alma interview

ALMA – Have U Seen Her?

Photography
Shanna Fisher (via FaceTime)

Finland’s latest cultural export is the vocal powerhouse ALMA. An iconic songstress who has bucked the trend of “bubble-gum pop” to usher in a new era of vulnerability within the modern pop scene. In her debut album Have U Seen Her? ALMA constructs a vivid world of love, heartbreak, and youthfulness through her poignant songwriting. ALMA is often compared to similar artists like Billie Eilish and Halsey. Before you write her off as another wannabe Billie Eilish, though, you should give Have U Seen Her? a listen. The debut album hits upon something raw, real, and relatable.

alma interview

After giving it a listen, it should become explicitly clear that ALMA isn’t trying to be anybody but herself. In speaking candidly about the album, ALMA describes it as being a body of work which encapsulates her desire to escape:

My childhood wasn’t very easy. Growing up with both of my parents poorly and struggling through school, I felt like I was invisible and didn’t have a voice a lot of the time.  I think that’s why at night I used to have this recurring dream that my sister and I ran away. We’d go to the same place every time, a fantasy land full of giant blue flowers, butterflies and pink mountains. I fell in love with that place and never wanted to wake up.

As I got older and the pressure of living in the public eye grew, that dream came back to me. The idea of running away, leaving everything and finding that quiet, calm, safe space replayed in my brain again and again, especially while I was making this album.”

Throughout the album, these themes of personal struggle, public pressure, and the desire for escapism run rampant. As songs like “King of the Castle” and “Find Me” depict this youthful desire to run away to a better place. While subsequent tracks are imbued with this brutal honesty about fame. Where she shies away from this “bubble-gum” approach to depicting her life in the spotlight. Instead, in songs like “LA Money,” ALMA unleashes hell upon those who’ve used her:

All these bitches want something from me / Got me fucked up on LA money.”

At this point, if you think that ALMA is done speaking her mind you would be dead wrong. As songs like “Bad News Baby” and “Loser” portray our heroine as unleashing a wave of emotions in regard to her personal struggles in relationships and with addiction:

I’m bad news baby / You can hear me on the radio / Bad news baby.”

Ooh, I got trouble in my DNA / Ooh, I got chaos running through my veins.”

All in all, ALMA’s authentic approach to songwriting is an admirable one. Even when she collaborates with others, like on “Worst Behaviour” ALMA’s voice is present, clear, and powerful. By adopting this genuine approach to the lyricism behind Have U Seen Her? ALMA has crafted a body of work that is not only empathetic to her listeners but is uniquely and unabashedly her.

Admittedly, ALMA’s uncouth approach to songwriting may alienate some but clearly, she doesn’t care. For her, these songs are a cathartic release. Which became explicitly clear during our forthcoming interview. ALMA chatted with us about how she uses her songwriting as a form of release. In the following interview, ALMA explained that her music acts as a form of therapy. Where she eloquently addresses her worries and anxieties. Admittedly, ALMA isn’t alone in these anxieties. Since speaking her truth, she’s become a rising star within the pop scene. As she’s been invited to collaborate with the likes of Charlie XCX and Miley Cyrus and been included in magazines like Teen Vogue and Nylon.

When considering Have U Seen Her? in totality, ALMA’s ability to craft emotionally immersive worlds through songwriting is truly unparalleled. As she progresses as an artist, what will be interesting is to see how her work evolves and grows over time. For the present, however, ALMA’s taking no prisoners and is poised to take over the pop scene as we know it.

alma interview

You just released your debut record Have U Seen Her? to the general public on May 15th. How do you feel now that the album is out?
I feel relieved. It’s crazy that it’s finally out! And I’m very proud of myself! But I’m also super inspired to make more music. I thought I would be done with being in the studio by this point but no, the release made me just wanna keep on going!

Jumping straight into the album, your latest single “LA Money” is this candid and raw type of track that really grabs listeners. Where do you find the courage to write about topics so personal and honest?
I think I’m just ready to talk about stuff that makes me anxious or mad! I used to hide my feelings for a while because I was scared of them but it’s so much easier to just allow my thoughts in and write about them! It’s my therapy! And by speaking, we change the world, I think!

During the writing process, artists can choose to write with a team or go at it solo. In previous interviews, I’ve seen you’re extremely adamant that you’re the head writer in regard to the music you produce. Which leads me to wonder, how did you approach the writing process for this album?
I was going back and forth between LA and Finland. I started writing lyrics at home in Finland! But I finished everything in LA with my team there! All the stories are mine and they usually came into my head when I got back home. I had a clear vision that I wanted to be honest and real in the songs and sometimes when I’m traveling a lot and working, I lose myself a bit, so I wanted to take the time to actually be able to focus on the lyrics!

While you were in the studio writing Have U Seen Her? what were some of your inspirations? Any unusual ones that the fans may be shocked to know about?
A lot. My teenage idols like Lykke Li, Gorillaz, Amy Winehouse but also a lot of Finnish bands I used to listen to growing up like PMMP!

Now that you have the chance to reflect upon the entire process, from writing to recording; did you ever feel like you were under pressure to live up to a certain set of expectations?
Yes, I did but I wanted to break every expectation and I think I did! I really have to love my music. It would be boring to make music that I hate just because I “should” cause it sells or whatever! Fuck that!

In considering all the songs that you wrote and recorded for Have U Seen Her? were there any songs that didn’t make the cut?
Yes, A LOT! But I’m happy that it’s just the way it is now! I think these last 2 years I’ve become so much better of a songwriter so listening back to the songs I made 3 years ago, it doesn’t feel right to put them out anymore!

Adversely, of all the songs that did make the cut, which one means the most to you? Why?
“Find Me”– It’s just very honest, me being myself and feeling lonely in the world! I also really connect with “Loser.” The song just gives me so much confidence. I feel a lot of times that I’m awkward as hell! So then when I accepted that, it’s been better! Baby, I’m a loser, that’s what I was born to be!

alma interview

For those retroactively reading Have U Seen Her? debuted during the 2020 pandemic, which for many artists was a stressful time. A myriad of artists ended up pushing back their tours and album debuts. You on the other hand paired up with the Helsinki Cyber Day Festival for a digital “album release party.” How did that go? What was it like to see fans reacting in real-time?
Yes, very hard times right now! But I wanted to put the record out and of course, I had to have a release party. It’s actually one of the craziest shows I’ve ever done! The 3-D world we were in while we were playing was insane! For real, insane! And Tove Lo was featured on the set from LA and it was all live! It was so much fun.

Do you have any additional digital “concerts” or live streams planned for the future?
Not at the moment. I want to think and hope that asap we would be able to make shows happen again!

On the flip side, what can readers expect from one of your live shows once they make a comeback?
A huge party! And everyone can be as they are! Lots of sweat and mosh pits!

Let’s talk about collaborations! You’re no stranger to them, as you’ve worked with the likes of Ariana Grande and Charli XCX. When it comes to collabs, how do you like to approach these sessions?
I love to collaborate, but I usually only collaborate with people I know that I like or we’re friends already! It’s like hanging out but you just make music at the same time too!

If you could collaborate with any artist [dead or alive] who would you choose? Why?
Lady Gaga! She’s my only idol alive! I met her at a party in LA and we talked a bit and it’s been the only time I kinda didn’t know what to say cause it was just so unreal! She is so inspiring! Such a strong woman and an amazing songwriter.

Shifting gears now slightly, a lot of your fans seem to be young womxn who can see themselves in you. Do you have any advice for those looking to become an artist like you?
I would say trust yourself and don’t give up! There’s probably gonna be a lot of people doubting you but if you have a clear vision about what you do and what you want, then never give up!

What is one thing you would change about the industry and why?
Lots of things but I think that the industry is moving too fast! Artists clearly have been feeling unwell forever and I think the expectations people have on artists are just too much! We ain’t robots! We have to have time to also eat and sleep and breathe here and there!

Finally, what are three words you would use to describe Have U Seen Her?’
Honest, young, fearless.