DIVA chats to the green-haired musician about creating during a pandemic, sexuality and her long-awaited debut album
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS
Alma-Sofia Miettinen, known professionally as ALMA, has been a well-known name on the music scene since 2013 when she came to prominence on the Finnish TV show, Idol.
By 2016, ALMA had already released two Top 10 singles but it was the third, Chasing Highs, which bagged her a place in the UK charts and plans for her first album were put in motion.
After facing various delays in the lead up to the album’s release, ALMA has grown comfortable expressing who she is, explicitly opening up about her sexuality in her music and being unapologetically queer in her lyrics. Oh, and she’s even collaborated with pop music legends such as Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus. All this at just 24-years-old, she’s a pretty big deal if you ask us.
We caught up with ALMA while she’s locked down at home in Finland to find out all about how she’s coping with the changes in the music industry and what we can expect from her debut album, Have U Seen Her?
DIVA: It’s been a year since we first chatted with you ALMA, what has changed for you in the past year (apart from the obvious)?
ALMA: I think I’ve just become way more confident. When I started I was a bit afraid to be super real in my songs. Obviously I was making songs that were real, but I think this year has been a changing moment where I just want to be as honest as I can. Right now it’s important for artists to be completely honest. I want to change the world but the world is slowly getting worse. I just want to be brave enough to be like “Hey, this is how I feel about stuff” and I’m trying to help in every way that I can.
How have things changed for the music industry amidst the current global pandemic?
I think the whole music industry just changed. Now everybody’s doing sessions through FaceTime, recording sessions online, and meetings through Zoom. I think the first two weeks were strange because I just wasn’t doing anything, but now everything is kind of like normal. The cancelled gigs is the real bummer.
Is your music still happy despite everything going in the world?
Still happy, 50% is like “everything is nice” but the other 50% is a lot of hard work, a lot of anxiety and a lot of other troubles. The album is also about that and just brave enough to talk about, for example, love in real words. My mental health my sexuality and stuff like that, it took me a long time to be like, “Hey, I’m allowed to say how I feel. And it’s not bad if I feel bad sometimes. It’s not bad if I say ‘she’ in this song.”
What’s the main message of your new album, Have U Seen Her?
I just listened through it again this morning. I think the main message is quite open, but it’s also saying you’re allowed to be whoever the fuck you are. Some are like my alter-ego songs, but others are super vulnerable and talk about the struggles that I have had. I would say it’s my growing up story.
Is there a specific situation or person that inspired the songs?
A lot of young kids wants to be superstars these days. I feel like fame is not gonna make you happy. This is what I try to say to my fans all the time. If you love to sing, if you love to act, if you love to dance, do it. But if you just want to be famous, don’t fucking do it. I also want to encourage people that want to be health care workers. For me, they’re my fucking heroes. I just wanted be real with this album and maybe some of my fans understand that fame is not gonna make you happy. Making what you love is gonna make you happy and if you love to sing do it, but if you love to help other people, do it, rather than just trying to be famous like everybody else.
You’ve had to face a lot of delays with this album. How has the album changed throughout that process?
I think two years ago, I had an album ready. But it was an album of songs that I wrote when I was just 18 years old. I was touring a lot and all the songs sounded like singles, but they weren’t that good. I wasn’t giving anything on that album. I can do singles. I can feature on people’s songs, but when it comes to my album, it has to be meaningful for me.
I just had so much going on, the old album didn’t make sense. There were songs I was writing while I was touring and my mind was in a different zone. I became successful overnight basically. Everything just happened so fast. I didn’t have a plan to put a record out because we live in a world where people just release singles. Nobody needs the album anymore. But only releasing singles felt disappointing for me. I wanted to put an album out but I didn’t want to put it out if it was just a collection of singles.
You’ve said that you’ve written hundreds of songs. How do you narrow them down and decide what makes it onto the album?
It was actually super easy. It really was so clear to me what needed to be on there. I could see the journey from the intro to the end.
These songs are less dance influenced and more heartfelt and emotional. Why do you think it took you a while to feel comfortable opening up in your lyrics?
When I meet new people, like the first 10 times when I meet them, I’m always talking about good stuff. I’m the funny one. But when I really get to know people, that’s when I start to open up and I think this is just the part where I feel comfortable to be real. I’m not saying the old stuff isn’t real, it’s definitely real, but it’s only one little corner that’s in my brain. When I started, I felt like I wasn’t ready for it. I was suffering with anxiety while I was making the record and when you’re feeling that way, it’s harder to talk about it in the moment. You have to go beyond that and then write about it sometimes.
You’re also a lot more open about your sexuality online and in your music now. How did that come about for you?
At first I thought I don’t even have to say it, it’s such a normal thing and I thought everybody will assume I’m gay. But then when I started to tour around the world, and I was talking with my fans I heard crazy stories that showed me being gay is not okay everywhere. After that I started to realise maybe I have to start talking about it and start writing about it because I think if I can change the world, even just so one family can accept their gay child, I’m gonna try because I can only imagine how horrible it is. Luckily my family are really supportive, but that’s not the case for everyone everywhere.
You’ve been described as the next big thing in pop. Would you say you’re a role model for people now?
I’m an imperfect role model. I definitely fuck up all the time and do stupid stuff. I probably am a role model for some people. But don’t always do exactly what I do. Otherwise you’ll have a lot of trouble in your life.
Who did you look to for queer representation when you were growing up?
There weren’t a lot of clear queer people when I was growing up but Lady GaGa has definitely been a huge inspiration.
What makes you feel visible as a queer person?
I feel visible because people always ask me what’s the best thing about being an artist it’s got to be the fact that so many people listen to what I have to say. I come from a place where I felt like nobody was listening to me and nobody cared. I am so privileged that I’m able to talk to my fans and get the thoughts out of my head that will hopefully change the world and make it a better place.
What’s the queer culture like where you’re from in Finland?
It’s pretty small but it’s very cute. All my friends are gay but I feel like it’s okay to be gay here. Everyone just hangs out together. There’s not a huge gay culture, there’s only one gay club but there’s a lot clubs where everyone just parties together and there’s no homophobia. I’ve never felt any homophobia when I’ve been out in Finland.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the world is back to normal?
I’m just going to party for a whole weekend. From Friday to Sunday.
ALMA’s debut album, Have U Seen Her?, is released 15 May.
Like many businesses, DIVA has been hit hard by the economic impact of coronavirus and we need your help to keep the presses rolling throughout the pandemic. Visit our PayPal fundraising page and give what you can. Your support means the world.