Edited and packaged by Megan Wilson
That same sly and goofy smile I knew from years ago greeted me when he picked up my FaceTime call.
Krishna Chetan, 21, was slumped in his bed with his white Adidas baseball cap struggling to cover his long, curly brown locks. The brim of his hat and his intense stubble shadowed his face, which was revealed when he broke into a toothy smile upon my informal hello. Within 30 seconds of greeting me, Chetan eagerly suggested I see his finished basement. He walked me down a flight of dark gray stairs that opened up to high-polish light brown hardwood floors and bare off-white walls.
The sight of his basement instantly reminded me of Chetan’s psyche—scattered full of bright ideas yet full of works in progress. Half of the cavernous space was filled to the brim with knick-knacks.
I couldn’t help but break into a smile and say “Ayyy!” at the sight of him. It felt like two old high school buddies finally seeing each other again after years of limited contact.
And that’s because it was just that. I knew him since my junior year at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, New York as the gangly kid in my friend group with a passion for music production and a lackadaisical attitude toward just about every other facet of his life.
Not much had changed since then.
Chetan, who often goes by his stage name “Krish,” doesn’t stick to one genre. As a musician, he morphs from one to the next: from electronic dance music to acoustic pop to R&B, he makes a song and EP for every popular genre his demographic (teenagers and young adults) consumes.
“It was less about the ‘worldwide factor’ of it but more about how I felt at a certain time of my life,” Chetan remarked about his diverse musical approach. “If you like it, that’s dope and if you don’t, then I don’t really care.”
He moved to North Carolina, just outside of Raleigh, in November 2017 after years of living in the small, snobby town of Clifton Park in upstate New York, where his budding music career began.
His father was arguably his biggest inspiration. Being a poet and a songwriter, he began learning production software skills when his son was 10. As Chetan’s father’s interest grew, he converted his small office space into a music studio filled with recording equipment and various keyboards. Chetan caught on and helped his father with production, learning on a “baptism by fire” basis.
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Chetan has the benefit of being a pop artist in the digital age, where social media and online marketing go a long way in promoting one’s music. His Instagram, @krish0723, is full of posts filled with colorful graphics of his album art and sunny selfies, attracting fans from all over.
“I nowhere nearly ‘made it,’ but it’s dope when some random kid in f—ing Tel Aviv or something goes, ‘Yo, “Run & Hide” is dope’ and sends me a video of him listening to it,” Chetan said with a subdued sense of awe. “That’s so cool, like I don’t know him at all, I have no connection to him but he likes the song.”
When I mentioned his impressive electro R&B debut EP, Roses & Bonfires, and how I loved seeing each step of its production when I hung out with him, he became sheepish.
“I didn’t know anything about the business. I was 17, I probably shouldn’t have known anything anyways,” Chetan claimed. “It took me everything up until now to learn about the business aspect of music. The harsh reality is that it’s a business for rich people.”
I prodded him further about why the music industry is so tough. He finally rose from being sprawled on his loveseat and paced around a small circle in his half-finished basement, staring away from the camera and rambling on for what felt like 20 minutes, almost subconsciously, about the nuances and step-by-step processes of popularizing a song on streaming services.
All I could do was sit there wide-eyed and give the occasional “mhm” or “wow” as he let his stream of thoughts bubble over. It was as if he always wanted to tell this particular story but never had an audience.
He revealed to me the actual secrets of “blowing up” in music, whether from paying high-level producers thousands of dollars, having a big name connection, or spending loads of cash just to be featured on a moderately-trafficked Spotify playlist.
“You need a pretty solid budget to make big numbers on Spotify,” Chetan said. “Spotify is conducive to that, so if you put in a pretty solid amount of money, it’ll take off on its own. Most other streaming platforms won’t even do that, so you can promote all you want but there’s no return on your investment so it’s like, ‘okay, word.’”
He spoke in anecdotes and hypotheticals, which appeared to be thinly veiled frustrations of his younger and more naïve self bubbling up to simultaneously scold and educate him about the risks implied in music marketing.
He eventually came out of his trance, gazing into the camera with a sense of embarrassment and apologizing for rambling on about stuff I seemingly didn’t care about.
But at that moment, it became clear to me that the Krish I knew at 18 was a changed young man today. His feet touched the ground a little more. He recognized that sometimes, dreams are just that: dreams.
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