Ajay Mathur is Embraced by Success
You would never know it from looking at him now. No one would believe it if they listened to just about any of his singles, albums, or EPs. Ditto for the live performance thing. Actually, especially for the live performance thing.
But, quiet is kept, there actually was a point in time in which Ajay Mathur couldn’t play guitar. In fact, he couldn’t play anything—not a single solitary instrument. Moreover, he had yet to hit a high note, or have a serious go at being any type of vocalist.
Granted, the same statement applies to just about anyone else, no matter how renowned a musician he or she is. But we’re not talking about a time in which Mathur was in the womb. We’re talking about as a teenager, when he had had plenty of time to adapt to different hobbies. In high school, in fact, he was about as far removed as being a musician as one can be.
Until, that is, he had a fatalistic encounter with arguably the most influential popular musical act of all time, during what very well could’ve been the heyday of its ubiquity, if not cultural influence.
As a journalist for his high school newspaper, Mathur was given the amazing opportunity to sit down with The Beatles for an exclusive interview that changed his life and his professional ambition almost instantly.
“Those were the four Beatles; the stuff I used to listen to day and night,” Mathur exclaimed. “I was sitting in between them; that was the energy that just started flowing. In [India] where these people meditate is a special place. It’s full of energy. These guys of course, just took that energy to a completely different level. I don’t know what happened. I suddenly had the urge to start playing music, start playing guitar.”
Once that urge hit, it gripped Mathur powerfully and still hasn’t let go. If he wasn’t playing in bands shortly thereafter, he was writing and composing his own songs. If he wasn’t doing that, he was creating tunes, jingles, and ditties for films, documentaries, and commercials.
In fact, he’s enjoyed a whirlwind storm of success at nearly every stage of his still burgeoning career, which is currently resting on the laurels of Talking Loud, his fifth solo album that dropped at the beginning of the spring. Well before he was a soloist, however, he experienced his first taste of success as the principal songwriter, lead vocalist, and guitarist in Mainstreet, a Swiss band at which he was at the helm.
“We recorded four albums, plus a best of,” Mathur said. “We did a lot of touring in Europe. We were quite successful. We were on the charts all the time. That was sort of a confirmation for me that yes, the songs are good and people like to listen to my songs. I was never sure of that.”
If that fact wasn’t solidified by his efforts with Mainstreet, it certainly was with his solo career, which began subsequent to the dissolution of the band. Perhaps it’s simply a testament to his prowess playing the guitar. Maybe it has more so to do with his writing and arrangement talents. Whatever the case may be, Mathur has never toiled as a musician in obscurity, yet always gracefully grasped success on some level.
Perhaps the ultimate reflection of that fact came on his third project as a soloist, in which his tune “Nothing Really Matters”, off the LP 9 to 3, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song.
“Somebody sent my song,” the longtime resident of Switzerland noted about the nomination. “I don’t know [who]; I can’t do that from here. I was very happy, very surprised. It was a huge surprise and a huge acknowledgement, too. It was very fantastic.”
Again, the auspicious start to his career—his opportunity to sit and vibe with the Fab Four—may very well have presaged such achievements.
It certainly functioned as a career highlight for one who wasn’t even a musician at the time.
“They felt like they were in a safe place and they were chatting,” Mathur recalled about his interview that remains unpublished. “I couldn’t bring out any serious questions. I was just stuttering, so John took over, basically, interviewing Paul and George. He made a little game out of it. It was such a fun thing to watch and I was there with my pencil and my pad, just writing everything down.”
The experience proved to be a fitting beginning to a career with still no end in sight, as Mathur’s next project will be an album in which other artists are recording and interpreting some of his songs.
“What I did is I contacted about 25 musicians with whom I’ve worked with and some I’ve never worked with, but I’ve admired,” Mathur said. “I wrote to them and said: look, I’ve got these two songs or this song that I think would be something you can do with, songs of mine. Would you be happy to create a version of that song in your own way, without any guidance from me? You don’t have to reply. If I get something at any time it’s good. If I don’t get something it’s good. And guess what? I got 15 tracks back.”
The world will just have to wait to see which ones make the album.