[Photo Credit: Impact24 PR]
Siddhartha Khosla’s musical genius has led him to compose for one of television’s biggest hit right now, NBC’s “This is Us.” His music for the award-winning drama is endearing and soulful, perfectly capturing the essence of the show. In fact, his song “We Can Always Come Back To This” was recently nominated for a Guild of Music Supervisors Award.
Khosla’s journey is the perfect example of living out your American dream. He was born in the U.S. to immigrant parents who worked hard while completing their graduate degree. He grew up under the care of his grandparents in India for a few years before moving back here, eventually starting what will be a phenomenal career in music. This includes starting his own band, Goldspot, whose original songs are featured in “How I Met Your Mother,” The O.C.,” and “The Neighbors.”
We spoke to Khosla about his trajectory from the band to the entertainment industry, how he fuses Indian music in his TV work if needed, the vital need for accurate representation of South Asians in the media, and his love for comedian Aasif Mandvi.
The Teal Mango: Congratulations on your recent Best Song/Recording Created for Television nomination at the Guild of Music Supervisors Awards. It must have felt amazing to be recognized in such a huge way. Did you expect the sudden success of the show?
Siddhartha Khosla: No, you never expect the show to be this huge. All you can do is control how great you can make it. At that point, it’s up to so many different factors. You don’t know what people are going to respond to. The best you can do is make something authentic and hope that people respond to it. In the case of “This is Us,” people have really loved the show so much and all of us are grateful for it.
[Photo Credit: Impact24 PR]
TTM: One of the most important parts of the show is its soulful music, it helps the audience be part of the scene. How did you get involved with “This is Us?”
Khosla: I’ve been working in film and television for 4-5 years. After my second to last Goldspot record, a friend of mine from college, Dan Fogelman (creator of “This is Us”), he had already been established screenwriter in Hollywood, he called me to work on “Neighbours” and we have been working together on a bunch of different projects. He called me two years ago when he was working on the “This is Us” pilot and said ‘I have a script, I want you to read it and tell me what you think and see what it inspires.’ I wrote 5-6 pieces of music that he ended up loving and it became a part of the score of the show. That’s how I earned this job and it’s been an incredible experience from that day.
[Photo Credit: Impact24 PR]
TTM: You do music for different shows like “Marvel’s Runaways” and “The Royals,” as well. They’re all different genres. Do you put yourself in that frame of mind before composing music for it; especially “This is Us,” which is so emotionally heavy and so the music really make an impact.
Khosla: When you have a show where the writers are so great like we do on “This is Us” and we have the talented cast that we do and I think we have the best cast. I think it will go down in history as one of the best casts on TV. When you look at the performances and hear the words, see the quality of direction, it’s pretty inspirational in my work. There is no limit to my imagination to work on this show. Getting into the frame of mind is pretty easy then when you have that.
TTM: How does the process work in the sense of do you see an episode beforehand or do you collaborate as its happening?
Khosla: I see the episodes first. More often than not, given the compressed schedule, I have 3-4 days for an episode’s worth of music. It’s a tight turnaround. I get to see the episode without any music and based on the conversation with our editors and Dan Fogelman, I create the sound. I just see the picture, identify areas to add the music in, and go through that process.
[Photo Credit: Impact24 PR]
TTM: You started the band Goldspot. The name is pretty unique and I know there used to be an Indian orange soda with that name but what personal significance does it have for you?
Khosla: When I was a kid, I lived in India for a period of time. I would go back every summer. There was just this nostalgia about the 80s and the 90s. That orange soda made me nostalgic. Goldspot represents that time in my life. That’s why its the name of the band. That time reminds me of some music influences of mine like Kishore Kumar.
TTM: Speaking of Kishore Kumar, how much do you infuse Indian music into what you do now; whether its original songs or music for shows and movies. What musical inspirations do you carry with you?
Khosla: It’s never a conscious decision to bring Indian sounding stuff into the music. On “Runaways,” there is nothing Indian to it. It’s moody electronic and “This is Us” definitely has hints of it. I’ve started using the tanpura this season and I’ve never used it before even on Goldspot music. It just depends on what feels right. Sometimes the Indianness in me comes out, especially when I’m writing something about the bigger picture of life and different generations of people; and that thinking to me, something about Karma, makes me want to delve into the Indian side of the music.
TTM: What are some of the differences you’ve noticed; like while making music with your band as opposed to doing something for television.
Khosla: The main difference is that when I’m doing Goldspot work, it’s my own project and it’s my own expression of myself. It’s about me and my experiences. On TV and film, I’m helping a director and writer see their vision through. It’s more collaborative. In Goldspot, I’ve definitely worked with a bunch of great musicians over the years but for the most part, it’s my baby. I write pretty much everything and I’m close to everything related to it. The thing I love about TV and film is that a team is required to make it all work. This show [“This is Us”] is beautiful and moving and connects people because of a 1000 different reasons. That is compelling. Like from Dan creating it to the other writers to the directors to the actors, the cinematographers, they all provide different strokes and its fun to be part of a collaboration.
TTM: There are not as many South Asians necessarily in your line of work in the TV industry. You’re one of the people breaking the barriers. What made you want to push through it?
Khosla: I always dreamed of having a career in music. Whether its Goldspot or now in TV and film. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do this. There’s more of South Asians on TV now, including Aasif Mandvi, Kal Penn, Mindy Kaling, Hasan Minhaj. Aasif Mandvi is the pioneer of our generation. We’ve got so many Indians in this country and even from my generation, we are finding what we love to do and find our voice. Parents are becoming more confident about letting their kids pursue what they want to pursue and I think that’s important. For me, I decided a long time ago that this is what I want to do and love to do and there’s no better way for me. I know if I encouraged a bunch of other younger Indian kids along the way, that’s great and I hope more of them do it.
TTM: I agree. Luckily, there are so many South Asian faces in the industry now and they are changing the stereotypical portrayals of being desi. Why do you think this change is important?
Khosla: This change is important because this country is built on immigrants. It’s not built on just any one particular group. Immigrants have come to this country for centuries and from all over the world. When I see South Asian-Americans in entertainment or in the public eye, I feel like we are coming out of the box. It is reflective of what our society looks like. When you see it on TV, its a reminder of the diversity we’ve come to see in our everyday lives. Pop culture is, or should be, a reflection of what our real world looks like. The real world is not just one group dominating the country. When I see Aasif for example, for me he is a tremendous actor, comedically and dramatically. He has done theater and TV and films. I look up to him. He was ahead of the curve. He represents what this country looks like.
TTM: What are some of your other projects you’re excited about?
Khosla: “This is Us,” “Marvel’s Runaways,” “The Royals” are some of the TV shows I’m working on right now. There are a couple of new TV comedy pilots but I can’t talk much about them yet. I might do music for a movie this summer. My schedule from August to April is just really stressful. I’m grateful that I have a great team around me, wonderful musicians and composers. I’m also looking forward to my break that’s coming up in two weeks.
TTM: Who are some other TV show or movie music composers you’re a fan of?
Khosla: There is so much great work out there. This is actually a great time to be a TV composer. So many shows are captivating and have great music. By virtue of that, there are so many composers. Sean Callery (“24,” “Jessica Jones”), Jeff Russo (“The Night Of,” “Legion”), Jeff Cardoni (“The Defenders,” “Silicon Valley”), Mac Quayle (“Mr. Robit,” “American Horror Story”) to name a few. They are some of the best.