Along with his brother, composer Amaal Malik, Armaan Malik is responsible for much of the chart-topping music of the Hindi film industry in the 2010s. The singer burst onto the scene at age 18 with his song Tumko To Aana Hi Tha in the Salman Khan-starrer Jai Ho. He’s since been delivered a bank of popular songs including Naina (Khoobsurat), Buddhu Sa Mann (Kapoor & Sons), Besabriyaan (MS Dhoni: The Untold Story), among many others. He’s also lent his voice to tracks across film industries, in languages such as Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada, among others.
Ahead of the release of his first-ever English single titled Control¸the singer spoke to Anupama Chopra about his much-needed hiatus from music, how he’s coping with social distancing and the enduring advice he received from Salman Khan.
What can tell us about Control? What is this song about?
Control is my first English language single. It releases on 20th March on Arista Records. A few days back I announced that I’d signed with them and it was one of the happiest days of my life. This has been a big dream of mine since childhood, so I am really excited! Control is an out and out pop song. It is very bouncy and has a very groovy baseline. It is also quite up-tempo which is a departure from the Armaan that you have heard or seen so far.
In an interview you said that to write and release English music has been your dream for as long as you can remember. What inspired this dream?
I have always had this dream of becoming a pop star. For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessing over the videos of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and in my teen years, Justin Bieber. I’ve always dreamt of being a singer on the world stage, which has never happened with anyone in India. I feel it’s the right time for someone to do that and I wish to be that artist.
What was the recording process like? Did you have to alter your accent significantly to appeal to a non-Indian audience?
A lot of people have this misconception that Indians need to put on an accent while singing in English because they don’t have a natural English-singing pronunciation. But whenever I sing in English it doesn’t feel like I am forcing myself to put on an accent. It’s like second nature to me. Just like I sing Hindi and all the other regional languages like Tamil and Telugu, it’s the same thing with English. It just flows.
You have been wonderfully open about your struggles with depression. Right now is a very difficult time for everybody in the world. How are you dealing with it and what are you doing right now?
A few months ago an article came out about me battling depression and I just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t. I was just going through a rough patch. I don’t know if I would like to call it depression because that’s a very heavy term. I was not going through something that serious. I was going through a rough patch and I just wanted to be honest about it. I feel like people believe that celebrities don’t go through things like that. I wanted to let them know that it is very human to go through things.
Also, I have always been someone who feels comfortable being alone. I don’t mind being in isolation. If you leave me at home for days or months, I am okay. It is one of the cosiest and safest places for me and I feel at this point in time when the Coronavirus is so rampant and we are going through such a dark phase, you could look at it as a great way to reconnect with your family.
I feel like there is a certain poetry in what is happening right now. I feel like there is a certain philosophical side where God and nature are trying to tell us to concentrate more on what is important. I think going out would be selfish. Being at home is caring about others.
You actually said in an interview that Salman Khan taught you how to have screen presence and personality. What practical advice did he give you?
The advice that Salman Bhai gave me was that just being a singer is not going to cut it today, you have to be more than that, you have to be a persona. To be a persona you need to have other skills like having a good body, knowing how to dance, being able to have stage presence and knowing how to speak well. But the most important thing he taught me was obviously to stay fit which he is also known for. He enrolled me into dance classes, he wanted me to be a complete performer. That’s the kind of advice he gave me and I think it is very valuable. I have actioned it as much as I could. I am a little lazy in the workout department but dance has been a big part of my concert performances.
You have got millions of followers on Instagram, and in March you deleted all your posts and you said that you can’t take it anymore. What happened?
The reason I did that was because I feel one part of my journey has come to a close and the second part is going to begin from here on. I wanted to give that journey a fresh start which is why I deleted all the posts. The first post I put up was ‘I can’t take it anymore’ which I know was taken in the wrong way by a lot of people. My fans, my friends and family started messaging me asking if I was okay. But that line was from my new song Control. Many people thought that I was going to take a major step and do something drastic but it got clarified after I started putting the subsequent posts and people got to know that it was about my new song.
You have been working since you were 9. What keeps you passionate and excited about your work?
As I said a few months back, I had this low phase where everyone was talking about me being depressed. That whole phase where I was tired of everything that I was doing, the kind of songs I was singing, and tired of singing the same songs again and again. Even though the fans enjoyed it, I wasn’t enjoying it because it was happening every second day and I was just exhausted. My mind and heart weren’t in it which is why I took a break and started travelling a lot. I think I reached this wall while performing and recording and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
When you start that young, it’s difficult. For example, when you see that Justin Bieber capsule that he put out about how, since childhood, he’s been at it and never stopped. And it’s been frustrating for him to the point where he said ‘to hell with this thing. I am gonna take a backseat and I am not gonna do music for some time’. It wasn’t that extreme for me but I think every artist goes through that. It’s not a good phase to be in because I started hating the same songs that had made me Armaan Malik in the first place. The only way for that not to happen is to take as many breaks when you need to and not keep overworking yourself.