Making a successful creative space for oneself within the American music industry is no easy feat for an artist, especially given the fact that popular music’s variety in sound has been declining for years as radio stations and record companies become more consolidated. As a foreign drummer and audio engineer from India with a formal education at the esteemed Berklee College of Music, Dhruv Agarwala has been able to transcend cultural tastes in music and make such a space for himself in Los Angeles. By combining his aspirations for creating pristine, new sounds and collaboration with a foundation in classical music, including touring with UAE’s National Symphony Orchestra, Agarwala continues to make waves. We had the chance to ask the respected engineer about his past musical achievements as well as where his career goes from here.
How did you gain the opportunity to play with the UAE National Symphony Orchestra while in high school? What were those early experiences like, given your young age?
Agarwala: I won a drumming competition when I was 17 called ‘Melody House Drum Off.’ One of the judges was a member of the UAE National Symphony Orchestra and took notice of my performance. He invited me to sit in on some of the rehearsals and asked me to play with them in concert. Those experiences really aided and accelerated my growth. I was able to take an up-close look at the intensity and level of professionalism required to succeed in music.
How do you try and set yourself apart in the studio considering the intense competition in this field?
Agarwala: I give all my focus to the song and the artist’s vision. It really isn’t about me. I aim to be true to the artist’s sound and help them push their music to the next level.
What are some of your favorite, noteworthy projects you have worked on since graduating from Berklee and moving to LA?
Agarwala: It’s tough to select only a few. I enjoyed working on the song ‘Into The Light’ by Four AM and Adrian Cota. Those guys had great chemistry and a fantastic ear, making the entire process very enjoyable. It was a nice bonus to have the song premiered on Billboard Magazine. I also loved working on Cody Simpson & the Tide’s acoustic versions of their first EP. It was recorded live at the Village Recorder, with no overdubs or edits. All the rooms in that studio sound amazing and made mixing the music so pleasurable.
How have you been able to successfully network yourself and your talents in order to work at renowned studios like Village Recorder?
Agarwala: It’s great living in such a vibrant music community here in Los Angeles. I love to meet new people and engage in different collaborations. You never know what opportunities and relationships you come across. It’s one of the most rewarding and gratifying aspects of working in music.
Who are the musicians you have learnt and gained the most from?
Agarwala: I learnt a lot during my studies at Berklee. Musical giants such as Prince Charles Alexander (P-Diddy, Sting, Usher), Ted Paduck (Aerosmith, Duran Duran, Busta Rhymes), Bob Gullotti (The Fringe, Joe Lovano, J.J. Johnson), to only name a few, have taught me so much. The hours I spent learning from them are priceless to me.
Who are your biggest inspirations or role models in music and why?
Agarwala: Most of my inspirations are people who work behind the scenes, legends like Quincy Jones and George Martin. In a more contemporary setting, producers and engineers such as Tom Elmhirst, Joel Hamilton and Noah Shebib. They have all mastered their craft and put out music that pushes the boundaries of sonics year after year.
Looking forward, what songs/albums/projects are you excited about that will be released in 2018?
Agarwala: It’s hard to pick a just a few! I’m excited for a lot of upcoming releases. We’ve been working on around 30-40 songs for Cody Simpson & the Tide, out of which a few songs will be released this summer. I’m also looking forward to the release of music with singer-songwriter Emma Taylor, acid-jazz artist Maddie Jay and R&B singer William Casanova, to name a few.