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Get to Know:Khushi

by Megan Armstrong

One decade, one shed and one James Blake: three things that wouldn't normally belong together but found harmony within Khushi's debut album.

Khushi dedicated 10 years crafting his debut album, Strange Seasons, and if not for an externally imposed deadline, he would probably still be tweaking it. “I’m a perfectionist,” he says. The London-based singer, songwriter and producer more or less locked himself away in an East London shed at the foot of a nearby garden for the better part of six years while working through 10 years worth of demos and songs, demons and triumphs.

He finally unveiled Strange Seasons through Warner Records on Jan. 24.

“I kept saying to myself along the way, This is the year I finish it,” Khushi says. “C’mon, this is getting out of hand.  But then the years would pass by, and it wouldn’t get completed. I started to wonder if there was some flaw in me that meant I wouldn’t finish it. That I was purposefully not finishing it to avoid some fear. I was also working on my other project, Strong Asian Mothers. But then one year it finally came to completion, and I finally felt at peace with it.”

Still, Khushi didn’t come to terms with the fact that Strange Seasons was over and done until he “handed it in,” and he admits it was tough letting go. Closure is difficult in any circumstance, and especially when you are deciding let your “diary,” as he has called it, live outside the shed’s four walls.

Getting reassurance from Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and producer James Blake and signing a record deal also helped Khushi feel confident in Strange Seasons—aided in his ability to “finally lay those ideas to rest, feel proud of them, move onto other ideas” with satisfaction in that finality. The two Englishmen met casually through mutual friends. Eventually, Khushi had an album’s worth of music. Blake, Khushi says, was so fond of what he heard that he offered to mix it. Blake, who had the favor returned when Khushi assisted on his 2019 critically acclaimed album Assume Form, flew Khushi to Los Angeles to mix the album properly together.

“It is really good when someone that you love so much, musically, comes in and goes, ‘I fucking love this—don’t change it!,'” Khushi said in a previous press release. “It’s helped me think that maybe now I can leave this be. It was quite a dreamy mixing process, really.”

The press release also saw Khushi go into detail about his and Blake’s process: “We were mainly in his house, with these incredible speakers, just a very relaxed process, mixing after lunch, wandering back from the studio into the living room and listening there. That was such a rewarding experience. I feel pretty content now, whatever happens. Watching someone you’ve been inspired by so much fall in love with something you’ve made is very validating and rewarding.”

Khushi originally moved from an in-home studio located in what was described by his team as a “dank, dark basement” to the shed as an attempt to simply move outside. Give himself space. Spark something creatively. The music reflects that escape, with each beat having just enough time to breathe before the next one hits.

“I think it was such a blessing having time to build it up over time in an intimate setting,” Khushi says. “My walk to work was to the bottom of the garden. I could stay up to all sorts of hours working on stuff out of the earshot—just about—of neighbours and housemates. Shouts out to Ned whose shed it was! He was kind enough to let me use it for music-making, and that was game-changing for me. But yes, it meant I was able to piece together a record that felt extremely personal and intimate to me, which I think might have been more difficult in a studio with more limited time.”

Khushi also went out of his way to mention to tmrw that Blake made “some beautiful decisions on arrangement.”

As much as Blake enhanced the intricate yet vast soundscapes (“He brought his exceptional ears to the project and paid close attention to the sonics of the album, making sure everything sounded as good as it could”), Khushi’s voice is what holds Strange Seasons together. There is a patience, perhaps non-coincidentally, in his delivery. His vocals are low, almost subdued, but that does not take away from the confidence he has in what he is singing. It is apparent that he is feeling every syllable, feeling tension in one breath and experiencing relief the next.

That seductive nature is prominent in “In Love with It All,” for which Khushi credits Blake with putting “some perfect chords on the bridge.” Khushi sings about being in love with the fact he’s lost in space and understanding the importance of validating the love within him and the love that awaits him someday. By the end of it, listeners may feel like 10 years have passed—but in a good way.

Khushi’s satisfaction with the final product—a sort of familiarity that can only form when you’ve lived, documented then spent a decade poring over the material— emanates through that assured voice. Khushi, his childhood nickname, is the Indian word for “joy”—he is of Indian descent—and that theme is present throughout these 10 tracks. “I feel that joy does seep into my music making process,” he says. “And joy pours back out of it into me too! On good days. I’ve sometimes wondered if the meaning of my name has shaped who I am in any way. It’s possible it has, and if so, then perhaps there’s a link with my music too.”

If the 588,000 views (and counting) on the official music video for “Coldhearted, Lately” is any indication, people are feeling something—joy or otherwise.

Given how many changes one person can go endure through 10 years, it would stand to reason that the album’s title was derived from all of the seasons Khushi has lived through and grown from. That has some truth to it, though he would rather leave it mostly up to listeners’ feelings and interpretations. He has already thought about all of this for countless hours, after all.

He will disclose that a line from “From Me,” the fourth track, directly influenced the title. “Let these strange seasons bleed from me,” he sings and hums in the chorus.

“It bubbled up from my unconscious in a natural and unexpected way, and I don’t want to let my conscious thoughts about it block or set in stone what it might mean,” he says.

“From Me” explores Khushi begging for somebody to lift a weight from him that he has been carrying for far too long. “Is this some kind of record?” he asks in the bridge. “Taking light years to settle / Must be some kind of record / To drag this diamond devil.”

Those words can’t be read any other way than literally. Khushi has been living with all of this inside of him for so long. Anybody can relate to that on some level. Only, Khushi did not settle by releasing Strange Seasons. He stepped into what was always meant for him.

And people will not have to wait another decade to hear the next evolution of Khushi.

“Sometimes things just take time,” he says. “I’m OK with that. Having said that: I’m also enjoying working faster now and letting things flow out more easily and more quickly. It makes for a refreshing change.”

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