Meet Prateek Kuhad, the Pop Artist Combining Seraphic Vocals with Enthralling Lyrics

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Gorkey Patwal/Courtesy of Prateek Kuhad

New Delhi-based singer and songwriter Prateek Kuhad has firsthand witnessed his fan base grow rapidly with each release. Most recently, the 29-year-old artist released his six-track EP, Cold/Mess, and is finishing up a tour in the United States, where he spends half of his time. Singing in both Hindi and English, and performing as both a guitarist and pianist, Kuhad is a multi-talented musician on the verge of dominating the pop scene. Blending his Indian roots with an American twist, Kuhad has created an incomparable sound that resonates with fans on an emotional level, as his lyrics commonly explore love and heartache. 

What’s even more surprising about Kuhad is his rapid acceptance and success in the music scene. With two degrees from New York University in economics and math, music wasn’t the path Kuhad thought he would walk down. Shortly after graduating, the Inidan artist made a name for himself in the United States, but his popularity in India came long before it. In 2015, the release of his debut album, In Tokens and Charms, gained him international notice and led to an MTV Europe Music Award for Indie Album of the Year, iTunes’ Indie Album of the Year honors and Best Pop Artist at the Radio City Freedom Awards. 

Combining persistence and dedication with undeniable craft, Kuhad efficiently balances a double life of travel, touring and performing across continents. His cinematic songwriting paired with mesmerizing production had us keen to learn more about his creative process and his unexpected but critically acclaimed journey.

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Sambit Biswas/Courtesy of Prateek Kuhad

ONE37pm: Tell us about your relationship with music. What made you decide to pursue a career in it?

Prateek Kuhad: I had been doing music on the side all through school and college. So it was always a thing at the back of my mind. After college at NYU, I worked for a bit at a consulting firm in New York, and four months into it decided to take a year off and pursue music and give it a shot as a full-time career. 

Who did you grow up listening to and who put you onto them?

Kuhad: As a child, I listened to a lot of Cliff Richards and Harry Belafonte thanks to my mum. My sister put me on to a bunch of classic rock like Pink Floyd and some grunge from the ‘90s like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And of course there was a bunch of indian independent music that was around everywhere, on TV, radio, etc. and also Bollywood music! 

Which artists inspire your sound the most?

Kuhad: It’s hard to pick one but if I had to I think, Elliott Smith has informed my songwriting style the most. 

Which song on cold/mess are you most proud of and what is your personal response to the EP, besides being the one who made it?

Kuhad: I think the title song “cold/mess” itself—it’s a really strong chorus line! And it’s hard to be objective in this case but I feel like it’s my best work so far. Maybe I’m biased, haha.

Tell us about your creative process, where do most of your lyrics stem from?

Kuhad: The lyrics used to stem a lot from personal experiences but lately, as I have been getting better at my craft, they come more from context surrounding the song and where I want it to go. That inspiration comes from anywhere really. 

How do you balance living overseas but touring and visiting often in the US? 

Kuhad: I’ve been splitting my time about 50/50, and it’s been working out so far! For now spending part of my time in the U.S. and the other part in India has been working fine. We’ll see where I eventually end up, but right now just going with the flow. Being an international artist does have its challenges though, there are a lot of additional logistical hurdles like Visas that can make it quite tough to breakthrough.

Your songs have been featured in two films (Baar Baar Dekho and Karwaan), explain how you felt when you were notified of this success. Were the songs written for the films or beforehand? If they were written for the film, what was your creative process for writing music for film? 

Kuhad: It felt pretty great of course! And yes, I wrote them specifically for the film. Writing for syncs like this is quite different because you are given a certain situation and a certain character to write for. So you’re writing from the character's perspective, not yours, so that gives you less freedom and it is a lot more fictional. It’s a different process and I quite enjoy it as well, actually. 

What are you working on right now? More touring? An album?

Kuhad: Still more touring left! We just finished the U.S. tour. Now I’m headed to the U.K. and other parts of  Europe for a bunch of shows there until December. Then mid-December has me back in India for a few more shows there. I’m also working on a record but still unsure of when that is coming out.

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