Student by day, R&B artist by night: an overture to Malhaar Nagaraj and his music


Malhaar Nagaraj

Nagaraj strums a chord on his guitar to experiment with new sounds.

In his room, Malhaar Nagaraj (‘22) reaches for his guitar to strum out a chord, experimenting with different sounds to find out which fit the tone for his new single “Siren Song.” Creating a new and original song from scratch is no easy feat, but Nagaraj is up for the challenge. Coming off of the excitement from his first major R&B album “The Mood Sours,” which was released on December 2, 2021, Nagaraj is back at it in his studio, creating more content for a steadily growing fanbase. 

Nagaraj grew up in a musical household, his father an Indian classical singer who passed his love for music down to his son. From a young age, Nagaraj sang and experimented with different instruments. These experiences taught him valuable lessons in musical production and gave him the experience he needed to create his first album.

“This album was me expressing myself, by taking that influence that I had as a kid and working upon it to make something that speaks to myself like a character. It wasn’t really something that was related to Indian Classical music except the last song, “Alvida,” which is specifically in Hindi.” said Nagaraj.  

Along with his dad, Nagaraj’s support system includes his two musician friends Siddharth Bhargav (’22), a fellow Amador student, and Philip Avdey. Malhaar sends them his music drafts without fear of judgment, and they give him honest suggestions and encouragement. 

“He does a lot of what I’d call musical studies, it is really just practicing production. You have to do some studies to figure out ideas you like or methods and techniques. Some of them do suck, [but it’s] not like they are horrible. He’s trying stuff out, he’s experimenting,” said Bhargav.

Nagaraj, Bhargav, and Avdey work and collaborate on music.

The three friends bonded over their passion for creating music and have formed a band, where they host jam sessions to bounce ideas off of each other, try out new genres of music, and play music together in a positive environment.

“I think the band is a really influential thing for me because it is nice to have a community of musicians. We have a couple of songs that I really like, and they are almost done,” said Nagaraj.

Nagaraj’s music can be classified as R&B, a genre known for its soulful music set over instrumentals like a piano, and he uses different instruments like guitar, pads, flute, piano, and bass to accompany his singing. In his music, he tries to evoke feelings of nostalgia while also telling a meaningful story. Nagaraj’s album “Mood Sours” is all about platonic relationships–how they rise and how they fall.

“The first song is “Lilac Grows,” a metaphor for falling in love [and] for meeting a new person. The second song is… an instrumental track with no singing, and describes the nature [and] crescendo of the relationship until it gets to a breaking point and there’s that snap moment where it falls. [The] last song “Slow Dance”is a song about nostalgia for that relationship.”said Nagaraj.

Being a musician takes work and dedication, a challenge Nagaraj embraces with full force. He spends around 2-3 hours a day on his music in the studio, constantly developing more music for his listeners.

“He will get in like feverish spouts where he will stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning with Yerba Mate[an energy drink] and produce a lot of music or get really deep into the production of a specific song, like super sporadically. He has times, especially during break, where he works 24/7 on music,” said Bhargav.

Right now, Nagaraj’s new single “Siren Song” is at the forefront of his mind as he decides where to go next after the success of “Mood Sours,” which got at least 400 streams when he last checked. 

“[Siren Song] is like pain. It is a darker song than the last one, so I don’t know how that changes its genre, but I think it’s a very stark difference. There’s a lot of things that carry over,  but I changed a lot of the instrumentals,” said Nagaraj.

Nagaraj’s interests lie not only in music–he also aspires to study neuroscience in college. 

“I am thinking I will go into neuroscience and then just try to make music as much as I can throughout that time period. Throughout college and when I get a job, I will do music on the side,” said Nagaraj.

Nagaraj uses Instagram to promote his music and interact with fans. His followers like his posts, comment on his recordings, and send him positive messages. His reach on Instagram has extended even outside of the Tri-Valley Area.

“I don’t entirely know who those people are that are listening to [my music], but I have gotten messages from Chicago [where I used to live],” said Nagaraj.

His music can be found on Apple Music, Spotify, and Youtube. And as for Nagaraj himself, he can be found in his studio, mixing up his new beats, and finding new and innovative ways to step forward in his career.