After getting the pleasure to listen and review her album, we got the privilege to talk a bit to Helsinki songstress, Anni.
Nicole Scott: Do you remember the moment you knew you needed to write Redemption Street? Was there an “a-ha” moment or was it always a work-in-progress?
Anni: There’s always a million ideas and songs in my head. So I had a lot of songs demoed from which I chose the ones that really seemed to fit with each other emotionally. For me it’s important that all the pieces support each other, that there is this constant natural flow.
NS: Especially for artists where English may not be their first language, there is sometimes a strange pressure to sing in their native tongue. Talk about that. Have you ever felt compelled to release any music solely in Finnish?
A: I’ve also written songs in Finnish, both for myself and for others. At the moment I feel lyrics come more naturally in English, but I think it’s more about the routine than anything else. It’s whatever you focus on that develops.
NS: Throughout the album there are these very intriguing contrasting points of instrumentation – from mellow piano to sharp bass beats, like in “Stains.” What was the inspiration for this sound?
A: I love contrasts. Like a little flower pushing its way through a crack in the concrete. Or a man who is very comfortable with his femininity yet being “a man”. I love combining nature and urban, light and shadow, yin and yang, acoustic and electronic, classical and futuristic, fragility and courage.
The true craft of songwriting has to be there, and the respect for musicianship, yet I don’t want to get stuck in some old rules of music making. A true artist should always be questioning the rules, but first you have to know them to truly break them.
NS: For “If You Would Know Me Now,” you collaborated with Boy With Strings. What was it like to work with him? Any dream collaborations for future work?
A: I actually wrote that song with Teitur, who has also been working with guys like Corinne Bailey Rae and Aloe Blacc. I fell in love with his way of singing the male part in the demo, and realised a musician-friend from Helsinki, Boy With Strings, would make a great fit. He’s such a talented singer and adorable guy, working with him was fun and effortless.
What comes to my dream collaborations, one day I want to do a song with Alicia Keys and M.I.A. That would be epic. And there might still be some room for Beyoncé to do a little cameo role in the music video hahaha!
NS: How do you feel your Finnish, or even more specifically Helsinki, origin comes through best in your music? Do you think it’s through lyrics, instrumentation, or something unexpected?
A: I don’t know if I’m the right person to say this. Everything about me is Finnish. I realised it when I lived abroad for a while. It wasn’t even about my personality, but the social culture, what I was brought up to be and to expect from others. Like honesty. And keeping your promises. And not playing games. I realised this kind of purity or freshness or easygoingness apparently is somehow a Finnish trait. Maybe you hear it in the music, too?
NS: Your music is known for enchanting piano compositions. How did you get started playing the piano?
A: We had a piano at home and I guess I just started banging it as soon as I could reach the keys. Eventually it turned into a bit more sophisticated playing.
NS: What Finnish music are you loving right now and would recommend to listeners who may be unfamiliar with the talent there?
A: Verneri Pohjola’s solo album Bullhorn is an amazing jazz album that was also recognized around the world.
Another cool artist is Helly Luv, who immigrated to Finland as a small girl from Kurdistan and after finishing her high school moved to endeavour her career in music in the US.
NS: What was one thing you wanted to accomplish with Redemption Street?
A: I want people to find a place to heal and to be empowered in my music.
Thank you Anni for talking to us. You can purchase her EP Redemption Street now on iTunes.