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From Agra, to the City of Dreams Mumbai, Aniish Mathew Embraces Music Non-Stop

Singer Aniish Mathew talks about the hard road to rock’n’roll success and how the thrill of performing always inspires him.

Aniish Mathew is of the amazing singers of the newer generations who has embraced his biggest asset – versatility. He has won recognition for his performances in the reality show The Voice. This charming and multi-faceted performer is a true path breaker because of his courage to experiment with various forms of music and his willingness to constantly learn and grow. The rising star took some time to chat with Brown, and he talks about his experience in the reality show The Voice, his inspirations, dream collabs and upcoming originals.

When it comes to music, Aniish Mathew clearly knows what it takes! Born in Agra, the city of Taj, he started off singing in the school choir itself. He tells Brown, “We had to sing a lot of hymns, worship, and Hindi songs, especially the Jana Gana Mana.”  

There are some people who are gifted and Mathew is one of them; a born singer – “I always used to get that extra edge for having a good voice in the choir. Both of my parents had a knack for singing. Though my mom was a nurse and dad was an officer in Kerala tourism, they both enjoyed music, both had a very good voice, so I guess that’s where I get it from.” As a kid, Aniish used to wait for his singing classes that used to take place only on Thursdays. That’s when he met Mr Winston Rosario, the first person to notice the music in him.

The singer recalls an incident when Mr Winston asked all the kids who wished to sing to raise their hands; Aniish was one of them. “I raised my hand too, and I sang Chaiyya Chaiyya.” He says, “When we are kids, I’m sure we all do this – mimic the same thing without knowing the lyrics! The song Chaiyya Chaiyya has a lot of repetitions. I used to repeat it exactly that many times. Obviously the original is with music, and it sounds good, so when you sing it without the tunes, it obviously sounds funny.” Everyone started laughing at Aniish, but Sir Winston noticed the spark in him – “Everyone be quiet, he’s singing good, let him sing,” he said. 

Back then, Mathew was in class 4 and this was the exact moment he started noticing his potential. He says “Winston sir is someone I really admire; he made me realize that music is something that is inside me.”

“Your strength is your versatility and rawness. Use your own style no matter what!”says Aniish Mathew

Mathew is a versatile singer and likes to put his feet into all genres. He tells Brown, “What I prefer is soul music; the soft ones and romantic ones are something I connect to the most.”

Success and backstory
Image: Aniish Mathew

On his success, Aniish who started his musical journey by participating in the reality show,  The Voice, recalls the incidents that pushed him to reach the position he is in today. Mathew tells Brown, “My music started back in Delhi. I was pursuing animation and luckily one of my young close friends Suraj, was in the city too when we formed the band named Phoenix. The band was going very well, and we were doing shows in different colleges for fests.” 

In 2011, Aniish’s friend Suraj passed away in a very unfortunate situation. At that point, his connection with music fell apart. As a team and with the band, Aniish and Suraj had many compositions planned for the future that went to scrap. Aniish says “I was like I can’t do music anymore, I’m done.”

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Aniish’s now-wife Shelly was someone who constantly motivated him. Aniish tells Brown, “My wife used to tell me to do it for Suraj and that it’s the dream I needed to carry forward.” Coming from a conservative family, Mathew was unsure if his family would support him in his music journey. He says, “My dad used to say that if you’ve got a gift from God, you should use it for singing gospels rather than singing music.”

In 2013, Aniish finally shifted to Mumbai to pursue his music career and started his classes at Suresh Wadkar’s academy in Juhu. But surviving in Mumbai without any stable work was tough. He eventually started working with a bank. He tells Brown, “I basically used to call people and ask them to pay their credit bills.”

The stroke of luck
Image: Aniish Mathew

Aniish’s wife Shelly is an air-hostess by profession and happened to meet singer Shaan (Shantanu Mukherjee) on the same flight she was flying in. She met him and straight away told him about Aniish and how much he loved music. She insisted that Shaan listen to Aniish’s voice recording she had on her phone. Shaan was kind enough and heard it, and asked Shelly – “what is this guy doing?

Shelly told him that Aniish was working at the bank, and Shaan responded – “Tell him to get out of the bank and ask him to get into music.” Shelly told Shaan that Aniish won’t listen to her and if he would tell him through a voice note. Aniish recalls being at the office and removing his phone from the locker and seeing it was Shelly’s voice note. He says, “I was blown away. I understood that the voice was Shaan’s and I still have the voice note of him, and I was so ready to quit the bank job and pursue my passion.” 

By March, Aniish got a call from The Voice and a friend told him about the audition. He says, “I gave the auditions in mid-Feb and by March, I got a call, and I was selected. The rounds are very tough; when they like your voice, they’ll press the button. It was the first time I gave any audition and was lucky enough to get in the first try only. So Himesh ji turned and then Mika Singh turned, except Shaan and Sunidhi ma’am. I had a goal set that whoever turns first I’m going to choose their team, and it’s fair in the game.”

After that audition, round by round it was just an amazing journey. I learnt a lot and for someone who’s struggling to reach the top to be getting a big stage such as The Voice, it was a great opportunity.”

Aniish Mathew was in the top five and got eliminated against someone who’s very famous right now, Sachet Tandon, who was the voice behind Bekheyali. Aniish was a part of a company called Happydemic, an initiative by Radhika Mukherjee, Shaan’s wife. He says, “It has been amazing. I’ve shared the stage with Shaan sir and Sonu ji and also got an amazing opportunity to go to Asha Bhosle ji’s place and sing for her and seek her blessings. It’s been a wonderful journey.”

You have to always keep learning. It’s like working out, you can’t just go to the gym, work out, make your body and just leave it to be. It’s a constant process of learning and growing.says Aniish Mathew

Image: Aniish Mathew

As an artist, Aniish praises singer Arijit Singh. He believes to have a lot of Arijit’s influence in his own life. He says, “My journey and his musical journey started together, and his biggest hit came out in 2013 – Tum Hi Ho. The same year, I decided to come to Mumbai to follow my dreams. He was such a big name back then, that people in all of my shows used to request Arijit’s songs; the hype was crazy.”

Aniish draws inspiration from Arijit Singh’s versatility, “He sings Tum Hi Ho which is purely romantic and then there’s Binte Dil which has an Arabic touch to it, and a rock club song like Sooraj Doobaa Hai, Aayat from Bajirao Mastani, that’s semi-classical; his versatility inspires me.”

Always sing what your really heart desires.”says Aniish Mathew

The singer reminisced the best performances of his music career so far. He tells Brown, “A show I did with Rasika Shekar, she is an amazing Indo-American flautist and singer, who plays the bansuri, an Indian bamboo flute vocalist, and she’s unique and an amazing artist, so that was one of the best performances of my career so far.” He looks back at this performance at a big college in Jaipur in front of more than 5000 students, which was quite overwhelming for him. Another memorable performance by Aniish was in The Voice when he was eliminated. He sang a song dedicated to his mom named Lukka Chuppi by Lata Mangeshkar and A. R. Rahman.

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We asked him about his dream collabs. Aniish unhesitantly responded, “The number one spot goes to A. R. Rahman sir. It’s a dream of every upcoming newbie to collaborate with him, and I have a dream of singing a duet with Shreya Ghosal ji. It’s a dream. I’d love to work with Shankar Ehsaan Loy as well as Salim Merchant and of course Mithun Sharma. I adore him, so the list goes on and on.”

The ultimate future goal is to collaborate with A. R. Rahman.”says Aniish Mathew

Speaking of his upcoming projects, Aniish is extremely excited about the release of a few songs he’s been working on. He says, “There’s this beautiful song I remember Aahatein, so I’ve reinvented the lyrics of that song Aadatein. I’m going to release it soon on my YouTube channel, giving it a personal touch and my own feelings and emotions.” He adds, “I’ve started to write and compose, and I’m having a lot of fun writing down lyrics. So I’m basically taking out popular numbers and giving my own touch to it.”

While composing music, Mathew likes to think of a situation he can relate to. The next song he has composed is a travel song more of like Illahi from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. It goes like – “poochay kadam jana kidar hai manzil kaha na kisko khabar hai.” He tells Brown, “I like to be in the moment and create music, that’s the way I work.”

When asked about the best advice he’s been given that he still uses today, he says, “An advice from Shantanu Mukherjee in the week when we contestants used to go to him and record in front of him. There was a day he was recording something, and it was his own composition, and I was supposed to sing it! I wasn’t getting the feel of the song, so he told me “Aniish, what is it that you really want right now, something that has fascinated you lately?” and I told him there’s this beautiful bike and I love it, it’s the KTM Duke new model. He went like – “Think about it and sing; sing like you really desire it, and you’re singing to get it.” So as soon as I did that, the feeling changed, and I was wowed.” 

The charm and charisma of Hindustani classical music

Aniish Mathew learned light Hindustani classical music first when he went to Suresh Wadkar’s academy, in the initial days. But after ‘The Voice’, he barely got the time to rehearse. Recently before the pandemic, he started classes with Guru Banwari Lal Rao. He says, “Because of the pandemic, I’m missing my classes. I miss him so much, but I keep the rehearsals on.” 

Hindustani music is something if you can nail it once, you can sing anything in this entire world, no matter what the genre is!says Aniish Mathew

Image: Aniish Mathew

Aniish stresses some facts he would like to change about the industry – “Every third song we listen to is a remake now. Why just collaborate with musicians in Bollywood? We have our Bengali music industry, we have Tamil. I don’t see any composer from Tamil coming and composing for a Hindi movie. The language barrier is definitely there. I really think we need to have more cultural oneness when it comes to music. When A. R. Rahman sings, he never forgets to put a touch of southern music. Or when you listen to Jiya Jale, it gives you a southern music essence. I simply think it will bring in more talent in the industry.”

The singer holds a keen interest in bikes and wildlife. He says, “I have a pretty good knowledge about big cats and so either I would have been making car vlogs or else doing  wildlife photography or would be working towards tiger conservation.

Aniish Mathew tells Brown that it is really very important for an artist to go through a journey to reach somewhere – “Everyone is looking for views and likes. They are just stressing at the popularity, but they don’t see the hard work that goes into it. If you take Arijit Singh for instance, he almost gave 10 years before getting his first hit!

Always try to learn music from a guru and practice; rehearse daily!says Aniish Mathew

A clever piece of advice for the younger generation – “Every youngster needs to learn under a guru, no matter how good you think you are. A guru knows what your flaws are. Don’t learn songs in a week on YouTube and fall for the ‘learn songs in a week and become a singer’ trap.

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As it is rightly said, every great move forward in your life begins with a leap of faith; a step into the unknown. Are you ready to realize your dream and follow your passions?

Written By

I love to bring out extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Also, have a knack for sarcasm and a sucker for travel and food big time!

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