the hotel industry after college. However, after a few months, I said I needed to pursue music wholeheartedly. So, I moved to Mumbai and started my music career.
You started out as a playback singer in movies and you have recorded two individual albums. What is the difference between playback singing and working as a solo artist?
KK: I signed for Sony and did my first album in 1999 and my second album in 2008. I think the experience is quite different. The songs you sing in playback are not really yours; they are from the movie. But it was really fun to be part of different movies and sing different genres of music. It helps an artist mature. I used to do a lot of playback but I thought that I could not make too much use of my artistic expression so I wanted to do my own thing. As an artist, I need to create more of my own music.
As an individual artist, what genres of music are you interested in exploring?
KK: I am working on some independent music. I don't have an exact target or road map for what genre I want to focus on, but I am a pop-rock kind of guy. As an artist, I think I am very strong melodically. I think my new music will definitely be very current in terms of the sound and the production. In playback singing and your independent albums, you mainly record in a studio.
You also tour and sing live. How is it different for you in these contexts?
KK: The studio and the stage are very different atmospheres. The studio is very personal. You are alone with your own idea and sounds. You can write your songs and make it happen at your own pace. Once the song is in the market, it is no longer your song. It is driven by a whole different entity. When I sing my hits live, the feeling is electrifying. [But] performing live is very tiring. There are no breaks and I just try and perform for two to three hours straight. I feel that I have a responsibility to my audience. After the show I get such a feeling of energy, it acts like a battery for me for the next month.
Do you know if a song will be a hit when you record or perform it?
KK: No, it's surprising. You don't know if it will be a hit or not. I just give it my all every time I sing, because it's a part of my life.
How do you balance your singing career with your family life?
KK: Family is a constant in my life. I perform mostly on weekends, so we don't get the freedom to spend time together during that time. But that can also be a good thing. We can watch movies or go out for dinner on weekdays. Sometimes, we take out time to go for long drives out of Mumbai and we spend a few quiet days together. We really bond during these times. When I am touring, I give all I have. At home, I need to recharge. I am very fortunate to have a good balance in terms of family life, recording and touring.
You sang a song, Masti, with your son. What was it like to work with him? Will there be future collaborations?
KK: He was a little boy when he did the song. He came to my studio for a short time and recorded the song. He is a very talented kid and doing his own thing now. He plays with a band, and plays some guitar parts in my new music. So, in a small way, we are already collaborating. My daughter is also into music and she plays the piano. If they would like to work with me in the future, I would love to collaborate with them.
How many times have you performed in Hong Kong? What do you think of the city?
KK: I have performed here once before and I loved it. It was a really great, energetic show, and the fans here are fantastic. I am really happy and thankful to be back again.
KK plays Kitec in Kowloon Bay on June 18