Terrific trio Shankar Ehsaan Loy have been lighting up Indian cinema with sparkling hits for 20 years, and written themselves into the history books with incredible songs that have entertained global audiences.
Instead of resting on their impressive achievements, they are continuing to power on with even better tracks and world-class live performances. They will return to the UK next week to headline the Alchemy festival, which is being held at Southbank Centre in central London. The trio have been working overtime to deliver what promises to be one of the most memorable concerts of the year at the annual event, along with performing in Leicester.
Eastern Eye caught up with Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani and Loy Mendonsa to talk about all things music, their forthcoming shows, unfulfilled ambitions and more.
You three have one of the most incredible musical partnerships in the world. What has kept the bond so strong?
Shankar: I think it’s because we are all different as individuals, have different musical preferences and completely different musical sensibilities. (Laughs) Opposites do attract, I guess.
Ehsaan: The music, the fun, the growth and mutual respect that we have for each other has kept us connected.
Loy: Yes, it is the music and the diversity that we bring to it. (Smiles) And long may it continue!
How do you look back on your journey as a hit-making trio?
Loy: It has not been easy. There have been lots of ups, downs, creative quarrels and disagreements, but ultimately we work towards writing a good song.
Ehsaan: It’s been a great learning experience with a lot of ups and downs along the way, which have only added to our growth musically and spiritually, I would say.
Shankar: I think the journey has been very educational and we have learned a lot of things both in and out of music. When we look back we are really proud of the catalogue of work that we have created.
Has the way you three work over time changed?
Shankar: Yes, it has changed. (Laughs) It was a bit chaotic and now even more so.
You have set such high standards in your music. Does that put pressure on you every time you go into the studio?
Ehsaan: There’s definitely pressure on us to create something better than the time before, but that is the stimulus we need to create better music each time.
How does the studio compare to the stage?
Ehsaan: They are completely different experiences, but there would be no stage performances if we did not create the music in the studio in the first place.
Loy: You know, both are part of the whole. It’s not isolated. Performing your music and taking it to the audience is so important.
Can you tell if a song will be a hit while you are recording it?
Loy: It is very difficult to say. Sometimes you just have a good feeling on a song and sometimes a track will surprise you when it releases.
Talking of which, is there one song that exceeded your expectations when it was released?
Loy: Yes, I think Kajra Re (from Bunty Aur Babli). No one expected that song to take off like it did. It is still a big track even today.
Where is the strangest place you have come up with a song?
Loy: (Laughs) In terms of the strangest place (for me), that would be unmentionable! I will leave it to your imagination.
How much are you looking forward to the UK shows?
Shankar: We always look forward to coming to the UK and are excited.
Ehsaan: It’s been a while since we performed in England, so we are very much looking forward to returning for our shows. We have a huge fan following there, so performing and interacting with them will be a very fulfilling experience, as it always has been.
What can we expect from the shows this year?
Loy: You can definitely expect another high-energy performance. You can expect all of our hit songs and some of ‘our’ personal favourites too.
Shankar: We will be performing a mix of all our popular songs. We also have a set of young, extremely talented artists who are very energetic performers joining us.
How much has performing live helped you three as composers?
Shankar: It’s a kind of energy you get which is irreplaceable, and that carries on into the studio.
You have so many hits. Does it become difficult to choose which songs to perform?
Ehsaan: The simple answer is yes. We have more than 300 songs to choose from, including 45 number ones. It does make it very difficult, but eventually it’s a process of elimination, where we choose the ‘most popular’ ones as opposed to just the popular ones.
What is your favourite part of the Shankar Ehsaan Loy live show?
Loy: There’s no favourite part for me. I like the whole graph. It’s difficult to isolate any particular segment.
Ehsaan: I think the entire show in itself is an experience, from the sound check to post show.
Shankar: All parts of the show are a favourite of mine, but if I had to choose one, it would be performing Kal Ho Na Ho.
Shankar, as the lead singer, do you feel added pressure going on stage?
Shankar: (Laughs) No, I never feel pressure. It’s the opposite – I can’t wait to go on stage.
What advice would you give a young musician?
Ehsaan: The key piece of advice I would give is that always know that you are a music student from the beginning to the end.
Shankar, you have done some incredible songs, but who would your dream duet be with now?
Shankar: There are only about 100 artists who I dream about working with, so I can’t single out just one.
Ehsaan, you are one of the greatest guitar players, but who is your all-time guitar hero?
Ehsaan: I have too many heroes to name just one. All of them, in one way or the other, have influenced not only my guitar playing, but my song writing as well. But some of the top ones I admire are BB King, Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Today, what is the greatest unfulfilled musical ambition you have?
Loy: Mine is to play the trumpet like Miles Davis.
Shankar: I feel that this is just the beginning, with much more to do and accomplish, so there is still a lot to do.
Ehsaan: There’s a lot more that I need to learn and add to my musical growth.
Which soundtracks can we look forward to?
Shankar: The soundtracks we have coming up include Rakeysh Mehra’s Mirzya, Rock On 2, an ongoing production with Yash Raj Films and several other new projects that are in the pipeline.
Finally, why should we all come to the live shows?
Ehsaan: Because it’s an experience you won’t forget.
Loy: You should all come to have a fun evening out.
Shankar Ehsaan Loy will be performing at De Montfort Hall in Leicester next Friday (27), and at Royal Festival Hall in London as part of the Alchemy Festival next Saturday (28). Visit www.rockonmusic uk.com or www.southbankcentre.co.uk to find out more.