Just after the release of his new single, “Snow Globe,” I got the chance to talk with NU Music’s very own Vijay Mohan about who he is as an artist, how he laid down his musical roots singing in church, and what led him to the “alternative-folk” sound he is creating today. With another single set to be released this spring, and an EP in the works, Vijay Mohan is a talented musician with an inspired and eclectic cultural background.
Tell me a little bit about yourself as an artist. What initially got you into music?
My musical journey started singing at church. I started down a path music wise where I was going to end up an opera singer. I didn't really have an identity back then, and it was more just about music as a craft. Since then, I have tried very hard to find my place in music as an art. At this point in my life, music is more a form of expressing who I am inside as opposed to this technical craft. I am now deeply exploring the genre of folk. This kind of growth that I’ve been experiencing working with NU Music Group has enabled me to appreciate music in a brand new way.
At what point when you were singing in church did you decide that you wanted to do something that’s more commercial and folk oriented? What was the initial catalyst to get you to that point?
I had enough people listening to me sing at church say that they were hoping I would make a go of it, as far as a music career was concerned. I had this idea back then that because my style of singing was, on a technical level, very impressive, that people would listen to it. I believed that was what it meant to be a good musician. It wasn't until I had to learn the hard way, from a lot of rejection, a lot of honest feedback from the industry that I realized I needed to find my style as opposed to just this technical mould. I feel like I’m still in some ways on that journey.
Folk as a genre [is] built out of passion and activism, but at the same time, it speaks to a certain lifestyle. My style now is what we’ve branded as “folk-alternative.” It would be almost wrong of us to say it’s pure folk. At the same time, we are creating an approachability about it. You can enjoy it if you're not a purist, but you can also appreciate where its roots come from.
The song you’ve recently released is called “Snow Globe.” Tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind it.
“Snow Globe” is the product of a lot of conversation between Tayo [Jacob] and me about where my struggles in life were. As Tayo and I would try to talk about the things going on, I’d have to be like, “My life’s pretty good right now.” We had to dig a bit further back in my past. We looked at the hardships I had growing up. I’m a short, smart, Indian kid, and that meant getting bullied a lot in school. I’ve come to terms with that part of my past, but it was an interesting revisit because we understand that a lot of people go through the same struggle.
You can appreciate the very dreamy and picturesque quality of what a snow globe is, being, perfection contained. You can also picture it as being something for which the things in the snow globe have no control over when they’re shaken up. It’s a song about how little control we have in our lives, how at some point in time, we are at the mercy of things we have no power over. The song’s chorus is essentially, “Something keeps shaking what I’m in,” and parts of the verse talk about the dream of breaking through the glass and finally freeing ourselves from the thing that controls us. When Tayo and I were writing this, we also talked about the idea of breaking free from the snow globe only to discover you’re just in a bigger, more complicated snow globe. It’s interesting because we’ve taken a very peaceful concept but drawn the one stressful thing out of it and made that the focus.
I definitely think that comes across in the song, listening to the lyrics, but also to the instrumentation. It has a little bit of that blissfulness, but it contains a serious message.
We were kind of hoping we could strike a comfortable balance with that because you can listen without paying attention to the lyrics and find a very peaceful song comes from it. You could also choose to read into it and appreciate the struggle that’s being expressed. That’s where we were hoping to be able to connect with a folk audience. Folk songs are often at times in a major key; there’s often a positivity about the way it sounds. But there is often a very fierce struggle [as well].
How did you link up with NU Music?
It was actually kind of a stroke of luck. Essentially, Mikey [Bonchar] touched base with me through Facebook. They noticed some potential in me, but that I wasn't really going anywhere. It actually came at a time where I was pretty close to hanging it up and rooting myself in my day job. At some point I said to myself, “I’m going to say yes to one more opportunity, and then that’s it.” It just so happened that it was these guys. It blossomed into this rebirth of my music career, and I couldn't be more grateful.
You’re currently working on an EP?
Yes, we have a four song EP that we have just finished recording. This is actually the first time in my music career where we have come about building a complete collection of songs where there’s some coherence across all of them. Every song is folk at its root, but push the boundaries of the genre. This EP is an opportunity for people to see as many different dimensions of me as possible.
Can you tell me about something that inspires you, not necessarily related to music, but in the world, whether that’s art, film, etc?
As far as individual inspiration … family. I’m very closely connected to my family. Growing up with two immigrant parents, they’ve got their own journeys of great struggle. My very odd background of growing up has always been apart of my personal brand.
Anything else that you would like people to know about you or your music?
“Snow Globe” is a song that has rekindled my love for the guitar. I had put the guitar down or didn't find the time to practise it. I actually vocalized to Tayo that I wanted the first song we created to force me to play again. Since we actually wrote this, and I got to create some of the scratch tracks for the finger style pattern, I’ve basically been practising it every day, just out of the desire to not screw it up should we ever perform it [laughs]. It’s just really made me enjoy playing the guitar again. It’s another part of this exciting journey that I’m on.
You can find Vijay’s music on Spotify and Apple Music, and check him out online