Toward the end of last year, Charli XCX shocked the world with her super collaborative Pop 2 mixtape. One of the catchiest tracks on the project was “Out Of My Head” which features Tove Lo and Alma, an emerging pop star from Finland with an insanely high vocal range and the spirit of a punk raver. Not only does the 22-year-old’s voice stand out, but so does she with her head of flowing, glow-in-the-dark, highlighter yellow hair. It’s a mouthful, but so is Alma’s whole life story.
She was born as Alma-Sofia Miettinen in Kuopio, Finland which she describes as a “super dark” place where the most natural thing to do is to stay inside. Alma doesn’t explicitly go into detail, but makes it clear that her teenage years were a little rough for her. Luckily, she didn’t have to go through those hard times alone because her twin sister named Anna was by her side every step of the way. Together they are known as the CYBERTWINZ and are practically inseparable.
In 2013, Alma competed in the seventh season of a Finnish reality TV show called Idols where she finished in fifth place. From there, she started locking down live performances across the globe, releasing her own solo music.
Following a recent appearance on BBC1 Radio with Dua Lipa to perform her single “IDGAF,” Alma put her name back on the map by dropping her Heavy Rules mixtape in March. On a recent call with The FADER, Alma said the five track project offers a preview of what’s to come on her forthcoming debut full-length album. "Now we’ve finally cracked the code of what I really want to do on the album," she said. "It’s not that dance, I would say it’s more me talking about how I grew up, all the struggles that I had and just being the first pop artist who ever made it from Finland."
The singer offered a better glimpse at her perspective on the pop world and her future as a European pioneer.
Most of the songs on the mixtape are upbeat and make you feel like you wanna have fun, go out and dance, but for some of them there’s a bit of sadness too like “Good Vibes” with Tove Styrke and “BACK2U.” I noticed some themes of separation and loneliness and would love to know more about the messages you are trying to convey through these songs.
Especially when I’m in LA, it gets super lonely sometimes and it’s super hard work. I think I just wanted to bring the other side of the whole story in, for people to see that I’m going to parties, doing cool stuff and having a good time, but it’s just one side of the story. I have hundreds of emotions inside of me at all time so I wanted to bring the darkness. I’m from a very dark place, my family’s super dark and [Finland] is even a sad place. It’s still very much in me. I wanted to bring that. “BACK2U” is super real, sometimes when you’ve been in LA or somewhere for a long time, you just need to go home. There are some times where you just need to go home. My album that I’m making now, it’s way more dark.
You touched on it a little bit, but I was going to ask how Finland has influenced you as an artist.
I love the place, it’s my home. I never want to leave that place ‘cause it’s my home, but it’s super dark and cold. There’s no sun for six months in the winter time. I think it affects so much. Everytime I come to LA, the sun is shining and immediately you start to feel super happy. In Finland the whole vibe is dark. I think it just affects who I am, my music and my stories. But Finland is also super free. If I feel anxious there I can go to the nature and be there for five hours and there’s no one. It’s like both worlds. In LA there’s people all around, but in Finland it’s super easy to breathe. Even though I would say I’m kind of a big star there, one of the biggest stars in Finland, I can still be alone and go to the forest without anyone noticing me. Our culture is very isolated, we don’t want to talk to other people, so I love that, actually.
What made you want to be a singer?
I think I was singing when I started to speak at like two years old. It’s always been there. When I was a teenager, writing and singing helped me so much ‘cause I had super rough teenage years. I think without singing and writing I wouldn’t be able to get up and do everything. Teenage years can be super tough. I think I was just like “If this makes me feel good to get up and do what I need to do, it must be something more. Maybe I can help other kids and make people feel good.” Then I started doing it, but I never thought I would be able to be an artist worldwide and go to LA ‘cause that had never happened in Finland. I never dreamt of that. I always dreamt that I would get a record deal in Finland and tour around Finland ‘cause that’s the way it normally goes, but I’m super lucky. I’m just making something different for awhile.
“That’s why I like to be in this world, no one’s telling me what to do.” — Alma
Going back to the mixtape, I love the collaborators that you chose to work with. What was it about each of those singers that made you want to work with them on this project? What did they bring to the table for you?
When me and Charli [XCX] and Noonie [Bao] wrote the “Dance For Me” song, I just felt that it was so fun. All her songs have the melancholy things in it, but it always brings you good vibes. I think when I wrote that I was like “I need to get MØ on this.” I hit her up on Instagram, she was like “Yeah, I want to do it” and then I sent the song to her. I got an email two days after that, she did the feature and I loved it. With Tove Styrke, I made that song in Sweden and the story was in Sweden. Again, it’s kind of melancholic and dark. I felt like I needed to get someone from Sweden because of the vibe. Everytime I hear the song my memory just goes to Sweden. I was like “I need to get Tove Styrke on it ‘cause I think she’s amazing.” We were already friends so I just called her up and she wanted to do it. “Chit Chat” I made with Kiiara in LA. I just wanted someone super cool. I’m a big fan of hers and the earlier stuff she’d been doing. For this mixtape I didn’t want anything pressured. If things happen naturally, they happen and if they don’t, they won’t. I didn’t want any pressure, just super real, normal and easy.
They all seem like very organic collaborations.
I think it needs to be. It needs to be real otherwise people hear it. People hear that it’s not real. You need to do things with your friends.
A lot of pop music tends to have a direct connection to the club and club culture. I don’t necessarily like clubbing, but I look to the club as a place to escape where your emotions can run free on the dance floor if you will. What does the club mean to you?
I’ve never been in schools, I was 14 when I stopped going to school, so the club was a place where I met with all my other teenage friends and had super deep conversations. Clubs for me are just a way to see people of my age. I’m working with all the labels... Everyone I’m actually working with is older than me so when I go to my local clubs I see friends and people that are my age. I think it’s super important for me to be involved with other kids. I never wanna be arrogant or get fame in me, I would just really love to be normal as long as I can be.
Clubs are my way to just be myself and just be with other kids. It’s not even that I need to go there and be super drunk. Sometimes I go to the club and I don’t even drink. If I have something super important tomorrow, I go to the club, I don’t drink, I have fun and I see young people. It’s just important.
There are so many layers to the category of pop, what about it excites you as an artist and makes you want to dive deeper into that lane?
Like why I want to be a pop writer? I think cause now with pop music you can basically do anything. You can do Drake, you can do The Weeknd, you can do Post Malone, but then you can be like Zara Larsson or Dua Lipa. You can do whatever. I think pop is super nice ‘cause you can do punk pop, rap pop, EDM pop, anything. I can be whatever. It’s not like I make pop punk and then I’m in a punk band for 15 years and just do punk. That’s why I like to be in this world, no one’s telling me what to do.
What are you hoping to accomplish as an artist and how do you want to continue to grow?
I think for my first album that I’m making right now, it’s maybe the realest I’ve ever been, and I think I just want people to know who I really am. I’m from Finland, and I’m not maybe the coolest woman in the pop world, so I think I just want to bring people who I really am, and like just bring all the weird kids together I think. Everything in pop is perfect, and I’m not perfect, so I think just that.