The nation discovered his talent through his performances in the reality show ‘Dil Hai Hindustani’ Season 2. Akshay Dhawan, also known as ‘Akshay The One’, went on to win the show and since then, he has worked extensively in the music industry. In this interview, he talks about how winning the reality show changed his life, working with Pritam, how being bullied in school coerced him into to expressing himself through music and more.
You were the winner of the second season of the music reality show ‘Dil Hai Hindustani’. Did the show change things for you?
Yes, it changed a lot of things for me. After the show I got an opportunity to work with Pritam (Chakraborty) da. It was great working under him and learning from him. I was very lucky to have got that opportunity as everyone, who wants to make a career in music, wishes to work with him but very few get that opportunity.
You also worked with Pritam’s A&R company JAM8 on a project recently.
Yes, it was a show for Zee5. I have actually been working with JAM8 for a while and have done a lot of projects with him. I wrote the lyrics and produced the title track of ‘Chhoti Sardarni’ with them and also composed and sung a rap song for Farah Khan’s show ‘Backbenchers’ on Flipkart Video.
So, are you a part of JAM8 now?
I am not officially a member of JAM8 but I keep collaborating with them on multiple projects.
What is that one thing about or quality of Pritam Chakraborty which you admire the most?
Pritam da is one of the most down-to-earth human beings I have met in my life. He is a legend but he never makes you realise that as he treats you like a friend. He is always buzzing with new ideas and is extremely passionate about his work.
You are very close to your mother and one of the first songs you made was dedicated to her.
Yes, I was working on something else and suddenly, this song came to me from nowhere. It was almost like a Godsend to me. Nobody had made a rap song on mothers and the love they have for their children till then. I am very close to my mother, so making this song was a very special experience. I have performed on this song multiple number of times.
What do you aim to achieve through your music?
Main rap ko gully se ghar tak lekar jaana chahta hoon. I want to share my life experiences through my music. I want people to inspire through my music.
Speaking of gully, do you think the success of Gully Boy played a huge role in familiarising the Indian audience with rap music?
There has been a huge level of interest in rap music since Gully Boy. On the downside, a lot of rappers copied that style and did the same. You have to develop your own style and be original. You have to show the world what is unique about you.
You are from Ludhiana. How did that city shape you as an individual and as an artiste?
My experiences in school taught me a lot. I was bullied severely in school. I thought I should write something about that experience. You have to recognise that one thing makes you unique. I have a lot of respect for Yo Yo Honey Singh. He is not as active as he was before but whenever he comes up with a track, he makes sure that it is high on quality. His music is very original and that is why it struck a chord with the listeners.
Would you like to compose for films?
I am already doing that. People will get to hear my songs in films soon. Not just composing, I will be producing, singing and writing songs myself.
You made a song called ‘We Are Together’ on the after-effects of the corona virus scare.
Yes, I feel if there are a large number of people following me, I have some responsibility towards them and the society at large. I was getting a lot of messages about how this lockdown phase will continue for months. We keep hearing of so many new cases every day. There is a sense of panic among the people. I just wanted to convey a message in a simple way. We are used to leading a busy life but one must understand the importance of staying indoors during a crisis like this.
How has the lockdown affected the music industry?
Professional recordings are not happening as the studios are shut but I think many people from the fraternity are happy about the fact that they are getting a lot of time to work on their craft. They are taking it in a positive way.
You are known as ‘Akshay The One’. How did this title come about?
There is an interesting story behind it. I was on a tour with Badshah. One day, he was live on Instagram. I was sitting beside him then. He introduced me to his Instagram followers as Akshay The One. The name stuck. So yes, I owe this title to Badshah (laughs).
What is the kind of music you were inspired by as a child?
I have been hugely inspired by funk music. As a child, I heard a couple of songs in that genre on a TV show. At that time, I did not know it was called funk music but I was extremely inspired by its sound and used to love listening to it. I listen to Bollywood music largely for reference as I want to work in Bollywood actively and for that, I must know about the kind of music that is being created.
What are you doing next?
There are a lot of projects but I am not at the liberty to talk about them now.