Tamish Pulappadi got his favorite electric guitar as a gift from the American manufacturer Ernie Ball Music Man, which sponsored him when he was just 13. Called the Majesty, it’s dark blue and sleek, with shiny black panels. He spent endless hours with it as he grew from an instrumentalist into a singer-songwriter and music producer in his hometown of Bengaluru.
“What’s so great about it is its versatility,” says Pulappadi, a sophomore computer science and music major who has been written up in Rolling Stone India. He’s played everything from hard rock to blues to jazz fusion, winning awards and performing for hundreds at festivals. But the Majesty wasn’t the first guitar he fell in love with. That was a green plastic toy guitar that he got when he was 3 and refused to put down. That is, except when he was playing with remote-control race cars, eventually taking them apart to see how they worked. He loves to tinker around and make things, producing his own album and rebuilding junkers with a lemon car racing team. Fittingly, he studies the intersection of music and technology.
“My dad has been one of my biggest mentors in music. The beauty of it was that we learned it together. He took me to the bars and clubs whenever the really good musicians came to town.”
“When I was 7 or 8, my dad introduced me to classic rock music, like Guns N’ Roses, and I saw Slash, their lead guitarist. I was like, ‘Hey, I wanna be like that guy.’ My dad was like, ‘OK, let’s give it a shot.’ So I started taking guitar lessons. I began with hard-core rock but then transitioned into instrumental rock, then prog rock, to a bit of math metal and jazz fusion. And a lot of blues. My first performance was when I was 12. We had a band at my music school and performed Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.
“At around 11 is when I started posting my music videos online. That’s when I started getting noticed and got invited into this group called the Brotherhood of the Guitar, with some of the best elite young guitarists from across the world.
“I was always tinkering around with stuff as a kid, building stuff with small circuit boards, learning how to code things up, making practical sorts of gadgets.
“I was aiming for a university where I could study music and technology, and Stanford was at the top. I take classes like electronic music composition, where they teach you about synthesis, how you can create sounds—from the absolute fundamental frequencies to the sound of a guitar or piano or anything you hear—using software.
“I started sim[ulation] racing when I was a kid, playing computer games like Gran Turismo. I learned about cars on YouTube and dove deep into the craft of racing. One of my dormmates freshman year was on a lemon car racing team, and I was talking about my love for cars. And she was like, ‘you should come check it out.’
“The premise of lemon car racing is you have a $500 budget and have to build a race car out of a junk car, and it’s an endurance race, so it goes over the course of 24 hours. That’s why it is called the 24 Hours of LeMons. I helped rebuild a junk Mazda 323 last year. We got it out on the track, but the car died in about six or seven hours. A lot of cars didn’t even start, so that was a lot of fun.”
Tracie White is a senior writer at Stanford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.