Often called the Pakistani `Bieber` or even `Bruno Mars`, Asim Azhar's cover song `A Team` (originally by Ed Sheeran) has won him millions of fans worldwide.
The Pakistani pop sensation comes from a musical family. His father, a famous pianist, Azhar Hussain has been a staple of the desi music scene since the 1970s. As a young boy, he had a passion of sharing different forms of music with the world.
Talking to Anindita Dev from Zee Media Corp, Asim opens up about his musical journey, his Bollywood aspirations and his dream to sing for Shah Rukh Khan.
Moving abroad at an early age, what attracted you to Pakistani music?
I was born in Karachi, Pakistan and Pakistani music always fascinated me, specially the country's pop music with names like Sajjad Ali, Vital Signs, Haroon, Faakhir etc. I hear songs from back then and still like them a hundred times better than some of the music we get to hear nowadays.
I guess, artists and musicians were very true to their art and believed in strong lyrics and melody in that era.
You are called the `Pakistani Bieber` and `Pak Bruno Mars` of music. Do you agree? How does it affect you?
I am an individual and I like to be an original artist. But I try to be very positive about things. For a kid like me who has just started his journey and is still discovering the beauty of this art and life, getting compared to such big names is an honour. They are huge names and I have a long way to go. But it feels good to be compared to them.
You tasted success at the age of 16, does it get too much to handle?
Yes, it does get a little too much to handle at times. At my age, I'm supposed to be playing Xbox all day or hanging out with friends all the time rather than rehearsing day and night, doing interviews, performing, recording and just working the whole day. But I’m not complaining at all.
I love every bit of it. After all that hard work you get rewarded with success and a lot of love from fans. So even if I missed out on being a normal teenager, I am very lucky to have experienced what I have done and seen in my life.
Do you enjoy live performances or cutting your own albums more?
I really enjoy being on stage in front of fans. The energy on stage is unreal and performing live music with live musicians is a test for an artist itself every time. So every time I go on stage, it's like I have more to prove.
It doesn’t matter how big or small a show is, I still get butterflies in my stomach. And the pressure to give a great performance live just makes it more thrilling. I love all of it!
Describe your musical journey so far in the Pakistani music industry?
I am privileged to come across and work with very nice and professional people in my journey so far in the Pakistani music industry. I’ve got the chance to see and meet some people personally that I look up to, who have given me some great words of wisdom and advice. The amount of love and support I’ve received from the fans and everyone else in the industry has also been very pleasing, as I did not expect such a warm welcome for a newbie in town.
At the end of the day, it's my team that influences me a lot in whatever I do and they have been so supportive of my decisions and given me great tips on how to stay on my feet and to stay humble no matter what happens.
There are a number of Pakistani singers in Bollywood, have you ever thought of playback singing in Bollywood?
Yes, why not! I’m the kind of guy that loves grabbing opportunities in life and going on new ventures and this would be something that I wouldn’t hesitate to do. Over the past years, they have been number of great artists/singers that have crossed the border and showed their talent but most importantly they opened the gates for artists and the two countries in a new way which I think is amazing. And some day, who knows I might be one of them too.
If you could lend your voice to one Bollywood hero, who would that be and why?
Without a doubt it would be the king of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan! I’ve been the biggest Shah Rukh Khan fan since I was a two year-old .From his movies to all his songs, I’ve seen and danced to all of them. To see him, meet him and work with him is a dream that I have to accomplish.
Your debut with Urdu version of Ed Sheeran's `The A-Team` was a massive hit. Why did you choose this particular track? What was on your mind?
I remember I used to see the name of this song everywhere and it was getting very popular but at the time I never bothered to listen. But then one day, I was watching the Grammys and saw Ed Sheeran perform this song live and that was the moment, I realized how beautiful this song was and I wanted to give it my own touch and make it easy for my own people to understand and connect to it.
Next day, I went to the studio and started writing keeping in mind that I wanted to set the same background and image of the song. And I just kept writing and writing and tried to describe this person who has lost all hope and all the doors have been closed for him/her and all that he/she can do is to have hope. And after I released it and everyone started really liking it, the huge moment was when Ed Sheeran himself tweeted to me about the song and said ‘it's awesome’. I can’t explain that feeling to get an approval of a Grammy nominated artist himself.
After your UK concert in 2014, will you be planning a similar India tour for your fans?
I would love to come and perform in India. We have a lot of things and projects in discussion, and I obviously would want to wait until it’s the right time to announce anything. But yes, touring India and performing for the people there is definitely included in my to-do-list.
Who is your singing idol from India and Pakistan?
There are so many talented singers from both the countries that naming just one would be unfair. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Muhammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Sajjad Ali, Sonu Nigam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and nowadays, I really really admire Arijit Singh’s singing.
Ali Zafar turned from singer to actor in Bollywood. Is acting on your mind too?
I won’t say it’s something on my mind, but I wouldn’t mind it either. Like I said, I’m the kind of guy who loves to grab opportunities, and if I ever get a role that I think is suitable for where I stand in my career and my fans would enjoy seeing me in, I’d love to do it. But yeah, I personally think I won’t do too bad in it as well (laughs).
Your future tracks that you're working on?
Every time I make a song, I try to do something different from what I’ve done previously. The tracks we’ve been working on are a part of my debut album which we plan to release this year and which I’m really excited about.
I’m treating every single track as a song that has the potential to be a hit and that’s why I’m taking all the time I need to completely finish this album.
A personal message for your fans
All I can say is that you guys have been with me through everything till now and supported me in everything that I’ve done. I can’t thank you enough for making me able to do what I love. I hope your love stays the same because trust me, at the end of the day, that’s what means the most to me.
If it weren’t for my fans, I wouldn’t be giving this interview right now to you. I’m truly blessed to have such amazing fans and devoted supporters that dedicate so much time of their life to my music and me.