ALMA: "I can be very anxious and want to run into another room, but then when I force myself to go on stage not knowing what’s going to happen, it just disappears. That’s like magic to me."
Alice Gee | 28/03/2023
Early morning London, Chinatown is still quiet and even a little sleepy. Having climbed the Century Club’s stairs, I grab a coffee, sit, and wait for Finland’s rising pop star to arrive.
Do I really need to introduce her? Known for her tracks that pack a pop punch and her punkish looks, ALMA has reimagined what it is to be a pop singer, with vibrancy and fun at the heart of every track. As ALMA returns with a new album in tow ‘Time Machine’ out on the 21st April, it’s the most personal album she has made, shining a light on subject matters that she’s not discussed before. Following the success of her debut album ‘Have U Seen Her?’ - the new tracks ‘Summer Really Hurt Us’, ‘Hey Mom, Hey Dad’ and ‘I Forgive Me’ indicate that this album will deliver more hits. Since her debut, the world has welcomed ALMA with open arms as she continues to sell out tours, including her returning show at London’s Omeara last year. As we chat about her rise to fame, ALMA let’s me in on what’s important to her, the cities she loved performing in and those close to her that share her journey, including her twin sister.
ALMA: Music came into my life pretty early. I’d never dreamt of doing anything like I’m doing now until it happened, I never understood that it was even possible. I always thought being a musician meant being rich and from America. It felt so far away. I wasn’t the greatest in school and so I skipped a lot of school. Then when I was 16, me and my twin sister stopped going. I was home for a couple years and didn’t do anything. Eventually, I met this guy who believed in me and encouraged me to start making music and that was the first time I started writing music. But I was always singing from a young age. One memory I have is sometimes I had to walk through this forest alone and I was so scared so I would just sing to make me feel safe. I was signed at 17 years, and they flew me to America within a month – it all happened so fast.
A: Coming to the UK for the first time must have been exciting!
ALMA: I took my twin sister with me every time until she went back to school for a while. It was crazy, the first couple of years were super wild.
A: Is it still a pinch moment, even after all your success?
ALMA: There is an element of that. My life has just changed so dramatically. Plus every country is very different in how they treat celebrities.
A: Who’s been the most significant person you’ve been star-struck by?
ALMA: I’ve actually met many, which is interesting. But if I had to have a favourite, it would be Lady Gaga. It was in 2019 when she won an Oscar for 'Shallow'. Andrew called me and asked me to come to the after-party. It was mad! There were people there like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Adele. Meeting Adele was fucking crazy, but for me, Lady Gaga is an absolute steal. She was so lovely to me. Andrew told her all these things about me and then Lady Gaga was like, “You’re the shit” three times in a row, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, God, Lady Gaga just told me I’m the shit!’. She’s incredibly inspirational. For her to even know a little of my story was incredible. It gave me a lot of motivation to keep on going. It was a moment I will remember forever.
A: Seeing your music do so well over the years, is it like a form of validation when you see it in the charts, and it’s doing really well? Or was it the extra cherry on top?
ALMA: At first, it was just crazy, unbelievable, and very unexpected. Like, I didn’t even have Spotify for artists that you could check at the time. When they told me it was in the top 20, I didn’t understand enough about the industry. COVID allowed me to sit down and think about what’s important. It can start to consume you: money and success. I remember when I won a Finnish version of the Brits and won four in a row, I thought to myself…now I need to win a Grammy! I never felt proud of what I had achieved and wanted more success. I think this is partly because I have always been so focused, and at one point, I just became focused on the charts and wasn’t making music that I loved. So on this new album, it was so lovely to have a change. It gave me a lot of freedom to do what matters to me.
A: There’s a lot of pressure, though. We’ve seen it often with people we speak to, especially with social media and what is expected. Amazingly, you’ve found that perspective. Did COVID mean you hit the pause button?
ALMA: I actually went to Sweden. It was the only place where I was allowed to travel. I was there for two years and put the album together there. The time off with covid gave me time to answer a lot of questions I had about myself.
A: What’s been your experience with Mental Health? You mentioned that you’ve written things based on how you feel at that moment.
ALMA: I’m not afraid to talk about it. I’ve talked about it a lot. I come from a family who got very sick, and that affected me. Having a twin has also influenced me a lot. I think my career has been both a blessing and a curse. I still struggle with it all.
A: I’m sure there have been many good moments, but has that impacted you?
ALMA: I’m constantly battling stuff to have an everyday life. It’s not easy. It’s like a roller coaster that comes and goes, some days are more accessible than others.
A: It’s all about management. Does the music help you?
ALMA: Music has been more like a thrill than safety. Every time I go backstage, I can be very anxious and want to run into another room, but then when I force myself to go on stage not knowing what’s going to happen, it just disappears. That’s like magic to me. When I’m home with my friends, I might be way more lost than when I’m ALMA on stage.
A: How is it being vulnerable when you write? Do you get nervous about people seeing that side of you?
ALMA: Obviously, it’s not the easiest topic to suddenly open up to people about. For this new album I worked with Elvira Anderfjärd - a female producer from Sweden. She’s about 24, a genius. I open up more to women than men, but 90% of the music industry is men so it’s hard to find women you connect with. It’s a lot to do with energy when I get into the room, and the energy impacts how I work. So it’s taken me a while to feel secure. I always talk and work with people that I think have some understanding of me.
A: Because you said you’ve got people who come with you, is that nice to have an entourage? Does it offer comfort, being able to enjoy these moments with others?
ALMA: I always have my friends. My twin sister used to travel with me. I bring my family everywhere I can when touring, and my girlfriend is usually there. That keeps me very sane. It’s a win-win situation to share it with others. It’s lonely to see the world and do all of this without your friends.
A: You’ve got new music coming out. Not long now!
ALMA: I’m super excited. The new singles are working super well here. I think, it’s the best body of work that I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever make a better one. I’m going to be touring this summer, we’re going to be doing festivals, and then we’re going to be traveling with other artists. I’m going to announce that soon!
A: Where is your favourite place to go perform? Is it home?
ALMA: I love London. Like, I’m not even just saying this because we’re here. Finland is lovely, but it’s a lot of fucking pressure. All eyes are on me, including critics. I really appreciate everyone that buys tickets to see me play in London and hopefully I can play some festivals soon, especially like Reading and Leeds!
‘Time Machine’ is out on the 21st April.