Interview with Swedish Musician + Dark Pop Goddess Bishat
Name: Bishat Araya
Artist Name: Bishat
Currently based in: Stockholm, Sweden
Originally from: Gothenburg, Sweden
Finding a way to laugh, even in some really dark times. I can be devastated and crying my eyes out, but then I will do or say something silly so I start laughing instead. It’s pretty useful and slightly erratic haha.
Biggest pet peeve:
People who never ask any questions in conversations drive me mad.
Favorite 90s jam?
Ooooooh, this is a tough one — but i’d have to say “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child. That one’s still on heavy rotation.
What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of music?
This doesn’t sound too good as a hobby, but if i’m not in the studio or doing something music-related, I’m typically either Netflix & napping (it’s a thing) or finding a dive bar where I can drink wine and talk about all the good, bad, ugly and funny things with my best friends.
I love going on rides at amusement parks and doing other adrenaline-fueled stuff like that, although I rarely find the time. I think skydiving is the next thing on my bucket list, i’m so scared of heights, but I also like doing things i’m scared of, so i’m ready for it…I think.
If money wasn’t an issue, what would you love to splurge on (something totally impractical & just for you)?
I feel like I wanna say a SPA. I love spas! I’d build one with a great view in the house that I don’t have haha, with a jacuzzi and a sauna, and I’d get daily massages. That would be the dream, really.
What is a quote or piece of advice that you try to live by?
“I am mine before I am ever anyone else’s.” I think that women are often programmed to be caretakers. We tend to take on so much responsibility — for our friends, partners, lovers, homes, etc. — and it’s exhausting. I try to remind myself of this, and try to look after myself. I make it a priority to find peace and happiness in myself first. I do not belong to anyone, but I can still care for others. I’m all about self-care and self-love these days, and that is totally different from being selfish.
“Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna. I mean…she’s a goddess. Strong, powerful, unapologetic and simply brilliant. I listen to that song and and do a revised version called “’Bish’ Better Have My Money” to hype myself up before I go on stage.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to sing, dance and act. I never had a pushy “stage parent” or anything like that; it was more like I was the pushy kid trying to get my mom to take me to all these classes and stuff.
I remember one time in particular from when I was about six years old. I was at a festival with my family and I desperately felt like I wanted to be on stage, so I started making my way through the crowd. People were lifting me in the air, so it was like I was doing a reverse stage dive. I ended up on stage, looking out at the crowd with the lights in my eyes. I was completely mesmerized.
How would you describe your sound?
I like to call it Dark Pop. It’s not always dark but the lyrics tend to be moodier side. It’s a blend of all the music I grew up listening to — from Swedish pop to my mom’s old soul records and contemporary R&B — all mixed into one pop mashup.
What are the main themes or topics in your songs?
I tend to write a lot about the super intense and complicated parts of relationships — like falling for someone you’re trying to resist because deep down you know that it’s not a good thing or for whatever reason, you can’t be together. I also write about breakups, desire…all the ins and outs of falling in and out of love.
I occasionally write songs about being who you are and doing things your own way, which is very much something I like to talk about. It goes back to my emphasis on self-love — coming into your own skin and being proud of who you are. We live in tricky times with social media. There’s a lot of great stuff that comes out of it, but I also think that it’s more difficult than ever to not compare yourself to others.
As a whole, what is the message your hope to put forth with your music?
I want to be really unfiltered and honest in my music. My goal is to inspire people to be comfortable with who they are. I want them to know that we all go through a lot of the same things — life isn’t pretty and polished; it’s messy and amazing. I don’t want to portray myself as this polished artist who writes songs about pretty love stories.
Who are some of your favorite artists/which artists are your greatest musical inspiration?
I think that Alicia Keys has been one of my biggest musical inspirations. When she released her debut album, it changed the game. She showed me that it was okay to go my own way and gave me the freedom to mix my musical inspirations — from classical to hip hop, R&B and pop — and still make music with the potential to reach millions of people. Like me, she plays the piano (although she is light years better than me…) and she has produced her own records from day one. As an artist and a young female in the music industry, she has been a great role model to have.
Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with in the future?
This is tricky. There are a few artists I could name, but I have found that it’s often the most unexpected combinations that work out the best. It comes down to having a connection and a vibe that will create something magical. But, you know — if Frank Ocean called and wanted to work together, I have to say that I’d come running pretty damn quick.
How do you feel your music evolved since you first started as a group or solo artist?
I think my sound has developed more depth, and my writing has become increasingly raw and honest. I’ve realized that sometimes less is more. I try to focus on the core of the music and the emotion I want to convey rather than putting my energy into huge productions. As I grow and live and experience more things, it all becomes part of my music.
What do you do or where do you go when you need to find inspiration for your music?
When I need to find inspiration for my music, I go to my diary or look through the little notes I make to myself on my phone. I like to journal, so when I want to write lyrics, I am always able to look there if there’s nothing that comes to mind right away.
I also find inspiration through movement and change of scenery. I love writing lyrics on the train or in bathrooms at bars. If I had a writing session and got stuck somewhere, there has been more than one occasion when I go out to the bar and after a few beers, I go into the bathroom and finish the song.
What is a project you’re currently working on that you are most excited about?
I just released my debut Bishat EP/Mixtape, which I’m so incredibly proud of. It’s my baby. I wrote it during the end of 2017 — hence the title, Q417 (fourth quarter of 2017). It was a time when I was going through so much. I had just gone through a breakup, I didn’t have a place to call home, and I felt like I’d lost my way a little. I decided to put all of that into music. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
I think my debut EP is like a little journey over four tracks. It goes through all the stages we tend to go through after a breakup. Losing yourself, being in denial, partying, breaking down, then finding your footing and starting over. My next challenge is the follow-up — where do we go from here? But i’m really excited to go on a new creative journey.
What has been one of your favorite performances of all time?
My first real show performing as Bishat was two years ago. After that performance, I felt like everything just fell into place. It was the starting point for me.
What is one thing that you have accomplished as a musician that you’re most proud of?
Every time I write a song that I love, I feel really proud. Writing a song isn’t that hard, but writing something that is really special to me, something that I feel in the pit of my stomach, is something I never want to take for granted. Sometimes I lose my confidence and think that can’t write something great again, but then I look back and remind myself that I have done it before and I can do it again.
What (in your opinion) is one of the greatest challenges facing your industry today?
As an independent artist, the biggest challenge for me is that I have to do everything. There is so much more to my job than simply making music. I have to manage my own PR, marketing, social media, content creation, brainstorming, styling, photography and business deals. Staying healthy — mentally and physically — through all of this is one of the biggest challenges in the industry for me.
Cover photo by Kitty Lingmerth