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'It's crazy to get into English music after growing up in Benaras'

December 14, 2015 16:17 IST

'I don’t miss college because I don’t know what it's like. What I'm doing is something special; I wouldn’t trade it for a normal life.'

The Stage winner Yatharth Ratnum gets ready for a new phase in his life.

Yatharth Ratnum, a 19-year-old singer from Benaras, has won The Stage, the country's first English singing reality show.

Interestingly, Yatharth had been a runner-up on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge in 2009. He took up western music seriously only after he was invited for an award function in Los Angeles. 

Yatharth has won a Renault car, a contract with Universal Music and a 10-city tour.

He talks to contributor Rajul Hegde about his big win.

How does it feel to have won The Stage?

It's overwhelming. It took two hours for it to really sink in.

I wasn’t expecting to win the show. I wanted to thank so many people but I couldn’t because I was stumped.

I was there to sing for the love of music and have fun. I never thought about winning. 

Who was your toughest competitor?

Everyone was good but Soundarya Jayachandran was my biggest competitor. Even if she had won, I would have been happy. We are close, as we have spent a lot of time together, especially closer to the finale. There was nothing like competition; everybody was so nice. We were just having fun.  

How would you sum up your journey?

I was the youngest in the show and the others have been singing longer than me. I never thought that I needed to be better than them. I just wanted to do my best.

The journey was rough at the start, and not as thrilling as I would have wanted it to be.

After that phase, I realised my potential. And so many people have helped me do that. For instance, vocal coach Jennifer from the show helped me shape my voice. 

Did the experience on the previous reality Sa Re Ga Ma Li’l Champs show help you this time?

That was a different space; I was only 13 then.

Reality shows make you strong and nothing can shake you after that.

I was more relaxed during The Stage. The response we got on social media for The Stage has been heartening. It's unlike anything that has ever happened in the Indian reality scene.

How did The Stage happen?

It happened by fluke.  

I met a friend for coffee and she informed me about the auditions for this reality show. I decided to tag along because I had been involved with English music, creating and writing music for the last three years in Los Angles.

I got selected.

How did the transition happen from Indian classical to Hindi songs and English music?

A talent management agency saw one of my performances of Lil Champs on YouTube and asked me to perform at the Young Artist Award.

I won the Outstanding International Vocalist and met artists, producers and a lot of people my age.

Later, I learnt vocals, and did acting workshops.

I wasn’t exposed to western music before but when I was, I found it really cool. It felt more genuine because it wasn’t fantasy like in Bollywood.

When artists sing, they sing about life and the struggles they have gone through.

It prompted me to start writing lyrics for my songs. I was starting from scratch, with extensive training. Also, everything seemed doable.

I would participate in gig in cafes.

I know it's crazy to get into English music after growing up in Benaras. English music happened only after I went to Los Angeles.

Now, English music is very close to me because I write and perform in English. I'm comfortable in it. 

When did you realise you could sing?

My dad sings well, though he is not a professional singer.

He was in the DVD and cassette distribution business, so I got a chance to listen to a huge variety of music. That helped me develop an assorted sense of sound. I remember when I was five, I heard AR Rahman’s Dil Se... and it had a strong impact on me. That was the first time I realised I could sing. My father noticed my love for music and got me trained. I trained in Hindustani classical music for six years since I was seven. That helped me. 

What is your favourite singer?

I listen to classic rock. Among the younger lot, there is James Smith.

You favourite moment on The Stage?

When I won the title!

Apart from that, when I sang Chasing Cars. It's one of my favourite performances. 

Are you going to miss the judges (Vishal Dadlani, Ehsaan Noorani, Monica Dogra and Debraj Sanyal)?

The judges were more like buddies. They were so approachable. That's rarely seen in reality shows.

I will miss Ehsaan Noorani the most. He helped me learn new things, as a musician as well as a person. 

You are reportedly working in a Hindi film.

Yes. Actually, I had come to Mumbai to shoot my film Blue Mountains and The Stage happened. I play the lead and have sung four songs as well.

It also features Ranvir Shorey and Gracy Singh. 

What next?

I'm travelling back and forth from Mumbai and Los Angeles.

I will stick to Mumbai for a bit, as I have got a deal with Universal Music (as a part of the prize for winning The Stage). This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; I want to make full use of it.

I'm going with the flow now, and excited about the work coming in. I will not reject anything that shows up at my door.

In future, I want to work as a programmer and create my own sound. 

Do you miss being in college?

I did my Standard 12 through correspondence. I am focusing on my career now.

Honestly, I don’t miss college because I don’t know what it's like. What I'm doing is something special; I wouldn’t trade it for a normal life.

Rajul Hegde / in Mumbai