The recent success of Ajay Mathur’s newest album 9 to 3 is completely warranted because of the sheer fact that the fifteen-track album is simply enjoyable. From “Sitting By Your Cradle” to “I Mantra,” Mathur provides an eclectic mix of songs that are heartfelt, passionate and fun. He spoke with us about his new album, songwriting competitions and other artists that influence his sound:
Me: The new album 9 to 3 has some very insightful lyrics, as well as a lot of fun and humorous songs. Is this type of mix something that you strived for or did it just happen during the writing and recording process?
Ajay Mathur: I did want to have a mix of different emotional spaces on 9 to 3. It’s like a journey with corners, turns and surprises. Lyrics are extremely important to me and they shape my songs. In general I write my own lyrics, but I collaborated with Mary Lou von Wyl, an exceptional writer and poet, for “Sitting By Your Cradle” and “Love Madness.”
Me: At fifteen tracks, the album is definitely extensive. Was there any left over material from the recording sessions that didn’t make the final product?
AM: I had twenty six completed songs to choose from for 9 to 3. Initially I intended to put 11 or 12 songs out, but decided in favour of the overall flow of the album to put out 15 tracks. The songs that didn’t make it to the album were not inferior by any means. I like them and I think they are good, but they just didn’t fit into the context of ‘9 to 3’.
Me: You were a finalist in the 2012 “Unsigned Only Songwriting Competition.” As the music industry continues to move towards streaming services and online media, do you still see a place for these types of contests for band and artist exposure?
AM: In the beginning years of modern pop-rock music it wasn’t seen as a competitive sport. There was lot collaboration, jamming and experimentation going on among musicians, songwriters and producers. This brought us some of the finest music ever known. I don’t see music as a competition. There is no best musician, no best singer and no best song. Music is a matter of personal taste and mesmerising force of creative energy that grabs you when you listen to a song. When it comes to creative arts, I’m sceptical of competitions. But I admit that songwriting contests like UO do add to artist exposure. I’m not sure about the effect contests in general have on the creativity and the self-esteem of artists. Isn’t it a bit like taking an exam? You slog the material just to get top scores, but understanding, learning and creating come from playing, from collaborating and experimenting.
AM: It feels really, really good. I have no words to describe how good it feels. I’m thrilled by how well the media, especially radio stations, have accepted my songs. The Airplay Charts rankings are a huge validation and an honour for me. The album reviews have been extremely well researched and well written, with such great love for detail, anecdotes and humour. The use of social media by the music bloggers, especially Twitter has been very helpful to rapidly build awareness for ‘9 to 3’ and share the reviews. I’ve put my favorite reviews, the ones with charm, love for detail and great sense of humor on my website.
Me: Are there any current artists that you would compare your style of writing to? Your type of music could be classified in a league of its own.
AM: I listen to a lot of music, especially that from excellent songwriters. I respect and love the great songwriters like Tom Petty, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Lennon-McCartney, as well as Beck, Jeff Tweedy, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Jonathan Wilson. I think they all have their own inimitable style. I can’t really compare my style of writing to any specific artist, but I’m sure their music has influenced my songwriting in some way or another.
Me: If you were able to have a dream gig playing anywhere in the world and on stage with your favorite musician of all time, who and were would you chose?
AM: Tom Petty. He’s great, his band is great. To play a gig with Tom Petty would be my musical nirvana.
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