You Don’t Need Substances to Write Great Music - Varun Murali

It is very difficult to consciously choose to evolve and grow with the current times whilst staying true to yourself.

1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

My background, I’m gonna assume you meant my musical background. There isn’t a great legacy or a background that I can brag about, I grew up listening to a lot of music and I was always passionate about art - I loved singing, dancing to music and painting and sketching, martial arts and I dabbled in all of these at some point growing up and eventually settled with being a guitarist. 

I picked up a guitar for the first time just after my 10th grade exams and I spent all my time playing it despite the lack of good mentor. I was so dedicated to learn how to play it that it pushed me to start figuring things by ear and I would try to figure out familiar tunes on the guitar. 

When I joined college I found opportunities to see other students play music and going to Josephs opened me to a new part of town where finding musicians wasn’t as difficult as it was where I grew up. Guitarists were a rare thing in my part of Bangalore city and if you said I want to learn rock music, NO WAY!!! 

It took me a lot of time and some insane amount of begging and hunting to find good guitar teachers until I met Bruce Lee Mani from Thermal and a Quarter and he really changed my playing, introduced me to newer music, taught me how to write songs and improvise, we had great fun in our sessions and I miss them all the time. 

By then I had a band in college with my friends and we played at college events, etc, back then before I was introduced to Swarathma and I decided to give this a shot and I believe I made the right decision and the rest of the story is pretty much out there. It’s a great band and we love playing what we play!

2. When did you first decide you wanted to pursue music and how did you start?

I decided I want to be a musician in college. I had friends back then who were older than me and worked at corporate firms. We’d hang around during the weekend and jam and listen to music but I’d always see them complaining about their job and how there was so much corporate politics and this was alien to me. 

I had no clue what they were saying, except, it sounded negative and I wanted no part in that. Without any further thought or struggle, I just knew in the following days that I want to play music and hence I was super serious about learning the right way and I guess I never spoke about it with my friends until late when I realized they weren’t in it as much as I was. 

They didn’t see this as their future. So I had to move and then one of those days I received a call from Swarathma’s drummer back then, Montry and he invited me over to a studio that belonged to a common friend of ours - Anirban. I met the band there. I saw Anirban as a mentor and he urged me to give it a shot and see how it goes and I stuck on with the band since then. 

3. Who is your favorite artist and why?

Really tough question to say who is my favorite artist. I listen to tons of music and make favorites almost every week. Why - Simply because I like their music and it influences me in some way and opens new creative doors to experiment and learn.

4. Can you throw some light on opportunities one gets as a Guitarist?

In today's age, the opportunities are more than before but I think that also has made things difficult in a way. I think in many ways musicians that comes out of every generation are limited to what they heard growing up and that shaped the kind of music they play. It is very difficult to consciously choose to evolve and grow with the current times whilst staying true to yourself. 

Finding this balance can take a very long time and in some cases, you may not be able to find this balance. So there are more venues that host live bands in the city and the country, they are also struggling to make money and sustain and that puts the lifespan of many indie bands really short. 

Sadly, it turns into survival of the fittest - in the sense, it’s not always the most talented people who make it but it could be whoever manages to do something that is perceived as cool. Then it kinda turns into, Can I stay cool for much longer period of time, perhaps forever? The key is to evolve, learn, never stop investing in yourself, trust, hope, believe and work with integrity and honesty.

5. Is format training required or can one train themselves purely on the basis of talent?

Formal training isn’t necessary to be a successful musicians. Matter of fact, most successful bands across the globe weren’t formally trained in music. However, I do believe, formal training definitely provides a solid foundation and helps you stay confident as a musician but there is no reason why somebody who is so talented and can pick up things in an informal setting cannot make it big in the industry. 

They both have its own place. Here is where I see a difference on a daily practical basis - if you’ve had some kind of training and you learnt things in a structured way, then you learn to speak the language of music and communicate with others and adapt to different musical situations soon. 

If not, you’re gonna need to depend on pure experimentation until you stumble upon something that sounds incredible. End of the day, it’s about how you take the knowledge and connect it to your life and the stories that you wish to speak.

6. What piece of advice would you like to give to future and aspiring artists?

Ask yourself why you do what you do. Be honest with your answers, find your own identity that keeps you grounded. Lastly, You don’t need substances to write great music. Just focus on the art and leave the other things aside. You’ll thank yourself for making that choice. 

I made a Youtube video on my channel talking about this - Do check out my youtube page - The Red Music Box. That is my recording studio I've been running since 2016 where I've had the joy of working with some really cool musicians.

7. Which is your favorite book and why? 

I’m not a massive reading type of guy but my most favourite book is The Bible. Apart from that, there are a few great books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading - UnQualified by Steven Furtick, How’s your Soul by Judah Smith. I’m a Potter fan too. So yeah!

Lastly, I'd like to add, do find me on Instagram as - Dynasly or The Red Music Box. You can also reach me and interact with me through my Youtube channel - The Red Music Box and if you wish to work with me then you can also find details on my website -

- Varun Murali 
Instagram @dynasly

- Picture Credits - Pavan Kumar K.J. 

- Interview by - Chamanth Krishna

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