Interview with ISHAN

Words by Zoe Bartholomeusz


An incredibly talented live musician, ISHAN can regularly be seen around the Melbourne busking circuit, including regular appearances at the famed Bourke Street Mall. Gaining a loyal following in recent times, ISHAN now delivers on his songwriting abilities, transforming his intimate moments into joyous indie-pop stylings, all topped off by his soothing and buttery vocal charm. 


I sat down with ISHAN to ask him some questions about his new singles and upcoming EP, and his experience as a musician so far. 


Zoe Bartholomeusz: What inspired you to write “Cardboard Box Apartment”? 


ISHAN: “Cardboard Box Apartment” was written when I was about two years into my first relationship. This was a time when I was just so in love with my girlfriend it wasn’t even funny. She was my best friend, the best thing that had ever happened to me, and that happiness manifested itself in a song about continuing to grow up together. 

ZB: Have you moved out yet? 

ISHAN: I moved into a residential college after finishing high school. I was trying to combine a uni degree with my music career, but I found it quite difficult to concentrate on my music in that shared living environment. I felt conscious of being overly loud when writing new songs or practising, and a lot of my music set up was still at my family home, so I ended up moving back there after my first year of uni. Now that I have deferred uni to focus on my music full time, moving out of home is not really on the cards from a financial perspective. In “Cardboard Box Apartment”, the idea of moving out felt more like a promise. We were two thoughtful kids who were always going to make practical decisions, knowing all the while that the joy of sharing a home one day would make all the discipline and realism worth it.

ZB: What inspired you to write “Someone Like Me”?

ISHAN: “Someone Like Me” jumps to the end of The Cycle of Codependence EP, the last chapter in the story of my first relationship. After the relationship had ended, I was hanging out with my best friend, noodling away on his guitar, when he asked me why I thought the relationship hadn’t worked out. I concluded that we were just too different. He asked me what similar looked like and I gave an answer that bears striking resemblance to the verses in “Someone Like Me”, talking about silliness, resilience, ambition and being more socially comfortable. A few days later I wrote the song and I’d never felt such clarity around moving on. It was never about deluding myself into thinking I was somehow perfect. Rather, it was about reflecting on my own values and realising I’d be okay without her. 

ZB: When you sing about looking out for people like you, what qualities do you/they possess?

ISHAN: It’s important to keep in mind that I’m only singing about my best qualities here – I can be incredibly anxious and quite cynical at times, but I’m saving all of that for future releases! 

Again, I could just read this answer off the song lyrics. Everyone who knows me knows that when it’s appropriate (and occasionally when it’s not) I’m very silly. I get it from my parents and have it in common with all my friends. I also enjoy surrounding myself with other ambitious people. I am really driven and get inspired by people (including many of my friends) who are brave enough to attempt amazing things.  

Finally, I’m singing about resilience. It’s never something I’d thought about before my first relationship, but as she and I grew apart, the differences between us became increasingly apparent. I’m not talking about a quality we’re born with, I’ve already mentioned my anxiety and funnily enough our stress around high school exams brought us together in the beginning. I’m talking about the intent to be a little more content tomorrow, even if that’s just going from ‘so stressed I can’t leave the house’ to ‘I’m still freaking out but yeah I guess I can walk the dogs’ (been there more than once). 


ZB: You’ve been in the busking scene for many years – what have you learnt from it?

ISHAN: Busking is a great reminder that it’s not about me. Sometimes no amount of musical talent can make up for the fact that it’s a cold Wednesday and people would rather be anywhere but the middle of the city. At first, it’s frustrating, but the more I busk, the more I find a sense of freedom in the reality that my audience’s happiness is not solely dependent on me. Individuals have bad days, so if someone doesn’t stop and give me their undivided attention for twenty minutes, it’s not necessarily a reflection on my performance but the fact that they probably have a place to be. So, increasingly when I face setbacks, I try to remind myself that it’s not personal. Someone isn’t out there holding me back; I’m just not the centre of the universe and that’s okay. 

ZB: How did you get into music?

ISHAN: I’ve been singing for fun since I could talk. I started having guitar lessons when I was six, and to be honest once I learned how to play four-chord Ed Sheeran songs I was pretty much done progressing in that department. I always played lots of sports and so when I needed spinal fusion surgery in year 9 (long story, google ‘pars defect’!) I found myself with nothing to do for about eight months. A few months after surgery, I was home alone and randomly just wrote a song. It wasn’t amazing, but good enough that my family were super impressed, and I fell in love with songwriting from then on. It would take a few years after that before I fully acknowledged that I wanted to dedicate my life to being the best songwriter and performer I could be. 

ZB: How old were you when you wrote your first song? What was it about?

ISHAN: I was 15 and eight days. I remember taking note of the exact date at the time because even though I couldn’t have fathomed pursuing a career in music, I knew my life had sort of changed in that moment. The song is called “Chasing”, it’s not really about anything. It now feels artificially constructed like so many other pop songs that sound important, but when subject to basic interrogation, lack narrative substance. Like most 15-year-olds I didn’t have much to say, so most of my early writing was an exercise in drawing on what I saw on TV or heard in other songs to inform what a good song should sound like. I learned early on that having a great story is what I value above all else when songwriting. 


ZB: Does your mixed ethnicity inform your work? How has growing up between different cultures influenced your experiences and ultimately led you to where you are today?

ISHAN: Thanks for this question. It is something that most people don’t ask me about. As I went through school, I was quite visible as a result of either playing sport or taking on particular leadership roles. What most people who know me don’t realise is that with that visibility came a whole lot of racial microaggressions. Sometimes it was overt in terms of kids using racially inappropriate names and language, while other times it was more subtle but still quite present. All of this taught me resilience. Being in the music industry, I am going to receive countless rejections, especially as an emerging artist. I am going to need a thick skin and an unshakable belief in myself. My mixed ethnicity (Australian, Indian, Swiss and Spanish) doesn’t necessarily impact my day-to-day writing, but it has definitely helped me develop the backbone I think will be necessary to succeed in this industry. 

ZB: The theme of this edition of Lot’s Wife is ‘breaking free’. What does that mean to you in terms of where you’re at right now, both musically and in life generally? 


ISHAN: The biggest development in my life in the last few months has been the switch from studying engineering at uni to deferring my course and pursuing music full time. Ever since finishing high school I’ve known this is what I wanted to do, but for a year and a half I still only had one foot in the door as I juggled uni and music. However, with this EP coming up, I felt like the quality of music I’ll be putting out into the world both deserves and demands my full attention. Spending every second of the last few months focused solely on music – writing, performing, just doing what I do – has been incredibly freeing. I suppose what I’ve just broken free from is a small piece of my fear and nervousness… I’m still anxious and sometimes overly cautious, but I’m now feeling brave enough to have a lot more skin in the game and embrace this journey, wherever it takes me.  


ISHAN’s music can be found on all streaming platforms.

Stay up to date with ISHAN’s new releases!

Instagram: @ishanincaps


Lot's Wife Editors

The author Lot's Wife Editors

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