A tryst with passion: Anurag Mishra and his Music
Magna Mishra | Aug 26, 2019
NIT Rourkela has seen many achievers. We have had the opportunity of hosting many successful engineers on our campus. However, it is rare for us to come across an individual who turned his/her life around even after “having it all”. Anurag Mishra, an alumnus of the Electrical Engineering batch of 2011 is one such person. An engineer, sports fanatic and above all a melomaniac, Anurag found his true calling in the symphony of music. Here is a glimpse of his professional timeline
Right after the success of his debut album Chal Pada, Team MM caught up with the overachiever to discuss life, music, people and more.
Monday Morning (MM): Tell us something about your family background and your childhood.
Anurag Mishra (AM): I grew up in the steel city Rourkela, from the state of Odisha. My father was an RSP (Rourkela Steel Plant) employee. He has retired now. My mother is a homemaker and my elder sister works in Royal Dutch Shell, Amsterdam. We are a typical upper-middle-class-family from a tier-2 city where conservatism and tradition run across. My childhood was rather cliched. I was good in academics and sports alike, took art tuitions, was a great bathroom singer, had no big demands from life, and majorly followed my parents. I made my life decisions along with the rat race.
MM: You joined NIT Rourkela in 2007, more than a decade ago. What were NIT Rourkela and Anurag Mishra like back then? What made you choose NIT Rourkela?
AM: Very different, from what I am now. I was a proper introvert and under-confident. This is probably the state of most conservative-families-bred children and I wasn’t an exception. Excelling at academics seemed like a consolation for me.
When you are in such an environment, we consider things done by most people as the right things. The majority is right. Unconventional is foolish.
So yeah, I can confess safely that it was just the air then which made me (or my parents) choose this path - good grades - engineering entrances - NIT Rourkela.
I feel that the college environment was the first in a series of situations that peeled off layers of my personality. It started with the ragging sessions, then the mingling with people from other geographical and cultural backgrounds, and also taking part in things other than just academics. I still did well in academics, I guess it was wired into my system by then but I started taking an interest in music, quizzing, club activities and cricket too. I grew as an individual and realized a hint of maturity was finding its way in. But you know, 17 years of hard-wiring takes some time to go away. I could still feel the traces of under-confidence thriving beneath my skin. I could not dare to step on stage, although I loved singing.
MM: On your Facebook page (Anurag Mishra Music), you describe yourself as an “introverted, under-confident and volatile” individual. Do you feel that music helped you break out of this shell?
AM: Yes, that’s what I was a few years back. During my stint in Tata Steel, I started to notice something, within me was an individual who is not afraid to try different things. Singing had always been a hobby but never had the guts to do it publicly. That’s why I didn’t even think of pursuing music in graduation. But then in my job-stint, I started exploring music. Little successes, appreciation and compliments strengthened my will day by day. Music was becoming my saviour. As life unfolded years after, I realized that I was here to become a musician. What started as a hobby, turned into a getaway and ultimately became the purpose of my life.
MM: What decision took you to IIM Indore?
AM: In my 4 years of graduation, I did very few memorable things in college - was in the Top-5 of the branch, got the best of placements, played a lot of cricket and made a group of very dear friends. That’s it. I had just aged. I didn’t grow at all. 4 years later - another rat race started, the race of MBA. The only difference was that - this was way tougher than IIT JEE entrances. 3 years, 2 failed attempts alongside a demanding job, at Tata Steel. 14 hours of slogging in the power-plant, then taking the time out for 5 hours of study, over two years - took some doing. I had cut down on a lot of things - random office gossips, losers-socializing, idle activities, entertainment. I gave my all to crack the MBA. I think it had become a matter of ego, after two failed attempts. I cracked it the third time - IIM Indore it was.
MM: Out of NIT Rourkela, IIM-I and your professional stints at Tata Steel and Maersk, which phase contributed the most in making shaping the musician in you?
AM: IIM Indore and Tata Steel. Tata Steel - because everything started there. My first stage performance, first jamming session and the first token of appreciation I received in those two years lead the road towards everything.
IIM-I stint was something else. Those 18 months ripped off the old Anurag. MBA gave me everything I had and hadn’t asked for, love, misery, humility, success, cheats, failures, and the confidence to choose my path. It wasn’t easy. I got kicked out of my 1st class by the director himself, got booed by my entire senior batch on my first singing appearance, was rejected twice by the music club (for reasons unknown) - these are just cute instances, compared to the overall humbling experience from the IIM. There was a cut-throat competition everywhere. I made it a point to sing in front of a full auditorium and it was serene. It was that night I thought I can do something in this field. I started believing in signs, destiny and universe. I started brewing the thought, what if I am destined to run a different path, not a goddamn race?
MM: Many budding musicians choose Bollywood as their starting point, but you chose to make an independent debut. Why so?
AM: No musician gets to choose Bollywood. Bollywood chooses them. India as a country has a predominantly Bollywood-listening audience.
So if you want to reach the masses, Bollywood is the best bet.
I bet every independent artist would love to do a Bollywood playback any day. The ideal scenario goes like you do Bollywood, get fame and popularity, mint money, invest in your music and spread your music. But a Bollywood “break” does not just magically fall into your lap. You might have to wait for years. So, you have got to start somewhere. And since 2017, I have been working on that start, making an original album which I can pitch to the production houses, and alternatively, I can release it to start my independent music journey. I am confident about this because it is a WIN-WIN case.
MM: What was the inspiration behind your debut album “Project SWA”?
AM: I came to Mumbai in August 2015, with the typical IIM tag, to churn out some corporate time and money. Music has been my sole-getaway, since that time. Since then, for almost three years now I started pursuing music alongside my corporate stint at Maersk - from reality-shows, celebrities-brushing-shoulders, and a lot of musical-uploads on my You-tube channel. These uploads have been primarily my renditions of known songs ( called ‘Cover songs’).
I found inspiration within some friends; learned from a few frauds and was blessed with few mentors. All of them helped me to elevate myself. I had been working on an original album of eight songs, for about one and a half years.
This album is my work on some beautiful compositions from great creative talents; a dream project involving over thirty creatives.
The period was not at all easy - dealing with the swings of a corporate job; getting diverted by rogue people; facing rejections, disappointments, heartbreaks, people’s egos, small wins, reality-checks and doing so many sacrifices. But the musical pursuit had grown only stronger amidst all of this. I wanted to make a start in 2019 with the original music and eventually, I did - I released my first original song “Chal Pada” from the album, in May ( Link ) which got so much of acclaim from almost everyone. Right now I just concluded a crowdfunding campaign for adding more songs to the album. So in the coming days, I will release the rest of the album.
MM: There are 8 songs on the album and each of which has a very earthy theme. What thought process was involved in choosing them?
AM: Yes, 8 ballads and 8 themes.
In my debut record, Project SWA, I have tried to capture a few stories originating from one-self describing the subconscious emotions within us. These are undertones, under-expressed, overlooked and under-valued. Love for your mother, love for a city, lust, the feeling of moving on and four more emotions - these emotions are not given their due importance, forget about expressing them in the open. I feel that these feelings deserve an expression. What better expression, than a song?
We express them in their rawest form. As an artist, this record is me and also what I am capable of. These emotions are part of my own experiences and the surrounding people.
MM: Out of the 8 songs, which one is closest to your heart?
AM: I honestly can’t answer that. I feel each song will have an audience and all songs will appeal to music lovers. Even I get goosebumps in hearing the few of the tracks but I don’t have a clear favourite.
MM: Chal Pada was released on 30 May 2019. When will be the next song released?
AM: As I mentioned, I recently concluded my crowdfunding campaign on the same. I will need a bit of time to plan things out. So hopefully it will be in September.
MM: You have a crowd-funding project titled “Project Swa- Anurag’s labour of love”. Tell us more about it.
AM: Yes. I did a crowdfunding campaign on my debut album “Project SWA” to raise money for the album. From this campaign, I was looking for contribution (of 15 L INR) so that I could make more videos for the rest of the 7 songs to communicate the concepts in a better manner. Factually we couldn’t even reach my bare minimum target of 2.5L INR, which was the budget-amount required for 1 video. So I have decided I will add 3 more acoustic songs in the amount raised. Honestly, I am still figuring out on whether I can squeeze the budget for more visual stories/videos. Let’s hope for the best.
MM: There are 126 comments on the video on Chal Pada (on Youtube) and you have replied to all of them. While most people wouldn’t do that, you did. Why?
AM: Well, I am not most people. I try to engage personally with each and everyone on my channel. Be it an admirer or a hater, I try to acknowledge them. People to who you give a personal touch, are supposed to stay with you and your content in the long run.
MM: What was the inspiration behind the “female tribute series” on your You-tube channel?
AM: Yes, that’s a one of a kind series which my friend Lalit and I came up with - to dedicate to our beloved female singers. The music industry is male-dominated and we often forget the contributions of female musicians, singers. This 5-video-series was just a refresher of the gems sung by our favourite female singers. You can find the playlist here.
MM: You must have collaborated and interacted with several artists on this journey. Apart from professional gains, what else did those collaborations teach you?
AM: I learnt a lot, to be honest, even a bit about life. Some have taught me absolute professionalism, some have shown me incredible skills in their craft, others have shown me that dedication can defeat any obstacle. There also have been a lot of negative experiences - some outright-frauds, some insecure people, many people who didn’t deserve my time at all. So it’s a mixed bag. But that’s the beauty of it. I can’t wait to work with better people and learn more about this incredible journey of music.
MM: Are you open to the idea of performing in NIT Rourkela someday?
AM: Yes. How about me being part of the celebrity night in the coming years?
MM: Do you have a message for the NITR Junta?
AM: Ah, yes. 17-22 can be a tender age for anyone. My only advice would be- don’t let anyone dictate terms on what you should become, which career path you should choose or what you are good at.
You are the closest person to yourself. I found my passion at 23. I would advise you all to find your passion when you are studying. What is the worst that could happen? Maybe you won’t get a good grade or a good placement. It will all make sense in the long run. Be it dance, music, photography, art, studies or anything else, don’t hold yourself back from exploring - that’s my point. A frog in a well does not know how beautiful it is outside. Please jump outside, you can always jump back in anytime. But trust me, once you have seen the world outside. You will stay there and you will grow. More importantly, you will be happy and the sacrifices you made during the journey will be worth it.
I would like to add that I consider my alma mater as my people and I would love to help/inspire anyone through my journey. In return, I would love to have your support in my work. Do share my work amongst you.
Also another thing - it is very important to be independent. While you are pursuing your passion and you are in the risky journey, don’t include your family in your risk - don’t take money from them, go on a vacation, claiming you are trying to find your passion. That’s rubbish. Finding passion should not be an excuse for mediocrity. To summarize, take a balanced approach of following your passion, and staying independent by paying your bills yourself, taking the risk yourself. Don’t hurry. Trust the process and the results would be worth it.
Self-doubt, under confidence and fear, are the constant companions of those who chase their true calling. It is amidst all the obstacles when we see a true reflection of who we are. Anurag Mishra’s journey is the mute testimony to all of it. Team Monday Morning wishes all the best to Anurag Mishra for the journey and lies ahead. May the melomaniac in him find his musical paradise.