'This Is Us' composer Siddhartha Khosla says he was inspired by the creators of his projects and their 'soul'
In an exclusive interview with MEAWW, Emmy-nominated composer Siddhartha Khosla, said that aside from his Indian heritage his main obligation in writing music is to be authentic
Siddhartha Khosla is an award-winning film and television composer, who is known for fronting the band Goldspot and his works on shows like 'Marvel's Runaways', 'Looking For Alaska', 'The Kids Are Alright' and more. He is recognized for his musical sixth sense and passionate sincerity for making solid compositions. Khosla is also frequently referred to when bringing up the NBC drama series 'This Is Us' for his organic, touching and emotional scores. He was even nominated for an Emmy in 2019 for 'Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)' for his score 'Songbird Road Part 1'.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) spoke with Khosla in an exclusive interview on his works and before the interview, he revealed a slight reluctance to speak about himself "as the world is experiencing this terrible global pandemic and people are suffering". He said that "it feels odd for me to talk about my own work". He continued, "It feels selfish of me or something but at the same time I do think there's a need to also kind of celebrate and art plays a big role in it".
Intrigued by his music-making process, we asked him how he goes about crafting a song and from where does he bring the emotional connect in. "I think it varies project to project," he told us. "At the center of every project is somebody that has created that project, right? Whether it's a writer or a director or showrunner. So there's somebody behind the project, somebody whose soul this project has come from. And so for me, it's about honing in on that. Who wrote this and why did they write it?" he explained.
"And in the case of 'This Is Us', for example, Dan Fogleman, who created the show, is a very close friend of mine and I've seen him experience life's ups and downs. The show really comes from his soul, and it's a reflection of the things that he's been through. I've seen him go through some of those things. For me, when I'm writing the music for that show, I find myself writing the music for my friend as much as I am for what's happening on screen because I'm kind of looking at it at a very different level. It's almost a little bit of a meta experience for me on that show because I am focused on why those characters are there in the first place. So that gives me a really different level of depth on that project that's really special to me."
It seems even his other projects, like 'Looking for Alaska', that he did this past year are based similarly. "I have a relationship with the showrunners, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, that dates back to that time because that's when they started using my music in their own shows before I was working with them as their composer. There's a special bond there between me and Josh and Stephanie and Alex Patsavas, our music supervisor on the show. There's a bond, musically, that brings us to that place. So, when I approached the music for that show, it kinda came from that bond. I was listening to artists like Sigur Rós and bands that inspired me at that time. So, every project is different. There's a connection to always be sound with whoever you're working with, and for me, that's where I draw my inspiration. It's from the people who are making these projects."
One of the biggest contributing factors to his music has been his Indian roots. Was it an obligation to draw from his cultural roots while creating music?
He shares that he feels he has an 'obligation to be authentic'. "By that I mean, be yourself in whatever you do."
A US-born child of Indian immigrants that came to this country in the late '70s, his parents lived the quintessential Indian immigration story in the US, where they came here with $8 to their name. Because they were struggling and trying to go to school and put food on the table, they decided to send little Siddhartha back to India to be raised by his grandparents for a short period when he was a child, until his parents got their footing here in the US. "Those types of choices that my parents had to make were very difficult ones. I have an appreciation for what they experienced, and the understanding, because we all experienced that together," he added.
It was this experience that kind of introduced him to the world of music as he listened to old Hindi songs his mom would send him. She would send him cassette tapes with her voice on it from the US. "So Indian music is in my blood and it's the first music I ever listened to, so naturally, it's going to have an influence on where I live, musically, today. It has definitely informed who I am as a musician and a lot of my music in my band Goldspot. There's a lot of Indian influence in the music, albeit it's very subtle, drawing on these 1960s, '70s composers like RD Burman, SD Burman. So I feel like I have an obligation to be authentic in what I'm doing. I don't feel the obligation, necessarily, in having Indian-sounding music in everything I do," he shared.
In 'Looking for Alaska, there's nothing very Indian about it. It was more what he felt was right for the project and what the project needed to be authentic.
In 'This Is Us', however, since the show is about the larger connectivity of life, he found a connect. "This idea that your grandfather or grandmother could've done something small, made a decision that could have a profound impact on you and then the people that follow you in your lineage. To me, it felt like a very Indian concept. In Hinduism, we believe in reincarnation, and we also believe in karma and things where actions have consequences. To me, all of that started opening up an area inside of me which was very Indian. So, the 'This is Us' score, most Indian people that hear it can say, 'Oh, that feels like very classical sound' but to a western audience they hear it and they say, 'Oh, it sounds interesting. I have not heard it before, I don't know what it is'. So I feel like it's important to be authentic more than anything else. When it's appropriate, yes, for me, Indian music is in my blood, it's who I am, and 'This Is Us' ended up being a magical fit for me to use that and bring that in," he said.
It's also important to support one another in this endeavor, he told MEAWW, highlighting the need to create more opportunities for artists. "There's a lot of Asian Americans and South Asians that have reached out to me that want to now pursue this path of going into the arts, and they haven't been encouraged to do it, either by their own families or they don't find the opportunities are there for them, because you don't see people my particular skin color doing a lot of what I'm doing. So I feel obligated to help create opportunities for South Asians when I can as well," he said in conclusion.