Having found success with his debut record track Morning In Brixton, which was popular across the US college radio network and featured on MTV Rock, singer songwriter Pallab Sarker landed a record deal in America.

The 40-year-old British Bengali indie-pop artist is now back in the UK, living in Walthamstow, and will be releasing his debut album, Grey Day on February 10.

For a long time, Pallab has led a seemingly double life - he was a press adviser to British government ministers during the last Labour administration, and a musician by night. On one occasion he merged the two roles by performing a gig in the atrium of the Home Office for Children in Need.

Pallab’s double life still continues - he runs the PR firm Apollo Strategic Communications, while performing around east London in the evenings. 
Pallab’s day job sees him working with some of the world’s most prominent political leaders. He cites a private meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican as his ‘most treasured moment’, one to beat as his music career takes shape.

I spoke to him to find out more…

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Describe your sound

As I’ve grown older I suppose the music has too. The best description is probably acoustic indie, though I don’t think it’s genre-specific. It’s less heavy than when I started out in a band, more mellow and soulful. I like to experiment.

Tell me about the new album

Grey Day has probably been written over 20 years. The title track Grey Day was actually written when I was 17-years-old. I remember strumming it in the halls of residence at the University of York and one of the chaps on my corridor seemed to like it and even started singing it on our block. That gave me the confidence to keep writing.

I really started to experiment with music then, mainly with a friend from university. After graduating we formed a band and started gigging anywhere and everywhere we could, from London to the Shetland Islands. We did that for over fifteen years, writing, recording and gigging, but as I got older, married and had kids it became increasingly difficult to keep such a strong focus on the band. So when I got a spare moment at home, I just started writing songs on my own. Soon I had enough material for an album.

At the same time, Walthamstow’s music scene was really growing. The pubs were putting on open mic nights and the stages were packed with talented artists. To broaden the musical palette of the album I even brought in some of the musicians I met locally, including classically trained musicians. Grey Day is my first solo album but I’m still writing and recording stuff with the band too.

What inspires you?

The truth. Art and music is about getting closer to the truth and expressing things that are difficult to express. Music also has this special power of moving people immediately – it cuts through to help you find feelings you didn’t know you had buried inside. In a world where we’re becoming more like the machines we stare at, I think we crave natural feeling, a way to understand ourselves and each other so we can connect.

You don’t really sit down to write a song. A song will just come and if you like it you record it.  You’re ultimately tapping into something beyond yourself. The lyrics come from your view of the world and your experiences. I’m lucky enough to live in London but also be five minutes from Epping Forest, a great source of inspiration. When I look back at the album, I think nature is a prominent theme.

Tell me about your recent success in America

I was very fortunate that Morning in Brixton (the debut single from Grey Day) was picked up and played across the US college underground radio network, giving it wide exposure among young people. Off the back of this it started being played on various city and town radio stations, eventually earning me a record deal in the US.

I was just humbled that people on the other side of the Atlantic were actually listening to something I’d created in a cabin in East London. It’s just nice to know that people were listening and hopefully appreciating the sound. That’s ultimately all you can ask for.

You have spoken about a lack of British Asian indie musicians in the industry, tell me your view on the matter

I remember the eclectic Asian Dub Foundation, polemic-spewing Fun-Da-Mental, and of course Cornershop, genuinely inspired hit makers with the smash hit Brimful of Asha. Off the back of this, we were promised a new wave of mainstream Asian-indie bands, but somehow it never materialised. 

There are no shortage of ethnic minorities performing on the indie underground gigging circuit but few breakthrough into the mainstream.

I’ve performed alongside musicians originating from Turkey, Lebanon, Japan and just about everywhere else. One of the most talented acoustic singer songwriters I ever met was a British Afghani.

How do you think this can be overcome? 

Globalisation and technological progress means that nationalities and cultures are being exposed to each other’s music more than ever before, leading to new and interesting sounds that shouldn’t really be labelled. In a way, it’s the most interesting time in the history of music.

nfortunately, mainstream music is more about marketing than music these days. So talented indie singer songwriters, whether they originate from Seattle, South Asia or South America often don’t get a look in. As more and more people from every corner of the planet get involved there is hope for an even more interesting genre.

What is planned for 2018?

Recording a new album!