INTERVIEW BY: Caitlin McGeehan
Rushil Vishwanathan (RUSHIL) is an artist, vocalist, and producer– all while being a Temple student. Navigating music based on feeling, versatility, and connection, he fearlessly experiments and flows between genres. He unifies his experience with Pop, R&B, Indian classical, Bollywood, Fusion, Hip-Hop and Chorale and of course his enjoyment of music, into each of his songs.
He talked about his process behind his latest project, “Un1ty: An Anthem for Humanity” and its place in today’s climate.
Caitlin McGeehan: What has been your journey with music?
RUSHIL: My parents are really into music, especially my mom. She saw my potential at an early age and started me with Indian classical lessons at the age of 6 and I’ve been learning since then, so that’s about 13 years. As a 6-year-old kid, all I wanted to do was play outside and be with my friends. I didn’t really have a passion for it [music]. I used to go to the classes and enjoy it for what it was, but never really thought much of it.
As I progressed and participated in choir in school and got exposed to Pop, R&B, Chorale, and Hip-Hop, I got influenced by different kinds of music and artists. I started seeing how special music is and how my creativity and expression could be a part of that. Fast forward to now, I am doing college and music side by side. I’m just creating whatever I want to do, creating for fun, and we’ll see where it takes me.
CM: I love that mindset– doing it and seeing where it takes you. The best music and creativity comes out of that. How do you balance doing music and being a college student?
R: My freshman year, this was a little difficult. I was getting situated with everything. The first few months I was just singing in my dorm room and stuff. Then as I started getting more comfortable with that lifestyle away from home, I started setting out a few hours a day to practice music, to create, to play around with my guitar and piano and try to get ideas. I think setting aside that part every day allowed me to get into a routine and have that block where I escape from the homework, the projects, and the other stresses of being a college student.
I’m still learning to cope with the balance. Being at home has definitely helped because I get to do stuff in the comfort of my music room here. Balancing online school is definitely a little easier, but I’m sure when fall comes around, I’ll have to reevaluate how to balance everything.
CM: How would you describe your sound and what are your main influences?
R: In the past interviews I’ve done and whenever I’ve thought about this, answering this question is very open-ended for me because I don’t really focus on genres in terms of creativity. I think genre is more of a business term to help people put music into categories and help them navigate through the type of sounds that they like. Creatively, I focus on feelings and what I want to convey through the message of music, the tonality, and the way I create it to convey a feeling rather than fit into a genre.
If I had to put myself in a boat, I’d say my sound is very pop and R&B influenced, but as I continue to release projects and through my recent project, people will see it’s also a little more experimental. My main goal as an artist is to be as versatile and I want to have my foot in a lot of different doors in terms of music and use fusion music to try to combine ‘genres’ and see the different things I can do sonically.
CM: You mentioned your latest project, your song “Un1ty: An Anthem for Humanity” it’s definitely a call to action for unity. What was your inspo for it and how does it fit into today’s climate?
R: I think we can all agree that the last year or so has been something very new, something very isolating, there are a lot of adjectives for it, I could go on and on. My main inspiration for this song was a result of self reflection and reflection on the current world over the past years. The first few months of quarantine, I was enjoying the time off. It soon started catching up to me: being in isolation, being alone with my thoughts, and reflecting on what’s going on in the world. It’s not often that we’re so isolated and deprived of human interaction.
So I think all of that drew me to see what’s going on and how I express my feelings. I decided to do so in the way that I feel most comfortable, which is through music. I decided to write this song that conveyed that in an anthemic way because I didn’t want it to be mainstream, or like your typical pop song. I wanted it to stand out from what’s there today and be anthemic and spread this message of unity.
It talks about how we’re divided in more than one way today, be it socially, politically, physically (we’re all in different places). There are a lot of things that divide us and I feel like focusing on unity is the main thing that can start to solve all the issues that we face worldwide.
CM: Definitely a step in the right direction. Would you say this past year has been more creative for you or less?
R: That is such a good question, because it’s both. There were so many days, and there still are so many days, where I feel completely unproductive, completely creatively drained. And then on the flipside, there are days where I’m in the zone, not bothered by anything that’s going on. I think the beauty of that is inspiration can come from anywhere and the thing that I’ve found is when I’m looking for inspiration, it’s harder to find. I just have to let life be the way it is and let inspiration come to me.
But saying that, sometimes I wait too much. Something I’ve learned is that there are times when I have to push through even when I don’t feel like doing something. I have to sit down and just start putting down a melody or writing and then inspiration comes on its own. I feel like quarantine has definitely helped me be more comfortable with myself and my thoughts, and get a better and more holistic outlook on life.
CM: What message and feeling do you want listeners to take from your music?
R: “Un1ty: An Anthem for Humanity” is in three different languages, which was very intentional because I wanted it to be applicable to a lot of people all over the world. I sang and wrote in languages that I was somewhat proficient in with the help of a few co-writers. I want people to realize that regardless of the division, the fact that we’re all human and on this planet, on this rock, in this vast space, that very fact is what unites us no matter what happens. When you peel away all the layers of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, culture, where you geographically are, all of that is stuff that society has added onto us to put us into categories. At the bottom of everything, we’re just human beings.
Seeing that we’re all different and embracing those differences is important but at the end of the day, if we focus on the similarities, that helps us connect better. That is a huge message I want to convey. I want to convey that unity is… there has to be action from everyone. The whole concept of unity is that people are working together. Unity can only be at its most powerful if the whole world is working together.
CM: What was the process behind recording and producing unity? How did it come together?
R: I actually released a song called “Un1ty” last year in October. It was very pop-based, and I was getting more of a catchy vibe with that. I wanted to put it out and see how it did. It had some of the similar lyrics and messages that I conveyed with this new project, but this song [“Un1ty: An Anthem for Humanity”] was written around November and December. I drew inspiration from the first [version] I released, which didn’t gain much traction and I’m really glad it didn’t because it allowed me to take the song to the next level and see what I could do with it.
I put out an Instagram story saying “anyone who is proficient in Spanish and could potentially write lyrics, reach out to me” The story expired with zero responses. My mom’s colleague, her name is Maria, she helped me. She penned some lyrics for [the] Spanish [part] and I put those words to the music I composed. For the Hindi part, our family friend wrote that and my mom also helped write those lyrics. I wrote the English lyrics.
It was basically a collaborative effort in terms of the words, but I was very in charge of the process: I told them what I wanted to convey. The writing process was really cool, something that I never did before, writing with other people. In terms of the music part, I composed, produced and engineered everything, sang it and played all the instruments. I wanted it to be an authentic project, and I felt like if I involved more people, it would take away from the message that I was feeling and wanted to convey. I wanted it to be a very personal project. That’s why I did everything musically by myself. I recorded and mixed and mastered it in about a week or two and put it out January 29th.
CM: How has the Temple community impacted your approach to music?
R: In February 2020 I went to my first Music Business Club meeting, and through that I’ve met some great individuals, and had some great experiences with networking. The lead professor, James Donio, has helped me a lot in terms of supporting my talent and giving me ideas to promote music and being a mentor. I think he’s a great professor because he is selfless in support. I’ve also met people on the club’s eboard because I’m now the Social Media Chair, so I think being involved in the management aspect of the club –organizing events, and talking to guest speakers– it’s helped me navigate networking. I think I’ve become more focused on meeting new people, reaching out, asking them to collaborate, just like we’re doing right now. That’s the beauty of the music industry because collaboration is a huge aspect that can help both sides. I think that’s the best thing that I’ve learned through Temple music so far.
CM: How can people support you?
It’s really important to help any of your favorite artists. There are a lot of hours and effort that go into each production, be it a song, a video, a snippet. Sharing music, posting it on your story, giving the song a listen, even if it’s not something that you might’ve heard before or want to hear. Just try it out because you never know what music you’re going to find or what artist is going to become your favorite. Every ounce of support matters.
CM: Anything else you want to highlight?
RV: I never intended on the song being political, I just made the song for everyone regardless of their political views. But everyone who’s listened to it has reached out and told me that it strikes a chord with the Biden/Harris campaign’s message. Biden’s talked a lot about unity and healing in his speeches, even in his Inauguration speech. If there’s another thing we can urge people to do is to share it as much as possible because it would be incredible if we could get the attention of the Biden/ Harris administration–their families, their teams. The song is basically everything they’re saying, and it connects with the aspect of diversity they preach.