Sid Sriram – the next American idol ?


21 year old Sid Sriram is creating a buzz on Youtube, with his covers of artistes like Drake, Kanye West, Bruno Mars and the Beatles. The Berklee College of Music student could be the most exciting new contemporary Urban artiste in years.

Yet here is what a recent concert promo said about him :
Siddharth Sriram is a disciple of Padmabhushan P. S. Narayanaswamy, and has garnered attention as a young artist in Carnatic music. One of Chennai’s most storied concert halls, Krishna Gana Sabha, awarded Siddharth its Chembai Award in 2005, named after an early 20th century vocalist renowned for his bold vocal technique and his jovial stage presence. Siddharth also received first prize at the Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana, which has become the preeminent clearinghouse for South Indian classical music talent in the United States.

We caught up with Sid, just before he took off for India, the “Motherland” as he says.

Tell us more about your unique musical background
I started singing at the age of three, learning South Indian Classical or Carnatic music from my mother in northern California. I still sing Carnatic music professionally and go to India regularly.
I got into r&b and pop music when I was in junior high, and then Hip Hop in high school. I got serious about singing when I got accepted to Berklee for the fall of 2008.

Who are your current influences ?
I’m really into a lot of different types of music. Currently, my main musical influences are Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Radiohead, Coldplay, Bon Iver, Lauryn Hill, and many Carnatic artists.
I love listening to new music and making sure I feed myself a wide array of music.

When did your family move to the US ?
We moved to America in 1990, and my family consists of my parents and an older sister. They are amazing.

Have you had any exposure to cricket ? Have you ever played ?
I grew up watching cricket every year I’d make a trip to India in the summer. I love how its a part of the culture there and how close it is to the country’s heart. I loved watching India win the World Cup this past year.

The sparseness of the music in your videos, just your voice and the piano – I couldn’t imagine enjoying a lot songs like that but your singing and the playing is so incredible, I do.
What (or who) are you thinking of to conjure such emotion ?

It always depends on the song. I like to stay very in touch with my emotions whether they are love, sadness, happiness, anger, nostalgia.
When I sing, that’s when I’m most vulnerable and thus I’m able to communicate these emotions with a good amount of intensity. Expressing my emotions is therapeutic for me and also touches others, so it feels dope.

Tell us about the dude who played piano in “Yesterday” ?
He’s a good friend of mine and an amazing musician, AJ Rafael. I met him my freshman year at Berklee and that’s when we made that video. He’s a huge inspiration and such a positive vibe.

When you do a cover – do you make a deliberate attempt to do it differently ? or do you just sing it as it feels ?
I just do whatever feels best. Sometimes doing a song exactly with the original arrangement feels better, but a lot of times I feel like I can express the song better when I switch it up.

Rod Stewart has covered America’s greatest songwriter, Bob Dylan, amazingly, as well as other songwriters ,finding melodies that appeared to be hidden in the originals – you remind me of that with your covers from Drake , Kanye, Frank Ocean to the Beatles – what makes you pick a song ?

My main criteria of choosing a song to cover is that it moves me in some way. I always cover songs that I really dig whether it be Yesterday, We All Try or Yellow.

Have you ever listened to Rod Stewart or Bob Dylan ?
I’m a huge fan of Bob Dylan. My favorite record by him is probably Mr. Tambourine Man.
I love Rod Stewart’s tone, its very unique.

You said that “Limitless” was written at a low point in your life….is that something you want to say more about ?
There was just a lot of chaos in my head which played out in my life as well. Writing, recording and performing Limitless really brought me some much needed clarity.

How difficult is it to transition from your contemporary r n b music to your classical Indian performances ?
Not difficult at all. Both are forms of music I am intensely passionate about, but both are extremely different forms of music. When I am performing either, I draw from the same emotions, but I interpret those emotions in different musical idioms. Its a really dope process and I feel blessed to be able to perform both.

What has it been like going to Berklee College ? what effect has it had on you, and your music ?
Berklee College of Music made me serious about music. Before starting there I hadn’t written a song and didn’t know that music could even be a career. Since being there, I have met so many amazing musicians, connected with some established faculty and just learned so much. I am currently majoring in music production and engineering and plan to graduate in May.

If invited ,would you sing the Star Spangled Banner at the American College Cricket Spring Break Championship (the national championships) ?
Most definitely.

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