Zaeden Shares Why EDM Will Always Be Close To His Heart; Recalls Working With Maroon 5

Zaeden is a maverick and a genius when it comes to music. While many artists start young, Zaeden’s initiation towards music began at the age of 14, when he started making mixtapes of dance music releases for his friends. His first single ‘Land Of Lords’ that released almost a decade ago spearheaded him towards the electronic dance music genre, where his remixes of global artists like Coldplay garnered him acclaim. Not only was he the closing act for DJ David Guetta’s Mumbai concert but also one of the few Indian faces to represent the country at the prestigious stage of Tomorrowland. The multi-talented singer, producer and DJ has dished out viral tracks from time to time and has recently collaborated with Lisa Mishra for ‘Aa Mil’

In an exclusive conversation, Zaeden spoke extensively about his journey as an independent artist, his singles and album and how he never focuses on shaping a song for a particular genre.

Here are the excerpts:

Your latest song ‘Aa Mil’ with Lisa Mishra has a breezy texture to the melody. It does convey the warmth of love and at the same time celebrates that emotion. What did you have in mind when you were creating this tune and how did the collaboration with Lisa Mishra come about? How was it like working with her?

Lisa and I have always wanted to collaborate on a song. We almost released my second single ‘kya karoon?’ together, but due to some label complications we couldn’t move forward with it. While creating ‘Aa Mil’ I had the demo of the song ready but it kind of felt incomplete to me every time I heard it. In a random studio session when I played the song to Lisa, she loved it and wanted to hop on. That’s when I realised that having a female voice on the song would enhance it so much more and finally had Lisa on board for one of my songs. I remember her working on a husky tone specifically to match the tone of this song and her voice perfectly fit in. It was great to finally hit the studio and work on a song with her after knowing each other for years!

You’ve been blending Hindi and Punjabi lyrics in your songs quite seamlessly. Do you feel this holistic blend has become a signature style of yours, that your listeners are able to relate to compared to your contemporaries?

I just do what comes naturally. When I’m working on melodies, I always record a super scratch version with random words just to get the phonetics right. And later I decide what language blends more with the phonetics and what I’m trying to express. I’m glad the Hindi and Punjabi blend is working out for me and my listeners are enjoying it.

Describe your journey behind creating your debut album Genesis 1:1. It’s a sonorous mix of English and Hindi songs that touches upon a lot of genres right from EDM to R&B, acoustic and folk. What were some of the most challenging tracks to crack and how collaborating with other independent artists helped you learn? What were some of your major takeaways?

Expressing and penning down my journey behind working on my debut album ‘Genesis 1:1’ is a whole new chapter on its own. But the output really made me feel liberated and proud of my body of work. I almost felt like there was a need or desire to prove myself as a singer and songwriter after saying goodbye to DJing, which I tried to do with all honesty by making the album. Not that I have to feel secure about my art by the validation from others, but through this album I got to learn that hard work beats self doubt every time. The real challenge is to learn along with what you’re creating. Collaborations on this album helped and eased my way to that thought. Even if there’s no feature on a song, it’s still a collaborative effort to me as I work with sound engineers, visual artists, etc who help and assist me bring the vision to life – sonically & visually for the songs that have music videos or visualisers.

The project includes all genres that I’ve really enjoyed over the years. From electronic dance music on songs like ‘intezaar’ and ‘socha na tha’ to bedroom pop on a song like ‘days’ to Rnb on ‘Kya karoon’. All these songs are just a product of genres, styles and songs I’ve heard as a listener, expressed in my way.

There are two genres that form a major part in your musical repertoire i.e R&B and

EDM. What’s the story behind your affinity towards these two genres and when did

you decide that you’ll be shaping your melodies around that framework?

Again, my music is just an output of all the sonic information I’ve gathered over the years as a fan of these genres and the artists that I listen to. There was never an agenda or need to

consciously make a song in a specific genre. I just followed my heart & God and created

music in the genre that came naturally to me. Dance music will also always have a special place in my heart as it’s the genre that kind of got me into the music scene as a DJ/producer. I’ve grown up listening to progressive trance

and house. So, such genres are just planted deeply into my musical persona which

translates into the kind of music I originally create too.

People seem to love your live shows and concerts. There is always a mutual energy

of respect and appreciation from both sides. And you are also quite interactive with the audience. How do you curate your live performances and what has been your goal when it comes to your live concerts?

The goal since day 1 has just been to spread love. Every show is an opportunity to sing along and interact with the people who’ve made me whatever little I am today and share small moments with them. My fans know that I tend to forget the words of my own songs most times on my shows haha, but having them sing my songs word to word is a feeling that is just ineffable. Touring as a DJ and constantly being on the road definitely helped in this journey of now doing shows as a pop act. I’m sure a bit of the energy comes from that experience.

Independent music in India has certainly flourished post Covid-19 pandemic. How did the reception towards your music change when you compare the pre-Covid times and post Covid times? And as an artist, what sort of challenges did you face when the entire world was in lockdown? Whether that impacted your music or your creative process?

I started releasing music independently only in 2019, a year before the pandemic and the

first song I released then ‘tere bina’ is still one of my most loved songs by the audience. The

response I received then was massive and overwhelming for an artist who was just getting

started. During the pandemic I remember getting a lot of radio support as there were no

Bollywood releases happening during the lockdown. It helped a lot in just spreading the

voice of independent artists across the country. Not being able to physically be in the studio with the collaborators during the lockdown was a bit of a challenge. I personally don’t really like working on zoom when I’m working on a song, but just being isolated also helped me express my thoughts in a better way andtranslated the vision to reality in a more focused way. I put out most of my songs from my debut album ‘Genesis 1:1’ in the pandemic, sitting at home and shooting the music video within the confines of my house and it feels so great to see people singing those songs out loud today.

Another big reason behind Independent music going mainstream is the fact that

artists are open to collaborations, irrespective of the fact whether that particular artist is big or small. Do you feel such collaborations will only further the popularity of Indie music among the masses?

Definitely. Collaborating with artists has become so much easier than before. One can

literally collaborate with any artist they wish to, even beyond the confines of their own

country. Making good music is what matters and that is what is leading independent music

right now. The collaborations are immense and vast, you just need to pick up the phone and

get down to creating something really unique.

You are one of the early proponents of the new-age Indie music revolution in India. Your first track Land Of Lords will be completing 10 years in 2024. If you could describe your journey from that point onwards, what were some of the turning points in your career and how have you evolved musically over the years?

Wow, just reading that question was nostalgic and made me feel so special. Didn’t really

know Land of Lords would be hitting 10 years! My journey since then has been nothing short

of phenomenal. There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way, but I am extremely

proud of the way it has turned out to be and where it has led me to today. Some turning points that I could think of are – when Hardwell played my bootleg of ‘Magic’ by Coldplay on his online radio show when I was 19, it was a major turning point for me in my career. Post that I went on to become the first Indian artist to be signed to Spinnin’ Records as a DJ/producer, I worked with Maroon 5 on the remix of their song ‘Don’t Wanna Know’, collaborated with Lauv to cover his track ‘I Like Me Better’ which was my first showcase as a singer, performed ‘tere bina’, my debut Hindi single at Tomorrowland, and released my debut album ‘Genesis 1:1’. There are so many more aaah! God has been so

kind and I feel it’s just the beginning! I have another massive transition coming in 2024 which will be a big surprise. All prayers & efforts dedicated to that project right now!

What is your take on Independent music surpassing the popularity of Bollywood music? Does it give a ray of hope to the budding artists who are raring to step in this limitless ocean? What will be your advice to them?

It’s a great time to be alive. For every field, not just independent music. The pace at which

India is growing right now is unreal. Sky is not the limit, it’s now just the launchpad; aim for

the cosmos.I have no advice for anyone. But I can share my personal learning. I’ve learned and I believe that we are all specifically & beautifully created by God and every person has their own blueprint & journey. I felt a true & honest change in myself when I actually stopped looking within (contrary to a lot of self-help books) and finding my true purpose in God. When I truly realised that it’s not about ME. The purpose of my life is far greater than my own personal fulfilment of dreams or ambitions. I truly believe that I was born by God’s purpose and his purpose. It’s just my responsibility to work really hard with the gifts & abilities He has given me and continue to keep going at it with proper intent, honesty & most importantly love.

What are some of your upcoming tracks and albums? What should one be looking forward to?

There is a lot coming up. I don’t want to say much but my second album is dropping very soon!

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