To some of us she may be familiar already. And since her hit “Good Love 2.0” at the latest, St. Gallen soul singer Priya Ragu has also been a hot name on the international music scene. In February she was even listed as one of the “20 Artists to Watch in 2021” by Montreux Jazz Festival Spotlight. We are particularly pleased about this nomination because SWISS is not only the Official Airline and partner of the Montreux Jazz Festival, but also because Priya has been working for SWISS Technics’ Technical Purchasing unit for some time. We asked her how she juggles her daily work and her musical career, and how it feels to be a rising star in the midst of a pandemic…
Priya, you work at SWISS Technics as a technical purchasing agent. What brought you to SWISS, and what exactly does your position involve?
I’d actually always wanted to work in check-in – for Swissport – but somehow I ended up at SWISS! I originally joined our Line Maintenance, where I worked in accounting. And after seven years there I switched to Technical Purchasing, where I’ve spent the last three years working full-time procuring aircraft components. It’s a very interesting job and we have a really cool team.
How have you experienced SWISS as an employer in the last few years?
My teammates and I are all very close. And my superiors have always supported me and enabled me to pursue my passion – my music – alongside my work. I was able to get unpaid leave, for instance, to go to London and take bass lessons. We never dreamed, of course, that my hobby might one day become so big. After a certain time, though, I realized I just had to give notice and go to New York for six months to continue my creative development. And here I’d like to say a special thank-you to our Head of Maintenance Stefan Regli, who offered me a place back in his team when I came back to Switzerland.
Before the pandemic came along, you were working full-time. Yet you still managed to make your music career really take off. Those must have been pretty long days. How did you manage all that?
You’re right: I was working full-time and putting every minute of my leisure into my music. And it was a very intensive time. But I think these two worlds really mirror who I am. One side of me is curious, creative and independent, all of which I can channel into my styling or the look I want for the videos. But the other side of me really likes the security and the routine of the average working day. Also, I’ve never found this lifestyle stressful, because the music gives me so much satisfaction – and so much energy, too.
So you’ve never felt like you’re operating at your limits?
I’m not even sure where those limits might be. I certainly don’t feel I’ve ever reached them yet. Because of the coronavirus crisis, I’ve been on 80-per-cent short-time working since last spring, so I’ve only been working 20 per cent. It’s an unfortunate situation, of course. But it has coincided with my music career really taking off. Which has been great timing for me. And I feel I still have the balance, too.
Contrasts seem to be a bit of a constant in your life: one of the few women at SWISS Technics, living in Switzerland with Tamil roots, a native of St. Gallen whose music is going global…
I know! I’d never have thought that I could be successful in Switzerland with soul songs in English, because music in Swiss dialect is what people seem to want here most. So I almost had to get some support from outside the country, too. But I do find it cool that I can feed my own background into my music. And that the world seems to be open to this.
Hasn’t it sometimes been tough going, though? You’ve had to plough furrows that just weren’t there before.
It’s not tough, no. I just do what I like doing, and it seems to work really well. People often say in Switzerland that you can’t make a living out of music. But I still decided to give it a go. And it’s cool to show people that with the right attitude and a strong enough desire, you can make things happen. For me it feels like I’ve won the lottery. Having something like Vogue UK write a piece about me: I’d never have dreamt of that!
What exactly does your music-making process involve?
My brother is also my producer, and we spend a lot of time in the studio making new songs together. We take our music very seriously: we know we have to put everything into it if we want to really make things happen. At the moment, though, it’s the promotional work that we’re focusing on, and that means lots of interviews. I signed a record contract with Warner Music of the UK last August, and after that things really took off. We now have our own management team, which is taking care of the promotional side, and a publishing team that’s arranging the release of the songs in films or series. I even have my own PR team in the USA, which is looking after global placement.
How does it feel to have a whole army working on your music career?
Mega! I recently had a video call with 15 people from Kobalt Music who are all working on my project. Imagine that! Even recently it was just my brother and me planning everything and then making it happen. But we’d realized early on that we’d really need a label to get the breakthrough we wanted.
So where do things go from here?
Right now I’m just enjoying the moment. But I also want to continue to grow, musically and personally. And have fun. And see what comes next. Everything that’s happened so far has been way beyond my expectations. My new single’s out, too: people will find it at https://priyaragu.co/ChickenLemonRice. I also plan to release some further singles soon, to build up my fan base. Then I plan to make my first album. And then I hope to finally play some live concerts, as soon as I possibly can.