Introduction: Sooraj Bishnoi is an indie musician based in the United States. He talks with Taran Warner of SoundboxIndia about his debut album and music....
You have been playing music literally your whole life. What is your earliest memory of music?
My earliest memory would be a little before I was a year old, singing back to my mother. She used to learn Hindustani music at that time and knew a couple of Marathi songs. The earliest I remember is her singing to me and me singing back those songs. Basically, repeating those songs. That is my earliest memory of music per se.
Your first album was released recently. What inspired it?
It was a collection of things I’ve done over the years. I wanted to make it a showcase of my journey, which is why I called it Here we go. It is a collection of almost everything I’ve done so far.
Who are your major influences?
John Mayer is a huge influence. Simple Plan, Poets of the Fall and Jason Mraz are others. Beethoven and other classical composers are also influences. From India, Prateek Kuhad and Tejas Menon are big inspirations.
You have performed and recorded in India and the US. What would you say is the difference in the music scene here and there?
I think the biggest difference is the way it is organised. In India, the dominant genre is Bollywood and will continue to be so. The underground independent music scene in the US is given more attention. Traditionally, that is where the best musicians have come from, unlike here. Here it is just starting out and getting big. It’s a good thing, a sign that the music industry in India is super-dynamic. It hasn’t got into a frozen, set pattern like the US where everything is fixed a certain way. That’s not happened in India yet, which is good, because a lot of different musicians can find different ways to succeed. That is the biggest difference between music here and in the US.
Would you consider doing anything in the future in Bollywood?
You never know. Maybe. Currently no such plans, but if an opportunity comes my way, who am I to say no! I’ll just take it and run!
You are a licensed pilot and accomplished nature photographer. How have nature and aviation shaped your outlook towards music?
Nature photography and aviation have given me a cool perspective towards the world, which is viewing it from the larger picture and not just the human condition. I try to capture that in my music and lyrics. That is the biggest way in which they have contributed to my music. Nature flying also sparks a lot of creativity.
What is the funniest incident you've experienced on stage?
That’s a difficult one. There have been quite a few. This goes back to my days as a street performer. It was funny, because it was wild. I was performing at Equal Streets, which would happen every Sunday. A policeman came up to me and said that I can’t perform there. He was clearly inebriated. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was just playing The Beatles. This crowd gathered and asked him why I was not allowed to perform. They urged me to continue and the cop quietly slunk away. I was elated, since the crowd was on my side. That was one of the more memorable incidents. On a proper stage though, everything has been smooth. Incidents tend to happen more on street stages.
What are the struggles you have faced personally as a musician?
Getting people to listen to my music is the biggest struggle that I still face. Just getting people to click on it and give it a listen. And constantly learning from it. When things go south, you need to find out how to learn to make the situation better. The biggest struggle is self motivation. You need to do that every day and night. That is a big struggle for every musician.
What is in store for the future?
As a pilot, one of my favourite sayings is, ‘the sky is the limit’. That applies to music too. In the United States I am working on my work visa. Over there I am playing with a few bands. I am also producing a friend’s album. In the long run I am not sure, but I am just going to go along on the ride.