Originally from Hämeenlinna, Finland (the same town that brought the world Jean Sibelius) Teemu Sätilä found his way to Sydney, Australia and now London, each destination painting his musical path. Sätilä writes alternative pop music that is both wrought in emotion and totally addicting. His latest single, “Like You Do”, was released earlier this year and an acoustic version released just last week. Check out what else he has up his sleeve and where music all began for him in our interview below!
MFL: I have read that you started writing music at age 7! I’d love to know if you remember any of those songs and what you were inspired to write about at that age.
Teemu Sätilä (TS): I do, unfortunately. I remember I started writing songs in English when we started learning it at school at age 9. I would just make songs out of the stories in our books, like Goldilocks. I can’t remember any of the early original stuff, though.
MFL: Along those lines, are there any trends in what you feel inspired to write about as an adult with your latest project, Sätilä? How does this differ from previous experiences in other musical projects?
TS: I’m quite reflective and the move to London has aroused thoughts on community, loneliness, pursuing dreams and self-doubt.
MFL: Where in Finland did you grow up and how did that community influence your decision to choose music over other careers?
TS: Most of my definitive years I lived in Hämeenlinna, a town of 50,000 people an hour north from Helsinki. I had friends doing music when I was young and they were getting international recognition, too. Jean Sibelius was born in that town, maybe that has something to do with it. There’s a band called The Holy who are doing well and growing internationally and most of the guys are from there. When I started releasing music I lived in Turku and the community over there really encouraged and supported me to do music. I’ve been studying and working in retail on the side as music is not yet paying my bills.
MFL: You have bounced around from Finland to Australia and then all the way to London. How do you think your travels have influenced you as a musician?
TS: I think they have opened my eyes to see possibilities in music, whether that’s artistic choices or the different ways of creating a sustainable career. I love Finland but the size of the market and music industry feels very limiting at times. I guess that’s the problem of many small places.
MFL: Even though you are now based in London, do you still have your finger on the pulse of Finnish music? If so, who are some musicians from Finland that you feel are making waves?
TS: Oh for sure! I think there are really interesting music in Finland and also coming out of the country. I mentioned The Holy earlier, they’re really cool. Also an indie folk producer duo Lake Jons is very worth checking out. Karina makes soft indie pop in Finnish but are gaining traction abroad, which is so inspiring. If you enjoy cinematic indie folk pop, you have to check out Peura! Inside Finland, artists like Vesta and Ruusut are challenging the mainstream pop arena. And of course, our pop export legend Alma. She is a great writer, genuine person and has a sick voice.
MFL: When you are writing, recording and editing a new song, when does the song feel complete?
TS: Good question. I think it varies a lot. I think the song feels complete when you are satisfied with how the song conveys the original idea. Deadlines help a lot because you have to stop working on it at some point. If you still feel like it’s not complete, maybe leave it for a while and work on something else.
MFL: How did you come to work with producer Mikko Pennanen on “Like You Do” and what did he bring to the creation of the track?
TS: We met ages ago through a mutual friend. I was looking for new people to work with. I sent him the rough acoustic guitar version of the track and we met and chatted about music and what my inspirations and sonic vision were. He then went on to work on the track on his own and sent me the first idea. I loved it, we did a session together playing some more instruments and working on the production and eventually recorded vocals. The vocals have actually been done three times cause I wasn’t happy with my performance. It’s very rhythmic and especially the post chorus’ massive choir was so hard to perfect. I’ve never worked on a song like this, either, but Mikko managed to bring my vision to reality in a beautiful way, helping me develop my sound.
MFL: You mentioned once that “Like You Do”, was part of a bigger vision for you as a musician. Can you tell me more about what this musical vision is and when we can expect to hear more of it?
TS: At the time I started releasing music, I was inspired by singer-songwriters and folk rock. Australia and its scene had a massive impact on my early sound. I was listening to artists like Boy & Bear, Matt Corby, Ben Howard and Of Monsters and Men. The musical landscape started to change more into electronic music and I was listening to more electronic stuff so I felt the need to move with it. In a way, it was really painful and I think you can kind of hear the growing pains on my Out of Love EP. I was looking for ways to incorporate synths and electronic elements with the organic music I was making, still very much singer-songwriter at heart. The music that is sitting on my hard drive waiting to be released is a mixture of indie rock, alternative rock, singer-songwriter and electronic influences. Inspiration varies from Foals to Ry X and Tame Impala to Maggie Rogers. My love for pop music is manifested in the melodies and the polished sound, which makes it hard to box my music to solely indie or pop. The next single will be out early next year and it’s a mellow, more electronic track.