Norway born and based Pakistani singer, John Leo, also known as Khakan Altaf Chaudhry, is in the process of releasing his brand new single ‘Always’ which is an upbeat rock/pop track with a great vibe.
In 2013, John Leo released two singles: This Time Around & Shine, as well as an EP called Different Ways. His first single, This Time Around, established him as Norway’s exciting new Asian artist and paved the way for the success of his EP. Different ways received airplay on radio channels in Norway, UK and Italy as well as an interview on City FM 89. It also achieved the #1 spot on Taazi.com John also headlined Scandinavia’s biggest festival last year, the Oslo Music Festival, which is held annually.
John Leo, a multi-talented musician who began playing the keyboard at the age of 13 and wrote his first English song at the tender age of 16, might be living and producing his music in Norway but he has strong Pakistani roots, being fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. He will also be releasing his first Urdu single later this year.
In an exclusive interview for Pakistan Tribe, rising star John Leo shares his dream to make it big in the global music industry, and adding a little more hip hop in Pakistan.
Why John Leo? Why not Khakan Altaf Chaudhry as that might actually help represent you better as Pakistani?
I haven´t actually changed my birth name or even thinking to do so. I have a stage name which is “John Leo”. When pondering about a stage name, it came about after a chat with a friend of mine discussing various options. I liked it and decided to keep it. Also, being a physician, I wanted to separate the roles.
Do people abroad sometimes confuse you as hailing from India, as Indian singers are more popular abroad?
Sometimes they do. But I think it´s not because of the popularity of their singers; it´s just not that easy to see the difference between a Pakistani and an Indian for everyone abroad. Pakistani artistes are quite popular in Norway as well, but due to Bollywood releasing lots of high budget new music regularly, Indian singers do get more popular and followers understandably.
Have you tried your luck in Hollywood yet? Perhaps Bollywood?
No I haven’t. But hopefully I will in the future. Maybe Bollywood in the near future, as I will be releasing quite a few Urdu tracks soon. At the same time, I’d love to sing for our industry in Pakistan.
Which music composers, song writers and musicians have you worked with so far in Norway and how has the experience been?
I mostly work with producers and songwriters from Germany because I love the sound they give to my tracks. I have worked with few producers in Norway – one of them being one of the top producers. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it. I am an independent artiste, and mostly produce my own tracks as that gives me freedom to create and choose.
Being a Pakistani, did you face any difficulty in choosing this as a career, meeting up with established producers and so on?
Basically, it´s difficult to meet with established producers and others in the business if you don´t know the right people. But being a Pakistani is no issue at all. It´s just how it is! You need to know the right kind of crowd. But one thing is for sure – being a Pakistani and singing in English surprised a lot of people in a positive way.
You are inspired by bands such as Junoon, Strings and Vital Signs but you sound a lot different (please take this as a compliment). Do you believe one has to really sound like the band or singer one is inspired by, as that’s what people expect?
I was inspired by the mentioned bands to the fact that I love their songs, sounds and their achievements. I think it’s a thin line between being inspired and copying a band. My English music, which I´ve released so far, is not inspired by these bands but other western acts mainly. But Junoon has been the rock musical pioneers of Pakistan. From a western perspective, being the first band from Pakistan performing at Roskilde festival in Denmark and labeled as “Asia’s U2” is a huge success. Strings has also achieved so much, from Hollywood OST to Gibson branding. Now, that’s inspirational to me. If you associate yourself with certain bands, people might expect that it sounds a lot similar – but it’s refreshing to sound different and I like to keep it that way.
When are you performing in Pakistan?
Most likely next early next year. We are still working on the details and I am really looking forward to it.
Any exciting project you are working on currently? What are your future plans?
My newest single “Always” will be out in October followed by my first attempt at an Urdu track soon. I am also working on “Illusion” EP coming out very soon as well. Planning gigs in Pakistan is exciting as I am looking forward to play over there.