IT’S MY PLEASURE TO SHARE SOME ACTION SHOTS WITH YOU.
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The plan was to shoot all the videos before this summer (more about it here) but since covid-19 arrived we’ve obviously moved our schedules. The good news is that these videos are still coming to life beautifully, step by step, the release times are just going to be a bit different.
For this first video we had two shooting days; other day for my parts and other for featuring parts. For one whole day we had the pleasure of enjoying Susanna Aarnio’s company, experience, knowledge and presence––it’s an honour we got to film her for this video. Also, a big joy to work with Ville Juurikkala, photographer, video maker, nature lover and just the right person to deliver this visual world.
I have a feeling that the message of the album songs––and the message in all this visual storytelling––is even more timely than before, and dare I say, even more needed.
Feeling so happy to share the news that in the beginning of this winter season I’ve started to collaborate with the wonderful PlayArt Productions relating to the album.
During year 2020 we’ll be sharing a series of music videos with you.
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I started this album project two years ago ’cause I’d been feeling a need to create something more honest and more challenging; a strange type of modern sounding, brilliantly produced Nordic world music album. Life had taken a new path and it didn’t really inspire me to write like I had written before, or to sing like I’d sang before. I was dreaming of giving birth to set of new songs that would be very energetic, beautiful and deep – music that would tell about journeying through different states and through time, and would celebrate nature. I longed to collaborate with new people.
It was wonderful to find a music producer, Jukka Backlund, who shared the same sort of passion and vision.
Past few years have been a life changing, challenging journey; step by step crafting the album and inch by inch moving this album baby forward into the world.
I’ve known the PlayArt people for some years now and as the album was recorded and ready we sat down together to discuss about our ideas, visions and motives. PlayArt Productions is a production company that is dedicating it’s creative powers to address subjects such as nature, nature connection, ancient wisdom, rituals and how we can meet and be connected to the roots now, in this ‘modern time’.
Such a joy to team up with the PlayArt crew.
During past few months we’ve been in meetings together, creating the first steps – and during the past few weeks we’ve been moving into growing our team and we’ve been out location scouting and feeling very inspired by the shared passion.
Virtalähde Mastering Studio is located on the calm countryside of Kuhmoinen and if you visit the place by public transport from Helsinki it takes about 5 hours to reach.
I left Helsinki early morning and took a train to Tampere and from there I took a bus to Kuhmoinen. Kuhmoinen is a really small town and all the people at the Tampere-Kuhmoinen bus knew each other. The bus driver told me I should get some sleep if I’d like to, she’d let me know when we’d reach my stop: “You can just relax.” What a very cute bus ride. Viitalähde came to pick me up from the bus stop at Kuhmoinen (a gas station next to a field) and from there we continued further to the woods, to his studio and started working.
First time I heard about Virtalähde Mastering was when he was collaborating with Lake Jons on their first album. I got to know ‘the Jons guys’ during music study years in Helsinki and for a long time I had no idea that they were creating this wonderful band project; as they started putting Lake Jons music out I really loved it and can still remember how enthusiastic they were about collaborating with Virtalähde Mastering.
I’ve followed Jaakko Viitalähde’s work projects for years and it was clear to me that I’d like him to do the album mastering.
Virtalähde Mastering was started 14 years ago and Jaakko Viitalähde used to live and work in Helsinki. Eventually he moved away from the capital to a calmer setting. I respect his way of doing things; he now has his own countryside mastering studio and lives near his studio with his family, dog, cat, chickens, roosters etc. And there’s no hassle, no hurry.
I enjoy being present there in the mastering process; it’s a big thing to hear all the music in the mastering phase, go through the elements and meditate with the balance of it all.
I have a not-so-common way of hearing music and sound; sometimes it’s shapes or colours or some sort of visual thing and luckily this was not at all a strange approach to Viitalähde. There’s not that many professional audio engineers that I would feel comfortable of giving some weird drawing (ha, oh yes) as a guide line relating to the overall sound. But it’s just great fun doing that with someone like Jaakko Viitalähde – – and the fact that he happens to get it is even more joyous.
I was back in Helsinki thru Jämsä and Tampere, it was quite late of course and I felt tired but it was a big thing to realize that the album is now on it’s way out. Bear with me.
When we were wrapping things up Jaakko said: “I think people will be surprised when they hear this album.” I think so too.
A lot has happened during the past three years and I will share more relating to that a bit later. Close calls and interesting negotiations. This album creating journey started very intuitively and all the turns have taught me more than I could’ve ever imagined. And the best part is that this journey is not about money, attention or those things. This is about music, about communication and about being alive.
It’s time to get to know the sound engineers; meet Oona Kapari and Tommi Vainikainen.
Kapari joined the team during the sessions at Finnvox Studios and Tommi Vainikainen has sort of been with us ever since the very beginning of the project. Vainikainen was the one who introduced me to music producer Backlund years ago.
Both of these humans are my old friends – happy to introduce them to you!
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OONA KAPARI, recording & sound engineering at Finnvox sessions
I could write about the years we studied together, or how we used to spend hours and hours going through our projects and trying to learn as much as we could.. Or how it is instant appreciation, open communication, honest feedback and laughs every time we meet..
Next level professional skills, big heart and fast wit; Oona Kapari.
Kapari was the one who did the recording during our sessions at Finnvox. Kapari is a musician and songwriter and she works as a sound engineer at a legendary recording studio Finnvox. Kapari is also making a great career as a music producer.
A lot of planning was done before the sessions but also a lot of space was left open for creativity and for the team work that would happen when we all would be in the same place together. When it was time to hit the studio I made sure that everyone had something to eat during the days (creativity comes easier when there’s a decent amount of proper food around) and experienced how the music came alive. I will share more about the sessions, a bit later, and in that video I’ll tell you more about everything that happened during the Finnvox week.
Kapari is precise, positive, fun, solid, efficient, down-to-earth and it’s a true joy to know her and to create with her. She can easily and in a very calm manner understand what is going on during a studio session; of course relating to the music technology but also relating to the communication, energy levels and all the challenges that might arise during the recording session days.
TOMMI “MASTER FADER” VAINIKAINEN, mixing
I could write about the epic rhytm music summer camps where Vainikainen worked as a music technology teacher and how he played many great albums to us young music students then years ago, or how amazing he is in his ability to respect and bond with all the various music lovers he meets.. Or how many times we have talked about songwriting and about bands and about great country music and politics, or how he is fearless in his thinking and how inspiring it is to have a great conversation with him..
Next level professional skills, big heart and fast wit; Tommi Vainikainen.
Tommi Vainikainen is a freelance sound engineer, producer and a musician and he teaches music production and sound engineering at Sibelius Academy and Helsinki Pop & Jazz Conservatory. He has studied drums in the jazz department of Sibelius Academy and before becoming a freelancer he worked years as a producer / sound engineer at Music Makers Finland. When this album project started to happen it was clear to me that he should join the team. Vainikainen introduced me to Backlund then almost ten years ago and I knew he would get the aesthetics in this music — it made perfect sense that Vainikainen should be the one taking care of the mixing. It was a wonderful moment when I played the preproduction demos to Vainikainen; he was really excited about the songs and all the different vibes that the songs had.
One of the latest albums Vainikainen has mixed is Von Hertzen Brother’s War Is Over and he is working with various pop, folk-rock, tv projects. Check out this smooth video he made with Tuomo, Felix Zenger, Tapio Backlund, Antti Kujanpää and Eliel Viitala. Vainikainen’s skill set is beyond comprehension and it has been amazing to sit with him and dive deep into the songs. He is of course such an epic professional but besides that he is such an supportive, real person.
Working with the right producer is the most inspiring thing. That right producer will pull the music out of you, all that is still somehow hidden – – and on top of that fresh and new possibilities will arrive.
When you find the right match for you the collaboration will help you with songwriting, with your instrument, with creativity and confidence. It has been a priviledge to collaborate with music producer Jukka Backlund.
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To find out more about Backlund’s projects etc. check out my previous blog post about songwriting. It’s right under this post and he’s the top dude on the list. >>>
About working with a music producer:
There’s a lot of talk nowadays about everybody being the producer and that a producer would not be needed if the music is good enough so to say. I’d say that as much as good actors or good writers need to team up with a good director on the movie and theatre side, a good music producer will only make the whole musical world even more clear and deep and simple and epic. What happens thru that is inspiring, it’s real, and you know when it’s real – – music doesn’t get lost in it but it only gets found.
Producer can do many things. Different producers have different strenghts in their craft. For example:
a) producer might help the artist to find confidence, that own voice, that core creativity and solid vision,
b) producer might write songs, compose, arrange with the artist,
c) producer might also work like a studio engineer, figure out how the recording could go and what sounds are needed and how those sounds can be crafted in the actual studio sessions.
Backlund is very skilled in all of the areas that I here mentioned.
In our collaboration he has guided me in finding “my voice”, helped me in songwriting and he has pushed me beyond my limits as a vocalist.
When we did the vocal sessions I felt like my ears got tuned in a new position; I started to connect my hearing and singing in a much solid way, something just clicked and as I had the patience to openly be “where I’m at” in the end I was flewn to a totally new place inside the music.
Producer is not a machine. Producer is someone who has that special skill set (or the passion to always learn more about it) that makes that person a great producer; that is art, great music producing is art. I will be writing more about this (creative process between an artist and the producer) in the future.
And I need to add. The thing is.. The world is full of people – – they might not all be the perfect creative fit for you but still – – if you love the craft of art there is a lot of people in the world and you can learn from all of the steps you take. Trust in your own ability to go out and find new horizons – – get together with other crazy ones and make something together; get as ambitious as you can get and enjoy the creativity.
When I started to make this album with producer Backlund, when we were at the point that we had all the songs ready he couraged me to think of the musicians I’d like to ask join the album sessions. I made a list of my old band and gig mates, old teachers etc. and gave them a call and during summer 2017 we all went to studio together and started making some real music magic. This group of people makes me very happy and very humble. ∇ ∇ ∇
Oskari Lehtonen (percussion, drums)
To learn more about Lehtonen, check out the previous post about album songwriting. Oskari has been a band mate for many years now, in various different projects and I’m very happy to have crossed paths with this hardworking and fun human. Lehtonen plays in various different bands and also has a solo project. Check out Okra Playground’s new live video. >>
You can also find more about Kurki from the previous post. She’s also been a very important part of the album songwriting process. So very happy to collaborate with this great musician and friend. Listen wonderful Aino play with wonderful Macoumba Ndiaye and Sonja Korkman in Senegal. >>
For a very long time one of my favourite bands has been Kvalda (Young Nordic Jazz Comets Finland -award, 2014); a jazz quartet formed by Kujanpää and his peeps from Jyväskylä. Kujanpää is a jazz pianist, composer, educator.. Kujanpää has released an album with Louhivuori, Little Blue (2012), and that album has been in my player a lot. Kujanpää playes in various different ensembles, f. ex. he’s a member of Auteur Jazz. It’s been awesome to start playing with Kujanpää relating to this album and also relating to other gigs. Check out this beautiful tune by Kujanpää and Louhivuori. >>
Louhivuori is a jazz drummer, composer, producer and he’s also a member of many great bands like Ilmiliekki Quartet, Elifantree and his own special ambient-experimental-whatnot-jazz group Oddarrang. Louhivuori has been touring the world with many different projects; you might have seen him with for example Lee Konitz, Tomasz Stanko Quintet, Piirpauke..
He’s produced Eva & Manu‘s music, worked a lot with kids and teaching improvisation, he has been awarded many times from his work as a composer and as a musician. Louhivuori is now being nominated for Teosto Prize. Get to know Louhivuori’s art from the following video. >>
Anttila has collaborated with various jazz, pop, folk artists / ensembles as a musician, composer, producer.. He teaches in Helsinki University of Art’s, in Sibelius Academy, and I got to be his student a long time during a summer music camp; he was a big help when it was time for me to start my music studies in Helsinki; with his help I got in touch with a couple of Swedish jazz musicians, got to learn more about vocal jazz music. Under Bar Himmel – taivasalla is one of my favourite folk music albums (Maans, Kalaniemi, Anttila), give it a spin. Hear Anttila play a beautiful tune with Eliina Mäkiranta Quartet. >>
Järvelä is a multi-instrumentalist whose main instruments are saxophone and clarinet. He is a composer, member of UMO Jazz Orchestra.. Järvelä has collaborated with legends such as Lenny Pickett and Audun Kleive and it is hard to describe how awesome it is that he came to play with us. One of my all-time favourite albums is Jouni Järvelä Group’s Lento. Järvelä also works as a producer and he has produced Marouf Majidi’s first solo album – – he also playes in Majidi’s ensemble. Check out Järvelä’s collaboration with Majidi. >>
Hyväluoma is a composer, violinist, producer and he leads his own ensemble Hyväluoma Group. He works as a session musician and tours a lot in Finland and abroad; plays with Frigg, Snekka, Topi Saha, Haaga Folkmachine, Korpiklaani.. He has edited a book about Finnish traditional fiddler music (“Vetelin viulumestarit”, 2011) and his knowledge about Finnish folk music is quite massive. Hyväluoma plays various instruments and has collaborated with Kimmo Pohjonen, Ismo Alanko.. What a joy to have him on board in this album – – and what a joy to know this human. I’m really a huge fan of Hyväluoma Group’s music and you can get to know their vibe from the video below. >>
Kuusijärvi is an accordionist who has worked with many different musicians, in various performance art projects and within many different music styles. He has a wide knowledge about the contemporary accordion music, improvisation and how to combine these two in his work. He is a composer, musician, educator and leads his own ensemble Koutus. Kuusijärvi and Hyväluoma play together in many occasions and you can find Kuusijärvi also from the video above. Very happy that Kuusijärvi is playing with us on this album we’ve all created. Get to know his solo playing from the video below. >>
Jaakonaho is a guitarist, producer, sound engineer who has worked with numerous Finnish singers (pop, folk-rock, rock..), bands, projects and songwriters. He has produced some of the most loved Finnish alt pop-rock albums and he has his own mix room studio. He released a solo album that’s now been reviewed internationally and you can get to know his amazing discography here. What to say; been listening albums that he’s produced while growing up and he came to play with us on this album..! Sweet. Get to know his solo album from the video below. >>
Heikinpoika is a singer, producer, looping artist who has specialized in throat singing and he has travelled widely to gain knowledge about the ancient music traditions of the world. Right now he’s getting ready to release his new album. He has collaborated with f. ex. Hilda Länsman.
His musicianship and passion for throat singing was awarded in 2015 at Tuva (home of throat singing) when he performed at The Khoomey -throat singing festival and won the 3rd prize in the modern category. It’s great that I happened to get to know him and his work; we met during the album process, when I began collaborating with Niillas Holmberg. It’s a huge joy that he visited one song, one rrreally special song. Just wait till you hear all this music.. Get to know Heikinpoika’s vibe from the video. >>
I want to introduce you to all the wonderful people that I’ve had the pleasure to create with. These people and their music helped me find the music in me. First post is about creating the song material, after this I’ll tell you more about the musicians, and last but so totally not least I’ll share about the process of production and recording & mixing.. Check these people out, get to know their projects and get inspired.
First up: songwriting. ∇ ∇ ∇
The producer. Backlund has produced award-winning and platinum-selling albums, worked as a sound designer / composer in avantgarde installations and art videos, his main project right now is Nik Mystery and he plays drums in a band called Dead Sirius 3000. He’s a member of electronic music production collective called Vanilla Dream, plays various instruments, works internationally and has been studying jazz since early childhood. Watch Nik Mystery’s video Movie Life Fantasy here and Dead Sirius 3000’s “I Won’t Stop My Dance” music video here – – Backlund has also made the videos.
When we started to collaborate I did a lot of demos from old songs and was trying all sorts of ideas – but it was very hard to find a fresh, new perspective. During one songwriting session we had with Backlund he started to play with one rhytmical idea with his acoustic guitar; he started to record that idea and after few minutes there was this new song that felt super inspiring.. I had to go out for a walk after I heard that music! Now it’s clear, that song and that moment opened the door for this whole album.
Kiiskinen has written some of the most loved pop songs in Finland (Sami Saari: Ainutkertainen, Samuli Edelmann: Sininen sointu..), released many beautiful solo albums and has made a wonderful jazz album called “Chet” which has Chet Baker songs in it with Finnish lyrics. I have been a big fan of his for as long as I can remember. You can listen to his ‘Chet’ from here.
Thanks to producer Backlund I eventually wrote to Kiiskinen and told him about this music project, asked if he’d like to get involved. Kiiskinen called me, we had a great talk and after few weeks I received a beautiful song from him. Kiiskinen wrote me a song that has lyrics from Kanteletar – that song feels like home and I’ll never forget how good it felt to start singing it.
I met Holmberg the first time some years ago at Helsinki National Theatre’s music club where we both happened to be performing. It was great to see him perform live. His work as a musician, poet, activist etc. has always felt very inspiring. Watch his video here.
As the album thing started to happen and producer Backlund couraged me to think about my songwriting dream team I contacted Holmberg and asked if he’d like to write Northern Sami lyrics to one composition that popped out of me after one songwriting camp with Backlund. After some e-mails we met and talked about the album and few months later he sent me a demo and the lyrics and I was blown away how personal the lyrics felt. Niillas wrote out the world that was deep in the music that came out of me – powerful song.
When it was time to start learning singing in Northern Sami at first I thought it would never happen but after a while I started to ‘hear’ the language..
Isotalo is a pianist, songwriter, singer, composer and I got to know her years ago when we were both invited to perform in this songwriter’s event. She has written music for theatre, released solo albums, performed with various music ensembles and has worked as a studio musician.
I asked Isotalo’s help relating to the album songwriting; especially the lyrics – to tell me straight if some words were unmusical or storytelling wasn’t clear enough. She helped a lot with one specific song chorus and her honest feedback about the album was pure gold. Check out Isotalo’s music video, this was a fun night years back. It was a lot of fun to be involved in the making of it.
Donner is a singer, songwriter, writer, entertainer and he knows a lot about different languages. Donner has his own band Juzzman, he performs with f. ex. Cafe De Abejas, works in various performing arts projects as a writer and as a performer.
I asked Donner to write a song with me; I had never ever wrote lyrics in Swedish but had a feeling we could write something nice together. I had gotten to know Donner via many mutual friends and I had one song without lyrics – I had a bit of an idea about the story and then asked if he’d be interested to collaborate with me. He said yes, we had couple of writing sessions and a song was born.
Korkman is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, educator, soundpainter and I’ve been collaborating with her for over ten years now in Helsinki Soundpainting Ensemble (avantgarde music group that she leads). Korkman is very experienced in traditional Nordic music, world music, reggae, songwriting in various genres and we had some songwriting sessions together – though the song material we made with Korkman didn’t end up to the album I really enjoyed our sessions together.
Korkman helped me with one album song that has a Finnish-Swedish dialect; she made sure that I’m singing every word properly.
Lehtonen is a percussionist, educator, long-time band colleague in Helsinki Soundpainting Ensemble. He has been jamming with me thru this album project and even before that; we know each other from Helsinki Pop & Jazz Concervatory years. We made song material for this album but those ideas stayed on the desktop – they’ll be waiting for the albums to come after this first one..
Playing improvised music (improvising lyrics also) with Lehtonen in both Helsinki Soundpainting Ensemble and in Karelia Drum’N’Bass has given me many ideas relating to lyric structure, telling a story in music etc. Lehtonen plays in the album ensemble, my wish is that he’ll play in the live band also (he’s a busy guy) and he plays in various Finnish folk music / world music (Okra Playground f. ex.) ensembles.
I got to know Kurki when she started making music with Korkman. Hearing Kurki play live the first time made me really thrilled. Kurki has studied kantele (traditional Finnish string instrument) in Finland but also in Africa, she is a very versatile player and has performed internationally as a soloist and with different music projects.
Playing with Kurki made a lot of things clearer to me during the album songwriting process and we spent good time together going thru the songs and getting ready for studio. Kurki will be a vital member of the live band with her kantele, she was in the studio sessions and you can check out her original music from here.
This album thing we’ve created with Jukka B is a very awesome thing. Tommi “Master Fader” Vainikainen is taking care of the mixing. Tuomas Saikkonen, visual artist friend who lives in Rio, heard some of the songs and this photo happened. Stay with me! A lot of work still before this whole project is out there with you guys — but it’s really worth the wait.
Albumi kuulostaa niin hyvältä! Tämä levyasia, jonka olemme luoneet Jukka B:n kanssa on todella upea asia. Tommi “Master Fader” Vainikainen miksaa levyn. Tuomas Saikkonen, kuvataiteilija-graafikko-ystävä joka asuu Riossa, kuuli äskettäin muutaman levybiisin ja tämä kuva syntyi. Pysykää mukana matkassa! On vielä paljon työtä tehtävänä ennen kuin tämä prokkis julkaistaan ja työn tulos saavuttaa teidät — mutta malttakaa, odotus todellakin palkitaan.