Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Kabir Sehgal

Artwork for ‘Unfolding’ courtesy of JP Cutler Media.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Kabir Sehgal certainly needs no introduction; his accomplishments speak for themselves, being an 11-time GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY Award-winning producer/artist.

He’s also in the forefront for the wave of Indian-American producers breaking through to mainstream pop, most evidenced by his May 2022 EP ‘Unfolding,’ critically acclaimed for his collaborations with the likes of Sonna Rele (Disney’s “Cinderella”), Ariana Savalas (Postmodern Jukebox) and GRAMMY-nominated Nicole Zuraitis.

The Music Bugle had the privilege of talking with Sehgal about his favorite aspect of being a producer, insights on his ‘Unfolding’ EP and much more, which you can check out below.

Music Bugle – What has been your proudest accomplishment to date? 

Kabir Sehgal – Making my EP ‘Unfolding.’ It’s a new direction for me. Historically, I’ve produced jazz, blues, classical and world albums for other artists, but I wanted to get into pop music. The best way was to start producing my own music. It was risky – who does this jazz producer guy think he is? I don’t think music has boxes. We humans put it in genres, but the music itself is boundless. There are only 12 notes – okay, besides microtones. I called the EP ‘Unfolding’ because my musical direction is unfolding, the story is still being written. I’d like for my pop music to connect with and entertain audiences wherever they are.

Music Bugle – Creatively speaking, what is your favorite aspect of being a producer? 

Kabir Sehgal – The magic of it. Taking an idea, a thought, a figment of an idea – and alchemizing that into golden action. Having a vision and turning it into a reality. I came across a research study that found that children are happiest when they realize they can draw, when they can create. There is something to that. I love helping artists create music that not only sounds great, but channels their inner spirit. We create music to create joy, beauty and meaning. When I’m working in Ableton or at the mixing board, there is a feeling of infinite possibilities.

Music Bugle – What was your earliest experience with music like and how would you compare it to what you do now?

Kabir Sehgal – I remember my mother and father singing when the family was at home. I took piano lessons as a kid, but the moment that changed my life was when my sister brought home a Miles Davis album. I couldn’t believe they were improvising. They sounded so good. I wanted to become a jazz musician, so I did. I still play jazz and like gigging with musicians, so that has continued. What has changed is that I take a broader view of the music with which I’m involved, painting across many genres. 

Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your ‘Unfolding’ EP?

Kabir Sehgal – Putting ‘Unfolding’ together was an eclectic and exciting project. I partnered with Greer Baxter, who is a terrific singer/songwriter who wrote three of the songs. She has her finger on the pulse, knows how to put heart in her verses and can write dramatic and memorable hooks. I took these songs and started adding layers. I usually start with percussion to get a vibe, then add synth bass and synth stacks. I also record myself playing guitar, keyboard, bass, percussion. Then, I worked on shaping sounds with various effects, pedals, loops, plugins. Of course, working with the vocalists was a highlight. Nicole Zuraitis, Sonna Rele, Leah Harris and Ariana Savalas are terrific singers who fully inhabit the songs.

Music Bugle – Did you already have an idea of who you wanted to work with on ‘Unfolding’ or did you discover that as you went along with it?

Kabir Sehgal – Other than Greer Baxter who wrote three of the songs, I didn’t know who I wanted to work with. The first song was “When We Fight” and I came across Ariana Savalas’ music. I needed someone who could pull off the ironic edge of this song and Ariana is a terrific performer. She sings the piece with an edge, exactly what the song called for. For “Out Of The Blue” (written by Lori Henriques), I asked Sonna Rele, whom I’ve worked with in the past. She has a soulful, otherworldly voice and it was right for this piece. Nicole Zuraitis is a jazz singer, but has a warmth that felt right for “Big City Pipe Dreams” country pop song. Leah Harris is a friend who I met online during the pandemic. We wanted to work with each other on a song and this was the perfect one.

Music Bugle – What spawned the cover artwork for ‘Unfolding’?

Kabir Sehgal – I want my pop EPs to feel connected. My first one “Threshold” has a big orb or eye on the cover. You feel like you’re looking into an eye. Going into a new world. I wanted to keep that circle imagery for “Unfolding,” but needed something that showed that I’m making progress, evolving in this pop world.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?

Kabir Sehgal – Probably both. You can connect with your fans and build audiences around the world, but because there is so much content, it feels like content is ephemeral. It’s hard to build engaging, deep relationships with fanbases. While I post to social media, I focus mostly on my fan base via my weekly “Seven Point Sunday” newsletter. I try to give my fans something of value – not just writing about myself. Every Sunday, I send a newsletter with 7 tips: a music suggestion, book suggestion, productivity hack, etc.. People really like it.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Kabir Sehgal – I’m listening to Spanish guitar music, especially the songs of Francisco Tárrega. Beautiful, elegant, lyrical and of course, Diplo, Mark Ronson, Silk Sonic.

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?

Kabir Sehgal – I meditate at least 10 minutes every day. I also walk outside without my phone. It’s blissful. 

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