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Authenticity & the Art of Songwriting: Meet Guest Judge Avanti Nagral

Songwriting is a unique and poignant medium for telling stories, whether you are narrating a personal experience, creating fictional characters, or raising awareness of a social issue. "As much as songwriting is a craft, the art of it lies in ease. It should feel natural and authentic," says Avanti Nagral, Guest Judge for our Songwriting Competition. "Even a story that has been told a hundred times can have a unique stamp on it, which can come from the lyrics, melody, overall soundscape, or pretty much anything."

Read on to learn more about Avanti’s career, her process for songwriting, and her tips for producing a winning entry!

Guest Judge Avanti Nagral

Tell us about your path into singing and songwriting. When did you start making music?

I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I’ve trained in several musical styles (Indian Classical, Church/Gospel, Broadway), but it wasn’t until 2015, during my gap year before starting my undergraduate degree at Harvard, that I wrote my first song. It’s not easy to figure out how to share aspects of your story with the world. But once you do, it’s so gratifying and a catharsis like no other, regardless of the medium you use!

You’ve written music in both Hindi and English, and you’re currently completing a challenge where you sing a song in 50 different languages. How do different cultures and languages inspire you as a singer and songwriter? Do you have any tips for our young writers – who hail from around the world! – who may want to integrate their own cultures into their original music?

Today, language isn’t a barrier when it comes to music. Just take a look at the charts and the variety of music we have globally! I feel most natural when I write in English and sprinkle in a little Hindi because that’s how I would most naturally speak with my loved ones. I LOVE learning about different cultures, and doing so through the medium of song and attempting to do this challenge has been so gratifying and an incredible learning experience.

Incorporating one’s culture into a song doesn’t have to be super obvious. It can be in the way you sing a phrase, the instruments you choose to use in your production, or the choice of lyrics that speak to you in any language or phrasing. Music is called a universal language for a reason: it truly has the ability to transcend boundaries.

Many of your songs challenge societal stereotypes and explore topics like gender equality, body confidence, and consent. What role do you believe music can play in conversations that are social, political, educational, etc.?

I’ve always been passionate about the intersection between art and social impact. My mission as an artist has always been to use my voice in its multiplicity – as a singer, songwriter, storyteller, and human – and to amplify voices as best as I can. I grew up with personal health difficulties, and after an incident at 15 where I nearly lost my eyesight because of a brain virus, music became more than just a passion; it became a healing medium, and I recognized its power. Not just sonically, but also emotionally, music is a tool and vehicle for social change. You may skip over the verbose speech, while the same message expressed through song could hit home.

What are you looking for in a winning entry? Any other advice for the writers, especially those who are new to writing songs? 

As much as songwriting is a craft, the art of it lies in ease. It should feel natural and authentic. Also, even a story that has been told a hundred times can have a unique stamp on it, which can come from the lyrics, melody, overall soundscape, or pretty much anything. 

Competitions are always tough to judge, but I’m genuinely super excited to hear all the entries and discover new writers and music from across the world! My biggest piece of advice would simply be to start jotting down inspiration from all around you. ANYTHING can be a song seed. Also, collaboration is an incredible way to get your juices flowing, and bouncing ideas off of others can help shape your sound and writing styles.

About the Guest Judge: Avanti Nagral is a pop singer & content creator on a mission to create songs, stories, and conversations that challenge societal norms. The singer draws inspiration from her background in Indian Classical, Broadway, and Gospel music, and her discography spans Hindi, English pop, and soulful acoustic sounds from around the world. From originals to collaborations, her coming-of-age pop is impact-driven. Avanti has successfully built a community of extremely engaged, empathetic young folks where she nurtures young talent, hosts health-related sessions with experts, and leads skill-based workshops and education/career chats. She has also amassed an engaged community of over one million people, called the “Avantribe,” with 600M+ views across platforms. Avanti was the first in the world to do a dual degree at Harvard University and the Berklee College of Music.

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