Lisa Ahlstrom is a Finnish singer, now living and working in LA. After checking out Lisa’s press release and latest songs we were really impressed and were really keen to share everything with you. Despite Lisa’s increasingly hectic schedule we were delighted when she agreed to complete an interview with Song Revelation. Read on to find out about, amongst other things, which modern day artists she is inspired by, what music she’s enjoying listening to at the moment and what she hopes to achieve over the next 12 months.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
An audio experience of human emotion.
Q: What is your musical background?
I took some piano lessons as a kid and bought a crappy guitar in my teens from the boys who lived next door. I think I knew 2 or 3 chords but that was all I needed to write my first song. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing.
At the time I started to write more seriously I was dating a musician/producer to whom I am deeply grateful. He patiently recorded my first few songs despite my inexperience and exposed me to some of the coolest music I know. My first songs were less than awesome but the feeling of creating became an instant high.
In my late teens I was cast for a musical lead at The National Swedish Theater of Helsinki, which gave me a chance to develop vocally and in my early 20’s I enrolled in to Musician Institute in Hollywood where I earned my degree in Vocal Performance and Recording Engineering. I spent the following years working at several studios both small and major.
These days I mainly work out of a home studio recording my own music but I continue to learn new programs and instruments all the time. I like to challenge myself artistically. It keeps the music fresh and the process entertaining.
Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?
Crazy! This year has been particularly demanding and I have to be very mindful of how I use my time and energy. Besides music (as if that alone wasn’t enough), I am on the final stretch of a 4 years Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. I have a chronic thirst for knowledge. I doubt this will be my last degree.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
Man, I resent even starting to list all the artists I appreciate. I will probably spend the next week thinking about all the artists I forgot to mention. LOL
I think as we evolve, so does our taste in music. Obviously I am listening to different music now then when I was 15.
My dad was a big blues fan and played anything from early Clapton to Ali Farka Toure. Classic rock bands such as Pink Floyd, The Police and The Rolling Stones along with the then current pop stars such as Michael Jackson were also heavily in rotation. My mom listened to slightly more soulful artist like Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and Sade.
Like many teens of the 90’s I listened to alternative and grunge rock. Late 90’s, early 2000’s were dominated by trip hop bands such as Massive Attack, Portishead and Zero 7 along with huge quantities of hip-hop. As some know, some don’t, I was Breaking (breakdancing) heavily in my teens to early 20’s so obviously the classic breaks and funk have a place in my heart.
Over the past decades there have been some really strong singer songwriters that have also inspired me like Bjork, Fiona Apple, Ani Di Franco, Jeff Buckley, John Mayer, John Frusciante, Samuel Beam etc. etc. etc. Aaaaahhhh, The list is too long. So much awesomeness!!!
Of course my creativity is not awaken by music alone. Books, bees, trees and leaves are all equally stimulating. In the end, my life is what inspires me most.
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
I not really fond of the term “look up to” since it makes me feel as if I am in some way inferior, which I am not. I like to look at great people like Socrates, Gandhi or Einstein and believe that I am equally capable. That way I don’t dismiss being equally passionate no matter how long it takes or how much work I have to put in. It takes away my excuses.
However, I am moved by people who take an active roll in self-cultivation and aspire to leave this world a little better than when they came. There are obviously many known (and unknown) people who are out there doing great things and I aspire to do the same. Peter Gabriel has been on my watch lately who is involved in various humanitarian efforts as well as Leonardo Di Caprio who has been working with environmental groups. Make Yourself Foundation created by members of Incubus has also been up to various great acts of selflessness locally and around the globe. On a personal level I am probably affected most by my mentor Dr. Kim, the founder of Emperor’s College who’s passion for self-cultivation and healing is beyond words.
Humans, animals, the ocean, our food or whatever else you are passionate about its all good. I just love to see people who care and even more the people who take a stand in doing something about it.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
Sure. Many. Zero 7, Massive Attack or Nitin Sawhney would all be amazing to work with and I would love to lock myself up in a room and create an full album with John Frusciante. That would be freakin’ sweet! Did I just use the word sweet?
That being said, I love the players I work with at the moment. They are my favorite collaborations. Douglas Charles Showalter who plays guitars and produces a lot of my music, Peter Dyer who plays keys/syths and a more recent addition Tamir Barzilay on drums are all such top-notch players and I’m in awe of their creativity and authentic approach to music. Second to none!
As for gigging, Id take a gig with any of the artists I’ve named so far. I’m a humble indie act so everything from here is an upgrade I guess.
Q: What songs are you listening to at the moment?
The last few song my ITunes shuffled up for me were Wolf and I by Oh land, Killing for Love by Jose Gonzales, What a Shame by Jamie Lidell, Plastic Jungle by Miike Snow and I’m pretty sure I heard something from Atoms for Peace somewhere. I currently hear Twice by Little Dragon.
Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of world music and Chanting. I also really like Choying Drolma & Steve Tibbetts album Selwa. That too has been on repeat lately.
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
Every song has a process. Some start with lyrics, some start with a beat. Some just write themselves. Recently I was sang a song in a dream and amazingly remembered the whole song upon waking so I wrote it down and plan on recording it in the near future. That was trippy, even for me.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
Again that depends on the track. I think they are equally valid. A good melody goes a long way but I believe lyrics serve as a platform to say something that matters or touches someone in the right way.
Q: Where are you based?
Los Angeles. I’m born in Canada to Finnish-Swedish parents, raised in Finland but LA is home at this time.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Canada was cozy, Finland was cold and LA is demanding or maybe that’s just the pattern of my life.
Q: What are you currently working on?
Lately I’ve been busy promoting my resent release “A Week’s Worth”, a concept album that started with the idea to make 7 songs in 7 days and release them on a blog. I’m also finishing up a song, featuring producer Octopotomus and Finnish beatboxer Rudi Rok, which should be out shortly.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Everything in my life is a highlight. My ups are up because my downs were down. I appreciate it all.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in over the next 12 months?
I look forward to graduating, traveling, spending more time with my family and I’m dying to start a garden. Of course there will be music making in the mix.
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
It’s all about studying right now since I’m so close to the end but I’m sure I will have some summer show dates coming up shortly. Stay posted.
Q: What do you do to relax?
I have a daily practice of Qi Gong and Meditation that keeps me from falling apart. When time allows I snowboard, surf or skateboard up the beach and I do enjoy hikes somewhat frequently. Nothing melts stress like some dancing but unfortunately I’ve had very little time for that lately.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
Anywhere away from the city! I like to travel to ancient human settlings and deeply appreciate history and culture so wherever I go I like to live with the locals, eat where they eat and do what they do. Traveling gives me an opportunity to experience something new or unique and to understand humanity better.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for new or aspiring musicians what would it be?
Oh man, it’s such a personal journey. I guess know thyself and stick with it.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
You mean you want to read more? Nah man, I’m done.
Editor’s Note: Lisa Ahlstrom has a stylish and quirky vibe partnered with musical talent to create a unique commercial sound. Definitely one of Song Revelation’s Ones to Watch!
If you’d like to learn more about or get in touch with Lisa Ahlstrom just follow the links below: