Minna Ora, one of the most talented musicians to emerge from Finland in recent years, speaks with Colby.
Colby: What Do You Enjoy Most About Being A Musician?
Minna: There are so many things I enjoy about being a musician! Last year I celebrated my 35th anniversary as an artist, and over the years I have had an opportunity to make music and perform with many different rock and blues groups. I think live shows used to be my favorite because I enjoy the direct contact and interaction with people. Now that I’m building my solo career as a singer-songwriter, I have found the creation of a new song to be especially spellbinding. A song starts with a small idea, which gradually grows and develops into its own world. I immerse myself completely into making the song in my studio. The process from the initial idea to the finished song is long, but when I succeed in making the track exactly how I want it, it is just the best feeling! When I’m creating a song, it’s as if I’m writing in a diary. Each song is also like my baby and when it is released to wider audiences, I feel like I’m sending my baby out into the world. I’ve always been interested in acting, and since I’m making a video for each of my songs, I now get to act, dance, and do whatever I like in my videos. I get to fulfill myself and all my dreams. For example, in my newest video I dance and even use sign language. Another thing I love is that with my own label I get to create music at my own pace, composing and publishing songs, one after another, enjoying the journey toward a full album. Last, but not least, I have found an extraordinarily wonderful team of people to collaborate with and I truly cherish them.
Colby: Which Track Of Yours Means The Most To You?
Minna: My third and newest single, Fire, which was just released. This song is harrowingly personal to me, and it came about in an extraordinary way. In the fall of 2013, I was driving home with my son when I got an intense feeling of needing to write down some words that had emerged out of nowhere in my mind. I stopped at a bus stop to make a note and then took the idea to my studio. To my surprise, the words fitted a melody I had written previously. After finishing the demo, I suddenly realized the song was about a cancer patient grappling with the disease. Sadly, two weeks later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was given five years to live after the cancer spread to my lungs. But I wasn’t ready to give up on life and, after the initial shock, I devoted myself into finding ways to actively contribute to my healing, such as biological treatments, special dietary modifications, and a complete lifestyle change. Luckily, the prognosis given by the doctors was inaccurate, and I have since gone into full remission and am cancer-free. Now, more than seven years after my diagnosis, it was finally time to produce the studio version of that life-changing song.
Colby: The First-Ever Gig You Played, Can You Remember It? How Was It?
Minna: Yes, I played my very first gig in 1985 when I was fifteen years old. My schoolmates had started a band and asked me to join them as the lead singer. I went to audition and from there began my career as a musician. It took me by surprise how much fun it was to sing with a live band and how well it went. After practicing for a few months, we did our first gig at the youth center in Salo, in Southern Finland, playing Finnish rock. Our setlist consisted of our own originals as well as covers. I remember how awfully nervous I was, but the audience loved our show, and the local paper even wrote a review of our gig and of the new promising “golden throat” singer Minna. The rest is history. Music and doing gigs became an important part of my life.
Colby: What Do You Think Is The Key To Success As A Musician?
Minna: The key, in my experience, is to do the kind of music that feels right to you. When I was younger, I was occasionally asked to make a single or an album of something that wasn’t my style at all. I would not go for it. What you do should express who you are. It is important to enjoy your music and stand proudly behind your work. These days, I compose, write the lyrics, and produce my solo tracks. I want them to have depth and life experience and aspects that resonate with people. I don’t set out to create a song with an explicit intention to produce a hit. Rather, I focus on the music itself and enjoy the process. In this way, my songs go out into the world, one after another, each taking on a life of its own. I don’t want to be a copy of anyone else. Instead, I want to sound like myself. This is crucial and this makes it possible to be unique and stand out from the masses. If all goes well, your music will be noticed, and you will succeed.
Colby: If You Wasn’t A Musician, What Job Would You Be Doing?
Minna: When I was young, I dreamed of becoming either a singer or a jumper rider when I grew up. Well, I didn’t become a professional rider even though I did compete in some showjumping competitions in my teens. When I was about twenty years old, I thought hard about what I could do as a second job, alongside my musical career. Through some coincidences I ended up completing a sports massage therapy program and I haven’t regretted it for one day. Back then, I thought it would be a good idea to have a second profession to provide an additional source of earning a living. I also wanted to be self-employed because when working for someone else, it would be harder to schedule my gigs. And so I became self-employed in 1996, and have worked two jobs ever since. I have found that music and massage therapy complement each other beautifully. And especially now, when I haven’t been able to do music gigs due to Covid, it’s been great to have another source of income.