Breaking international barriers and making his name known across the globe, Armaan Malik is here to provide you with your new favorite song. The 24-year old singer has already taken India by storm but is now releasing a single in English. His new song “Control” is about to hit the charts, and he couldn’t be more excited about it. Even though his native language is Hindi, he’s had a dream since he was young to write and put out an English song. But no matter what language the song is in, Malik’s music tells universal stories一stories of love, heartbreak, and the rollercoaster that is life. Malik is an artist you’ll want to follow… he could just be the next international obsession.

As a quick first question, can you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Armaan Malik, and I’m an Indian singer and songwriter. I’ve been singing in the Bollywood industry for the last 13 or 14 years. I’ve been doing music since forever. I started singing when I was four, and I started taking lessons when I was five. I started singing professionally when I was eight. So, I’ve literally done nothing else but singing my whole life. I’ve always wanted to do English music. It’s something very close to my heart, my DNA, and I felt like now was the right time to get into it. 

You come from an extremely musical family. Did you ever have a phase of wanting to rebel and do something non-music related with life or is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
I don’t think I could have ignored my singing and my music. It was such a natural thing for me. My parents never forced me. They wanted me to study more, too, and be more educated than I already am. I’m very good at my studies, but I just professionally couldn’t complete it because I started touring, performing, and singing. They would’ve respected me if I had done something in the educational field. But I chose singing, and it was purely my choice. I was never forced because of my family. For me, there was nothing else I would have chosen besides music. It was a natural thing for me. 

Fortunately, because your family is so musical, you could have had a lot of support and resources for building your career. But let’s just say for a second you hadn’t had that. How hard is it for someone in India to build a successful career in Bollywood music?
I belong to a family that is well-known in the industry, but I chose to break away from that and do my own thing. I always wanted to make my own mark in the industry. One way I did this was by entering a reality show in India. It’s called SA RE GA MA PA Tamil, and it’s very popular. I submitted my tape for it, and I only used my first name. If I had submitted my last name, they would have known what family I come from. I reached the top-end finalists for that show, but I did it based on my talent and musical capabilities. That’s the first way I broke away from my family. I also broke away from the stereotype that if you’re part of a family in the industry, you get it easy. I didn’t want anyone to have those thoughts about me. I wanted to prove myself in my own way. I actually went against my dad’s wishes. He didn’t want me to go on that show, but I still went. My mom supported me. When he did watch me on the show, he was in tears. I wanted the world to judge me as a singer, not someone from a well-known musical family. This was all at the age of nine.  

PHOTO by ARISTA RECORDS

How are you feeling about your English single, “Control,” which releases today?
I’ve waited for this moment for a very long time. I was 16 when I had dreamt of doing something in English and pop music. Obviously, in India, Bollywood music is one of the most important genres. I went on the whole journey of becoming a Bollywood singer, but I felt like I had done enough there and wanted to pursue my dreams… I’m super excited to be part of Arista Records, and I think it’s a very prestigious label to be part of. With David Massey now heading it, he’s taking it in a new direction, and I think it’s going to be amazing. 

Are you feeling any extra nerve due to this being the first English-speaking single of yours? Or is it something you’ve been ready to release for so long?
I feel very confident in my English music. I’m nervous, but it’s nervous excitement. I’m not nervous about whether or not people will like it. I’m confident about the music I’m putting out, but it’s nervous excitement because it’s finally happening for me. 

How are your original fans from India reacting to the drastic language switch?
My fans have always known me to be someone to sing in multiple languages. They’ve always known I love to sing in English. I’ve done a lot of covers on YouTube and stuff like that. But for them to know I’m going to be taking it very seriously, that’s very exciting. It was a little shocking to some, and they were afraid I was going to leave singing Indian or Bollywood music to sing English music. I’m going to be doing all that I’m known for, but my concentration is going to be a little more on the English side. It’s something I’ve wanted for a very long time. I’m just going to have to balance out India and the US. 

Because you know so many languages, do you write the original songs in the language in which you plan to sing them or do you translate from a certain language?
Actually, all the languages in which I sing, except Hindi and English, I don’t understand. It’s interesting because when I go into the studio, I just hear the lyrics in the different languages and pick up the phonetics. I write them down in English and reproduce it into the mic. I don’t write in those languages. I only write in English and Hindi. I can sing in the languages, but I can’t speak them. I can reproduce them only through singing. 

PHOTO by ARISTA RECORDS

What are some challenges you’ve noticed in building your career in the West versus the East? Vice versa?
There’s always this thought in India that you can’t break that barrier and go solo and break away from the Asian market and make it in an international market. I think that’s because of the way they think you pronounce English words and use English, it’s something used too globally. I think that’s been one shortcoming when it comes to Indian singles, but I think a lot of contemporary singles don’t have that problem. I feel like it’s the right time to open that gateway for India. I want to sing the songs in English and show them it is possible. It hasn’t been done much before. I’m not sure what went wrong, but I hope to break that barrier. 

Are there certain emotions and topics in songs that do better in the East versus the West?
I think the material I’ve been singing about in India is quite universal. It talks about human stories, love, heartbreak, and life. I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the East and the West in that manner of things. I do tend to tone down the sexuality in my songs because my fans are quite young. 

You’ve gained a large following on YouTube. Being so international, YouTube can really help spread an artist. Do you focus a lot on the success of your videos on YouTube? Are they a big priority?
YouTube is a big priority in bringing music from India to the world. I think YouTube is seen as a value of success in India, which is why a lot of focus goes into promoting the song on YouTube. I’ve seen a lot of lyric videos and audio releases, but in India, whenever a song is released, a video has to go live on YouTube. That’s how they perceive a song has been released. If you don’t release a video, people don’t get to know about it. 

In terms of success in general, it can be hard not to become worried about the idea. But how do you measure your own personal success?
I try not to get too caught up in it. I have achieved a decent amount of success in my country. I won’t ignore that fact. It hasn’t gotten to my head because I have a very big vision for myself and what I want to achieve. For me, success is definitely a byproduct of what I’m doing. It never gets to my head or blurs my vision. 

When working as a judge on India’s The Voice, what kind of attitude and mentality do you put on before sitting down in the chair?
I was the youngest person to sit on the panel. I was sitting with industry veterans from India, and I was nervous to put my opinion out there. I didn’t know if they were thinking my age was a factor in my comments. I realized I’ve done something noteworthy, which is why I’m on that panel. My opinion does matter. I was very honest in my opinion about the singers. It was a very positive experience. I’ve been a contestant on a reality show before so I knew what they were going through, and I could relate with them on that level. 

PHOTO by ARISTA RECORDS

How do you think your experience can help those you work with on the show?
I conveyed that this show is not the be-all-end-all for them. It can look like—with some reality shows—that when they reach the end, they’ve made it, and it becomes this downward spiral afterward. A lot of that happens in India. I try to tell the contestants that the real journey begins outside of the show. Obviously, the show is a big piece of the journey, but it really begins after. From personal experience, I feel like it was helpful for contestants to get that point of view from me. 

Looking at a broader scope in your music, who are some artists you’re still dying to work with?
The two that come to mind almost immediately are Charlie Puth and Zedd. When it comes to female artists, Anne-Marie is someone I really like. 

What’s one thing you hope to do in your career by the end of the year?
For me, my main vision is to introduce not only my fans but music fans everywhere to my brand of music and the music I enjoy making. I really want to put India on the global map. With the new English single, I’m also going to be putting out a few Hindi singles as well.  By the end of the year I want people to know that even though I am an Indian singer, English is a side of me that’s very close to my heart. This has always been my trajectory. I’ve always wanted to do this.

What’s some advice for an artist who’s trying to break international borders?
I come from India, which is a predominantly Bollywood music industry. About 70-80% of the music is Bollywood. When I was 16, my dad sat me down and said, “Son, you’re from India, which is obviously a big country with so many kinds of people who listen to Bollywood music. Why don’t you do Bollywood music and build a fanbase here? Once you build a fanbase, why don’t you introduce them to your dream?” That’s what I did. For almost 10 or 12 years, I concentrated on Bollywood music. Now that I have cemented some kind of position here in India, I feel like I can leverage the love of the fans I have here and take that and go global. So the advice I’d like to give to anyone trying to go global is get love from fans in your country first. Get popular locally first. Interact with local music, and work on collaborations in your home country. Once you make a presence for yourself in your country, then you can champion the outside.

 

STORY ELIZABETH STAFFORD

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