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“Make life happen.” With Ben Ari & Swagata Biswas

Universal healthcare is something I stand for, especially when it comes to mental health. I think everyone should be able to afford and access healthcare without having to worry about exorbitant medical expenses. On the subject of mental illness and depression, I think more and more people deal with some form of it even if […]

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Universal healthcare is something I stand for, especially when it comes to mental health. I think everyone should be able to afford and access healthcare without having to worry about exorbitant medical expenses. On the subject of mental illness and depression, I think more and more people deal with some form of it even if it isn’t severe. Being able to de-stigmatize it with open discussions and more research, resources, therapy, etc. available may incentivize people to seek the help and treatment they need, without having to worry about what society thinks and how obtaining treatment would break the bank.


Asa part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Swagata Biswas.

Born and raised in New York City, and residing in Seattle, WA, Swagata Biswas is full of love, happiness, heartache, and contemplation. With her soulful and honest voice, she draws in the attention of mass audiences across North America with groove-centered, soul-ingrained soundscapes. At seven, her passion for music first began with choir, Indian classical vocal and piano training, and most recently, guitar.

From this foundation, songwriting and music composition blossomed naturally. She’s inspired by her love for soul, jazz, classic rock, 90s alternative, pop, and artists such as Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, Alanis Morrisette, and Adele. She has performed live throughout the U.S.A. and Canada at prestigious venues such as Rockwood Music Hall, Pianos NYC, Churchills Miami, Seattle’s The Royal Room, Nassau Coliseum, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, among others.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Iwas born and raised in New York City. From a young age, I was immersed in music and performing arts, taking piano lessons, Indian Classical music, and Indian Classical Dance. Music was something I always turned to in times of happiness, stress, sadness, and peace. I always felt that even if I had any difficulty expressing myself through words, I could always express myself through music.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

In many instances in my life, I’ve always had an internal monologue, or a tune in my head describing things I see, feel, and experience. There was a point in time, after the passing of my father, where I felt disconnected from my creative energy and pursuits. I came to a point where I was questioning a lot of things in my life. Then in 2017, I started going to live music events again and realized how much it was helping me cope with the feeling of loss. 2017 was also the year I started taking guitar lessons. Eventually, I looked back at some of the things I’ve written down over the years and started composing songs while experimenting on the guitar. It was during that time, I decided I wanted to get back to music, create art, and contribute a bit of myself to society and be comfortable with being vulnerable.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Since I started my musical career, I’ve met a lot of people across the nation through open mics, jam sessions, etc. I remember one time, I played at an open mic in Brooklyn, NY which consisted of three songs, combining originals and covers. I played an Amy Winehouse cover, and two of my original songs. After the applause, the host of the open mic asked me to do one more song, but handed me a helium balloon, and requested that I play any cover I want to while inhaling some helium. At first, I was pretty weirded out by said request. But then my playful side kicked in and I just said “YOLO” to myself and obliged. I played a cover of Free Falling by Tom Petty, with a helium induced voice. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep myself from laughing and the crowd roared in applause anyway. Lesson learned from that experience: “Life doesn’t always have to be so serious and it’s important to just take a moment and laugh out loud (in a helium voice of course).”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is more when I started playing more shows as a singer-songwriter. I forgot some lyrics of one of my own songs on stage because I had a sudden thought about my mom’s awesome home-cooked meal the night before (an Indian dish called Khichuri, which is a lentil-rice flavorful porridge). When I realized I missed my queue and forgot the lyrics, I just mumbled through until I found my next word. The lesson I learned from that is to keep pushing forward when you perform and that mom’s home-cooked food never takes a backseat to anything.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Well, we all know how 2020 is turning out. During this time, I’ve worked on finishing “Waves,” which has been exciting because it has been innovative to figure out how to finish out songs when you can’t go into a studio. I’ve been using home recording equipment, some of the musicians that have played on the track have sent me sound files, and I’ve sent them over to Craig Levy in New York to compile. I have to say, I’m really proud of the result. It was exciting to know that we were doing this all remotely.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think diversity and representation in music, tv, and film are super important. It is also important that it’s all integrated. When everyone is represented, it provides a way for everyone to relate and connect. It’s one of the first steps for people to understand each other from the human perspective and encourage everyone to go for what they want because it is indeed accessible to everyone.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1) “You will experience times where you aren’t creative, and it’s okay” — When I decided I wanted to be a musician and singer-songwriter, there were times where I couldn’t finish lyrics, or come up with a progression I was drawn to and would put pressure on myself to “create”. However, when I constantly had the underlying thoughts that I had to produce something, it became less authentic, less me. So from there, I gave myself permission to take breaks. Once I accepted that for myself, I found that I had a lot more creative energy.

2) “When you’ve completed a project, you may experience a low period, and it’s okay and normal” — I am the type of person that commits to my projects and tasks once I have started to embark on them and dedicate a lot of time, energy, thought, and enthusiasm to complete them. I’ve always worked very hard in school, my career as a licensed professional engineer, and in beginning my career in music. There have been times where I’ve completed my goals in each area and I have felt the emptiness afterward, trying to think of what is the next thing I should be doing and guilting myself for not being as productive as I was before completing those projects. I learned over time, that the downtime and rest that comes after completing those projects is okay, well deserved, and your body’s and mind’s way of telling you that it is okay to take some time to recharge and get back to your next project when you’re ready.

3) “Make music that speaks to you” — I already knew this, but it is a great reminder. I strive to create music that comes from my soul and my personal experiences. A lot of these experiences may be relatable and so if listeners feel some healing from the music I make, it means the world to me.

4) “You may become a gear-head” — Guilty! Although, I try to curb my gear purchases, going into a music store is like going to an ice cream shop where you want all the flavors. My last impulse buy was my Martin & Co. LX1E acoustic-electric travel guitar that I traveled to Peru and Colombia with. It was definitely worth the investment.

5) “Don’t write on an empty stomach” — There have been a few times I’m writing something and I stopped because I was hungry and could only think about having that perfect slice of pizza. And because I’m originally from New York City, it would definitely be a mouth-watering 99cent Lower East Side slice.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

There are times where you may not be able to finish song lyrics or come up with a progression that speaks to you. Let yourself take a break and come back to it later with a fresh mind. If it doesn’t happen right away, it’s okay. Sometimes we need to give ourselves some space and rest from things we are focused on accomplishing, so that it is authentic to us, and may come out better than we expected.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Universal healthcare is something I stand for, especially when it comes to mental health. I think everyone should be able to afford and access healthcare without having to worry about exorbitant medical expenses. On the subject of mental illness and depression, I think more and more people deal with some form of it even if it isn’t severe. Being able to de-stigmatize it with open discussions and more research, resources, therapy, etc. available may incentivize people to seek the help and treatment they need, without having to worry about what society thinks and how obtaining treatment would break the bank.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people that come to mind, from my family, friends, and the music communities in NYC and Seattle. If I have to focus on one, I am very grateful for my friend Mario Jo, who currently resides in Lima, Peru. I met Mario within the Astoria, NYC music scene during a difficult time in my life. When I started attending open mics again, Mario was there, encouraging me to sing and would accompany me on guitar while I sang. When I decided to start learning guitar, he would take some time out to supplement my guitar lessons and would help me in my practice. At the time, I questioned a lot of my own capabilities, but he always encouraged me and made sure to tell me that anything and everything I was doing is okay, because it’s who I am and that I’m “alright”. He’s been a great friend, a great mentor, and a great person. When I traveled to Peru at the turn of the decade, I was happy to reconnect with him in Lima and jam a bit. I will say, he definitely saw my improvement on guitar and still encourages me to this day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can’t just let life happen to you, you have to make life happen” — This rings true for me on all levels. Anytime I have wanted to accomplish something, whether it’s moving across the country, or learning a new skill, I’ve made sure to do the research to make an informed decision, and put the framework in place so that I can do anything I put my mind to.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have breakfast with Michelle Obama. She is so inspirational on many fronts and absolutely represents the notion that you can achieve anything by putting in the work while being kind to all.

How can our readers follow you online?

Website: www.SwagataBiswasMusic.com

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM0XdTUKfzAzso3ZCqAX8xw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SwagataBiswasMusic/

Instagram: @SwagataBiswasMusic

Twitter: @SwagataBMusic

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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