"Avicii has been a huge inspiration for me," says Shaan

At just 19, Shaan joined the likes of Steve Aoki, Diplo, and Skrillex to play at Tomorrowland, making him the first Indian DJ to grace the stage. Shaan goes OnRecord and gets candid about his latest single, nepotism, Bollywood plans, and sacrifices he’s made along the way.

First things first, your new track, “Must Be Love” sounds banging! How was this track made?

Ah! It’s been a really long time that this track has been in the works. When I got the vocals I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them and I knew they had to be the hero of the song. I started creating a simple melody behind it and messing around on Logic Pro and that’s how it developed into what it is currently. 

How is it different from your last release “Yahi Tera Waqt” or your other tracks?

Yahi Tera Waqt” is very different from this, it was something I had never previously explored before so it was a super new sound for me to venture into. The energy and the lyrics of “Yahi Tera Waqt” aimed to inspire the youth of India. My other track “Work It Out” was way more chilled out and perfect for a nice evening drive!

What is your creative process like when you’re working on an original track? Do you have a way of determining what sounds work or do not work with certain tracks?

To be honest, you never really know what is going to work, it’s always a surprise. My creative process is very random. I can’t force myself to be creative so that is why I have always kept my studio mobile, most of my ideas come to me unexpectedly, on the go. “Work It Out” was an idea that I had as I was going to bed one night and I just had to wake myself up, get my laptop out and write it down before I went back to sleep haha!

What words would you use to describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard a Shaan track ever? 

Emotion and energy, I would say! 

Which artist has been your biggest inspiration and what about their music acted as a catalyst for you to discover your sound?

Production wise, Avicii has been a huge inspiration for me. Melody to me is a language by itself, and he was the god of that language. When I first heard “Levels” in school I thought to myself, I want to make something like this, something that makes you feel euphoric with just its melody and then I went on to release my single “Light Up The World” a few years later. 

Do you ever plan on getting into production for Bollywood movies? 

As of now, no. I really want to spend time producing music for myself and growing internationally. After which, I might explore production for Bollywood movies later on! 

You’ve bagged a number of amazing “firsts” – The first Indian artist to perform at one of the biggest music festivals in the world – Tomorrowland and the first and only Indian artist signed to the globally renowned record label – Virgin EMI and the first Indian DJ to play at The Box (main stage) at the Ministry of Sound in London. These are all astounding feats! What is the next “first” you hope to achieve?

Thank you, it really means a lot to me! I don’t aim at being the first, the universe has just made it happen through the years and I am very grateful for that. Every first that I achieve is a big step for the dance music industry in India and it helps everyone grow and lets the world know we are here!

Apart from international gigs, you’ve carved out a permanent space for yourself in the Indian dance music scene too. How do you think the EDM scene and festivals have evolved since the time you started performing?

They’ve grown massively over the last few years, you can see the audience for it growing from one year to the next. I remember back in the days when 500 people was a big number for a dance music event and now 500 is not even big for a club night!

How do you think Sunburn has grown over the years and helped promote dance music in India?

Sunburn has obviously given a large number of established and growing artists a platform right from the very beginning and I think that’s the most essential thing! 

What role do you think your legacy played in your career and getting you where you are in the industry at the moment?  

It is always a stepping stone but for me, it was always a matter of proving myself to everyone, including my family. Once the platform is given, it’s up to you to prove yourself talented and worthy enough to rise to the occasion. It helped me get started with my official debut gig but nobody knows that I played 20 birthday parties and house parties for people from school up to that date.

Do you think you’ve had to work harder to make a name for yourself and prove to people that your success is not a by product of nepotism?

Definitely! It’s only fair that I have to prove myself and work much harder than the rest to do so. Although my father gave me a stage for my debut show, he told me if you aren’t good and the crowd reaction isn’t good you’re done, I will not let you on stage again. I remember working endless hours to develop the perfect set with the help of Vishal Shetty, Nikhil Chinapa and Pearl! I don’t mind having to work harder to prove myself because I know and my fans know what the journey has been like! 

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What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to break into the industry? 

I think the fact that I was young when I started out, everyone thought I was too immature and inexperienced in the industry, when in fact since I was eight years old, I was always at events, sitting next to the DJ and trying to learn and see what he was doing. By the age of 13, my teacher DJ Hiren had taught me everything there was to know about DJing. I think again, it was just another obstacle where I had to prove myself to the industry that I was meant to be there. 

Do you think you missed out on being a normal teenager due to this lifestyle? How did you balance work and your studies?

Oh yeah! I 100% missed out on being a normal teenager but I surely don’t regret it. As a kid, I had a dream and I chased it! How I balanced my work and studies, well I gave up my social life completely for a good three years when my career had just started developing really well.  I had maybe one close friend who stood by me and understood me. Although once again, I don’t regret anything, it was as simple as – you have a dream and a vision and there isn’t anything that can stop you. 

Performing a high-energy set for hours must be exhausting. What are some things you like doing to unwind after a long day and relax?

FIFA and a nice hot bath! Also, just being at home with family is the best thing ever!

Concluding this chat with your advice to upcoming dance music artists from India and what can the #ShaanArmy expect from you in the coming year?

Be different, there are a lot of people wanting to do the same thing you are, so make sure you stand out to catch the audience and artists’ attention.

I have a whole bunch of releases lined up for this year, we’ve been working extremely hard to put out a lot of new music and I’m proud of the music that we’ll be releasing through the year! 

Check out Shaan’s latest track, “Must Be Love” and his other ragers only on JioSaavn.