Vaasa on the West coast of Finland is definitely a hometown that we, ourselves have not heard about before from artists in country and Americana music. That is until we came across Mikaela Finne and her outlaw country sound just before this year’s UK Americana Music Week in Hackney. Inspired as much by heavy metal as she was by country music in her youth and now calling Stockholm in Sweden her home makes her musical story and the growth of country in Scandinavia even more fascinating. With a European tour cancelled at the outset of the pandemic, boredom set in, and rather than simply waiting it out, Finne called up Brady Blade, a drummer and producer with an established pedigree as well as a love for working with new acts. Together with a cast of top-notch musicians from the Stockholm area Finne and Blade recorded most of her latest album “Time Stands Still” over a week’s time in November 2020. Committing to a raw, live band sound, the resulting collection is full of warmth and grit, coming off far more natural and real than slick and polished.
Before her showcase performance on the Tuesday of Americana Music Week, she spent some time with Jamie to fill us in on her story, this latest project and being a part of this year’s festival.
Welcome to Hackney! Is this your first time experiencing this part of London? “I’ve been to London before, but I’ve never really had the time to explore much in this part of London so, it’s the first time for a lot of things for sure. It’s my first time at Americana here and my first time playing in London, period which is super exciting. My first time playing in the UK was last year, I played the Ramblin’ Roots Revue in High Wycombe, they invited me to play their stage and that was my first face to face introduction to the UK scene.”
From what you experienced at Ramblin’ Roots, did you find the scene and the audiences very different over here compared to back in Sweden? “For sure. Me and my management talk about this a lot, the country scene in Sweden in general is teeny tiny. It’s just about starting to sort of be waking up so most of the time they have no idea what the f#ck I’m doing. It’s she plays music that sounds cool but what is it? They don’t understand really. I’m a super music nerd and for me, I find new things all the time but the general average listener, if they don’t hear it on the regular radio, they have no idea what it is. I think that this whole community in general over here are very passionate listeners, they show a lot of respect but as fans they receive a lot of respect too and we go out of our way to make sure we have a good time together.”
You recorded “Time Stands Still” in late 2020, so I guess there is an element of it being a “Covid album” as a lot of people would term it when you look at the release and recording. In terms of the writing for the project was that all done around the same time too? “I hate labelling it that but that is kind of what it is. I recorded it because I was bored out of my mind, that’s one hundred percent. I talked to my producer and said we need to do something or I’m going to lose it so let’s do something. For me, when I write, I write all of the time, so these songs were not written during that same time. Because I write all the time I like to go back and forth to see if there is anything that I wrote before that I think I’m not done with this yet. That is sort of how I billed it, the oldest song on that record is from maybe 2018 and I like to go back and forth to reconnect or rewrite. There is one song that I did finish the week before we recorded which is the last song on the record called “You Put Your Fire Out” that wasn’t done at all until we actually started.” You recorded the project with Brady Blade who is obviously such a renowned producer and is also now based in Sweden, how did you and Brady first meet to start working together? “Brady and I met very randomly. He lives in Stockholm, out on the islands. A mutual friend of ours called me one day back in 2017 saying Brady Blade is looking for a country singer for this pickup band for a party out in the islands and I thought of you obviously, so is it ok if he calls you? Then I’m like hold up! Are we talking about Emmylou’s Brady Blade? Of course, he can call me. Five minutes later, he calls me up saying hi, it’s Brady, I got your number from our friend, so do you want to do this? I said yes, of course let’s do a pickup band together at a party out on the islands and that’s how we got to know each other.”
We’re chatting during the Americana Music Association UK music week and particularly over here, I find there is a close relationship and overlap between country and Americana yet there is almost a wariness for people to define their music within a specific genre and particularly if country. Your socials, bio and content are more defined to use the terms outlaw and country. “For me personally, I don’t really care because for me it’s important to be true to what I think that I’m doing and that’s what I’m putting out there. If anyone talks about my music as Americana, country or whatever term they want to put on it, that’s fine but this is my guideline of what I think I’m doing. If you interpret that as something else, that’s super cool. I am very thankful for the Americana Music Association in the UK because they have been very open to me, very welcoming and they also realise that I don’t have that community where I live so I appreciate that a lot.”
You talked earlier about how the country scene back at home is very small even compared to ours her in the UK, so where did your introduction come from and how did find it as your musical direction? “I grew up with it. I always blame my dad, it’s his fault that I’m doing this. I always was a super music child, it just caught my attention and thought this is cool, so I listened to everything, but I grew up a lot with the classics. I’m born in the nineties so my dad who likes country, obviously listened to Shania Twain and Dolly Parton, then some southern rock like CCR and stuff like that. I thought it was cool and honest music, that has always been the main appeal for me. It’s honest and I can write about whatever the f#ck I want and it’s fine. I don’t have to edit myself because it can be exactly what it is.” I definitely get that nineties and more classical sound from what I hear your music, where there is definitely a Martina McBride element in your sound where the authenticity really comes through. I also find flavours of Ashley McBryde to give a current context in terms your style which again is very authentic. “I pride myself on that. I don’t edit my feelings when I write something. You always put a spin on something when you write and twist this word around but I’m never going to change the initial feeling that I wrote a song because it was cathartic for me, and I want to share that moment with an audience.”
Rounding off to talk about this week, you have your set which will be great to see. Are there any other artists that are showcasing that you have come across before? I know you were due to tour with Caleb Caudle before the pandemic changed that plan, but any other artists that you are hoping to catch? “There’s tonnes at this festival. I’m definitely going to go and see Caleb, we met again in Nashville so, that was awesome to reconnect after having that whole thing cancelled. Violet Bell are great, Emily Scott Robinson too and I’m really excited because Brennen Leigh is playing straight after me where I’m thinking score! This is not me putting myself in the same spectrum as Brennen but when I look through all the artists playing, I think me and Brennen are probably within our little part of the Americana genre, we’re probably the most traditional. I thought it was super fun and really smart that they put us at the same venue on the same day because it’s very connected. I’m also doing a really fun thing for the first time. We’re going to record some podcast episodes whilst we’re here with some of the artists and just talk about all of the fun stuff around music. I’ve never done a podcast before so it will be fun to see how it turns out.” You can find “Time Stands Still” which is the latest album from Mikaela Finne on APPLE MUSIC or SPOTIFY whilst you can learn more about Mikaela and keep up to date with her socially through INSTAGRAMTWITTERFACEBOOKYOUTUBE.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks