By: Ezzah Rafique | Photography: Emily Steffen
Thanks for doing this with us. Let’s start a bit on the basic side. who you are and how long you’ve been in music?
Thanks for having me! Who I am? An ever-changing neuroplastic being with no proper center in my sense of self. Hah. Who I am is a difficult question as I change more than I stay the same. But my background, put simply, is that I’m a Finnish-Canadian 23-year old female, born and raised in Finland. I currently live in Helsinki but prior to that I have lived all over the world primarily for music. Music entered my life at an incredibly young age, though I can’t put an exact number on it. My mother was particularly adamant about having it in our lives, one way or another. The house was never quiet due to my parents’ CD collection or the radio on high volume. Mostly old jazz and rock. Around the age of 5 or so I would put on a lot of shows at home that involved singing. I took up piano quite soon after. It didn’t take long before I started fooling around with my own compositions. It started getting quite constant around the age of 10 when I started using songwriting as a pacifier for dealing with hurtful kids at school.
When did you know to pursue music as a career?
I never knew to pursue it as a career as I truly accidentally fell into the industry. At 13 I volunteered to work at a recording label as a part of a “worklife introduction” program since I didn’t feel like spending my time at a department store. They didn’t quite know what to do with me but one of the producers ended up asking if I was making music. I played him a song I’d recently written, he recorded a demo of it and I got signed to the label two weeks after. I still had school that was taking up most of my time so it took quite a few years for me to decide what I wanted to pursue, but I also genuinely didn’t think about it too much.
I love your new debut EP 'Who?' what was the process like for you when creating it?
Thank you ever so. It was essentially almost a 13-year-long process since it’s the first body of work I’ve put out for myself, about myself. The EP represents change and growth in identity and contains bits and pieces of tracks that I wrote as a child. The pre-chorus of “A Little More” is a song I wrote at 10 but later finished when in Berlin at around 19 years old. I wrote “All In My Head” at 18, “End of the Day'' at 20, and “Souvenir” around 18 or 19. Each song in its original form sounded so unbelievably different as I was working with so many different producers, in different cities, with a different headspace and lifestyle. It was a very nerve-racking process because I knew what I wanted it to sound like and I just couldn’t find the right person who understood my explanation until I landed in the wonderful, perfect hands of Minna Koivisto. She was the missing piece and without her, I wouldn’t be doing this today. She reproduced each song (except “A Little More”) to fit into the perfect bundle. The process was a blessing with Minna completing it.
Was there ever a moment in making the EP where you got stuck or got into a slump, if so how did you overcome that?
I never set out to make an EP, I wrote songs for the sake of expressing myself and my thoughts. After having a solid collection of over 100-200 songs [over] the course of the last 10 years, it made it easier to pick and choose which songs were significant markers of a different identity that I had. I never had any urgency to put music out, for I had started my journey as a writer, not as an artist. Only after I got sick of making music and resonated with the fact that I would have to give away, did I really stop and look back at songs I’d made that I wanted to keep and use as a representation of who I was.
What is your favorite song off of the EP?
“End of the Day” is my favorite when it comes to the message, lyrics, and feeling the song provokes in the listener. It has the most meaning for me as it also represented a very sore time in my life.
“Souvenir” is my favorite song when it comes to production. I originally wrote it on a ukulele and Minna turned it inside out and flipped it upside down.
What inspires your projects/fuels your creativity? Is there a pre-work ritual you have?
Freeflow, essentially just seeing what happens. Your mind and creative muscle can do unbelievable things when you’re not trying too hard, hah. That’s why there’s the common saying that the stuff you create as a joke tends to be your best and most successful work.
There isn’t any pre-work ritual other than taking my free-flow writing notebook with me to the studio if I feel like pulling some stuff into the lyrics that I’ve written prior.
Most of the time my favorite thing to do is see what kind of sounds the producer is playing with and go off of those into a state of “trance writing.”
You emphasize a lot having freedom in expressing one's identity. What influences you to follow a path of individuality?
It took a long time for me to stop feeling pressured by those around me in the industry to do exactly what they were doing. It’s hard not to when you have no rule books for the right and wrong ways of being creative yet making a living for yourself. Interestingly as a kid I was much [freer] to be myself and didn’t care much at all about what others were doing - on top of that mentality, every time I dared to do what I wanted I was without fail rewarded by positive reactions. I guess along the rocky path of growing up I lost that for a while. It wasn’t until maybe three years ago when I moved back to Helsinki that I found that freedom again, and funnily enough when I fell into it I was met with the same positive reaction reward that I had as a kid. I think the influence of the people I met when I returned, who were expressing themselves so beautifully and in such different eccentric ways, was the reason I too found my individuality again. There is no better tool in this world than another human brain.
Is there a song, out of all of the music you have released, that you would love or currently love to perform?
I have a knack for wanting to make people emotionally let go and cry through music and so far “End of the Day” has managed to do that the most. Minna and I created a bit more of a dramatic version using a modular synth that we have performed and it has been lovely.
To wrap up, what setting would you describe, to new listeners, be the best to listen to 'Who?' in?
Wonderful question. Laying on the floor is ideal, bed or couch is acceptable too. I’ll also accept walking or driving home if it’s late at night. Definitely alone. This is a “me myself and I” type of EP. Eyes closed.