Raghav Mathur clearly knows his way around the music industry, having been involved in the business – in countries ranging from England to India – since he was 16.
But the 31-year-old singer-songwriter from Calgary still has reservations about his success. “I feel like it has happened overnight,” Mathur said this week.
Mathur, who performs as Raghav, considers his decision to move to England while still in his teens “the springboard moment” of his career. He eventually enrolled in the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, the school cofounded by Paul McCartney, which led to membership in the R&B group 11/7.
Mathur enjoyed his time at the school, primarily because it introduced him to the country’s vast musical possibilities.
He would go from student to participant soon enough. Mathur, who is set to make his Victoria debut alongside K’Naan, Shawn Desman and more on Saturday at Bear Mountain Arena, wound up living in England for eight years, the majority of which was spent furthering his career as a pop singer.
His dance-friendly material (which Mathur calls “pop-world music”) met with success from the jump.
His debut, 2004’s Storyteller, sent four songs to the Top 10 in the U.K. But while a number of tours to support the record drew big numbers overseas, especially in India and the Middle East, it wasn’t until he returned to Canada that he realized how little he had achieved on his home turf.
“I could run down the street naked in Calgary, with my album in my hand, and not get arrested,” he said with a laugh.
Mathur, with help from Victoria-based record label Cordova Bay Records, has taken steps to change that perception.
The Phoenix, the first full-length effort under his new agreement with Cordova Bay, was released to stores in April on the strength of So Much, which earned Mathur a nomination for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards.
He had signed with the label in 2010 after moving back to Calgary to be closer to his mother, who was recuperating from a heart attack.
Once he settled back into a Canadian groove, he was able to look at his career with fresh focus. “I really wanted to be closer to home,” Mathur said.
“But it was a question of giving up or keep doing it.”
He wisely chose the latter. Mathur said he is in talks with Ultra Music, the influential U.S. dancemusic label, to re-release his single Fire, which is certified gold with sales of more than 45,000 copies in Canada.
Hopes are high that Ultra will release the dance single this year, Mathur said.
Mathur said there’s no denying that the marriage of Raghav, “that Indian guy who sings pop,” and a Vancouver Island-based record label that deals primarily with blues and rock acts is an unlikely union. In many ways, that’s precisely what makes it so special.
“It sounds like an experiment that went wrong,” Mathur said with a laugh.
“Nothing would happen for me in the States were it not the support of the guys in Victoria.
“I was the antithesis of the acts on that label. But we’ve got a gold record that proves that we weren’t wrong.”
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