Revival Synth is pleased to introduce Johanna Kuvaja. The finnish singer-songwriter recently released her solo track 'Shower' and we put a few questions her way regarding her music, health and all that inspires her. Enjoy!
Q. What brought Ms Kuvaja, a teacher from a classroom to suddenly becoming a solo artist?
A. I always knew that teaching was a temporary solution for me. I have many passions in life, and I get bored easily, so once I went through teaching the grades from 1-6, I couldn’t imagine going back doing the same thing all over again. But I never imagined that I could pursue a music career because I had severe problems with my voice for many years due to toxic mold exposure at school and later at my house.
I was on sick leave for a year and during that time I started to compose songs to make me feel better.
I composed about 30 songs and I noticed that I had improved a lot as a composer. Gradually after following a strict detox and diet, I got my voice back as well.
I decided to give myself a chance to produce some of my songs properly. I knew I’d regret it if I wouldn’t even try.
Q. What artists influence you musically?
A. I listen to a lot of music from the 80’s and 90’s. George Michael is maybe the biggest influence for me. I love the fact that he is so versatile. He has songs like ”I want your sex” and ”Jesus to a Child”. I aim to be like him as a composer. Vocally, Mariah Carey has always been my idol.
Q. Who do you like to listen to in your spare time?
A. I have to admit that I don’t have time to listen to a lot of music anymore. I used to have a huge cd collection, but once my kids were born, all the cool songs switched to kids’ songs. :D
Nowadays I have a few playlists on spotify with my favorite songs on them. My favorite band is Bon Jovi, and I listen to it a lot.
Q. Your latest single ‘Shower’ has had some very positive feedback from across the globe, you must be delighted with the response, and having Sefi Carmel on board must have been a huge boost for you?
A. Very happy! Sefi was like a gift from the universe for me. An American psychic-medium told me that someone from London is going to mix my song. It didn’t make any sense at that time cos I had no connections to London, and a Finnish mixer was supposed to mix my song. But all of a sudden his wife had to go the hospital and he couldn’t mix my song. My producer decided to put my song on one website and Sefi heard my song and offered to mix it. Without Sefi I wouldn’t have a career now. He did an amazing job and I’m so grateful to him. Sefi also re-mixed my second song and he’s producing my third song completely.
Q. Did you feel it was important to accompany the track with a video?
A. Yes. It was really important to do the music video for the song. I made a quick lyric-video at first and many people thought that it was my official music video, because the biggest news media in Finland attached my lyrics-video on their article about me. I got so many dislikes on it. Now the new music video was premiered at Ilta-Sanomat, and I got so much great publicity because of that.
Q. I’ve seen two interpretations of what the song is about, one is waiting for a call from a guy in a shower and the other saying it is a way of washing away the past?
A. Haha. Yes, the video has 2 meanings I guess. :D I composed the chorus of the song while waiting for the call, but the music video has a deeper meaning of new beginnings.
I washed off my colorful past, and started fresh. It’s supposed to inspire people to realize that we have the power to start fresh at any given moment, if we choose to do so. It’s all about our attitude. We need to give ourselves permission to do it. We have no obligations to our former self. So take a shower and start fresh. :D
Q. You’re an independent artist who self promotes everything you produce. How important is it for you to have full control of your work?
A. It’s really important for me to do my songs the way I want. My songs are like my babies. I wanna raise them myself without anyone’s interference. On the other hand, I notice how hard it is to make it as an indie artist, at least here in Finland. The big radio stations won’t accept songs to their playlists unless you are under a major label. But I do things my way. Let’s see what happens in the future. I’m a firm believer in destiny.
Q. Lots of indie artists produce music for the sheer joy of it and not for financial gain, do you think it’s fair that sites like Spotify exploit these artists and pay such a pittance for their tracks?
A. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about it. This is a calling for me, so I would do this even if I wouldn’t earn a penny from it. I hope to make a living out of this one day, but of course I realize that it won’t ever happen via Spotify plays. Artists are forced to think outside of the box to get an income. I’m thinking about selling my songs for advertising purposes and creating courses. Performing is a bit tricky for me, cos I have MCS(multiple chemical sensitivity) due to toxic mold. I might lose my voice if someone wears a strong fragrance around me. I would have to perform outdoors.
Q. Life is all about the ups and downs and having read about some of your past, we’re lucky you’re even here to answer this Q&A?
A. Yes, I’m lucky that I figured out what was wrong with me in time. I had horrible tremors due to toxic mold. The doctors suspected that I had MS-disease, but they found brain cysts in the brain scan instead. I read that mold can cause them, so I put two and two together. It took me a few years to get myself back to normal and I will always have the mold allergy and MCS for the rest of my life.
Q. Losing your voice must have been soul destroying?
A. Losing my voice also affected my self-esteem. I had no voice in the mornings and my voice was cracking all the time. I tried everything, and I always slept the nights with a thick scarf on, but nothing helped. As a teacher, it was a nightmare. Singing was definitely out of the question, so the possibility to do music didn’t even cross my mind. I buried that dream completely and I tried to start a business in the health industry instead. But luckily all that information that I had learned about health made it possible for me to cure myself from the mold toxicity.
Q. You’ve openly spoke about depression, how did you overcome it?
A. I had to allow myself to be totally lost and feel all these emotions. It’s already a big deal if you understand that you are lost, because that way you are able to find yourself again. I started to ask myself what is it that I want from my life. Am I truly happy with this kind of life? What am I truly passionate about? What brings me joy? What would be the next best step to take? I realized that I wasn’t happy in my relationship, and music brought me so much joy.
I learned to be kind to myself and love myself. I had to learn to know myself and accept all sides in me and appreciate my uniqueness. When you can be 100% authentic and real, you have no competition, because there’s no one like you in this world. Also, when there’s no enemy within, the enemy outside can’t hurt you. My perception of me is now stronger than other people’s perception of me. That’s real freedom. I can express myself fully and do whatever I want, and people’s opinions don’t matter to me. I realized that I have the power to turn my life around and I deserve to be happy and do what I love. It’s all about self respect and self-love. Giving myself the permission to pursue music as a mother of 3 was the biggest act of self-love.
Q. I’ve seen your instagrams posts that are often full of inspirational quotes, is it important to you to share your experiences with others?
A. My instagram is like my diary. I noticed that many people resonated with my message and they get something out of my posts. I only posted when I felt inspired to do so though, so I only posted once per month. I’m so happy that I can help other people this way. I love sharing since I’m a teacher.
Q. Family life is very important to you, do you like to involve your children with your music project or do you disconnect the two?
A. My children are sometimes on my instagram, cos they love to perform and be in my videos.
When my following grew, I thought about deleting the pictures and videos of them, but on the other hand, my instagram is a positive platform, so at least for now, they can stay on it. I’ll never reveal their names and they have a different last name than I do, so I try to protect their identity that way.
But they are definitely not a part of my music career, even though they love my songs. Music is only my thing.
Q. Now that Shower has built the foundations for you, I take it 2020 is going to be a bigger and better year?
A. Shower was a great kick-start for my career, so it’s easier to go on now. Great things take time, so patience is the key.
I have found my ”team” around me, and I feel so blessed that my songs are in great hands now.
I believe that if this is meant for me, it will happen.
Q. Thank you Johanna for taking time out to answer these questions. I’m sure I can say this on behalf of all who follow you that we are delighted you’re here to tell the tale. Is there anything further you would like to add?
A. Thank you so much for your kind words and for interviewing me.
I want to encourage everyone to be bold and follow your fear. Because it’s where your soul wants you to go and that’s probably your purpose in life.