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Interview Team : Jyothsna; Avudaiappan

The town is abuzz with “Thalli Pogathey” and the owner of the mesmerizing voice, Sid Sriram, in an exhaustive interview with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, discusses varied subjects that include his musical journey, AR Rahman, Anirudh and much more.


Tell us something about yourself and your family

I’m a playback singer, Carnatic vocalist and independent soul-pop singer/songwriter. I was born in Mylapore, Chennai. We moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the US where I grew up. My mother runs a Carnatic vocal music institution there, so I’ve always been surrounded by music. My father is a business entrepreneur. My sister, Pallavi Sriram is a Bharatanatyam dancer; I sing for her dance performances and have also started doing Nattuvangam for her. So, my environment was always one that truly allowed me to pursue music intensely. 


How did your musical career begin?

I first started singing Carnatic music at the age of three, learning small compositions from my mother and performing them. Around 2001, once I turned 11 is when I started taking music more seriously. Apart from my Carnatic training and performance, this is also when I started picking up R&B/soul styles of singing. I’d listen to artists such as Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross and teach myself how to sing different songs. In 2008, I started attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music (Boston). There, I started composing and writing original music. I started releasing music independently through YouTube in 2010 and gradually developed a strong fan base globally. In 2012, I got the call from AR Rahman sir to record Adiye which set off my career in playback singing. About a year and a half ago, I began work on my full-length album titled “Insomniac Season” with Grammy award winning producer DJ Khalil in LA. The album is set to release in early 2016. All this while I’ve been performing and refining my Carnatic music rigorously. 


How did Kadal happen?

I had met AR sir for the first time in his studio in Chennai, in December 2011. This was a dream come true in and of itself. About 2 months later, I was informed that he wanted me to record Adiye for Mani Ratnam sir’s film, Kadal. I was in Boston and AR sir was in Chennai at the time, so we did the recording remotely. Even though we were on separate ends of the world, the way he got that vocal performance out of me during the recording was incredible; he really pushed me and we finished the recording within 4 hours or so. I’m honored that this incredibly innovative song was my introduction to Tamil film music. 

I’m honored that this incredibly innovative song was my introduction to Tamil film music


Tell us something about working with Rahman. What did you learn from him?

I think the most fulfilling aspect of working with AR sir is how he is able to capture the moment. The environment that he creates is spiritually uplifting and calm; every time I work with him I feel completely at ease. He really pushes me to emote to the fullest when I’m singing. From him, I’ve learned how to sing with respect and humility. I’ve learned that you can never stop learning when it comes to music. From him I’ve learned how music can be truly divine. 

I’ve learned from Rahman sir how to sing with respect and humility


Thalli Pogathey

Working on Thalli Pogathe was an incredible experience. The minute I heard the melody and the direction of the song, I knew it was going to be something special. I think first and foremost, this song is yet another testament to the genius of AR sir. The way the melody moves is effortlessly beautiful and the sound of the song is so cutting edge. I feel humbled and blessed that AR sir thought of me to sing this song. Thamarai's lyrics are beautiful, it was wonderful interacting with her during the process of recording this song. I'm a big fan of Gautham Menon's work, the AYM trailer looks awesome; I can't wait to watch the film!

Working on Thalli Pogathe was an incredible experience


Staying far away from the scene of action, how do you handle? Do you have plans to shift to Chennai?

I think music, whatever the genre or language, sees no boundaries. I operate and immerse myself in a few different musical streams: Playback, my original music and Carnatic. All three are equally important to me, so I split my time between LA and Chennai. 


How was it singing Ennodu Nee Irundhaal in I?

The process of recording Ennodu Nee Irundhal was incredible. I had just done a show with AR sir earlier that evening and then we went to the studio to record. Shankar sir and Kabilan sir were at the studio as well. AR sir played me the song and showed me the melody and we got down right to recording. As I said before, AR sir’s ability to inspire and capture magical moments is pure genius. I just let go, let AR sir guide me and sang my heart out. The result is Ennodu Nee Irundhal!!!

 AR sir’s ability to inspire and capture magical moments is pure genius


Naanum Rowdy Dhaan – Enai Maatrum Kaadhalae. How did it happen?

Anirudh and his team contacted me for the song. I was in San Francisco at that time. I heard the song and was immediately drawn to it. We recorded it remotely via Skype over the next 2 days. It was a great experience and I love how this song came out. 


What do you think of Anirudh as a music composer?

I think Anirudh is very talented; I think it’s great how he engages the youth with his music. I look forward to hearing more and more from him!


What do you think of the Tamil film music scenario?

I think the Tamil film music scene is great, there’s so much interesting and innovative music that mixes the sounds of both yesterday and tomorrow; also, there are so many talented singers. It’s very inspiring. 


Who are your favorite composers, singers here?

I don’t really like to operate with the term/concept “favorite”. I think everyone who’s doing great work offers something special and unique. 


What are the precautions that you take to maintain your voice?

I practice Carnatic music every day for at least an hour. That rigor that goes into this form of music has formed my musical foundation, both vocally and intellectually. It is and always will be my musical fountainhead. 


Performing live with Rahman...

Performing with AR sir is an exhilarating experience. I’ve had the honor of performing with him back in 2013 for his Thaimanne Vannakkam show in LA, then in 2014 for the audio launch, and most recently I joined him on 4 dates of his US intimate tour. Similar to the recording process, performing with him is all about being in the moment. I switch my mind off, and just let the music guide me. My favorite part about performing with AR sir is probably the on stage music interaction with him; if he shoots me a quick smile I know I’m doing something right. 

If Rahman sir shoots me a quick smile I know I’m doing something right


How do you manage your Tamil pronunciation?

I speak Tamil often with my family, and singing Carnatic music also keeps my pronunciation sharp. Tamil is a beautiful, complex language. I plan on studying it more closely, and learning how to also read/write in Tamil. At some point, I want to incorporate into my original song writing. 


How do Carnatic and Western music learning help in your playback singing?

I put my Carnatic and Western training into every one of musical experiences. With playback singing, I think my ability to do both gives me a unique musical perspective to bring to the recordings. With my Carnatic music, the vocal and breathing techniques I learned while I was at Berklee allow me to utilize my voice fully and properly. With my original alternative soul/pop music, I take all of my influences/training and create an eclectic blend of music that is unique to me. 


How was your Margazhi singing experience?

Performing during this Margazhi season was amazing. The energy was electrifying with each concert; I got to play with some amazing musicians that also happen to be my good friends. I also provided vocal and nattuvangam accompaniment for my sister, Pallavi Sriram's Bharatanatyam performances. She conceptualized, choreographed and curated the shows and we worked with some incredible musicians. It was especially inspiring seeing how the city of Chennai came together after the floods and to feel the positivity through the festival. 


Your future projects?

Besides Thalli Pogathe, my main focus is my independent album "Insomniac Season". I plan on promoting it heavily out here in Chennai as well, so look out for it!



Wish you the best Sid Sriram in all your endeavors!


Jyothsna Bhavanishankar






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