Ego should have no place in the pursuit of musical prowess, believes T Praveen Kumar, lead guitarist of the Carnatic progressive rock band Agam.
If you haven’t heard Agam yet, your FOMO radar needs some fixing. Seriously.
The band has been around for a decade now and their recently-released second album ‘A Dream to Remember’ has created waves in the Indian music scene. A R Rahman, the musical cyclone aka Isai Puyal himself tweeted Agam’s single ‘Mist of Capricorn (Manavyalakinchara)’!
But when we spoke to Praveen on the phone, he was as humble and down-to-earth as could be. He took time out of his busy weekday evening (32 minutes, to be precise) to answer our many many questions about how he creates magic on the strings.
A musician friend wanted to know if Praveen feels intimidated by the overwhelming sea of talent out there.
“There is always something another musician has that you do not have, something unique. Whenever I meet a musician, I am aware of that and I am perfectly okay with it because I can learn from this person and grow,” Praveen said.
If you let ego get in the way or you stop learning, you’ll become stagnant and this will hurt you as a musician, he added.
Being lead guitarist at Agam seems like a full-time job in itself but Praveen is also the Director of Product at Myra Medicines. In fact, that’s what the seven-member band is known for- juggling day jobs with incredible music.
Praveen admitted that life is hectic and though he used to practice at least two hours a day when he started out, now he manages to put in about 45 minutes every two days. Whenever there is an upcoming show, practice time goes up to two hours and at least a one-hour warm up before going on stage.
“Every day is difficult but when you are passionate about something, you make time for it,” he said.
Praveen has been lucky because he has a supportive company and he has discussed his situation with them. The band plans their shows in advance, keeping everyone’s work schedule in mind.
“We do this because we also love this part of our work. At the end of the day, it is a different form of being creative,” he said.
For Agam, music is a pursuit of pure passion. Testimony: the members don’t take a single penny home from what the band makes.
“The founding members and most of the current members don’t take a penny out. We put it all back into the band to fund quality production. It is not easy to be together for ten years without commercial benefit. It is the music that drives us as individuals and as a band,” Praveen said.
Doesn’t that make you want to roll up your sleeves and do something awesome?
But wait, before you get in the zone-
Praveen’s advice to young musicians: You need to really believe in what you are doing. At the same time, you should also be practical. You have to be viable in the market. Unless there is a product-market fit, there is no point. And there is no such thing as ‘not having time’. Make time for the things you love.
What the band could have done differently: We should probably have written more new songs. We should also have created more video content because video engages people more than audio. But we have started working on that.
What he could have done differently: I wish I had started learning to play the guitar when I was 5 or 6. And learned Carnatic music, too.
His music idol: John Petrucci from Dream Theater