Following the release of her stunning debut offering ‘EP1’ (out now via Den Music), we had a chat with enigmatic London based – born in Germany to a Finnish father and English mother – singer/songwriter Leena Ojala, about her melancholic electronica set against her hauntingly alluring voice…
The EP also features a scintillating remix of ‘Why’ by Manchester based eclectic producer D/R/U/G/S (Callum Wright).
Can you reveal 5 things we should really know about Leena Ojala?
I get obsessed by some things but mainly about my music.
I am six foot and feel too tall most of the time.
I challenge myself in music to do as much as possible myself but appreciate help when I need it.
I am a quiet person who comes alive when performing or working with music.
I like to keep my lyrics somewhat abstract so that the song can be interpreted in multiple ways and mean different things to different people. I think answering the question ‘What is this song about’ spoils it for the listener.
Please talk about your new ‘EP1’
My EP1 has four electronic tracks. The first three are dark and haunting although that wasn’t my intention initially. I put loads of emotion into my music and the dark end of the spectrum just comes more naturally to me. The fourth track is a D/R/U/G/S clubby remix of the single ‘Why’, which I really love, and it gives a much needed counter balance for the EP.
What were your influences (in Berlin) whilst writing it?
I was born in Germany but never really knew the place before. Berlin was very different from any place I have ever been. It has a really strong and proud sense of freedom, perhaps explained by the shadow of Berlin Wall.
Berlin is an amazing place for arts, weird and wonderful: jewellery, tattoos, fashion, architecture, graffiti, underground electro clubs, intimate music venues, bars, etc. People love to show they are unique and different. But you can also feel poverty and hardship in Berlin. Just walking around Berlin is an experience and makes you see things you would never expect, good and bad.
It’s chaotic and free in many ways, but rigid and unforgiving in other ways. I did some gigs in Berlin’s basement bars where I met interesting acts from all over the place. I’d go to a place and be disappointed by the small size of it, but then you’d have 60 people in a room intently focused on what you had to say. Underground music in Berlin can be a bit too minimalistic and rely on the beat alone. I wanted more and decided that my music needs to bring out the melody.
I spent plenty of time alone in Berlin, which gave me time to reflect on the Berlin experience and what came before that.
Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
My songs used to start with the acoustic guitar, but nowadays I work on Logic Pro X and start off with the feel, tempo, drum beat, and I use keyboard or guitar to lay some synths. Once I‘ve come up with the theme and have fine tuned my melodies using just any words, I start work on the lyrics which is always the last thing I do.
I work on many tracks at the same time, come back to them, scrap some and start some more. I can get down great vocals and harmonies at home as well. Technology is so amazing. Sometimes I completely finish a song but don’t feel it; into the bin it goes.
What has been the hardest part of being in the music industry for you?
I think the hardest part has been growing up with music, wanting to be a musician and realising how hard it really is. Sometimes you are enveloped in self-doubt, and then get positive feedback and just try to develop yourself some more to just hold on. I know I would never be able to do this just by myself; I have a number of supportive people around me which is important and I am really grateful for that.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
I am doing some collaboration right now. But just for one-off, maybe Sia or Kwabs. I love their raw emotion and melodies.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to all kinds of music. It could be current, classical, jazz, blues, 70’s and 80’s pop, or hip-hop. More recently I have listened to Weeknd, Disclosure, London Grammar and Rudimental to mention a few.
Tell us about your next show and why we should be there
I am working on my music until the end of the year, but will be back out in January. I am just discussing the next show, and I hope to announce something shortly. I have a great band around me; I feel that we have really gotten the sound right and the set is really dynamic and will give you a preview of what’s to come.
What do you have planned next?
I’m back in the studio shortly to record some more material, and I’ll work with a new producer, which I am really looking forward to. I can just feel the synergy when talking to him. I am also looking to collaborate more with others. Next year I will focus on live stuff and drop another EP possibly in April.
By Fabrizio Belluschi ©FAMEMAGAZINE