Alma is a contradiction wrapped up in a paradox. The Scandinavian singer with the international appeal, she matches a heavenly voice to a punk attitude. She plays by her own rules, yet we’re all invited to take part in the game.
“My family, they’re not musical at all,” she tells Clash on the phone during a stopover. “But I’ve been singing since... I started so, so young. It’s just a part of me, even though I feel so stupid saying it like that. It’s just a part of me.”
Brought up in Finland, she tried to immerse herself in as much music as possible. As teenager, she would grow through phases: first 70s reggae, then modern punk, then chart pop, and an enormous appreciation for the sounds of 90s R&B. It’s helped create a musical appetite as broad as it is voracious, as eclectic as it is insatiable.
“When I’m angry, I want to listen to punk,” she says. “When I’m very happy I want to listen to 90s R&B, when I’m sad I want to listen to something Scandi-pop - it depends on the mood. I’m that type of girl, y'know, it depends really on the mood.”
Somehow, Alma filters all this into a pop confection that is truly unique. Opening EP ‘Dye My Hair’ was an astonishing success, leading to viral hype and interational acclaim. Ironically, the breakout title cut emerged from a period of creative block in the studio.
“When I’m speaking about love I can’t take myself seriously,” she laughs. “I don’t know, I’m from Finland and we cant take ourselves seriously when we’re talking about that. It’s all about what I wouldn’t do, and I said – I wouldn’t dye my hair blonde for anyone.”
“I think it was like a funny story, and a funny way to say: ‘I really fucking appreciate you, and I really adore you, and I would do anything for you... I would even dye my hair blonde for you.’ Even though I wouldn’t do that for anyone!”
Every time Alma hits the studio some special alchemy takes place, with those myriad influences sluiced into a bright, vivacious, pop couture. “I’m 21,” she says, almost bursting with excitement. “I have loads of things to say and I have energy and I’m passionate about it so every time I go to the studio it’s EASY I’m feeling so many things at the moment.”
New cut ‘Chasing Highs’ is her latest statement, and it’s undoubtedly her most assured and confident moment yet. It’s the sound of potential being realised, of a prodigal talent seizing control at exactly the right time. “I want to move people,” she tells Clash as our conversation comes to an end. “I want people, when they’re listening to the album, to be like: ‘Okay, I understand her, I get her’. That people just feel good.”
“The thing that is the most important thing for me is that when they’ve heard the album they’ll be like – OK, I totally get her. I just want people to get me, and to feel the words that I’m singing, and to feel the stories that I’m singing.”
When each story rings out as loud and clear as Alma’s, people can’t help but listen.
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Catch ALMA at London's Oslo venue on May 16th.