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.