IVA is a Swedish American crossover artist who infuses operatic elements in pop music. She came from a musical family. Her grandparents played multiple instruments, and her father owned an extensive record collection. When IVA was nine years old, a local conductor and composer named Evelyn Swenson invited IVA to sing at the Opera Delaware. That was the beginning of IVA’s prosperous career. She trained as a classical soprano at the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music and graduated from Princeton. On a Fulbright scholarship, IVA moved to Stockholm, Sweden, to study the music of her ancestors. IVA achieved so much in such a short time, being featured in Billboard and having her music played on NPR. Furthermore, IVA’s talents made an impact on the world stage when Conan O’Brien featured her on his Late Night show. In 2015, she was named the “Swedish American of the Year” for her contributions to cultural exchange between the two countries.
KISH: Tell us about you…
I believe in the power of the authentic voice. I cultivate mine as a singer and songwriter, and I help others to find their own. The authentic voice comes from self-acceptance and self-knowledge, and that is what my career and life path have brought me. I trained as an opera singer and then had opportunities to cross over and write pop songs, which opened many doors for me in music creation and my life path. I am Swedish American and have lived in Stockholm for many years, which was a mind-blowing experience coming from New York to a completely different culture and a very progressive one. I learned a lot about how American society could improve. On a lighter note, I am also a dog mom, and I love long, long walks.
KISH: What is your dream, and how will accomplishing your dream benefit you and others?
IVA: My dream has always been to create a transcendent experience at my concerts and with my recordings. Through my music, I want my listeners to be at peace with themselves and be inspired to live their lives in the way that feels right for them. I want them to follow their unique inner voice to create their dreams and reach their goals. I want people to have the same feeling inside I have when I am singing – a channel for something bigger than themselves, something sacred, and something to honor. Living any other way is what causes the disease inside and outside in this world.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to pursue this dream?
IVA: I always loved to sing ever since I was a young girl. It felt like nothing else, and I had many interests from which to choose. I realized in college that it was something to which I wanted to devote my life and all of my energy. I moved to New York and then to Stockholm to pursue that dream. I kept having moments of divine coincidences that gave me bigger and bigger opportunities.
On one trip to Stockholm, when I was going back to work on a new album (an album I hadn’t anticipated coming next in my journey) that I’d been invited to make with a very successful production and songwriting team, I had some kind of episode on the plane. I am a planner, and that wasn’t in my plan, and I had thought I’d return to New York. Sweden was far from family and friends. In retrospect, I was probably also afraid of my potential and of being alone. I started shaking and crying uncontrollably. Then I felt something like a lightning bolt go through my entire body, some kind of divine energy in which I knew I was doing what I was meant to do. I let go. The flight attendants noticed and took me from my seat as they could tell something was happening. They talked to me until I returned to “normal.” Somehow after that, I knew I was doing what I had to do – follow what my whole being was telling me to do.
KISH: What challenges have you encountered while pursuing your dream?
IVA: Besides the logistical challenges – like the times I’ve been very short on money or not knowing where I was going to live – there was one relationship in particular that nearly stopped me in my tracks. I was dating a man for many years who abused me, first emotionally and then physically. He threatened me and told me he didn’t want me to sing ever again. He tried to wear me down to stop working as a singer and voice coach. I couldn’t tell the truth anymore about who I was and why I was doing what I was doing. Anything I was doing was something he didn’t want me to do. He poisoned me against myself. He shook my confidence to the core, and when, with a lot of help from family and friends, I escaped the relationship, it took me years to recover from the brainwashing he’d used to make me doubt myself and try to keep me on his agenda, following his whims. He couldn’t let me live in my own equilibrium so as to be balanced with him. It was a tragedy.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to keep pushing regardless of the challenges you’ve encountered?
IVA: My close friends held me close as I left the relationship, and my mentors and therapist kept me to my true self and helped me heal. My parents firmly told me that I didn’t have to stay in the relationship. After the relationship ended, I came down with depression, which made me feel like I was moving through a thick, dark fog. I felt terrible. My therapist truly helped me clear many internal issues that were eating at me, and I did years of work to heal and distinguish who I am and what is important to me versus what society or my abuser thought I was or should do. I feel stronger than ever today because I am comfortable with who I am. I trust myself. I am spending my time doing what comes naturally to me, which is making music and making a difference in my students’ lives as they face many of the same challenges that I have as a singer and as a young artist in society. I’m glad I didn’t grow up in the Instagram era, and I remind my students that music is a chance to express what is unique to them. They don’t have to follow the trends. They can follow their heart.
KISH: Please provide final thoughts/advice for others by finishing this sentence… dream.
IVA: Dream as big and as wild as you feel, listen to your heart, and take the next step in that direction. Just one step, and one more, and one more, is what paves the road to living your dream.