Vikesh Kapoor Opens Up About His Masonry Apprenticeship + Keeping His Spirit Up
After traveling across the country, Vikesh Kapoor wanted to get his hands dirty.
The singer found his answer in a bricklaying gig, which he lightheartedly admits wasn’t the best fit. However, Kapoor’s experience helped inform his debut record, ‘The Ballad of Willy Robbins.’ While the project is tightly focused around the title character’s blue-collar narrative, Kapoor hopes that it uplifts anyone in despair.
When Diffuser.fm caught up with Kapoor, he explained why he sought out his apprenticeship and how he finds perspective when things get tough.
Is there one lyric that you feel like really summarizes the message of the album?
That’s a hard question because I don’t know if there’s one specific message to the entire album … A large part of the album is hopeless and not to sound cynical, because I wasn’t striving to write a cynical record by any means, but there’s a line in ‘Blue Eyed Baby’ that’s ‘Same shit, most days.’ That line is taken by, growing up where I did, it’s a common thing people would say right after they left high school and it was almost as if they had already lost hope for something more. That’s what that line is and I feel like a large part of the record is that, where there’s a certain sense of despair coupled with some sort of apathy based on limitations around him. That line means a lot to me. It’s the only time I really curse on the album and that’s definitely not why, but I think it means something because it was taken straight out of real life and feels like he’s saying it [like] he’s resigned himself, rather than complaining about it.
It’s something that’s so powerful because it’s something so many working class people can relate to.
Yeah, and it kind of highlights the monotony of a certain kind of existence when you’re at the whim of the bottom-dollar or something like that. A song like ‘I Dreamt Blues’ emphasizes that in a literal way – the monotony or redundancy of going to work every day.
I have to ask – the bio on your website mentions this spur-of-the-moment road trip and how you became a mason’s apprentice, but I haven’t heard anything about how that actually happened.
You probably haven’t heard anything about it because I did a really bad job at it. I took this trip across the country, it was the first time I saw America. I got out of my bubble in Boston and it just woke me up doing that and I decided after that I wanted to take off some time from school and go do something completely opposite. I was probably 20, so kind of my naïve ideal was “I should go do something with my hands.” Do something manly or something. So that was it. I found it through Craiglist. It was a man … who was fixing up apartments in Beacon Hill — it’s a wealthier area in Boston – and I would help do brickwork and stuff like that. I didn’t do it very long. It was kind of like I took off time from school and I was doing that, but it was really when I started diving into songwriting. On my lunch break, that’s where I found the newspaper article [that inspired the album] and I read that in Boston Common and shortly after that I wrote one of my early songs, ‘Willy Robbins.’ I found out about this kind of music and it blew my mind. I stayed up days and nights trying to write some songs like that. I had a lot spilling out of me. It was totally uncharted waters. Being a mason’s apprentice in a sense led to all this and I didn’t really pursue that anymore.
I can see the connection between apprenticing somewhere where you’re doing physical labor and how that can kind of translate into the album.
Yeah, the article piqued my interest because I was doing that kind of work. I started reading when I was looking for song ideas and that’s what drew my eye. This album isn’t for hard laborers necessarily, either. It’s for anyone that’s struggling. Young people that are trying to find some spirit within the world or a kind of stance, believe in their government, whatever. There’s a lot of themes. I don’t want it to come across as solely for blue-collar workers, although I would say more of an inspiration came from growing up in the small town I did and seeing people getting stuck or feeling disheartened or feeling a delusional sense of pride for kind of being jailed in a little bit without knowing it. That sounds a little accusatory, but rather, it’s trying to tap more into the sensitivity of what can happen. Seeing friends’ parents growing up, working for a company for three to four decades and then by the end of that, realizing there’s no sense of loyalty there at a company like that and they’re just kind of shelved. The despair one feels from that. Those kinds of things were deeper and I felt deeper and drove the record more, rather than bricklaying myself or something like that.
Coming off of that, I read that you said one of the topics of the album is keeping your spirit up. What do you personally do to keep your spirit up when things get tough?
I get a 12-ounce Americano, cream and no sugar… (Laughs). No, I think you have to let things roll off your back. I do. I have to get out of my comfort zone, just like I did when I took that road trip, and be a part of – not to sound corny – but be a part of a community. Be connected to people. For me, being able to sing this stuff and hopefully being able to connect with people is a way of communication. Often times, myself included, we can spend so much time dictating how exactly we want to live our lives with the click of a button and there’s a lack of surprise and a lack of growth in a sense because we’re navigating every move via a web browser. I feel like that can make you feel very dislocated from reality.
For my spirit, definitely, I need to be around – I’m a private person, but I also need to be around people and that’s where I get my strength. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in the past, like for organizations, and I went down to the delta and helped rebuild homes there. That kind of stuff gives you wider perspective and for me, personally, that fulfills me for sure. Now in a sense, I’m doing it in a more abstract way by traveling around and singing my songs.