Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hello friends,

My blog has moved to a new address
I will continue to share my thoughts and experiences every Saturday at my new home. Now you can subscribe too, to make sure you won't miss an entry. Looking forward to continuing my journey with you!



Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Fab Four!

 "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." —Andrew Carnegie
 A couple of hours ago I had my first weekly conference call with my ECR Music Group-labelmates Blake Morgan, Melissa Giges and David Cloyd. Here is one option as to how a record label can operate in this day and age, where many major-labels are closing or being folded into one another: have the artists "run the asylum!" We four are all part of each others' artistic lives in one way or another. Blake runs the label and all the myriad tasks that it involves, David acts as a vice-president and designer, Melissa helps out with events, and has at one point or another been a fantastic bandmate to the rest of us. I myself have provided help with styling, makeup, photo-shoot production, etc. We all have more tasks and abilities than those I just mentioned, and new ones are being added to the list all the time. These weekly phone calls are a way for us to stay accountable and motivated, and also to connect with each other on an even more consistent basis.

I became a part of this crew soon to be four years ago, and I find that as we have all grown and evolved on our own, we have also gradually, collectively, risen to a new level. It has been inspiring to see the change happening in each of us in this period of time, and it even is quite a gift to have the opportunity to witness others' evolution so close up.

Being an artist requires forward movement. Stagnation means the end of career in many cases, or at least a noticeable slowing down of it. That's why it's so important for us to continue to feed our brains, to feed our hearts and to feed our souls (....and this is not just true for artists, actually....). In different ways Blake, Melissa, David and I have each continued to 'fill our wells' during the time we have known each other. It is thrilling that now, as we are all about to release (or have already released--as in the case of Blake) our new albums, we are starting to work as an ever tighter unit for the benefit of all of us. There are ways in which we can all teach each other things, and it's nice to not have to figure everything out on our own. Community is a great perk!

I have said it before, but I'll say it again: I am so happy and proud to be a part of ECR Music Group. On a technical level, it is great to know that I own my frickin' masters, that I have a fair record deal and that I am free to leave if I ever need to or want to. I'm free to express myself as an artist, I'm encouraged to develop and learn at every turn, and what's more: I love my labelmates! It is invigorating to be surrounded by these great musicians and artists and leapfrogging it with each other we can all reach higher and higher, further and further. Fucking excellent!
(By the way--the picture above--not us.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I can't believe that it's almost November already. Never has a year passed by this fast! And what a ride it has far..! I shared in the beginning of the year in one of my posts about a ritual that I do with two of my close friends, where we draw a tarot-card to suggest a theme for the coming year. I drew the Death-card for 2013, which, while initially frightening, was in fact not an actual death sentence by any means. Instead, it hinted of a year of transition, change and destruction, followed by renewal.

"Whether you like it or not, Death is one of the most powerful cards in the Tarot. Humans naturally fear the unknown, and so Death is our greatest fear since it is the greatest unknown. The majority of us are unaware that our mind and spirit die all the time, constantly shedding old beliefs and acquiring new ones. It has been said many times by many readers: the Death card is not a card of death - it is a card of transformation."
-- James Rioux,

I've thought about the Death-card a lot this year, as I have most certainly been through immense transformations. The way I view myself and my life is different than before; the way I operate in my career is being renewed time and time again, and many close relationships are simply not the same as they were, nor will they ever be. While there have been moments of devastating realizations, there has also been the peace that followed. When a truth that I've been unwilling to look at becomes evident, there is always a reward of clear-headedness. I wouldn't wish to be challenged in all the many ways that I have been, but then again, I also wouldn't wish it any other way. 

"When Death appears it almost always signifies a major change in one's life. Sometimes the change will appear disruptive and unexpected, sometimes it will be a breath of fresh air - clearing away obstacles and allowing you to surge forward. So do not assume that Death is a negative card - it is often just what we need in order to progress when fear is holding us up."
-- Jan Shepherd,

I have found that our yearly card-drawing-ritual has been helpful to me in that I've been more welcoming to the changes that have come. I've also possibly been a little more willing to allow myself to feel all the feelings that have come along with those changes -- knowing on a deeper level that all things, feelings included, shall pass.

All my life, I've been dependent on people and things in many different ways. The biggest transformation for me this year has been the cutting of numerous strings and even some chains. I still have some left that bind me, but I'm no longer tangled in the way that I was. Perhaps there's a feeling of safety, being tied up in all kinds of knots, but I'm willing to let that go now and stand on my own two feet. If that requires a series of deaths, so be it.

In honor of Halloween, I attach a picture of a vintage Death-card, that looks a whole lot like the card I picked out from the deck some ten months ago. Actually, it doesn't look so scary at all..!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between privacy and secrecy recently... In the past I have often been open to a fault about things that are going on in my life, whenever I've been asked. People have inquired about my private matters in social situations and I have often felt obligated to answer, truthfully to boot, which has frequently left me feeling violated. It is only now that I have understood that I have a right to privacy about things that I choose to be private about. I am the only one who decides what business of mine I share with people around me.

noun: secrecy
1. the action of keeping something secret or the state of being kept secret.

I have very few secrets. Most of my fumbles and foibles, likes, loves and hates are known by somebody close to me. My troubles and my traumas have too become a lighter load to carry, after I've shared them with a friend or a loved one. What I'm learning now is privacy--to not automatically think that I'm being dishonest if I don't share everything with people close to me. It is still somewhat of an adjustment to understand that I am not lying when I choose not to discuss something that is significant in my life with someone near and dear to me.

noun: privacy
1. the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.

I love the idea of boundaries versus walls. I'm not interested in walls. Instead, I love that there is an invisible structure in place now in my life, which keeps me increasingly safe from unwanted intruders. People have the nerve (and a right) to ask all kinds of questions, and as a public persona, this is even more common. My responsibility is to know what I feel comfortable sharing and what I don't, and to know how to say no, kindly.  My chosen boundaries may be surprising to some, as I have decided to be open about certain things that many others don't discuss as freely. It is a personal choice for us all; a part of the vision we have for ourselves. I chose to share this with you today.

“Friends don’t spy; true friendship is about privacy, too.”
Stephen King, Hearts In Atlantis

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Today, I share with you a Buddhist story that a friend recently told me regarding anger. I found a number of versions of it online, but for whatever reason, this one was the one that resonated with me the most. Personally I still find it hard to refuse unwanted "gifts" that people give me, but I appreciate the story's sentiment. I am learning...

 One day, the Buddha and a large following of monks and nuns were passing through a village. The Buddha chose a large shade tree to sit beneath so the group could rest awhile out of the heat. He often chose times like these to teach, and so he began to speak. Soon, villagers heard about the visiting teacher and many gathered around to hear him.

One surly young man stood to the side, watching, as the crowd grew larger and larger. To him, it seemed that there were too many people traveling from the city to his village, and each had something to sell or teach. Impatient with the bulging crowd of monks and villagers, he shouted at the Buddha, "Go away! You just want to take advantage of us! You teachers come here to say a few pretty words and then ask for food and money!"

But the Buddha was unruffled by these insults. He remained calm, exuding a feeling of loving-kindness. He politely requested that the man come forward. Then he asked, "Young sir, if you purchased a lovely gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom does the gift then belong?"

The odd question took the young man by surprise. "I guess the gift would still be mine because I was the one who bought it."

"Exactly so," replied the Buddha. "Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses, if I do not get insulted and angry in return, these curses will fall back upon you—the same as the gift returning to its owner."

The young man clasped his hands together and slowly bowed to the Buddha. It was an acknowledgement that a valuable lesson had been learned. And so the Buddha concluded for all to hear, "As a mirror reflects an object, as a still lake reflects the sky: take care that what you speak or act is for good. For goodness will always cast back goodness and harm will always cast back harm." 

From Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents (Condra Enterprises, 2005), collected and adapted by Sarah Conover.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm having a good day! The sun is shining, it's a beautiful, warm fall Saturday, I just got my laundry done, I'm going to see a movie later... Fucking awesome. One reason why I'm feeling so good is that things have been moving forward with the production of my album. It took me a while to get comfortable in the studio, to not get hostile, defensive or detached, (yes, unfortunately I've been all these all things at different times) but I think I've finally been able to move beyond my fears and go on to create some beautiful music with my producer Blake Morgan, on a consistent basis.

Working on my music has a lot of heavy baggage attached to it, because I used to make all my albums with a person who I was also married to. (This is no secret.) At first, I expected the current process to be similar to what it had been in the past, back when I was not encouraged to be a part of the process. I will give you an example of a studio-day during the recording of my Sony album in 1998: I would sit on the sofa at the studio, reading Cosmopolitan or sleeping all day and all night, until 4am in the morning when the recordings ended. At another session I would be playing Ms. Pacman all day. I was anything but behind the console and was very detached from the production itself. This, even though I am marked as the executive producer of my albums. It happens, people.

Being in the studio now is different like night and day from what it used to be. My producer Blake Morgan and I are very much a team, and I feel like I'm being listened to at every turn. I also wrote every tune from top to bottom, so the roots of all the songs are in me anyway--can't no one take them away. And by the way, no Cosmopolitans anywhere in the vicinity! Hehe. I feel free to express my ideas with Blake, whatever they may be, and know that I won't be ridiculed or ignored. I am constantly encouraged to do more, to play more myself and to follow my vision. It's all I've ever wanted: the encouragement, the empowerment. I'm gobbling it up.

It took some time to develop trust, as working in the studio is a very intimate process, but I think we're finally there. It can be challenging to see a new, healthy and fun situation for what it is, instead of hanging all my old "Christmas-ornaments" on it, but it's worth the effort. Looking forward to some fun and productive times in the studio!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I have now finished the first couple of days of a trial, after having been picked on Wednesday to be a juror in a court case. The whole concept is new to me and I'm learning so much from the experience, but alas I cannot share any information whatsoever about the proceedings, so as not to compromise the case, or get slapped with a penalty. I can say that I'm looking forward to being a part of the process and the deliberations, which may or may not be similar to what goes on in the movie "12 Angry Men." I eagerly anticipate watching it again after many years, now with some personal insight to the American judicial system. It'll be quite a different experience for me than when I read and saw it in school, at age 12 or 13.

This is one of those moments where I am extremely grateful for my bilingual education. I went to the English School in Helsinki for 11 years of my life, and I can honestly say that without those early years of consistent training in the English language, my life in New York these days would be quite different. I can thank those years for instilling in me my love of the English language and a great foundation in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. I still have an accent, but I feel quite confident in my communication skills these days. It is my Finnish skills that I really need to be working on right about now....

If it weren't for my history at the English School, I suspect it would be difficult for me to serve on an American jury today. And yet, at the same time, here I am--not even having finished high school! Who am I to talk about education? Well, the amount that I did receive, I received well. And I certainly want to study more and expand my horizons for the rest of my life. I have come to see very clearly that the adage about education being the silver bullet is no joke. I'm admittedly making up for lost time.

Here's one area where I am extremely grateful to my parents: for understanding that learning a second language at a very young age was important. There are many things that can be said about the school I attended as a child, and not all of it is positive. I certainly remember numerous traumatic experiences and injustices, and I'm sure I'm not alone with these recollections. But I've also put plenty of the lessons I learned to good use. And as with any experience, I can always take what I like and leave the rest; I am learning that now. I can finally apply that to my old school and heartily appreciate the gifts it has given me, "12 Angry Men" among them. I've now officially opened the wrappings.

"The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

This morning I gave a 15-minute speech about my experiences, strength and hope to a room of about 40-50 people. I spoke candidly about sensitive and quite personal subjects, but it felt empowering, and I received an unbelievable amount of love back from my listeners. I am coming to realize that being vulnerable is powerful!

Public speaking used to freak me out more than anything else. Even as I've been performing on and off for the last 20 years of my life as a singer, for a long time it scared the hell out of me to say anything between the songs. In the performing arts-high school I attended in Finland, us students were even offered a class in public speaking, and not in a million years would it have occurred to me to take it. I was too damn scared! I had always been terrified to speak up, probably because on many occasions I had been ridiculed or dismissed when doing so. This blog has given me an opportunity to finally begin to express my thoughts and who I am--a little at first, and more and more as I've gone on. Gradually I have summoned up the courage to physically open my mouth as well.

During my recent concerts I have started to communicate with my audience in a whole new way. My speeches, which used to be somewhat of a liability at my concerts, are becoming a way for me to connect with people in an ever deeper way. Dare I say it: my speaking has started to feel to me potentially as powerful as the music itself.

When I was 14 years old, and a big star in my home country Finland, I received a letter from a 12-year-old fan of mine named Riitta, who was in the hospital being treated for terminal cancer. Her wish was that I visit her at the hospital, and sure enough I went--I was honored to be asked. I was probably as shy as she was; I remember our encounter well. Had I not been as socially awkward as I was at that age, I would've liked to spend a lot more time talking to her. And I would have sung more than a mere verse and a chorus...hehe. Our meeting didn't last very long, and unfortunately neither did her life. I received a letter after her death from her mother saying that Riitta talked about me regularly until her passing. Sounds to me like my existence in this world had affected her life as much as hers did mine.

Ever since my encounter with Riitta, I still often think of her. I remember feeling a true sense of purpose after our brief meeting, and since then I have always had a calling to help others, in whatever simple way I can. Public speaking, quite surprisingly, is becoming one way to do that, and I see much more of it in my future. Sometimes the things you fear the most, eventually reward you like nothing else would. Like a dear friend of mine, Robin Morgan, says: "the wall (of fear) is paper mache, not brick." I think she might be right.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Reality vs. "Reality"

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Reality is reality. Like a friend of mine says: we can sit and debate about whether the concert was any good, but we can't debate the number of musicians on stage. And yet, I've grown up around many people who have told me, despite my full knowledge otherwise, that there were five musicians on stage, when there clearly were only three. It makes me angry to even write this. When there are enough people around you, telling you whatever lie feels useful to them on any given day, it makes you question your sanity.

And I have questioned my sanity. So many times. But I'm coming to a place in my life where my reality (=reality) is not up for grabs anymore. I see it, I'm in it, it exists. There are facts, there is gravity, there is clarity.  And I fucking love it! This is why I am so into science these days--why I'm into astronomy and physics and even math! For a girl who used to be afraid of being sucked up into the sky, even an elementary understanding of gravity is a powerful thing. And by the way, that's how fuzzy reality has been for me at some point.

There is pain in knowing that I can never again trust some people, who I have trusted unconditionally for much of my life. But there is also freedom. It is a heavy load, yes, but I carry it willingly and consciously.

“Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child's blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality....I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.”
― Anaïs Nin, Henry and June: From "A Journal of Love"--The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin

Saturday, August 31, 2013

In the past, when something unexpected (and potentially disastrous) has happened, I have tended to react in a way that someone lost in the woods might do: panic and start running. Apparently, that is the worst thing you can do when you get lost. According to, the best plan of action would be to remember this acronym, favored by the Emergency Response Institute of Olympia, Washington: S-T-O-P.: Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Here is the first step:

"Stop: If you feel uncomfortable with your situation, don't go any farther. Don't panic, either. Young or inexperienced backcountry travelers should be taught to stay put once they feel lost. "Hug a tree" is familiar, and worthwhile, advice. The rule changes if the area is unsafe or someone in your group needs medical attention. Count to 10, drink some water or eat a little food. These acts often give you a fresh perspective and help you better assess your situation."

In the last couple of days, "Stop" is exactly what I've done. I have paused to gather my wits and to calm myself down, making sure I don't run off in the wrong direction. I am hugging my equivalent of a tree and I feel more balanced than I ever have in a challenging situation such as this. Think, Observe and Plan come next, when I'm ready.

Life is like this sometimes: just when you've made progress in one area, suddenly a new, seemingly even larger challenge appears on the horizon; as if it was deemed I was somehow ready for it. And I want to say: goddamn it I am not ready!!! No one seems to be listening.

In my experience these days, there are only rare moments in which to consolidate information and experiences. Most of the time life moves forward like in a vintage 80's Super Mario-videogame: no going back. The fucking screen chases you from behind and keeps gaining, and if you stop, you're dead. I realize I'm mixing my metaphors here.... Stopping to hug a tree and then running to keep up with the game. Well, both are true. Life is not simple enough to keep my metaphors in check. So. Let's just say that I paused the game for a bit to consult my manual. I will continue momentarily.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sometimes positive experiences can be harder to stomach than the negative ones. Being around healthy people doing healthy things in a healthy way can make me feel more alone than when I'm in the company of people who are struggling in one way or another. And yet, more than anything in the world, I yearn to be healthy and strong. I want to be able to remain the Janita I know myself to be, no matter who enters the room. Nevertheless it still feels like when I'm alone in the room with another person, there are three of us present: he/she, me and the shit I'm dealing with.

I just returned from a wonderful 3-day-vacation in Long Island, where I was paddle boarding, kayaking (for the first time), swimming and having an otherwise lovely time with absolutely lovely people. What for most people would be an awesome little vacation, ends up being quite a bit of work for me. Let me explain. My instinct is to isolate (because I can be anxious and awkward  around people), or let loose by drinking alcohol. Being that I no longer drink, and I'm surrounded by nice people who I love, neither is an option. In this situation it is my job to learn to connect, to hang out, to have conversations, to be present. I can't tell you what a challenge this is for me! It feels like I'm using all my concentration and effort just to seem normal. And yet, I know I'm doing so much better in these situations than I ever have. I'm getting better, and it's obvious. Unloading shit just takes time.

A morning dove had made a nest right on top of a doorway at the beach house I stayed at over the last few days. It seemed like an unlikely spot for a nest, seeing as there was quite a bit of traffic as we all went in and out of the area. Every time I passed through that door I looked at the mother-bird, who was eyeing all of us intently. We all grew quite fond of her and ended up naming her the posh, English name Margaret Daisy due to her Morning Dove-initials.

Perhaps a bit sappy, but I think about Margaret Daisy now as a metaphor for my own life. I'm in the middle of quite a bit of traffic, as I'm trying to nurture something fragile: my sanity and my health. The job that I've chosen as a person who likes to isolate and has addictive tendencies is not the easiest. But like Margaret Daisy, I've surrounded myself with good people who I can trust, (even if we're both still eyeing them suspiciously...). Also like M.D., I have a roof over my head and a sense of serious purpose.

Below, are two pictures of Margaret Daisy and her eggs. I could make this ending superbly gooey by comparing her eggs to beautiful things I am hoping to hatch in my own life. But of course I won't. That would be supremely cheesy indeed.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It took me a little while to figure out why I was feeling so shitty today, but I finally got it. I'm simply feeling sad. I'm grieving. I'm still so unused to allowing myself to feel my feelings, that I find it hard to recognize them. I'm getting quicker though. Today it took me a bit more than an hour. In the past it used to take weeks. Years actually. Plus I needed help. Now I can figure it out on my own.

As I was walking through Prospect Park, coming back from the library this afternoon, I watched people setting up their barbeque/picnic spreads, with 90's-style sunny R&B tunes blasting in the background. You know the type where some Jamaican dude comes on every once in a while and does a feel-good rap-bit. Man, I so couldn't relate. It reminded me of a woman who approached me a couple of years back after my record-release show. (A show I am still very proud of..) She suggested to me after my performance that I should write happier songs. I can't remember my reply. I probably just felt uncomfortable.. If I could travel back in time into that situation right now, my reply would be this: I can't. And frankly, I don't want to.

But that was then. Recently, I do find myself searching for happier chords on my guitar. It feels good to realize that there's a natural evolution that happens in songwriting, that mirrors the emotional terrain one is exploring at any given time. The album that I'm recording right now has some seriously dark, hypnotic moods, and I feel thrilled about the prospect of performing them. It feels honest, it feels real. And dark doesn't necessarily mean depressing. It can be powerful and uplifting to some. It certainly is to me.

I've come from a dark place, but it doesn't mean that I am a dark person. I just feel compelled to express my emotions honestly while I have them. Tomorrow my emotions will change and evolve, and then I will create something different. Perhaps happier songs will come, but they will come in their own time.

Today, I will honor my sadness, although it is not my intention to wallow in it. I'm making myself my favorite comfort food: mashed potatoes, and I may even drink a hot chocolate afterwards. If you knew me well, you would know that that's some serious self-soothing right there.

“Tears are words that need to be written.”
― Paulo Coelho

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It may seem like a weird thing to say, but I'm new to friendships. Yes, I've had friends over the years, but to be honest, I haven't known how to be a good friend to anyone. Least of all myself. I haven't been capable of consistency, and most importantly, I haven't been able to trust anyone. Many people who I've chosen to be close to, and who I have attracted have also not been worthy of my trust, so that has added largely to my vicious cycle. Luckily, there have been one or two wonderful exceptions to this rule too.

At one point in my life, I lived under the illusion that I had many friends. With all of these people, I shared one common interest: alcohol. For me alcohol was the social lubricant I needed, and without it I wasn't really able to communicate with most people, though I didn't realize it then. For years I had thought of myself as a party girl, and I thought that my drunken conversations with people qualified as strong friendships. I was mistaken in both. When I ceased my "party life", I soon became aware of how unable I was to actually speak to, and to hang out with people. Subsequently, I withdrew into a cocoon. Only a handful of people were allowed in. Well, two people actually.

Now, after three and a half years of being dry/sober I am finally beginning to open up and let people in. But to me friendships are daunting! I have become so accustomed to being the lone wolf--the one who keeps her distance, the one who doesn't need anyone... It feels so much safer. I find most people terrifying!

But seriously. I have a number of new people in my life, and with most of them, my relationship is in a fragile, unfamiliar phase. I'm learning to communicate in a way that is not overwhelming or offensive to the other person, and to become consistent. The rules that I learned about relationships when I grew up no longer apply. Much of that was bullshit, and I'm learning a different way, baby steps. This is my opportunity to thank those friends who have remained in my life, despite my inconsistency and isolation, and those who are now coming into my life bringing new hope, support and love. With all of these people I wish to build deeper relationships than I've been capable of before. I think I'm ready now to be vulnerable, to be seen. Bit by bit, little by little.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you.”
A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh

Saturday, August 3, 2013

This week, I've become hyper-aware of how fast time passes. For a number of reasons... On the bright side, I just celebrated a relationship anniversary this week. On a darker note, in recent months, weeks and days I've heard news of three friends or acquaintances passing; all of them by their own hand.

I can understand the feeling of wanting to say to this world: "I quit." I have certainly been there for lengthy periods of time myself. But when you decide that suicide is not an option--what do you do? In my case, I decided to start fixing whatever was making me feel the way I was feeling. And yes, I'm still on that road. But I'm happy to say that these days quitting is the furthest thing from my mind.

Perhaps for that very reason, it has been extremely hard for me to hear of my friends who decided otherwise. Their passing reminds me of that dark place I once inhabited, and fought so hard to leave. For some strange reason I feel guilt for leaving them behind, even though in my heart of hearts I know I am not, nor ever was, responsible for anyone else's life but my own.

Today, I find life compelling, engaging, heartening, spectacular. Yes, there are moments, even days of devastation, but my overall outlook these days is quite different from what it was a few years ago. Tonight, I am thinking of my friends who possibly never got to see the beauty of this world quite like I see it now. In all honesty, I grieve for that, more than I even grieve their passing. 

Like Mark Twain said:

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Yesterday was a big day for me. I became an American citizen, after having lived in New York for 17 years = half of my life.  In all actuality I am now a proud Finnish-American dual citizen, as I am allowed to keep my Finnish passport too. Win-win.

I attended my Naturalization Oath Ceremony at the US District Court, where I sat for 3 1/2 hours in a freezing courtroom with 268 other immigrants, all of us hailing from 66 different countries. I pitied the clerk who had to try and pronounce each of our names--there were some serious tongue-twisters present.... Despite the long wait, it was for me an unforgettable event. One reason being that two people who I love dearly were present for me for the occasion. Together, (albeit not in the same room) we got to witness the inspiring speech delivered by the judge who swore the lot of us in. Another reason yesterday was extraordinary is this: I changed my name.

For the last 11 years I have carried the name Janita Maria Ervi--the last name adopted in marriage. A marriage, that has since ended in divorce. I use the word "carried" because the name has long been a heavy weight in my life, reminding me of a complicated past. As you may or may not know, becoming a citizen of the United States offers a very handy opportunity to change one's name. A famous example of this is Vito Andolini, the Godfather, as he immigrates to the US and becomes Vito Corleone. So what if it wasn't his personal what if he wasn't a living, breathing human being...the concept is true. On the citizenship-application they actually ask you if you would like to change your name. I heartily said yes.

My full name is now Janita Maria, and I will probably spend the next year or so changing my credit cards, passports, ID's, social security-information, etc. to update this info. As much as it is a pain in the ass to deal with the logistical aspect of it, it is also fucking powerful. Every aspect of this is a declaration of freedom. I now wear my own fucking name, people! From top to bottom, my own fucking name. If that's not empowering, I don't know what is.

So, here I am. One more piece fallen into place. One more obstacle cleared. One more thing crossed off the list. All of the work that it took to achieve my naturalization and my freedom is behind me now, and I can direct my attention to the next thing. But these are accomplishments I get to cherish daily, if I so wish. And why wouldn't I so wish?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On Thursday I recorded my first tracks on electric guitar, ever. I have a feeling we won't end up using any of it, because I will do it again and better next time...but just the act of doing it was powerful for me. Deciding which guitar to play on the recording, deciding on the sound and which effects to use--all of this is utterly new for me and thus, a wee bit scary.

There is something utterly intriguing about the electric guitar for me. So many of my musical heroes come to mind as playing it, which makes it admittedly a bit intimidating. Like, "who am I to try and join that group?" I've had my Fender Telecaster for two years now, yet almost always I've opted to play my acoustic guitar instead. I suppose it has seemed more approachable, less dangerous. I've had this voice within me, telling me that I have to be more serious and more skilled in order to play the electric, or some bullshit like that. This is not helpful. Also, it's not accurate.

Now, I'm trying to substitute the word 'scary' with 'exciting', to help me look at things from a different angle. As in, "this is new and thus Exciting, " as opposed to "this is new and thus scary." I try not to be so freaked out and remember that this is where I am, and that's enough. So what if I'm not where I want to be on the first try. I go home, practice a little more and come back better prepared.

I am now playing the electric guitar out of necessity, as no one would play my guitar parts quite like I do. And frankly, necessity is as good a reason as any. As long as something gets me to do it, to take that step forward. And all things said, I have a feeling that the electric guitar will be a big deal in my life. It's not scary, it is Exciting!

"Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out. "
--Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I've been taking a bit of a hiatus from making my record for the last couple of months, due to a number of things. I've had ongoing projects that have needed my full attention, I've been out of town, and also my producer Blake Morgan has been occupied with mixing and mastering and subsequently releasing his own album. (Fantastic record, by the way...!)

This week I am finally returning to the production of my album--easing into it. I was a little worried about listening to the material after what feels like a long break, but to my relief I found that there was no reason for my trepidation. I still feel very connected to these songs that I've written, and look forward to continuing from where I left off. I did however feel a momentary twinge of "oh my god. these songs are so much heavier than anything i've done before...can i pull this off?" It took only a second, and the answer came to me: Fuck yeah.

Heaviness is relative. I am certainly not making a rock record here--instead, there are other ways in which music can pack a punch. I feel like I've come to a point where the weight of my experiences in life is evident in my voice, my musical choices, and also in my lyrics. I may laugh at this comment when I'm fifty, with way more miles under my belt, but already now I can say that I truly love the marks that life leaves on artists and their art. I love what time has done to mine.

I do have a keen sense of time passing, and a sense of urgency that's constantly knocking at me from within. A push towards accomplishment and an urge to get ahead, to succeed. I am not sure yet whether this is a character defect that I should work on--a brand of unpeacefulness and impatience--or is this perhaps healthy ambition? I suppose I'll figure it out in time. Nevertheless, I strongly identify with the quote below. I can't wait to get back to work.

“Everything in life comes to you as a teacher. Pay Attention. Learn Quickly.” ~Cherokee saying

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I landed back home in New York yesterday, after a two-week trip to Finland, with a brief stint in Barcelona in between. New York is swelteringly hot right now, but I'm glad to be back, ready to continue on with my work and life routines.

This was most definitely the best time I've had in Finland ever since I left 17 years ago. During this trip I became aware of how much I've changed within a year--unbelievably for the better. I have a newfound serenity that I can rely on, even when faced with challenging situations or painful truths. Serenity to me is not something permanent, once attained. Instead it is a state of mind that requires constant work to maintain. But I have found some sliver of it and it's already changing my experience of life and people.

"People will treat you how you allow them to treat you," said a friend of mine in a conversation upon my arrival back to New York. I believe this to be true, and it absolutely is my experience when it comes to my recent encounters in Finland. During my trip I found myself in social situations quite different from how they would have panned out in the past. Sure, I took a few missteps too while I was there, but I am learning to take them as part of the journey. The big picture is overwhelmingly positive. Not to mention that out of this trip I will have a gorgeous new music video!

I am tired, but content and I feel more peaceful than ever about the future. The skills that I've acquired in recent years in handling my life are allowing me to take bigger and better steps forward in my career also. All life-skills are connected to each other, and trips back home are a real thermometer for me about how far I've come. This time was utterly different. And for this, I feel very grateful on a Sunday-afternoon, 7th of July, 2013.

“It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I'm sitting on the floor of the studio in Poblenou, Barcelona, where I am working with two brilliant artists Charlie Harjulin (director, visionnaire extraordinaire, camera man) and Margarita Leonore (filmmaker, art director, master puppeteer/puppetmaker). We are making a music video for a new song of mine, Traces Upon Your Face, and my role is to be a volunteer assistant: helping out with lighting, simple puppeteering, props and filming the "Making Of" on an iPhone. Charlie and Margarita are filming a scene as I write this, and I'm taking a short break to share this experience with you, and to press it into my own memory in writing. I don't know if I need any help in that department actually... This is bound to be, and already is an utterly unforgettable experience.

Sidenote: my song has been playing in the background constantly for the two days that I've spent here. So far it has apparently played 369 times (!!!) on Charlie's computer. This takes some dedication, people...!

Despite the fact that I'm in Barcelona for the first time and won't be able to do much of the classic tourist-stuff here due to being at the studio from morning to evening, I do not feel the least bit deprived. I consider it such a privilege to be able to witness and to assist in the extraordinary work that Charlie and Margarita are doing. Together they have created a magical, haunted forest on top of a square surface supported by three tables; all materials found on the street and in local nature. In that enchanted forest, a curious yet timid puppet we have collectively named Miloš, experiences a number of disturbing incidents that test his courage and his will. Judging by the footage created so far, this is to be a very special and emotional video.

I love that the music that I currently make lends itself to such beautiful artistic interpretation. I also love that this project gives me the chance to connect with my friend Charlie, who I've known ever since I was 5 years old. Once upon a time we were childhood sweethearts! It is heartening to find an artistic kindred spirit after all these years of knowing each other.

There are moments when I feel especially grateful for having kept treading my path--this is one of them. To work with other artists on such a high level is inspiring and fulfilling in a way that I had never imagined. I eagerly await to share with you the finished product some time in the coming months!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

This is the second blog I've written on a plane from New York to Helsinki. I was just trying to sleep, but all of a sudden got a serious case of restless legs... Fuck. I could crawl out of my skin right now. And I'm sure I'm annoying the heck out of the dude sitting next to me by fidgeting... I can't sleep and I'm tired as hell. Frustrating combo.

Anyway, here I am--once again, headed to my home country Finland. I am a different woman from who I was when I last visited a year ago, and I look forward to seeing how that will change my experience... The biggest change in me I think is boundaries. I have boundaries now and a clearer sense of what I want and what I don't want. I know that my buttons will be pushed on this trip, as usual, over and over again. After all, Finland is where my buttons were installed..! But I kinda look forward to the challenge now. I look forward to dealing with situations and people in a different way. I think I may even have a really good time! I will also take a brief trip to Barcelona next weekend to work on a music video, which I will write about in my next week's blog for sure.

There's a saying: 'once you stop pleasing people, people stop being pleased.' I have a feeling I may have a bit of that ahead of me on this trip. I am not so malleable and moldable anymore; I am not a pushover. That may initially rub some people the wrong way...

I feel like I travel back to Finland for the first time as an adult, as weird as that sounds. I know that challenges await, but right now I don't feel scared about it. Even in my tired state I look on all of this as an exciting challenge. This 'being an adult'-thing....I'm starting to like it..!

I have since landed in Helsinki and spent some quality time with a part of my family. Particularly two young children that I love immensely. Man, this feels different already! I've never felt as peaceful here..! Never felt more connected and loving. This is a wonderful beginning.....

"Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasures."
--Edwin Louis Cole

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This week gave me an opportunity to discover strength within me that I never knew I had. I gained the experience of being the rock for someone else to lean on (for a change)--a position that I've never truly been in before. My instinct in the past has been to tell the other person what to do while they've been in the middle of their pain, instead of listening and allowing them to feel whatever they were feeling (which is what would have actually been helpful). Perhaps I was too scared of their feelings, because I didn't know how to handle my own? Well, this time was different. This time I was able to trust that simply being present, warm and understanding would be enough.

I'm not freaked out by other people's pain or problems anymore like I used to be. Having begun to come to terms with my own tragedies, and also having heard a lot of fucked up life-stories from other people, I've come to understand that we all have our burdens to carry in this world. I'm realizing that I don't have to carry other people's baggage--it is not my job. It is enough for me to carry my own. But I can be of support and I can give love.  And every once in a while I can be Sam to someone else's Frodo, if needed.  It is quite a privilege.

“Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Saturday, June 8, 2013

I was in need of a story like this today. I hope it lifts the spirits of someone else as well...

Abraham Lincoln never quits.

Born into poverty, Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout his life. He lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown.

He could have quit many times – but he didn’t and because he didn’t quit, he became one of the greatest presidents in the United States history.

Here is a sketch of Lincoln’s road to the White House:

1816 His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
1818 His mother died.
1831 Failed in business.
1832 Ran for state legislature – lost.
1832 Also lost his job – wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in.
1833 Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
1834 Ran for state legislature again – won.
1835 Was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
1838 Sought to become speaker of the state legislature – defeated.
1840 Sought to become elector – defeated.
1843 Ran for Congress – lost.
1846 Ran for Congress again – this time he won – went to Washington and did a good job.
1848 Ran for re-election to Congress – lost.
1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state – rejected.
1854 Ran for Senate of the United States – lost.
1856 Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention – get less than 100 votes.
1858 Ran for U.S. Senate again – again he lost.
1860 Elected president of the United States.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Summer is in full swing in New York, and I spent today wandering around Prospect Park and the Botanical Garden. I may even have fallen asleep on the Cherry Esplanade, where occasionally the wind would blow a scented breeze from the adjacent Cranford Rose Garden, in full bloom right now... Mmm....

I've been in denial about certain things about myself and my life, (quite sizable things actually...) and I'm waking up now. This week brought a couple of hard-core realizations, and it's been challenging, for sure.  There have been many levels of waking up within the last few years, for the sleep was deep. Kind of like a real-life "Inception." I don't know which level I'm at right now, but I am certainly more awake than ever. And part of that awake-ness is knowing when I simply need a day amidst the flowers and the trees.

I'm creating a new life for myself. The Janita from a couple of years back would be in awe of the Janita today. A day like today would have been impossible for me then, as I wouldn't have been peaceful enough to enjoy it. And this in the middle of quite a lot of turmoil... But I'm proud of having given myself today the gift of unscheduled time and relaxation. I am learning that I deserve it.
With gratitude, I send you summer vibes from Brooklyn.

“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
― Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I am feeling tired, but very content. I got back to New York City last night at 3am from my mini-tour of Philadelphia, Wilmington DE, and Annapolis MD, and I'm happy to say that it was a huge success! As I've been mentioning a few times in my posts and recent blog-entries: these were the concerts where I played guitar on stage for the first time in my life! I exceeded all my expectations in the end, despite having experienced a serious lack of belief in myself on Tuesday-night, the night before our tour started. In our final rehearsal before the tour I freaked out when I realized that there was so much stuff that I wasn't used to dealing with on stage... For a moment I doubted that I could do the performances at all.

I think that most people don't realize how much muscle memory goes into performing a song on stage when an artist is singing and playing guitar at the same time. I certainly hadn't thought of it myself. Naturally there's the matter of performing the music and making it sound beautiful, which I had been learning to do in recent months. But then there's all this other shit that hits you by surprise. Minor details, but stuff that's impossible to ignore:
1. The issue of the pedal tuner, which one has to learn to operate between songs. Not having the muscle memory yet, I find it challenging to speak to the audience and tune at the same time. Note to self: practice it at home!
2. Trying not to hit my teeth on the microphone. Ouch! Did that a number of times.... I'm used to having control of the mic with my hand(s); with the guitar, obviously my hands are otherwise occupied...
3. Counting off the songs. This one's tough for me as I've never really had to do it before. There's so much other stuff going through my head at that moment that it's hard to get a feel of the tempo of the song.
4. The technical stuff: chords and where to plug them to, volume and eq-knobs etc. In the end, all of it is easy and doesn't take long to learn, but it's frickin' daunting when doing it for the first time.

On Tuesday-night after my freak-out my mentor sat me down and told me to practice all this minor stuff when I got home. To really block what was going to happen in between songs in terms of tuning, using a pick/no pick, using a capo/no capo, and figuring out exactly what I would bring and where everything would be on stage. To know that I was in control of the minor details, so that I was to be able to deliver in the most important area: the performance itself. Foggy details can be what trips you up and make you forget the lyrics etc., and my mentor made sure that I was aware of this. And so I did practice; even if it was at the last minute. Thus, I was able to deliver to the best of my ability for three nights and perform what was probably the best performance of my life last night in Ram's Head, Annapolis.

Sometimes in concentrating on the big picture, we end up forgetting the little details that might make our lives that much easier. This was a great lesson, and I'm grateful I didn't have to learn it the hard way. I am extremely proud of myself for this huge step I have taken as a musician this week, and I can't wait to move forward with this new-found knowledge and ability.

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."
--John Wooden

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This will be a music-filled week for me, starting today, as I climb on the stage to sing backup for my good friend and label-mate Melissa Giges. We have found in rehearsals in recent weeks, that our voices blend together gorgeously, and we are actually continuing our collaborations all next week, as she will in turn sing backup and play keyboards for my three concerts in Philadelphia, Wilmington and Annapolis.

I've been going through a spiritual awakening for some months now. Not a religious one, mind you--I stress the word spiritual. I've been opening myself up to trust and believe in the logos... Here's the Free Dictionary's definition that fits my thoughts:

"In Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos; nous. Identified with God, it is the source of all activity and generation and is the power of reason residing in the human soul."

The reason why I bring this up is that I actually had some sort of spiritual experience, as I was singing and playing guitar in a rehearsal on Tuesday. The rehearsal itself was atrocious, hehe... The sound engineer didn't know what the fuck she was doing, and so our three-piece band had to deal with microphones that were not working, some of them set up and not actually turned on at all, and a total lack of cohesive sound amongst the three of us. Really fucking bad. But, nevertheless, I had a frickin' spiritual experience. I felt a strong feeling of being in the right place at the right time; of doing what I am supposed to be doing on this Earth and a deep sense of peace. Short-lived, as feelings tend to be, but I felt it. Possibly unlike I ever have before.

Music has always been my saving grace and a rock that I've clung to.. But there has been a slight desperation to it, as it was for a long time my only true form of expression; it felt like my only close friend. Now it is no longer my only outlet, nor my only friend; instead it is showing a different facet of itself. Now that it is not merely filling a void in me, it is becoming a means for fulfillment and abundance; overflowing rather than merely life support.

We all like music, but what we really want is for music to like us.”
--Tom Waits

 Well, today I feel distinctly as if music likes me back.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The concept of fame has been on my mind quite a bit recently, because of a number of different encounters with it in my burgeoning social circles. My memory has thus been jolted, and I've considered my own relationship with it in my life...

My introduction to being famous came when I was 13, having just finished recording my first album. I think it was a Wednesday; I was going to school, but went to pick up the daily newspaper at the kiosk first, as I'd just done an interview for a publication a day or two before. I knew that I was to be written about in the newspaper, but as a complete unknown, I certainly wasn't expecting to be on the cover of it. And lo and behold, I was. My frickin' face--right there--for everyone to see. Something akin to "Fuck..!"went through my head when I saw it, and I felt a strong urge to hide and escape, in addition to stomach-churning excitement. I hadn't even told my classmates yet that I had recorded an album. It was actually quite embarrassing buying the paper. Suddenly I felt as if all eyes were on me.

In my experience, fame initially injects a large dose excitement into one's life. It's a real burst of adrenaline, though the euphoric nature of it passes rather quickly. It is perhaps drug-like in its nature, but living life being famous is quite different, I think. One adapts to it, and it becomes merely an aspect of one's life. An added layer, mostly neither good nor bad, just something to be dealt with. Often times, it is something to be navigated and taken into consideration, as people react to fame in different, unpredictable ways. Self-protection becomes increasingly important.

I can see that some people get caught up in fame, and need their dose of it regularly. I understand that. Personally, my addictions have been of a different sort. Not necessarily healthier, just different. Fame has always scared me more than it has ever beckoned me. Having experienced both the ups and downs of it at such an early age, I no longer have illusions about it. It's a mixed bag, and in the end, life is life for all of us. Our sense of normalcy is different, but our issues remain (if we don't work on them), whether we are famous or not. Fame itself solves nothing, and while there are many perks to it, I would say it can complicate things equally as much...

“Fame is a bee. / It has a song / It has a sting / Ah, too, it has a wing.”
 -Emily Dickinson

Saturday, May 4, 2013

One of the things that I cherish most in life is when I'm reading book that just envelops me... When I feel like I'm deep-sea-diving in a world that the author has created, and my present reality ceases to exist for the time being.

Some books are ingenious in that they invite you to move in, to inhabit their universe from the very first pages and hold you in their grip until the end. Some grow on you after a while. The book that I'm reading (and have been reading for some time now....), Emile Zola's The Ladies' Paradise, took it's time wrapping it's tendrils around my brain. For a long time it felt tedious: do I really have to know all these details about the decor and the employees and the advertising and the fabrics and the clothes and the names of the streets and the daily and the yearly incomes and the blardy-blar-blars....of the department store that all the action happens in? Do I really have to know all of this information about what the characters eat for lunch, and even what they decided not to eat that day..? So much of it felt inconsequential. But now that I have finally plunged head-first into this world of the 1800's, it's like I'm having a fricking love affair with it. I'm obsessed by it, I can't get enough of it, and I want to hear every little observation Mr. Zola could possibly make: the tiniest blush, a faltering, hesitating footfall, the sideways glance, and yes, even any seemingly meaningless decor-detail he might think of. Bring it on! The only trouble is, I'm swiftly running out of pages to read...

Such joy art can bring. Even though one is unable in music to weave a story such as the one I'm describing, I have certainly inhabited and been sucked into many a song in my lifetime. And at best, full albums. Those are the true pieces of art in my opinion, where one is able to see the world, for a moment, through the eyes and ears of another person, the artist.

This is what I as an artist aspire to do. To give so much of myself in my music, that for a moment the listener will have an opportunity to inhabit the world as I see/hear it. We bring our own shit wherever we go and whatever we do, this is true; but in my experience some pieces of art, much like an orgasm, allow us to forget everything else, even for just a moment.  That, my friends, is what I would call success!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I'm under the covers, sick with a flu. I had a horrific, albeit hugely liberating realization this week about my life, but it was a little more than my body could handle in one go....

Ever since I started digging in the dirt, trying to find out what happened to me to make my life what it had become, I've often felt like I'm trying to solve a riddle, a case, a detective story of sorts. A number of times I have already felt like I'd figured out "whodunnit", but this week proved to me that I still had more left to uncover. I feel like I'm at the crux of it now though, and that perhaps I have now solved the case..? Except, who knows... Judging by my earlier experiences, there's always more. A sub-plot maybe? One that I didn't realize existed before?

But the story goes on. I am still alive and the adventure continues. It's a different story now, as I, the main character, see the other characters quite unlike I ever saw them before.... My road leads towards bigger and better things, (and once I get over this flu) I am stronger and more clear-headed than ever.

Bad news can be good news, if it reveals a truth long concealed. The truth was there all along anyway; I was just not ready to see it yet. I see it now. I do.

"Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear."
Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, April 20, 2013

These next couple of months will be a time of much growth for me as a musician. In addition to my own 3-city mini-tour in May, I will also be singing backing vocals for my label-mate and friend Melissa Giges at a concert here in New York. Plus, in June I'll be taking the stage with another artist and close friend of mine. Lots of cool stuff, for which I am already learning valuable new skills!

Now that I'm starting to collaborate with other artists, I'm realizing how little of that I've actually done in my 20-year career in the music business. I was very isolated before, both in my life and my career, but I am decisively changing that now, as I am finally in full control of my lifework... It is really fun now to feel like my label-mates are also becoming a kind of chosen family for me. We all help each other out in each others' projects, and I think we are all growing rapidly from the collaborations.

I was speaking to a successful artist-friend of mine last summer about how hard it is to become close friends with other artists. The separation had always been each of our experience, and together we were wondering why that was: jealousy, competition, what? In my case, I've found some answers now, almost a year later. In learning to trust myself and my personal boundaries more and more, I am increasingly willing myself to let people get closer to me. So my problem wasn't really with other artists, it was with people in general.

Yes, many of us creative types come from challenging family-backgrounds and that may create complicated personality traits. But I've found that once I started working on my own "character defects", making friends and getting closer to other people, artists or non-artists, has become easier all the time. Thus, I am now able to tap into a highly precious resource: collaborations..! My theme for today is conveniently dramatized below in a scene from Bugs Bunny:

Elmer Fudd: "There's something screwy around here!"
Bugs Bunny: "Eh, could be you, Doc.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I've just spent the whole day shooting a Finnish TV-show, and I have to say, I'm exhausted! I've never done a show quite like this before, and the day was full of firsts. Man, learning new stuff can be tiring...! I feel pretty proud of myself though, as I think I was more myself than I've ever been with the cameras rolling. I've always been really anxious and nervous when I've done TV, and this felt quite different. The film crew was a fun group of people and I felt quite relaxed and in my own element. I'm sure there's always room for improvement, but I do think I would actually recognize myself on this show. Nice!

The crew and I will continue tomorrow for another full day, thus I'll keep my blog on the short side, as I want to make sure I get the rest I so obviously need. It's a matter of experience though: things do get a lot easier (and less fatiguing) the more you do them. I do hope that there are many more projects like this in my future. For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I enjoy doing it. Perhaps it is because for the first time in my life I am ready for it. 

"The readiness is all"
--William Shakespeare, Hamlet and Christopher Nolan, Dark Knight Rises

Saturday, April 6, 2013

For the last year or so, I've been getting together monthly for 'Artist Night' with two friends of mine: one a poet, the other a musician and recording artist. In these get-togethers we have been sharing with each other our most recent oeuvres, whether in poetry, music or other area of art, followed by discussion, constructive criticism and/or workshopping. I owe a great debt of gratitude to these friends for helping me with a number of lyrical and structural choices in the songs on my upcoming album. They have truly been helpful to me, as I believe, I have also been to them.

These Artist Nights have become a dreaded and revered monthly occurrence for each of us, as they push us to create and subsequently present our new creations to each other. These are often still in a vulnerable, raw phase... I myself have written a number of songs specifically because of the pressure of wanting to perform something new for my two friends. But, this is a very good sort of pressure. Also, in this room, I fear not getting hurt or ridiculed, as I trust both of these artists immensely. There is a feeling of equality and mutual respect, without which this sort of thing would in fact not even work.

Last night's Artist Night was different for me. I decided to bring into the room a new challenge I am facing. After performing for my whole artistic life as a vocalist only, I am now taking the steps to become a singer-songwriter who plays guitar (and piano) on stage. This perhaps seems like a simple transition, but it is actually...well...a Thing. I am so used to moving, dancing, swaying, flinging my arms around, crouching, grabbing the mic, the microphone stand, or both.... But now, with the guitar, doing any of that stuff looks distracting, in addition to mostly being impossible anyway. But this I wasn't quite so aware of before last night.

After performing a song to my friends last night, they helpfully expressed to me that swaying and moving like I do with the guitar is not such a great idea. Hehe... As I've practiced at home, it had not occurred to me that my movements on stage will be severely limited by the microphone, which will not be moving with me when I play the guitar. Also, apparently it looks kinda weird.... I tried it over, this time with a mic and a stand, and it started looking a hell of a lot better.

My point here is two-fold. One: there's a lot more to think about than one would expect, when it comes to the simple act of starting to play an instrument on stage. I have much to learn. The second point is this: how awesome to have friends helping me along the way..! How wonderful it is to finally trust others; how rewarding it is to be brave enough to give and to receive. It has taken much emotional work on my part to open myself up like this to other people, but I'm thankful that I have. The world in my eyes is friendlier than it has ever been.

“You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I am learning to become a more effective person. I've been working on this for a while now, but was starting to hit a wall recently, because I hadn't learned to prioritize. Responsibilities, activities and aspirations had gradually started accumulating in my life, and I was beginning to feel quite overwhelmed by them. I felt as if there was nothing more I could add to my schedule, and yet more stuff was getting tacked on all the time. And hopefully, I ain't even seen nothing yet!

Enter Priorities. Turns out it isn't enough to be a good planner and to schedule my days. I need to learn how to prioritize too. Why do they not teach this stuff in school? (Or do they..?) Seems to me a pretty important lesson. I am two days into this project, hehe... But trust me, my Priority is to master this..! There simply aren't enough hours in a day to try to cram everything into one. There must be a conscious, intelligent mind at work in planning how to make it all work.

Learning to prioritize is how I find myself surfing (!) My father would be proud. Maybe.
I found a really cool article on the site, with 10 'life-changing' quotes by Stephen Covey, the author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." Ok, so they aren't all about prioritizing, but all of it is good stuff. Here they are, the 10 quotes--for your reading pleasure, and hopefully, some inspiration.

1)      The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

2)      The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

3)      Live out of your imagination, not your history.

4)      Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the     foundational principle that holds all relationships.

5)      Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

6)      I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

7)      You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

8)      I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.

9)      Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions. So love her.

10)   Live, love, laugh, leave a legacy.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Back in the "good old days" it used to be that artists would mostly make themselves seem unattainable, mysterious, larger than life... The machine surrounding artists deemed it to be in an artist's best interest to appear a distant star; cooler than thou, better than thou. Artists were treating interviews as platforms to further their agenda, but would avoid speaking about anything deeper or more personal than that. A strict wall existed between the audience and the artist, behind which who knows what happened.

I became an artist in this atmosphere. My team went one step further: in addition to not speaking about anything personal in my interviews, I was told not to even reveal my last name. Apparently this was for my protection, but in hindsight it seems laughable to me. My guess is that the powers that be were trying to make me into some kind of mythical creature, and this was one facet of the 'well planned and thought-out image' that they were trying to create for me. Well, mythical creature I am not. In any given entry of my blog this must be exceedingly clear.

This week I saw a cute video circulating on Facebook, in which Zooey Deschanel was singing and playing guitar with her friend. The clip had apparently been filmed on Skype, and was obviously captured in someone's, possibly Zooey's home. This is the kind of intimate access many, if not most artists allow these days. The times, they certainly are a-changing. The walls are coming down and we are starting to see that these once so mysterious people live much like everyone else.

So, in many cases in the artist-world today, glamour be gone. This job isn't necessarily particularly glamorous to begin with, and now the audiences are getting to see it. I personally think this is a healthy state of affairs. There is a different kind of glamour in getting back to basics and really connecting with people. I don't think that any specialness is being lost here--I find this climate way more interesting for both artist and the audience. I too am much more drawn to an artist like Tom Waits who allows access to who he is, than for example someone like Michael Jackson. (Although perhaps in that case access would have been hugely frightening.....)

I too am sharing much more of myself publicly than I ever thought would be appropriate as an artist. Moving forward on this path forces me to internalize this simple truth, as I get challenged again and again: who I am is enough. And I'll add to that: where I'm at is enough. Without that knowledge, true openness and sharing, and therefore progress too, would be impossible.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

In some ways, I am leading the life of a student these days. I am quite possibly living much like I would have, in my late teens, had I not dropped out of high school and moved to New York to pursue an artist career. I have for a while now been studying math for my GED test, and I'm making good progress, as I work on it on most days. I will also be making gradual advances toward getting my driver's license (!!!), and this week I got myself some reading materials from the DMV. I must first study to get my learner's permit. Hehe...easy does it.

My life centers much around learning these days. I'm learning about myself, the world, people, science, music, becoming an adult, being name it. In many areas, I have pretty much started from scratch. But in all of this, one realization is becoming very clear, and that is the importance of having a great teacher. Yes, I teach much of what I'm learning to myself. But this wouldn't be happening had there not been a catalyst--someone who believed in me and my intelligence. For that is what a great teacher does: he/she makes you believe that you can learn, that you can understand, you can overcome. This person for me has significant other. Were it not for him, I might never have discovered all this beauty that I'm discovering within myself, day after day. 

I know. It's kinda hard to follow that up with anything else, but nevertheless I will; for I want to talk about my growing passion for math, a subject I used to detest back in high school. My enthusiasm is due to another great teacher, Salman Khan, who's the creator of He's the one responsible for "a library of over 4,000 videos on everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and hundreds of skills to practice, to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace." I am absolutely in love with this guy. Had math been taught to me in this way back when I was in school, I would have grown up thinking that I'm a smart gal; which would have been accurate. Lousy teachers make for lousy students.

All we need is someone to support us, to encourage us and to excite us. Once the thirst for knowledge has been sparked, there's no quenching it.

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I was overjoyed to receive an email this week, saying that I had been awarded a grant from the Finnish Music Foundation (MES) to help with the costs of my upcoming album. The fact that I've been living in New York for the last 17 years is possibly a bit of a deterrent for those on the deciding panel, which is why I am even more thrilled and grateful for this acknowledgement of my work.

Ironically, after all these years spent in the US, I'm feeling more and more connected to my home country Finland these days. As my self-knowledge and understanding has grown, so has my sense of belonging, when it comes to both Finland and the States. As I feel more at home within myself, I can also feel at home with my surroundings, along with my past and my present.

I am, and will always be very much a Finn: I (still) have an accent when I speak English, I have many Finnish characteristics and mannerisms, my music is dripping with Finnish melancholy, my family of origin resides in Finland, etc., etc. But I do notice these days, whenever I visit my family and friends in Helsinki, how much I am also a New Yorker. American too, but first and foremost, a New Yorker.

Right now, my floor is littered with paperwork for my US citizenship. I've been collecting the required documents gradually for a while now, and I'm just missing the finishing touches before I send this thing in... I have now spent half of my life in the States, and am applying for dual citizenship. The time is right.

The thought of being both American and Finnish is quite thrilling to me. Having felt like an outsider my whole life, I am now decidedly bear-hugging my duality. I am embracing my heritage, but also my current home, and I'm proud of how they both have shaped me.

Getting back to where I started: receiving a grant from Finland is like balm to my old wounds. A divide that has existed ever since I left all those years ago is being mended. As I take root in myself, I take root in both of my home countries.
There's a saying in Finnish: "Niin metsä vastaa kuin sinne huudetaan."
Literally translated: "The forest answers in the same way one shouts in it."
Hehe, the colloquialisms always tickle me... My point is, I'm feeling like I'm being bear-hugged in return. Thank you.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The life of an artist requires a lot of skills that one doesn't perhaps knowingly sign up for. Many of us artists have a calling for making beautiful melodies, writing compelling and cathartic lyrics and singing them, loaded with emotion. I think it may then come as a shock to many an artist, how important purportedly vain things like photo-shoots turn out to be; how imperative it is to be interested and knowledgeable about the visual aspects of one's career. Those skills may not originally come naturally for many of us....

I have grown into the visual part of my career relatively slowly. I think I've always had a talent and an eye for it, but I haven't trusted myself enough to consider myself literate in it. I used to be too worried about other people's perceptions to really listen to my gut feeling, and to follow my innate vision. This insecurity has been confounded by having had a number of bad experiences in photo-shoots with either make-up artists, stylists or photographers; and any combination thereof. Thus it was my pleasure this week to be helping out an artist-friend of mine with her photo-shoot. Having found a more solid visual expression of my own in the recent years, it felt healing to extend a hand to help someone else.

I have found many photo-shoots traumatizing, for different reasons. I have some horror stories in my back-pocket about stylists who wished me to undress or dress skimpily for the cameras, and in some cases I unfortunately consented. No, you will not find any titty-shots of me on the internet, but certainly there are batches of photos existing of me, that I'm not particularly proud or fond of. The "SEX SELLS"-slogan, which was flung at me for years by record label executives did much to confuse me stylistically throughout the years... Especially as women are being hit with the same sentiment everywhere else in the world as well.

In addition to over-sexualization, stylists also fucked me in the ass in the past, by dressing me into a number of utterly different styles within a photo-shoot: no through-line, no point to the exercise. Those experiences left me to wonder at the end of them: who the hell am I? Is my identity really meaningless in all of this? Wasn't this supposed to be a photo-shoot aimed for the promotion of My album? Who the fuck are they to mold me?

Developing a sense of personal style should be a fun exercise for anyone. It's creative, it's a chance to get to know oneself, and it's also an opportunity to affect the impression that other people have of us when they first encounter us. In my opinion, no one should or can do this work for us. In my recent forays into styling for other artists, I have tried to encourage their finding their own vision, and then helping them achieve it. I have found it an exhilarating experience watching others find their own answers and express themselves as they are, not as I would like them to be. I wish that I would have had similar kind of assistance myself as I was growing into my profession, but helping others is proving to be an opportunity to heal some of my own wounds too.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I am excited that I'll be performing on three consecutive days in May: in Philly, Wilmington (DE) and Annapolis (MD), as the opener for my friend James McCartney. These gigs will be the first steps of promoting my new album, which I am currently working on in the studio. In fact, I recorded my first (non-scratch) guitar-tracks on Thursday--an important stepping stone in my artistic life..!

I see this as the beginning of a completely new phase in my career. I am to take the stage in May as a guitarist as well as a singer, and it's an exhilarating thought. To even call myself a guitarist is a huge leap for me--one that fills me with (cautious) pride. I am actually in the process of buying myself a second acoustic guitar, this one with a pickup, so I can play on stage. (!!!) I looks like I'm serious about this. Wait...I am!

I'm starting to see myself in a different way: more accurately I suppose. For a long time in my artistic life, I wasn't encouraged to think of myself as a "real" musician, by the powers that be. I was made to believe rather, that I was mostly just the face and a voice, and that I needed others to write and produce and be the "real" artist in my stead. This, when I was actually writing most of my music anyway.(!) Well, I am no longer under any such misconception. I am a real artist; I am a real musician, and I do not have to rely on anyone else when it comes to songwriting or artistic vision. It is all in me, always was. I know this now. Can't nobody take it away from me.

“I seem to have run in a great circle, and met myself again on the starting line.” 
―Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I am refreshed by a sensation of things happening at the right pace, at the right time, without a feeling of being rushed. When it comes to music, there is often an urge to hurry, to want to get the new songs out there the moment they are remotely close to being done. There's an innate urgency and impatience to release the new material without figuring out a good action plan first. That, I feel, has been one of the biggest pitfalls of my career: the rushing of things; the not planning things well enough in advance. This time I don't want to make that mistake.

The music business has changed. This is not news for anyone, I'm sure. I personally am still struggling to find my trusty avenues through which to discover great new music and artists, now that TV and radio are no longer part of my life regularly. The internet is still largely a wild west as far as  I'm concerned, and I'm sure many of you have a similar experience. But let's face it, the internet is where it's all at these days, and sooner or later I, like everyone else, will find our niches within it. What is becoming clear to me is that a lot of the rules of the music business, and the many ways in which music was marketed in the old days aren't relevant anymore. Us artists have to be innovative and smart about how we go about introducing and sharing our music with the world.

I had a meeting with my record label (ECR Music Group) and my labelmates this week, at which we discussed how we will go about the releases of our albums during this year and the next.  Following the conversation I am surprised to find myself excited like never before about the new landscape of the music business. What may to major labels be an atmosphere of unsustainable, diminishing returns is to an independent label an environment full of promise. The music business these days is evolving day by day into something completely new, and to tie all of this together: so am I.

I love this feeling of not being rushed. I finally have the opportunity to take my time to learn and grow as I'm in the process of creating my new album, without a feeling of someone breathing down my neck. I also have a chance to make sure my new music is released in a smart way and at the right time in this new, evolving musical landscape. Most of all, I want to make sure that it's the right time for me, and that I am ready. And I will be, unlike I ever have been before.

I feel like Rocky in the meat-locker right now.. I'm preparing myself for the fight, getting into the best shape I can be. I'm not there yet, but I'm happy this time to take my time to do it right.  I'll let the stars align...

"Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance."
--Cowboy Proverb

Saturday, February 9, 2013

On Wednesday-night I was privileged to join a close friend of mine, Robin Morgan, at the Red Carpet Premiere of the documentary "MAKERS: Women Who Make America", that will be premiering on PBS on February 26th.  The movie "tells the story of the women's movement through the firsthand accounts of the leaders, opponents, and trailblazers who created a new America in the last half-century." Robin is one of these trailblazers and is interviewed in the film and on the I feel very lucky to have access to her brilliant mind and to have gained her friendship.

I proudly call myself a feminist. It seems that these days, many young women and men (and quite noticeably artists and actors), distance themselves from the word, because of the way it has been tainted in the media. I think that because of bad propaganda, a lot of us these days misunderstand the meaning of feminism. Here is what Wikipedia says:

"Feminism is the set of all the various movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending how women should be treated and what rights, power, and opportunities women should be allowed to have. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment."

Feminism thus is about equality. Equal rights for men and women: equal pay for the same jobs, in contract law, property, and voting, bodily integrity, autonomy, and reproductive rights, among other things. I personally don't understand how anyone could oppose these rights..! But oppose them they do. Here is what Hillary Clinton said in the 1995 UN Conference on Women:

"If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely -- and the right to be heard."

As a woman who has been abused in a number of ways, and silenced by men in the past, I have taken this issue very close to my heart.

I am a heterosexual woman and I love men. One in particular. Being a feminist does not mean that I shit on men or that I want women to take over the world. Nope. It is merely equality that I am after. And this documentary, Makers, is a great reminder for us younger women, who didn't live through the time of the Women's Movement, that the rights that we currently have are not to be taken for granted, even if they are our "inalienable rights." Our rights were hard-fought, and the stories of the battles are shocking to hear in this day and age... If we want to keep the the status quo and further advance towards equality in the world, we need to continue fighting.  Both men and women.  It is in all of our best interests that woman is equal to man in society, and the work is not yet done. I will certainly do my part, and I salute everyone who brought us where we are.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's easy to forget that your objective was to drain the swamp."

I've had a great, but challenging week. It seems that with every new push that I make towards expansion and empowerment in my life, there is an almost equal force trying to push me back; all of this happening in my head and in my body, of course... It's that "two steps forward, one step back"-phenomenon, so familiar to many of us. It is frustrating, because some part of me always tends to think that I land back in square one, every time I take a step back...But in my heart, I know that it is not so. As I learned recently, what actually happens, is 'recycling.' A cyclical process of healing: cycling upwards on a spiral (as opposed to downwards). It is just that certain parts of the cycle can still be...well...complicated.

Sometimes, on my journey, I have moments of disbelief and exhaustion: how can there still be so many realizations, about my life, my family, my past? Am I finally nearing the end? When will it get easier? Will it get easier? I suppose these are the moments that I'm up to my ass in alligators and it's hard to focus... But, if I look back, even to a year ago from today, I can see a massive positive difference in my life. I'm a different woman, for crying out loud!

As I was agonizing over the amount of heavy-duty realizations yesterday, a mentor of mine had this to say: "I hope that you will never stop having realizations. You don't want to have a boring life, do you?" Hell no, of course not. I just hope that it gets a little easier to handle them. And to be honest, even judging by my experience, it does. It's just a matter of remembering what the objective was, and where I'm going. It's not a step back, it's a new level.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

“Every habit he's ever had is still there in his body, lying dormant like flowers in the desert. Given the right conditions, all his old addictions would burst into full and luxuriant bloom.”
― Margaret Atwood

This week's big realization is this: I am genetically wired to be an addict. It  sure does explain many things.... All throughout my life, I have been addicted to various things; perhaps not aware of them as being addictions, but on closer look, that is what they are. It's like a friend of mine described it: it doesn't matter if you switch the thing you're addicted to. It's like changing seats on the Titanic. You know you're going down anyway.

I've been kicking bad habits and addictions these last few years; working hard at it every single day. I realize now, that this is always going to be a part of who I am, although apparently it does get easier. It already has.

When a big piece falls into place like this in my life, there's a sense of relief. Reality and knowledge is liberating, truly. What is painful is when I'm not clear about what's going on--when life is abstract and confusing. The realization about my addictive nature brings me one peel of the onion closer to the core. And the closer to the core one gets, the smaller the peels--ain't that so? Somehow, one gets used to having to tackle tough issues. I guess it's like with anything you do: you get better at it all, with repetition.

But back to the beautiful Margaret Atwood-quote I started with... How I do identify with it..! The "right conditions" indeed push me over the edge, even now. My old addictions are attempting to bloom, and it is my duty not to water them. How hard it is--to break old patterns. Addiction is a more complicated issue than I once thought. Understanding my own relationship with it and seeing the trait in myself so clearly gives me a lot of compassion towards others dealing with the same problem. To any of you fighting the big fight against addiction--I salute you. We shall overcome.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


The trouble with having been a doormat for so long is that there is a lot of pent up hurt and anger. A lot of the time the people who have caused this anger are not aware of it, as I've been silent about it so long.

So. This week I finally spoke up.
Except the result wasn't quite what I imagined. Or in some ways, it totally was.

I suffered a loss this week. A loss of friendship, a loss of partnership. Only because I finally spoke up. For a reason, might I add. Yes, I may have come off a little harsh, but in a healthy situation, concerns can and will be discussed in a healthy way and thus friendship and/or partnership can continue. Such is not the case in all situations.

Some dances we dance with others can only be danced in a specific way. There is no room for added choreography or changes. It is a painful, aching realization, that not every situation can be remedied by reasoning. And thus, the next lesson to be learned, once again, is letting go.

I am proud of myself for stating my case. I am proud of myself for having the courage to stick up for myself. Still, I am not a dick and don't want to come off as one. I know I have some practicing to do before I learn to harness my power in the way that I aim to. But, like a friend of mine said, "if you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs." True dat.
"A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked." - Erich Segal