I’m making pop music now. Why did I make this turn?
In a word, growth.
I went to a Taylor Swift concert in Dallas, Texas in 2018. And I was blown away. The music, the lights, the drama. I was taken by the scale of production on every level. I was lucky to be invited by Tayor’s team, so it didn’t hurt that I had great seats and all-access roaming.
The day after the concert, she made a political statement, endorsing a candidate for senate in Tennessee. If you know anything about me, I like to mix music with a message. My first book was on the nexus of jazz & democracy. I watched as Swift’s comments made waves, and I started to understand her impact on the political and social conversation.
I grew up playing jazz music in elementary school. I joined the high school jazz program, and I played in the college jazz band. My passion was jazz and my orbit became jazz musicians. I got so absorbed with music, I unfortunately lost sight of other forms. There was indeed a period when I admittedly thought that jazz was “more sophisticated” music than many other forms. I was too arrogant to appreciate the talent and skill that it takes to make pop music.
My foray into pop began in 2018. I left my corporate job and finally had unfettered time to create. I was blessed to spend my summer in Italy at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. It’s a retreat where you can work on anything you want in a beautiful setting. I had time and space to think without having to run to another meeting. I pumped out projects. That year I produced 10+ albums and published 4 books. It was one of the most productive & meaningful periods of my life.
I realized that I wanted to get more involved, more tactile with the music I was making. In jazz, much of the music is made during the recording session. You perform the song a few times and decide the best take to use. Maybe you blend together or create a composite or “comp” of the best solos. To be sure, there’s more to making a great record, and I’m oversimplifying it. But I knew that I wanted to have more say over the actual sounds being made.
I challenged myself to make more commercial music. I got Ableton, a digital audio workstation. I watched hundreds of YouTube videos and took courses on Udemy. I joined Facebook groups to ask others technical questions and talked to pop producers who I knew. I made a beat every day and shared them online to get feedback. I layered in my performances on the keyboard, bass, guitar into various tracks. I was obsessed. I still am.
Last week, I released Threshold my debut pop EP.
When I saw producers like The Chainsmokers and Zedd releasing music featuring singers, I was like – why can’t I do that?
I partnered with Greer Baxter, a talented songwriter who is a hit machine. She sent me songs, and I started to produce the tracks, from the bass line to the synths and effects. When it came to finding singers, I reached out to some folks who I knew from the jazz world like Thana Alexa. The rapper Caliph was featured on one of my jazz productions, and he was keen to collaborate. I love Emilio Solla‘s song “Llegara, Llegara, Llegara” which is on a jazz album that I helped to produce, and I remixed it with vocals that feature Manu Manzo and Danay Suarez.
Yes, I still have a long way to go. My release isn’t charting anywhere, at least not yet. And big pop stars aren’t clamoring to work with me. But Threshold is a start. And I’m excited to see how this new journey takes shape.
Here’s a bit more about Threshold:
Multi-GRAMMY Award & Latin GRAMMY Award-winning producer/artist Kabir Sehgal collaborates with leading BIPOC and women artists on his latest EP, Threshold, set for release on Tiger Turn. An Indian American producer with more than 70 album credits to his name, Kabir Sehgal releases Threshold with each song showcasing the complexities of finding love and discovering one’s individual identity.
Threshold features pop sensation Sonna Rele (vocalist on “Strong” in Disney’s motion picture, Cinderella) on the first single, “Somewhere Between Fifth and Madison.” Alyssa Raghu – a Top 8 contestant on ABC’s American Idol (2018, 2019) and who Katy Perry touted about, “She’s got that sauce!” – teams up with U.S. immigrant and DACA recipient Caliph on “Wasted Pages.” Sehgal remixes Emilio Solla’s “Llegara, Llegara, Llegara” from the Latin GRAMMY-winning album Puertos with special guest vocalists Manu Manzo and Danay Suarez. Threshold closes with a Pop/EDM track “What’s Your Name?” highlighting GRAMMY Award-nominated singer Thana Alexa.
- Somewhere Between Fifth and Madison
- Wasted Pages
- Llegara – Remix
- What’s Your Name?