music

A YouTube-taught Indian guitarist is topping the charts and winning fans (including Katrina Kaif)

Sutej Singh is a quintessential artist of the internet age.

Solan-based progressive rock guitarist and composer Sutej Singh, 25, is an overnight sensation whose career has been years in the making. Singh began writing and recording his debut album The Emerging, which reached number one on iTunes India’s all-genre albums chart within a day of release in May, back in 2015.

Filled with searing solos, orchestral flourishes, and heavy metal drums, it’s essentially an album that was written in the bedroom but built for a stadium. “My current goal is to perform at a big festival with the whole orchestra behind me,” said Singh, whose music bears the sonic imprint of Dream Theater and Pink Floyd – bands featuring his two biggest guitar heroes John Petrucci and David Gilmour.

Apart from their virtuosity, Singh said Petrucci and Gilmour’s “melodic playing is what I connected to the most”. His own sizeable technical skill is all the more impressive considering that he taught himself to play the guitar less than 10 years ago. Singh hadn’t heard much rock music until he was about 15, and a cousin introduced him to groups like Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dream Theater and Pearl Jam. These acts appealed to him because of “the originality of the songwriting; there was no computerised stuff, whatever [they’re] playing [is what] you’re getting”.

Play

Inspired and self-taught

Soon enough, he was hooked. “I started listening to them the whole day,” said Singh, whose tastes at the time were limited to the 1980s pop in his parents’ collection. A couple of years on, he asked his dad to buy him a guitar and began learning how to cover his idols’ tunes with the help of tutorials on YouTube and the software Guitar Pro.

While his music is substantially influenced by sounds from decades ago, in many ways Singh is a quintessential artist of the internet age. The Emerging features collaborations with a host of progressive rock veterans from the UK such as drummers Scott Higham from Pendragon and Raymond Hearne from Haken and bassist Kylan Amos, whom he connected with through Google and Facebook. He got in touch with American instrumentalist Gina Luciani, who plays flute and piccolo on the record, via Instagram and found Australian composer Leon Ross, who arranged the string section parts, on YouTube.

Sutej Singh. Photo courtesy: Pinecone Records & Sessions.
Sutej Singh. Photo courtesy: Pinecone Records & Sessions.

“Every single thing I learned is from the internet,” said Singh who had to cast his search over the World Wide Web because of the paucity of resources in his hometown. While there’s no dearth of talent in Solan and neighbouring towns –“I know a guy who’s a DJ, guitarist, drummer and a producer” – Singh says they lack everything from quality equipment to jam rooms and performance spots. “The closest venues are the pubs in Chandigarh, which is a two-hour drive away,” said Singh, who recorded The Emerging at Blue Olive Studio in Mohali.

Different career

Music, unsurprisingly, isn’t considered a viable career option. Apart from a few exceptions such as singer-songwriter Shubhank Sharma, most bands, which come together in college and do the competition circuit over the next few years, break up when it’s time to leave the institutions. “When you graduate, you have to look for a job and the music scene is officially over for you,” said Singh, who was part of the progressive rock band Wireweed while enrolled in a mechanical engineering course at Maharishi Markandeshwar University in Mullana between 2010 and 2014. “We [would perform] our own compositions [which] were 11 or 13 minutes long, with three-to-four minute guitar solos.”

Singh was part of the herd, too, until he realised he wanted to make music his life. “The initial two years of the degree, I was like ‘I need to get a job, I need to study hard’ but the third and fourth year were the complete opposite, I didn’t attend any classes, I would just practise my guitar in the hostel and play college gigs and travel with the band.” Luckily for him, his parents were extremely supportive.

Play

“I had to convince [them] that this is what I want to do,” Singh said. “My father was a cricketer in his younger days. He was passionate about doing something he really liked [but] had to do something else to earn for his family. He gave me a chance [and] said, ‘You can do anything you want; you get a year.’ It’s been four years.” His folks provided both moral and financial support and are “super proud” now that the record is reaping rewards such as topping the charts and earning a surprise shout-out from Katrina Kaif on Instagram.

He wants to send the actress a CD as a token of thanks but so far, she hasn’t replied to his messages. A contact in Kaif might help Singh get a foothold in the film industry where he wants to work on background scores. That he would be quite good at it is evident in the dramatic album Revelations, which the listener could easily imagine as the theme of a period action movie. Singh wrote it as “practice for film scoring”.

Driven by emotions

Another track, Walk The Path, was originally made as part of an application for a scholarship from a music school, which he eventually did not submit. “I just ended up making a song that included a lot of complex parts and time signatures,” said Singh. “The idea of an album came from there.” Somewhere along the way, he started listening to western classical music, which he attributes to his fondness for Dream Theater. “[Some of their songs] have these huge string section moments,” he said. “I kind of fell in love with those tracks and wanted that sound in my music.”

Play

Gradually, The Emerging transformed from a collection of tunes, inspired by themes such as heartbreak (Oceans Apart) and the relationship between a teacher and student or parent and child (Walk My Path), into a three-part concept album. The first part “shows the softer side of a person”, the darker second part “the angrier side” and the third “feelings of learning and realisation”. These varied emotions are represented in Sushant Vohra’s striking artwork for The Emerging, in which flowers surround a bovine skull.

Next, Singh aims to take the album on the road with the band he recently formed with guitarist Utkarsh Tyagi and two friends who are members of Chandigarh-based rock group That Boy Roby, bassist Ishan Sharma (who was also in Wireweed) and drummer Paarth Koser. Singh, who moved to Chandigarh recently so they could start jamming regularly, is in it for the long haul – “I’m good at nothing else. [This is] the only thing I can do.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Get ready for an 80-hour shopping marathon

Here are some tips that’ll help you take the lead.

Starting 16th July at 4:00pm, Flipkart will be hosting its Big Shopping Days sale over 3 days (till 19th July). This mega online shopping event is just what a sale should be, promising not just the best discounts but also buying options such as no cost EMIs, buyback guarantee and product exchanges. A shopping festival this big, packed with deals that you can’t get yourself to refuse, can get overwhelming. So don’t worry, we’re here to tell you why Big Shopping Days is the only sale you need, with these helpful hints and highlights.

Samsung Galaxy On Nxt (64 GB)

A host of entertainment options, latest security features and a 13 MP rear camera that has mastered light come packed in sleek metal unibody. The sale offers an almost 40% discount on the price. Moreover, there is a buyback guarantee which is part of the deal.

Original price: Rs. 17,900

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Samsung 32 inches HD Ready LED TV

Another blockbuster deal in the sale catalogue is this audio and visual delight. Apart from a discount of 41%, the deal promises no-cost EMIs up to 12 months.

Original price: Rs. 28,890

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Intel Core I3 equipped laptops

These laptops will make a thoughtful college send-off gift or any gift for that matter. Since the festive season is around the corner, you might want to make use of this sale to bring your A-game to family festivities.

Original price: Rs. 25,590

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 21,900

Fashion

If you’ve been planning a mid-year wardrobe refresh, Flipkart’s got you covered. The Big Shopping Days offer 50% to 80% discount on men’s clothing. You can pick from a host of top brands including Adidas and Wrangler.

With more sale hours, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale ensures we can spend more time perusing and purchasing these deals. Apart from the above-mentioned products, you can expect up to 80% discount across categories including mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty, home and furniture.

Features like blockbuster deals that are refreshed every 8 hours along with a price crash, rush hour deals from 4-6 PM on the starting day and first-time product discounts makes this a shopping experience that will have you exclaiming “Sale ho to aisi! (warna na ho)”

Set your reminders and mark your calendar, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days starts 16th July, 4 PM and end on 19th July. To participate in 80 hours of shopping madness, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Flipkart and not by the Scroll editorial team.