Interview: From Mumbai to New York City, A-Zal Is Fully Engrossed In His Pop Journey

A-Zal © 2024
A-Zal © 2024
With around 100 song placements in films as a composter, arranger, and songwriter, Indian singer/songwriter A-Zal didn’t need to take risks. He set that idea aside in pursuit of his own journey in pop music, and has his next few years of releases mapped out in front of him.
Stream: “Phonebook” – A-Zal

I feel like I’ve hit a rhythm for my own self of telling my own story. How many stories will I be able to say? Things are flowing.

Born in Mumbai, India and settling down in London, UK for long periods of time during his upbringing, Indian singer/songwriter A-Zal now finds himself living in the hamlet of Rockland County, New York, just around 40 miles north of New York City.

Upon first arriving to New York several years ago, he would make the commute, sometimes up to two-and-a-half hours each way, from Rockland to his job at Brooklyn Music House, a music education center for children. Versed in songwriting, scoring, and composing, and a graduate of London’s Royal College of Music conservatoire, A-Zal has had a hand on projects, both domestic and international, across the world of entertainment. Now on what he calls his “pop journey,” he is hyper-focused on his own art as a rising pop artist.

With his Indian dialect and cultural affectations, which are reflected in his turns of phrase, considered a critical aspect of his presentation, he confidently declares, “I am a New Yorker myself,” feeling an abundance of pride for his current home, and the lifestyle thrust upon those who fall in love with the never-ending potential of dreams to be pursued in the city that never sleeps.

His newest releases, “Phonebook” and “Looking Through,” are out now.

A-Zal has used his surroundings, both in New York City and at home in Rockland, as a vehicle for creativity.

“I have my studio at home… it works pretty well for me, because it gives me access to some beautiful lakes and surroundings,” he says. “It just helps me write better music, I feel.”

When in NYC, he plays his music in one of, if not the rawest, most vulnerable spaces possible. “I do busking there… I perform on the subways. I get so much love from the audience, the passerby’s, etc. And I shoot a lot of my TikToks… my reels, randomly throughout the city. That is an integral part of me as a songwriter.”

A-Zal has not been shy of his love for artists like Adele or Ed Sheeran, with studio covers of the latter’s “Perfect” and “Bloodstream” available on streaming services. His guitar playing, the standout aspect of his artistry, is inspired by Sheeran’s looping, hip-hop-laden playing style.

“There’s something more… devoted, to their music,” he shares. “I have full respect for all the musicians here, there, globally… but their songwriting is just more from the heart. The element of the soul in their music is more. That’s how I feel, personally.”

A-Zal feels his trajectory as a performer, at least in terms of the long-term growth of technical ability, resembles Sheeran’s.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen that video that has floated around… how shit he sounded before,” he tells Atwood Magazine, very matter-of-fact. “I used to sound the same. I was a lead guitarist of a band called Nemesis. We used to play heavy metal… iron Maiden, System Of A Down, Pearl Jam. I wasn’t a singer, I would just do backing vocals. But then, when I started learning and honing my skills, that’s when I came to wherever I am. I still have a long way to go… I want to learn forever.”

With an estimate of around 100 song placements in films, A-Zal says another 500-600 songs never found a home. The 100 that have been placed came from a process he says is close to method acting, truly diving into the psyche of the character from the medium he was creating for. “Tell me the character… tell me the backdrop,” he says. “I was always writing to a brief. All of my movie scores or soundtracks have been going into the characters mind and doing the sound based on that. But, doing this never allowed me to explore my own story.”

“Every song has something to do with me, and I don’t want to cheat that process,” he continues, on not wanting to oversaturate listeners with the music he is now filtering out. “I don’t want to cheat my listeners. I have small listeners, but I feel I get affected by the way people write to me on social media, like when they say, ‘Lonely Town’ has helped me get through my depression.

A-Zal © 2024
A-Zal © 2024

There is something uniquely flavorful… culturally influenced about A-Zal’s sound.

Again, perhaps it is the dialect. Or maybe it is the light Spanish guitar-sounding work throughout songs like “Movie Script” and “17 & 11 Nights.” However, A-Zal says elements of Indian music, specifically the two major forms of it, Hindustani (of the North) and Carnatic (of the South) that he spent almost seven years studying alongside orchestration and a plethora of individual instruments, are not as infused in this music as one may think. “That is something I’d really want to do… maybe on my fourth album,” he explains, hinting of his plans even well beyond this upcoming first record.

Despite his prowess in composing and arrangement, he, at this point, considers his instrumental abilities to be secondary to songwriting and singing. This sentiment is best reflected in “Lonely Town” and his cover of Sheeran’s “Bloodstream,” both of which set his voice as the primary focus. “17 & 11 Nights” displays strong vocal moments, both in tone and character, but is ultimately a track driven by its skillful guitar work and a folk-pop leaning post-chorus hook that is the most accessible element of the track.

We were 17 & 11 nights
It was the first time, but we did alright
It’s the way you kissed me till the morning light
It was a beautiful world with you beside me

“I feel that the acoustic guitar, and piano, have always been the backbone of songwriting,” he says. “The whole art of acoustic guitar-ing is not coming out through pop right now. I wrote ‘17 & 11 Nights’ in three days, but the guitar part took three months. To infuse that with the electronic element was another game altogether. I just wanted to experiment.”

“Phonebook,” one of his most recent releases is an unfettered, energetic song about online dating, and casually exploring multiple options in the process. Musically, it resembles Sheeran’s more hip-hop, rap-sung leaning songs that sees A-Zal explore difficult lyrical patterns and flows.

“Sometimes, it’s not all about having a message,” he notes. “There’s no message. It’s just a fun song. It’s just about dating and talking to new people.”

I’m a lover 
I could be lovin’ you forever 
And I believe it’s true 
I’m a giver
I wanna give you
A bit of you and me in our lovebook
A-Zal © 2024
A-Zal © 2024

With multiple albums finished, or nearly finished, and slated for release over the next few years into 2026-27, A-Zal is confident that his belief in this music will not falter as time passes.

“I don’t feel it’s daunting… I just have to fine tune it with the mixing and mastering,” he smiles. “I know these 30 something songs have come out of 200 songs, which I’ve trashed. ‘Phonebook,’ the master you hear now, was ready in 2021. It used to be daunting back then, but I knew that once I roll out, I’m not taking a break. Now, I feel like I’ve hit a rhythm for my own self of telling my own story. How many stories will I be able to say? Things are flowing.”

— —

:: connect with A-Zal here ::
Watch: “Movie Script” – A-Zal

— — — —

Looking Through - A-Zal

Connect to A-Zal on
Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © courtesy of the artist

:: Stream A-Zal ::

Written By
More from Noah Wade