“Melodic storytelling” describes his music best, and Preetam Sengupta‘s live show is built around simple performance, playful stage banter, and very little pyro. While the (humbling) comparison most often goes the other way, Preetam’s niece has said that Paul Simon sounds like him. We’re pretty sure Mr. Simon is unaware of this.
Patience is both the title of Preetam’s new album, and a skill he needed to exercise in its release. The title track, Patience, is a soothing serenade featuring a soulful and passionate combination of acoustic finger-picking and Preetam’s quiet but still impactful voice.
In this interview feature, I chat with Preetam about the new release, challenges, motivations and much more.
Full Q&A along with links and music below.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
I was born and raised in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, which is on the U.S. border about an hour’s drive from Detroit, Michigan. I’m a storytelling singer-songwriter. I focus on lyrics, hoping they shine above my mediocre guitar ability. Haha. Kidding aside, I do keep things quite simple, so whether it’s fully produced and complemented with other instruments, or just me by myself with a guitar, it’s the writing that hopefully shines through.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to stay the course?
It happened by accident, to be honest. I didn’t have any intentions of being a performing singer-songwriter. I worked on the other side of the business first, filling in gaps on the business side so that artists could focus on the creative.
A few years ago, I had organized a small concert series, and told one of the performers that I’d play some cover songs as their opener so that they wouldn’t have to worry about splitting the pay for the night, and someone saw me perform and asked me if I wanted to take part in a fundraising event later that month. I was surprised by that, wondering if they had meant me or the person who was actually booked to play the show. They assured me that it was me that they wanted, so I agreed, writing my first real song to play on the evening of the fundraiser, and seeing it become the first “single” on an album I released about six months later.
As far as what motivates me to stay the course, I had a stretch of a couple of years that I wasn’t really able to play, and getting back to it recently, I’ve realized that I don’t think I’ve ever felt more comfortable doing anything in my life than playing shows. I love the intimacy of sharing stories and music with people, and am incredibly fortunate to have so much love and support from people in my life to keep going, to see this through to whatever it’s going to be. It’s those people that keep me going. It’s that family – by blood or by love – that I want to make proud.
How is your new release different than previous ones? Did you set out to accomplish anything specific?
This is the second album. There was no pressure with the first because I didn’t really have any expectations for it. I didn’t think I was an artist yet when I released that one. This time around though, I feel like there’s more of a purpose to what I’m doing. I’m a singer-songwriter now, not just someone who wrote some songs and recorded them.
That said, the core of the music hasn’t changed much, as I’m still quite lyrically-driven, and believe that simple is good. However, this time around, with a producer in place that understood my philosophy but challenged me to stray out of my comfort zone a little bit, we came up with something that really captured those songs. The writing remains the focus, but it’s a little more full-sounding, with some very carefully- and tastefully-selected accompanying instruments to round things out.
The producer’s name is Byram Joseph (aka Beatchild), traditionally regarded as a Soul/R&B/HipHop producer perhaps best known as an early Drake collaborator. It was his wizardry that captured the essence of the songs as they were written, but also took them to a new place, most evidently in the bonus track called “Long Way Down”, which is a ska/reggae version of the title track of the album.
What was the last song you listened to?
I guess it would be the score during the end credits of the movie “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”.
Last song song though was a-ha’s “Take On Me”. The original was on my playlist while I was making dinner, and then I remembered how cool that video was, so I looked it up on YouTube and discovered that they just put out an acoustic version of that song a couple of months ago (right?!). Anyway, I watched that, and then watched the original video (because it’s so good) right before I turned on the Harry Potter movie.
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? CDs? MP3s?
Vinyl for cool artwork in big form, CDs for more affordable than vinyl support of friends/souvenirs from live shows I enjoy, and MP3s for convenience of playing straight off the computer, I suppose.
How about this one…. Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?
These days, I’m more of a Spotify guy, both as an artist and a consumer. I’m not sure why. Maybe I feel like there’s more value in those micro-pennies from Spotify than the others. Maybe I feel like there’s added value to those micro-pennies from Spotify. Oh boy, have I just opened a can of worms?
Do you face challenges as an indie musician in a digital age? How has technology helped you (assuming it helps)?
I think most musicians, indie or not, have always faced challenges. People spend time honing their craft, trying to scrape by while they wait for some break that may or may not ever come. That’s never changed.
While the digital age has made it more difficult to stand out among all the music that’s out there, it’s also made the world so small, and music is so much more accessible now. A quick glance at from where people have watched our videos or listened to our songs is proof of that. I love knowing that people from places I’ve never even heard of have the same access to my music that my next door neighbour has.
There are several billion people on the planet, and I’m sure that a very high percentage of them have some relationship to music. They just consume music differently now than they did before, so we have to figure out how to use that as a bridge rather than a barrier.
Where can we connect with you online and discover more music?
www.preetam.ca is the website, which should always be the best place to find stuff about artists, I think. People can also find my music on any of those streaming sites, and my social media sites are Facebook and Twitter (@LAMApreetam). I’ve made one post on Instagram (also @LAMApreetam), which I get in trouble from people for not using, so maybe if people are seeing this, they can send me shaming messages so that I’m guilted into using it more.
Anything else before we sign off?
Thanks so much for this, and thanks to anyone that this reaches who listens to my music. Please continue supporting the arts, take care of our planet, and love one another.