Dhruv Visvanath loves playing the guitar and is completely self-taught. What’s more, every single song of his EP was recorded in just one take! This acoustic maestro, who draws inspiration from Andy Mckee and other such solo-percussive guitarists has been doing the national rounds of late and gigging at awesome venues. SoundTree caught up with the budding artist to talk about his unique style of sound and got him to share stories about the time when Raghu Dixit wanted to write a song with him and also talk about his unique relationship with his father. Read on for more.
SoundTree: You’ve never had any formal training in guitar. How was the learning process?
Dhruv Visvanath: Yeah, it’s been 8 years and still going. So yeah patience is a virtue. I’ve had moments where I just felt stuck with the instrument and it didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. I think overtime having to switch from the electric to the acoustic sort of opened a new door and I think it was a very good thing to do because not only did it teach me about being patient with myself but also being patient with others. If you generate a decent level of tolerance with whatever you’re doing, it sort of rubs off on you and eventually you just end up using it in other parts of your life and things like that. So it’s not just the fact that I’ve learnt how to play or the musical side. It’s also taught me to be different as a person.
ST: So what are some of the things you think you do well on the guitar?
DV: People like to say I spank the guitar well! I get lots of messages about that , it’s very lovely actually but uggh…I mean I think with the guitar per se as to the way I’m playing now, I suppose my best quality would be in terms of playing percussively involving both the strings, the melody and the body of the guitar as a drum and sort of implementing all those elements together to make it sound more than one instrument so you know sounds like sort of a band playing together instead of just one, so I think as far as the guitar is concerned that’s my strength, to make it sound like more than one instrument.
ST: In terms of influences who are the people you look at for inspiration?
DV: I have a lot from the metal side. I actually listen to quite a bit of metal from the more hard rock side I listen to Mark Tremonti one of my favourite guitarists from Alter Bridge, we have Petrucci we have Satriani and all. All these guitarists of course are from the electric guitar world. But when I go more to the acoustic I’ve got Tommy Emmanuel , Craig D’andrea , Andy Mckee, Antoine Dufor, Erik Mongrain, I mean there are lots of people that I listen to and sort of get inspired by because of their techniques and everything is new and I learn new tunings as well.
ST: You don’t find too many solo singer-songwriters in the indie segment of the local scene. How do you fit into this?
DV: I’ve always thought of myself as a guitarist first then a singer because I like writing instrumental pieces but yeah you’re right the whole scene in terms of that sense of individuality in terms of just a single person is rather new. For me per se I used to write music based on whatever I’d think of and I’d tabulate it and listen to it again and again and sort of improve on it. So I’d always compose alone and then I felt like in terms of that respect I always liked working by myself, yeah so I did have this lone wolf thing. I mean like just having to compose myself and experience the music on my own. But as time passed I figured that it’s also good to break out whilst maintaining your own thing in terms of the solo identity and the solo music and it’s also nice to sort of work with other people because what happens is you can’t only be influenced by the people you might never meet. You may have all these musicians you are influenced by but you may never meet them. The idea is that it’s always good to be influenced by the people around you, like working with other artists and bands and friends, you’ll learn new things from them and characteristically and musically I think now I’m sort of developing a mix between both in terms of maintaining my individuality and working with a group.
ST: What are some of the nice things that you have heard not just by people, but those from the industry?
DV: There are a number of moments actually. My first performance at Hard Rock Cafe I got to open for Swarathma and the guys were absolutely lovely and they were speaking in Kannada. I’m half Kannadiga and it felt like I was home in Bangalore with my grandmother. And I just thought it was something amazing that I just got to go and play with these guys because these guys were like… I mean they are rock stars, they’re good musicians and do a lot of good outside music as well with the community as it and it was just awesome. But I think one of the best moments has been NH7 last year when I got to play I sort of finished my set list. Then they told me I had 20 minutes and why don’t I play some more. I played one more song and the crowd that had gathered was amazing. They wanted me to play more and keep going. The moment I walked off stage, Raghu Dixit came up to me and was like…Dude I want to write a song with you man!! I was like whoa I was in a state of shock. I mean it was so awesome you know. I wouldn’t have expected any of the musicians to come up because I’m sure they must have been really busy to organize themselves. It was totally surreal having the opportunity to meet members of Raghu Dixit Project and all that and say such nice things after watching the performance it was an absolute honor. From the Delhi scene it was Adil and Vasundhara, musically they are really an inspiration because anytime I have any qualms or something I call them and I talk to them and they’re really sweet and absolutely inspirational and of course through NGO I worked for called Music Basti I’ve met a lot of musicians like the members of Advaita and guys from the band Five 8. It definitely opened my eyes and these guys are very supportive in terms of music and with Music Basti specially helping the community and all seeing that side of them is quite inspirational.
ST: There’s song you’ve written about your father as well?
DV: Yeah Father, people really seem to like that song and I do too. It’s really emotional. I wrote it in 2010, two years after my father passed away. In between I didn’t play the guitar much and it was the time I was just learning to play the instrument like this, in a percussive manner. I was doing great injustice by not writing a piece about the man, my father. I sat down one day and I basically went through all the memories I had with him, from being a kid and to all his silliness as a father. Very silly man…my father, a very great man, a funny man. It was an experience you know having to sit through and just go through all of the memories and just feel like what my family had been through, what my mother had been through, it was a very rough time and I feel like music has always been therapy and I need to sort of therapeutically express myself and suddenly that piece came out and I wanted to express all the times I had fun with the man and all the times I let him down and also to sort of tell him that my family is ok with the experience and that everything is okay. There is nothing to worry about and I don’t know how much a piece of music can do and I know when musicians talk about music it feels very airy and all that but it does more than what one can imagine and it has helped a lot!!
ST: Where does Dhruv Visvanath want to go? Five years from now where do you see yourself?
DV: My dream is to play in the Royal Albert Hall in England in front of ten thousand people, one spotlight. But from here on I’d like to expand myself musically. Now I’ve started my own trio, Dhruv Visvanath Trio and sort of learning how to compose now more with a band. 5 years from now I want to be touring the world, making music for movies, working for more social causes more than I am now, doing more to support my family, make sure that everything is…you know…if I can cultivate an environment in which I can support the people around me .
Visvanath’s style of percussive guitar is as of yet, not widespread in India, and is a very niche stream of sound that he has been tirelessly cultivating for quite some time now. All in all, this singer-songwriter shows immense promise, and with several upcoming plans lined up, we can expect to hear a lot more from him in the future!