At ‘I Am Starstruck’, we’re all about celebrating new and diverse talent.
So with his EP Wanderlust set to be released in just over a week, we caught up with 20-year-old singer Kartik Kunasegaran to talk about his new sound, diversity in the music industry and what it’s like to be a star on the rise.
I AM STARSTRUCK: What made you get into singing?
KARTIK: In the last 2 years, I spent my National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company as an Artiste, which required me to sing, dance and host.
I was singing everyday and learning so much from the other singers there. We performed so much around Singapore, at least 100 shows in the last 2 years! My biggest performance was in the National Day Parade 2014 where I was one of the 17 singers who got selected to sing in front of a crowd of 27,000 in the stadium, and millions of others through digital medium! I also had a lot of time to write songs and realised this was something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life.
Before that though, I used to sing in choirs and a cappella groups in school (in Launceston Church Grammar School, Tasmania), but was better known for being a classical pianist. However, I secretly always wanted to be a soloist and learnt how to sing by listening and learning off many different musicians around me.
I AM STARSTRUCK: How do you prepare for a live performance?
KARTIK: I usually try to do at least 15 minutes of classical vocal warm-ups and plan my set list the night before (if applicable) before I sing. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a balanced diet (avoiding spicy, oily, fried food) is absolutely crucial to perform to the best of my ability, so that usually means no alcohol or chocolate a few days before a gig.
I AM STARSTRUCK: Describe your style of music.
KARTIK: I would say my style is a mixture of Pop, R&B and Soul.
I AM STARSTRUCK: What inspires you when writing lyrics and are there any famous musicians who have influenced your sound?
KARTIK: My top 3 inspirations are Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran. My songwriting has been influenced by these artists and could be about different events in my life such as love, breakups, the passing of loved ones or phrases that people say.
Some of my songs are written from the perspective of other people living under different circumstances to me and it gives me the opportunity to empathise with their situation. However, with any song, my lyrics are always optimistic and/or cheeky, which reflects my personality.
I AM STARSTRUCK: If you could collaborate with any famous musician, who would it be?
KARTIK: It would be Ed Sheeran, hands down. His amazing songwriting skills and genuine personality are traits I admire and respect incredibly. He has not just relied on talent but obviously worked so hard to achieve universal success and I hope I can follow in his footsteps.
I AM STARSTRUCK: Is it harder to make it in the entertainment industry given your cultural background?
KARTIK: You know it’s funny, we (Indians) are the second largest population in the world yet we are still considered an ethnic minority.
I guess in some ways it is harder because certain agencies may be looking for a certain image in an artist that best represents them and that’s OK because I can’t expect everyone to like me and my music. But on the other hand, I’ve had very positive feedback and responses from the majority of my audiences and I believe that in the up and coming generation where there are so many (mixed-race) personalities, people are becoming more accepting of an Indian guy trying to make it into the western entertainment industry.
Ans as long as I keep delivering, being Indian might just make me stand out.
I AM STARSTRUCK: Do you think racism still exists in Australia? Have you experienced it and how important is it to have conversations about issues like multiculturalism and racial diversity in Australia?
KARTIK: Yes it definitely does, but not so much as it used to be as we live in a progressive community now more than ever. There’s a greater knowledge and potpourri of cultures, religions and traditions.
Growing up in Tassie for 9 years, I did experience it a little here and there, but I’m a pretty friendly guy and that helped a lot to make friends from all walks of life, which in turn meant that my Australian friends accepted and understood me better.
I feel that the key to living harmoniously in such a cosmopolitan country all comes down to how much we are willing to educate ourselves and understand people from different countries and backgrounds.
I AM STARSTRUCK: Dish us some details on your exciting EP launch.
KARTIK: My EP launch is on Saturday 31st October (also Halloween) 2015 at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Cafe (the castle next to the Royal Botanical Gardens) from 7pm onwards.
At all my live performances, my main aim is to entertain my audience, making them feel the excitement that I experience when performing to them.
There’s always a lot of cheeky jokes, anecdotes, singing along and audience participation! There will be a live band for this night, and I can guarantee that it’ll be worth their while to spend their Saturday evening with me!
FOLLOW KARTIK ON: