Article by Mike Bell, Calgary Herald

Photograph by: Grant Black, Calgary Herald

Photograph by: Grant Black, Calgary Herald


Raghav’s new album, The Phoenix, is released today.

It’s tough, in this day and age, being a single guy. Especially when you want to be so much more.

Calgary musician Raghav Mathur appreciates the dilemma, because it’s one he’s dealing with as he gets set to release his debut North American full-length The Phoenix, which drops today in Canada, on the Victoria-based Cordova Bay label.

To many in this part of the world, the artist, who performs and records under his first name only, is known for dance hits such as Fire, Top of the World and the track So Much featuring Canuck hip-hop artist Kardinal Offishall, but he’s hoping with the release of The Phoenix, people will get a more complete picture of what and who he is.

“For those that have heard the singles, the album is nothing like the singles,” Raghav says, while sitting in Mount Royal tea house Steeps. “I often wonder if the day of the album is dead, and if this is something very few people will actually get to listen to and care about. But it’s important to me because the depth, musically, to me, on the album, supersedes that of the singles. I’d like people to know there’s more musicality to me than simply the singles – which I am proud of.”

And, it’s difficult not to look favourably on those tracks – all of which are included on the new album – and at the dance-pop side of his career, and it would be foolish not to note them.

There’s Fire, which earned a number of radio award nominations and got some play in the Dome during games by his be-loved Flames; Love, which was originally written for Michael Jackson, who died before he could record it; and then there are the three songs he recorded with rising superstar U.K. producer Labyrinth, which Raghav is particularly excited about, considering the producer was signed by Simon Cowell and has just released his own album, which is expected to top the charts overseas. “I’m proud that he was able to give me the time when he’s at the top of his game,” Raghav says.

But still, the 31-year-old is hoping that those who may have dismissed him or even embraced him as merely a pop artist might look past those to see some of the ballads and more adult contemporary tracks on the record, which show off his greatest attribute and the reason he got into music as a child and seriously in his teens.

“The one thing that gets lost in the mix when you hear a (song) like Fire or Top of the World – which are fun singles – is that sometimes I forget I’m a singer. And I forget that what I actually do is sing. I do so much else throughout my day to keep my head above water, to have a career, even after selling a million records, sometimes it’s frustrating that you forget what you do is you sing,” he says. “And the album, I’m glad when I sit down to listen to it, I go, ‘Wow, I’m glad that (song’s) on there’ so that people who go, ‘That’s a cheesy (song),’ or, ‘That’s a pop (song),’ they can say, ‘Actually, this guy can sing.’ “That will hold me in good stead if I get the breaks.”

Again, his reference to selling more than a million records would seem to indicate that he’s had his share of breaks over the years which he admits he has. That’s especially true in Britain and more notably in India, where his two previous releases – Storyteller and Identity – were massive hits and made him a household name in that region a half-decade ago.

It also has led to another huge opportunity, which has nothing to do with the release of The Phoenix, but should, nonetheless, keep momentum going for the artist. Recently, Raghav began collaborating with A.R. Rachman, the Academy, Grammy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, etc. award-winning composer, songwriter and producer and man behind the music for Slumdog Millionaire. And as a result, Raghav should get some huge exposure thanks to an “international project” that’s in the works down in Los Angeles, as well as a Bollywood project they’re collaborating on for the Yash Raj production company in India.

“Those are the biggest films in Bollywood. They’re the epic films in Bollywood,” he says, noting he’ll have at least one, possibly two tracks in the film where he provides his voice and the com-poser provides his music. “With Rahman’s pedigree, the fact that he’s taken me in on some projects is pretty awesome,”

It says a great deal to Raghav’s talents that while attempting to break big in the western world, he can still keep his image up in South Asia where he had previous success. In fact, that skill is one he even shows off, proudly, on The Phoenix, with, among all of the material, a Hindi tune, Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya.

“I think it was hugely important to have that song on there,” he says. “I think it just finishes it off and says this is what this artist is all about. That’s what an album has to be all about, it has to tell a certain story about your range, your abilities, in a number of different way.

“So for me it was important to have that on. . . . And hopefully it helps show people who I am as an artist.”

A single man. And so much more.

mbell@calgaryherald.com Follow on Twitter @mrbell_23

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