Rocketry singer Aditya Rao talks about latest single SND

In a conversation with DT Next, he talks about his experience working for Rocketry, his recent single SND and his other projects.
Indian-American singerand songwriter Aditya Rao
Indian-American singerand songwriter Aditya Rao

CHENNAI: Ask an artist how they see the world around them and they will show it to you through their art. Aditya Rao, born in Bengaluru, is an Indian-American singerand songwriter who gained popularity around the globe with his sensational Carnatic version of the song Shape of You by Ed Sheeran.

After having performed several gigs and produced singles, Aditya made his way to Bollywood as a lead vocalist and vocal arranger for nine original songs in the film Rocketry: The Nambi Effect.

In a conversation with DT Next, he talks about his experience working for Rocketry, his recent single SND and his other projects.

Q: How was it like working with the team of Rocketry: The Nambi Effect?

A: Sam is a fantastic composer. He has done a terrific job in bringing out the emotions behind every scene in the film. My role in the film as a vocal arranger and performer had me more closely collaborating with Billy Dawson and Nate Cornell, who originally composed the English versions of both songs in the film. Madhavan sir and I worked to develop the nine regional language versions of both songs using the English instrumentals, which was an incredibly fulfilling challenge. It took about two years to finalise the structure for the Tamil version, which was then used as a baseline to develop the songs in Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam. All the work was again done remotely, where I would be sitting in Los Angeles or Texas and we would get on video calls to go through every step of the process.

Q: Out of the two songs that you sang for Rocketry, which one did you enjoy the most and which is closer to your heart?

A: Although it’s two songs, I’ve sung nine versions of it across five languages, so it’s really hard to pick. But if I had to, I’d say both Tamil songs are closest to my heart, because not only were they the first two songs that we worked on, but the lyrics were also written by Dr Nambi Narayanan himself - and I had the duty of making sure that his words are brought to light in the way that he intended them to be.

Q: Talking about your song SND, the genre of the song is very different and has a very dreamy tone. What is the song about?

A: SND - or simply “Sound” also stands for “Sa Ni Dha,” which are the literal names of the notes that I sing in the song. It’s a letter that talks about my love for music, personified and brought to life through the love I’ve had for my forever girlfriend; which is what I call my wife. It’s about the emotions I feel when I close my eyes and think about nothing but music. It’s my moment of serenity and a time where everything feels on track, rather than haphazard. The melody and lyrics are simple, while the music bed dances between electro-synth and Indian classical genres, making you feel pensive and percussive, simultaneously. That’s the beauty of SND.

Q: Talking about your latest single SND, how long did the production process take? From writing to singing to mixing.

A: SND has gone through multiple iterations dating as far back as 2011 when I met the featured artist and songwriter, Shri Sriram. Shri is an award-winning bassist, composer, producer and arranger whose dynamic quest for new and collaborative ways of making music has taken him all over the world. We met at a hotel room in Mumbai, quickly set up our remote recording gear, and immediately hit it off with multiple ideas that fused genres together to truly create a sound that bends the norms and colours outside of the margins. Between 2011 and 2022, I continued to experiment, digest, and sometimes even step away from SND until the next idea came to mind, not worrying about how long it took to come up with the final mix because this song is a true labour of love and a deep-dive into a lifetime of love and respect for the art of music. Through the journey, I brought on a stellar team of music thought leaders along with Shri, such as Nagaari (a San Francisco-based producer associated with IndianRaga), Garry Purohit (Grammy-nominated audio engineer and mixer who has most recently worked with Coldplay, Harry Styles, Kanye West, and Shawn Mendes), Anjanah Rao (my wife and co-lyricist), and Dan Konopka (Grammy-nominated drummer for American rock band OK Go, and a mix/mastering engineer) to develop the final version of SND.

Q: What do you think is special about the single?

A: SND has been recorded, produced, and developed in so many different locations and studios. I’ve recorded inside closets, in hotel rooms, in echoing bedrooms, and in my home studio. I’ve produced midflight, in-between meals, and in-between moving from Los Angeles to Texas. And I think this unconventional way of getting things together, all came together in the most beautiful manner.

Q: How has the journey been for you and what is next for you?

A: I have a small but mighty team of producers, lyricists, and mix and master engineers who help me bring it all together. I love the journey my own music takes me on. Think of it as an impromptu vacation where you don’t have everything planned out. The learning and richness that comes out of figuring it out are irreplaceable. What’s next for me is one new independent song every month for the rest of the year, so there’s always new music. There are also some other larger collaboration projects in the works. I’ll be able to share that information in the near future.

Indian-American singerand songwriter Aditya Rao
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