Exclusive: Interview with Rajiv Dhall
It was a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles where we met up with the talented musician, Rajiv Dhall. We chatted over lunch and within the first few minutes of the conversation, we got a sense of his cool and charming vibe. We could easily see how he’s built such a large following on his social media platforms. Rajiv currently has over 1 million YouTube subscribers, over 137 million views and his channel just keeps growing! Earlier this month he dropped an original song, Happier.
Dhall has been committed to his craft for nearly a decade. He first started uploading YouTube videos in 2010 while he was fronting the band "TwentyForSeven." In 2012 the group gained notoriety when they appeared on E's hit show, Opening Act, where they got to open for Gym Class Heroes! It wasn't long after that Dhall ventured off on his own, creating content as a solo artist. Being that he is one of the few recognizable South-Asian talents on YouTube, we knew we had to reach out to hear about his journey as a Desi-American artist.
What was your experience growing up bi-racial?
My mom is from the South like blonde hair and blue eyes and my dad is from Mumbai, so it made for very interesting family reunions. Initially there was some resistance from family on both sides when my parents got married. It's all good now, but it has put me in some funny positions. People never really know what I am unless I tell them my name first.
"Growing up I used to feel like I had to down play my Indian culture because of peoples ignorance. There can be a pressure to assimilate rather than stand out. You don't want to feel embarrassed or ashamed of your culture because you are who you are and you love who you are."
How did your parents feel about you pursuing a career in music?
When I was in high school my dad loved that I made music and he loved that I played the guitar. But when I told him making music was going to be my career he was like, "you will not do that." To be fair he was just looking out for me, but there was a time where we didn't see eye to eye on my career choice. I graduated with a Business degree because it was very important to my dad for me to go to college. I eventually proved to him I could have a future in music because opportunities started coming my way and he saw that I really cared about what I was doing. He got to a place where he was like, "I don't even care if you don't make money or you do make money, I love that you love what you're doing and that you're happy." Once he understood that I would follow through with it and that I would do everything I could to push forward with it he became really supportive. When I put out, Happier he was sending it out to people at work and strategizing next steps with me.
What kind of challenges have you experienced being Desi in the music industry?
When I was first starting to become a solo artist it was sometimes tough. People would just hear my name and make their own conclusions about it. I sometimes imagine they would draw up this caricature of an Indian guy. I know a lot of different artist have had to go through things like that and I find that a lot of them will change their names or they'll switch up their style just to be more universally appealing. People would wonder, "how do we brand you? How do we package you up?" People were like, "what if we just use your first name then nobody really knows what that is." I always felt like why can't I use my real full name like anybody else. I guess you can't entirely blame people they've been conditioned to think and feel certain things because of how the media has portrayed the Desi community. You know it's just a bummer that's the way it's been.
"Lately I have been feeling very embraced by the Indian community. I have been so inspired because of how many young Indian kids watch my stuff and say things like - 'you make me proud to be Indian'"
What inspired you to write Happier?
Happier is about the disillusion of growing up and this quarter life crisis we all go through. Figuring out what your life is and the struggles of being in the creative industry can be really overwhelming. I've had my bouts of depression and things of that nature where I was just really struggling and also being in LA and not having any family around. For the first time in my life I felt like I was just on my own. I got really drunk and just started playing this really sad piano line in my home studio - Feels like I'm spending my whole life waiting (the first line in the song). I was being point blank and honest about everything I was feeling. Life is hard sometimes for young people too. I feel like now we're all just starting to take it more seriously with this mental health movement. Stuff gets hard. Everybody expects a love song from me and I wanted to make something where there was no mention of love or a partner of any kind. Just really sing from my heart. So I got super drunk and I just tried to purge as many feelings as I could just writing in my house and by 6 in the morning that's what I had come up with. I wanted to say a lot without overcomplicating it and making it some like crazy poetic thing. I just thought I would be happier - that explains everything. I feel like we're all expected to paint these smiles on our faces and act like everything is just fine even when you don't feel that way. I didn't realize how relatable the song was until I started playing it for other people.
Are you binging on any TV shows right now?
My favorite tv shows are mostly comedies like How I Met Your Mother, The Office, Family Guy, and Entourage. I just finished binging Last Man on Earth. Such a good show. Sooo bummed it was cancelled.
Who are your top 3 people to follow on social media?
My favorite person on social media is John Mayer by far. Everything he posts is hilarious. I love Justin Bieber’s IG too. Tons of people take social media way too seriously and it’s refreshing that the most famous person on earth doesn’t mind posting goofy funny pictures. I also love the account “Overheard LA”. As you can probably tell by the name, it’s just people submitting things they overhear other people saying in LA and it’s pretty hilarious.
What artist would you want to collaborate with in the future?
My wish list of collaborations is endless. I love all genres of music. I’m a HUGE Justin Bieber fan so that would obviously be insane. I’m a big punk rock guy so I’d love for Tom Delonge or Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 to produce some of my stuff. I’ve been a longtime John Mayer fan as well so a collab with him would probably make me cry.
What can we look forward to next?
Happier is the starting point of this first new chapter of my new music. I'm planning to put out a new original song every month. I finally feel like I'm writing the songs I want to write. I've found my genre. I've found my sound. Happier is on the somber end of that spectrum, but it's all very much pop music. If I can describe the new stuff it sounds like if you put Shawn Mendes and Lauv together.
We're so excited for all of Dhall's upcoming music! He's a truly talented musician that will no doubt continue to inspire and make our community proud! He'll be releasing a new song, Empty Whiskey Glass at the end of this month!
Check out some of rajiv's recent hits below!
Happier - Rajiv Dhall
POST MALONE - BETTER NOW (Rajiv Dhall cover)
SHAWN MENDES - IN MY BLOOD (Rajiv Dhall Cover)
MEANT TO BE - BEBE REXHA x FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE (Rajiv Dhall and Spencer Sutherland cover)
BEST POP SONGS OF 2017 MASHUP (HAVANA, DESPACITO, ATTENTION + MORE) Rajiv Dhall cover