Prateek Kuhad is a rising star with award-winning chops that rival industry icons, and on Thursday, March 28, he’s playing at Globe Hall. This will mark Kuhad’s first show in Denver, and one stop in the U.S. leg of his tour that recently landed him at SXSW. Before his appearance in the Mile High City, we had the opportunity to talk with Kuhad about his new music and what life as a songwriter is like.
Kuhad’s new EP cold/mess was released in 2018, helping catapult him into an international spotlight and into the number one slot on India’s iTunes chart. The EP, he said, was put together the same way he has always put together an album — not with any pattern in mind, but with a careful selection from the catalogue of songs he’s written over the years. The “heartbreak” narrative of the EP is intuitive to Kuhad, who describes his sound as just that.
“It’s pretty ‘straight-forward love song,’ ” Kuhad said, referring to his style that several critics have likened to acts such as Fleet Foxes and Kuhad’s idol, Elliot Smith. Kuhad discovered Smith’s music — which he credits for piquing his interest in songwriting — while studying mathematics at New York University.
Cold/mess is true to Kuhad’s heavy folk influence, but it has alternative and pop elements, giving it a slightly different flavor than his previous albums Raat Raazi and In Tokens and Charms.
“I just kind of intended it to be an EP of, like, six songs that sonically work together, just in terms of their sound,” Kuhad said of cold/mess. “But it ended up being really connected in terms of content and what they [the songs] were talking about. They ended up all being really personal songs — maybe that’s why I instinctively picked them out.”
Kuhad, who won the International Songwriting Competition in 2016 with a selection from In Tokens and Charms, doesn’t labor over finding cheeky double-meanings for his music. “I feel like I write my words pretty simply,” he said. “I don’t like to overcomplicate things.”
Kuhad grew up in Jaipur, a small town in India largely untouched by the indie music scene Kuhad is finding success in. Popular music in India is largely influenced by the soundtracks of popular films, Kuhad said. He grew up listening to Indian commercial pop music — a sound he compared to American ’80s music — along with a few of his parents’ favorites, Harry Belafonte and Cliff Richard to name a couple. He insists he had no knack for songwriting as a kid, calling what little he wrote in high school “really crappy stuff.”
Kuhad’s attitude about his career is humble and played down. To hear him talk about his songwriting, you’d think he was describing a hobby he stumbled upon — and then became an expert at very, very quickly.
Music nearly was just a hobby for Kuhad. Following graduation from NYU, he even had a job he liked working at a consulting firm doing economic analyses for law firms. Then, he decided to become a professional artist.
“I feel like if in the next few years things don’t really take off, I might just go back and do my master’s and get a desk job,” Kuhad mused. “I feel like people make a big deal about it,” Kuhad said. “It’s fine. I kind of really enjoy doing math, actually.”
For now, Kuhad continues to travel and tour, calling New Delhi and New York City home base. He’s “super excited” for his show in Denver, and for the chance to explore Colorado.
“It’s a really cool state,” Kuhad added.
Although March 28 will be the first time Kuhad will perform in the Mile High City, it won’t be his first visit. Kuhad’s college girlfriend was from Denver, and he spent three Thanksgivings here.
There’s something genuine and understated about Kuhad’s music, and his performance at Globe Hall is sure to be no less charming. You’d better see him now before he turns back into the arms of mathematics.
“Not anytime soon,” Kuhad laughed. “Definitely not anytime soon.”