Petra Jasmiina,a singer-songwriter born in Finland and based in New York City, enchants listeners with poetic storytelling, set in fresh sounds of indie pop and folk with a Nordic flair.
Taking us to a unique place between a fast-paced city and a sunset by the lake, Cygnet, not unlike the story of the singer-songwriter herself, is a story of love, home, growing pains and following your dream into the unknown.
Petra Jasmiina Haapamäki, born in Helsinki, Finland, started writing songs when she was only nine years old. Thanks to a musical family, piano lessons, modern dance and singing had been a part of her life ever since she could remember, but how she started writing songs is a mystery. "I have no idea how it began, but it was like writing a diary. I didn't see it as a hobby or a craft at the time - just as something I needed to do, constantly, to process life and the world around me." Big dreams about a career in music were always present, but after graduating high school life took her elsewhere - to work in Spain, Greece, Turkey and Thailand, to be exact. So far, nobody knew she had been writing songs for a decade, much less heard any of them. After some years of travelling the world, she decided to change that. In 2015, the 25-year-old left behind her career in tourism as well as friends and family, and booked a flight across the Atlantic.
“Now that I think of it, it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done. I had no job, no apartment and knew no-one in the city. I had barely researched visas, job permits or apartment prices. But there have been a few of those moments in my life, when logic or practicalities just don’t matter and it’s like I have no choice. I had to do it. Realizing I needed to make music was not different. Even with all the chaos and uncertainty that might follow, they are perfect moments of clarity."
"Now that I think of it, it's the craziest thing I've ever done"
The Big City
The start of a life in New York City wasn’t a soft landing. Finding friends, getting an apartment or even opening a bank account didn’t come easily. Following a dream of making music seemed very different from what we see in the movies. That she did, nevertheless, and four years later she not only calls New York home, but has paved herself a way in the ever-changing, highly competitive music scene of the city. This is partly thanks to Writer’s Room Songwriter Series, that started out as an all-original-songs’ open mic, and has grown to be a respected showcase of the city’s best up and coming songwriting talent. To Petra it’s felt like a safe haven and a home base, a source of many new friendships and a doorway to a new community of songwriters and indie musicians.
“We’ve had the pleasure of having Petra perform regularly at our series since we launched back in the summer of 2018 and are proud to see her quickly become a dynamic songwriting force. We are also grateful for her passionate support of our series including creating our Indie NYC playlist on Spotify”, says Scott Krokoff, who founded and hosts the showcase alongside Jeff Jacobs. Like Krokoff, Jacobs has been creating and performing in New York for over a decade. He has also performed with Petra on various occasions, and says “Listening to Petra takes me back to a time when songs were songs. She’s a natural born weaver of poetry and melody, and there’s a sweetness to her voice that is unmistakable.”
"Hours makes us chase sunsets alongside powerful drums and ethnic chants, while catchy Sheeran takes us to a dingy live music joint with the strums of an old guitar and percussions created by literally sliding a beer bottle down a studio table"
In January 2019 Petra started recording with beloved New York producer and sound engineer Craig Levy of Little Pioneer Cider House Studio in TriBeCa. “Petra is secretly my favorite new collaborator this year. In such a short time she’s gone from a singer-songwriter to being a true co-producer with so many interesting ideas that match her personality perfectly. She’s a natural storyteller – besides lyrics, she wants to tell a story with the production, too, whether it’s a near theatrical choice of instrument or a Finnish word hidden in the backing vocals. It’s always something new and even strange, but there’s a meaning behind each choice.”
Cygnet is an excellent example of this. Hours, the first single of the album, released in September, opens with a beautifully restless guitar picking by Finnish jazz master Olli Hirvonen and later makes us chase sunsets alongside powerful drums and ethnic chants, while catchy, pop Sheeran takes us to a dingy live music joint in the heart of the city with the strums of an old guitar and percussions created by literally sliding a beer bottle down a studio table.
Possibly the most adored song on the EP, however, is Arsonists; a melancholic piano ballad with swelling violins played by Estonian entrepreneur and musician Valev Laube. The lyrics move elegantly between the secular and the poetic, something that seems to have become a bit of a staple of her writing. “Arsonists is a story about a love burned out. It is something that is both day-to-day and ordinary, and also full of metaphor and poetry. As it is the most personal of all the songs, and probably the one I’m most proud of, it has been amazing to see how people have embraced it and made it their own. That’s really what making music is about for me – a connection.”
"The album title, meaning a baby swan, honours the national animal of Finland while signifying a debut and a beginning."
The Nordic Twist
Even though she left Finland at 19, home is and always will be a big part of Petra’s identity and music. After all, the album title, meaning a baby swan, honours the national animal of Finland while signifying a debut and a beginning. This is exactly what the album is for her, and exciting plans are already in place for the future. In December 2019 she released a holiday single, Christmas in New York, and next year she plans to return to studio to start working on her full length album. At the same time she is enjoying the myriad of performance opportunities and collaborations the city has in store. Petra is also a cast member and an Associate Producer of Kalevala The Musical, an upcoming Broadway production based on the Finnish National Epic. The creator of the musical, Johanna Telander says “Petra is a welcomed, bright new voice in the world of singer-songwriters. Her honest, reflective songs are catchy and relatable with just the right amount of Nordic Twist. What she brings musically can only be matched by her intelligence, drive and SISU.”