Imagine going on a solo road trip one sunny Sunday morning, with the whole affair — right from meeting strangers and learning from their experience, to creating memories. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It is something you would rather put off for another day. But Chennai-based musician Srihari Jagannathan decided one fine day to pack up, get on the road and take a journey that led him to his first album Payanangal.
“Life threw me a different spin. There’s a point in everybody’s life when you lose yourself. You don’t know where you are. I was completely lost. I started journalling my unexpressed emotions during my first solo trip. I bought this handmade paper diary in Varkala, and journalled around 400 pages… that became the album,” says Srihari. Payanangal, he adds, is a journey of a guy who has invested in a person, and that person has left, but towards the end of the album “he still feels whole”.
“He moves from a point where he projects his love onto somebody else to projecting it all onto himself,” says the Chennai Street Band frontman. On the guitars are Renin Raphael and Akshay Yesodharan. “It’s a concept album. There is a story going on throughout the album. That really got my attention. I’ve always wanted to do something like that,” says Renin, who hails from Delhi. The band includes Adithya Gopi on bass, Sebastian Satish on keys and sound engineer Nikhilesh.
Finding common ground
Though the band got its two guitarists on board recently, it thrives on the process of making music together. “Srihari gives us the liberty to listen to the song, read the lyrics, and play what we feel like… put our emotions to it and make it colourful,” says drummer Goutham Healer, who has been with the band since its inception. For Akshay, understanding what Jagannathan had in mind for the album when he joined the band last year was a journey in itself. “I got on board with the band and the album per se for the last three songs. At that point, I did not really understand the vision. But when I got into the studio, finished recording the acoustic and guitar parts, I thought to myself, ‘Now it makes sense.’ By the time we recorded the last song I got where he was coming from.”
Srihari says, “I underwent a transformation throughout the album myself. When I wrote ‘Mayavi’, the first person to listen to the song was the girl I meant it for. I recorded a one minute snippet and sent it to her and she cried. I felt that it was honest… It might not be a great musical piece, but if it has the right emotions, it works.” Renin remarks, “My favourite song [from the album] is ‘Ezhuva Maname’. It has a great guitar solo.”
Adds Srihari, “‘Ezhu Vaa’ is the toughest song that I wrote. At that time, I could not even wake up, I literally wanted to stop doing everything.” He wanted to motivate himself and was tired of listening to everybody else’s motivational songs. “I used to listen to Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’ every day. But I wanted to write one for myself and that’s when ‘Ezhu Vaa’ happened. That’s the most special song personally for me. I realised that what I went through is probably common for everybody. There was a time when I was completely broken and didn’t have the energy to get up. And nobody quite understood it. But (after the trip) I was in a place with better perspective,” says Srihari.
The album recently debuted live at Bay 146 in Savera, Chennai, and is available on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. At the end of the day, Jagannathan says, “If you plug in the album on a day when you don’t feel great, and it comes and hugs you, I’ve done what I wanted to do with the album.”