Mohit Mukhi & A Thousand Dreams
Following one’s dreams and making a living out of it is often hard to do because of the fear of not making it. It’s a lonely life that has no rules or steps to follow for a guaranteed outcome. As you move further off the beaten track, you often find yourself having to figure your way through it all on your own. Be it a start-up endeavour or climbing on to the stage, it’s hard to turn dreams into reality. Stepping over the threshold of doubt is where you begin.
“When I was working a nine to five, I always wanted to make time to jam. I would look forward to a Friday evening so that I could practice all weekend long.” says singer-songwriter and guitarist Mohit Mukhi. “Fridays and Sundays always come with the bitter sweetness of eventuality.’ In an attempt to rid himself of that weekly downer, he is now several steps beyond the departure from corporate life, over that threshold of the ‘What if?’ Six years in the making his debut album, ‘Running Shoes and a Thousand Dreams’ releases on the 12th of May 2016. In a conversation we had one perfectly sunny May morning, I find that he has a story to tell, and possibly inspire us all with.
With a rationale shared by many others, Mohit claims that it was the desire to play Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ that inspired him to learn guitar. “I always wanted to be that guy shredding and burning it on the guitar, left right and centre. But it was the way I was able to relate to John Mayer’s music that made me want to write my own songs. I wanted to be able to do the same with my music.”
At 22, Mohit started guitar lessons with his first tutor, Vinay Lobo. Travelling to his tutor’s place in Andheri from Napean Sea Road was never a problem because he enjoyed learning from Vinay. Eventually, he left the country to study at The Institute of Contenporary Art in London. “There was so much information that I picked up from music school that I was at the point of partial burn out.” On returning, it was under the guidance of one of the country’s best guitarists, Mr. Sanjay Divecha that he was able to productively process all that he had learnt over those two years in London.
“Two years after returning home, I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to do. I may have days that may not have been productive, but there are days when I’ve spent 18 to 19 hours in the studio. It can get pretty hectic at times, but life is a lot more exciting now. I can wake up and play the guitar and I don’t have to worry about getting on a train and hurrying to the office.”
The songs that make up his debut album, Running Shoes and A Thousand Dreams were written by Mohit since his early days with the guitar. The album tells us a sort of coming-of-age story that has equal parts heartbreak and self-discovery and its songs touch upon the themes of purpose, love, stability, endeavour and achievement. Mohit points out that what appears to be seclusion or alienation from a world that seems to be on track, is a shared experience for the lot of us, “That’s the thing about songwriters, we all think that we’re putting down something personal, but then when someone tells you how they related to your music, it dawns on you that the feeling is universal and everyone chooses different ways to express it.”
Along with its folk-rock/country sound and lyrics that paint your imagination with the blues, greens and yellows that define nature’s pleasant appeal, the album is a perfect pick for a road trip playlist. Mohit’s somewhat dusky voice keeps to the lower octaves and moves with the emotion in the stories told in each song. While the perfectly matched vocal harmonies will tempt the singer in you, the guitar work both rhythm and lead, are reminiscent of all those forgotten chord progressions played on that holiday by the sea, hoping to be a part of a song one day.
The Process of Simplification
“You can just go on and on with the song writing process trying to perfect it all, but you can never be a 100% certain that everyone else is going to like it.” With this revelation, he along with producer, Lima Yanger, decided to avoid unnecessary layers of production. The album’s minimalism is not only apparent in the production but also in the song arrangements and lyrics.
“I’ve always played my songs solo, so when it came to putting a band together to record it, was pretty much like working with a blank slate.” Yanger’s had Mohit strip down a lot of the elaborate guitar parts he had written so that the band had more space to work. To give the other musicians their space to shape the songs in their own way, Mohit decided to take a step back, “I trusted these guys to do their best. I stepped back with my preferences. The entire album has been an experiment on what I had worked on by myself for so long.”
To Mohit’s surprise, things progressed quicker than expected. After two rehearsals, they stepped into the studio and tracked the rhythm section in six hours. With guitar and vocal layers filled in soon after, he feels that the major chunk of the work was in mixing and the mastering the songs.
On Song Writing
Art is a yield of the desire to express an emotion in the hope that it will make a difference to someone else. These songs are Mohit’s personal soliloquy and have come alive because of his ability to cast the image of an emotional landscape that was born in his experiences over the last few years. One of his proudest moments as a song writer was when ‘Let Me In’ –a track on the album—came together in an hour. “It’s just 3 simple chords. The emotion that came to me at that point was so strong that I just wanted to go with what came first. I didn’t want to try and cheat that feeling that had presented itself so naturally.” Procrastination is the enemy of a successful artist. “I just felt that if I didn’t do anything about that feeling, I would end up being unsatisfied for days. I’m glad I did something with it.”
However, after the completion of a song, he expresses that a feeling of emptiness often comes over him, “There are times when I feel like I’ve given away too much in a song and this fear that I won’t be able to write another song looms over.” A fear that he is optimistic about, because it keeps him alert to what’s next.
However real that fear may be, he’s a man full of ideas. With a long way to go, all that was kept for a rainy day shall be of good use along his path. We wish Mohit Mukhi all the best with this album and the many others yet to come. Cheers mate!
The album features the guitar work of both his tutors in the city, along with Vibhas Rahul on drums and percussion, Kenneth Rebello and Sonu on bass and Aldrin Rodrigues, who recoded and mastered it.
Photo credits: Jason Rasquinha