My professional history and life path have given me many unique experiences and skills. While music is one of my main outlets, it didn’t feel enough. This blog was born to fill that gap. It serves as a platform to communicate my creativity, technical knowledge, life hacks, and experiences.
I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, a desire to push forward hard in every aspect of my life, a never-ending interest in new cultures and countries, and an obsession with music. I also truly enjoy teaching and sharing knowledge, and I aim to answer many of these topics with my posts here.
My dad retired a few years ago, but he used to teach clarinet, saxophone, and music theory at the local music institute in Kemi, Finland. He also ran the Big Band, a choir, and other group activities.
The First Music Lessons
He taught me how to play the clarinet at age 2. I learned to read music by age 3 and began studying advanced music theory by age 6. Looking back, I’ve later realized this instilled an uncompromising work ethic and fascination with music in me.
My dad later told me he often tried to slow me down because he could see I was upset about being unable to play something new I was learning. But I insisted we’d keep going until I got it. Healthy or not, this is the same approach I still take.
Studying My Dad’s Records
I was listening to and studying my dad’s record collection by age 7. It included albums by The Beatles, Manhattan Transfers, Elvis, and a lot of classical music, including masterpieces from Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.
Official Studies Begin
I got accepted into the music institute at age 8 and started studying keyboards, piano, music theory, history, and orchestration, and eventually got involved in the big band playing alto sax, the choir, and the orchestra playing the clarinet.
How I Became a Guitarist
At 12 years old, I saw Jimi Hendrix from the Woodstock ‘69 concert play Voodoo Chile. Until then, I’d had little interest in my dad’s guitars, but seeing Jimi’s performance completely blew my mind.
I knew at that moment I’d be a guitarist. I had to learn to play that! I bought my first electric guitar, a Gibson Les Paul copy, from a buddy and started learning all my favorite Jimi Hendrix riffs.
Eventually, that led to other rock and metal bands and guitar players, and I learned how to play most of the Metallica catalog. I started playing in a band with my friends.
Decisive Moment In Time
One decisive moment that led me to where I am today was when I was 14. I saw a flyer for a student exchange program in my hometown in Keminmaa, Finland. I’d heard of programs like this one, and a few friends told me about their amazing experiences during their exchanges. So I grabbed a copy and studied it front to back. As soon as I was done, it was decided I would become an exchange student.
I started the application process without telling anyone and got to the interview stage before telling my parents. I presented the concept to them as an opportunity to gain life experience, and they agreed. After applying, I was extremely lucky and got picked by an amazing family in McKinney, TX. I count them as my true family to this day.
This seemingly random decision led to an incredible year of experiences that, in return, led to many life choices, mentors, friends, and family that have landed me where I am today and collectively helped make me the person I am.
Move to London
After completing my military service in 1997, I moved to London to study music at Brunel University’s music program on their Twickenham campus. It was a 3-year degree focusing on music composition, audio engineering, and guitar. It also covered multimedia-related computer skills, including programming.
Probably the biggest impact from this music program came from the amazing composition teacher Colin Riley and choir teacher Wayne Ellington; I learned how to truly let go of anything holding me back when composing, and the choir sessions were such incredible events with pure energy, positive vibes and encouragement. For someone as hungry to learn and absorb anything to do with music, this was an incredibly inspiring environment to be in.
The audio engineering studies were also great; we learned about analog and digital gear. This was around when Pro Tools became the new industry standard for digital studios, but the school studio still operated an analog desk. Today, I’m so thankful I got to learn everything on an old-school analog setup; it allows you to literally see how the signal chain works, you’re making the physical connections that make up the chain. In a modern DAW, we still use the same terminology, but it’s much harder to visualise some of the things.
I also started a band with a bassist friend of mine from the university and a drummer from Finland who moved over to London to play with us. These guys became my best friends. We wrote songs, partied hard, played shows, and toured several times. We experimented with music and challenged ourselves to become better in every aspect of it.
In the big picture, the band didn’t become commercially very successful, but it was an incredible time in my life, and I learned so much about writing, promoting, collaborating, and just how to enjoy life at full throttle.
In 2000 I received a BA/BSc Joint Degree in Music and Computer Studies with Honors.
Rather than focusing on just my first passion, music, I realized I’m also really into technology. I also needed to make a living, and at this point income from my music career was still too unreliable.
This led to my first full-time job writing code for an online education and multimedia company. I learned their proprietary scripting language for building training content, then taught its use to large classes of their customers’ dev teams in Belgium and Germany. All this while I was furiously continuing to push forward on music.
Move to the U.S.
Eventually, I followed my calling, and after immigrating to the U.S. in 2005, I continued my dev work with US Airways (now AA) and Pearson. At Pearson I was part of a small team maintaining a content authoring system delivering over $3 billion in yearly revenue. I was exposed to the tools and principles of working with local and remote teams on a massive scale.
I also got involved with local bands as soon as possible; I responded to a Craigslist ad about a band needing a guitar player, and we ended up vibing well. We wrote songs and started playing out. The songs from this band were a lot of fun to play, heavily leaning on Rage Against The Machine vibe, and we typically blew the house up every time we played a show.
In 2005 I also started training in skydiving and, over the years, progressed to 500 jumps before my music career completely took over. My favorite discipline was free-flying, though I dabbled in wingsuit flying and many other disciplines.
To this day, I still miss what I consider the best aspect of skydiving – the people you meet. It’s an incredibly tightly-knit community of misfits from all walks of life united under the regular near-death experiences they undertake together. I got to jump with some of the very best in the sport while at Skydive Arizona, Skydive Elsinore, and Skydive Perris.
Since arriving in the U.S., I also wanted to improve my skills at connecting with people, networking, and creating real human connections, not just swinging business cards at everyone like networking often is thought about. I studied books and started attending music industry conventions like the ASCAP Expo and the Taxi Road-Rally, where I got used to talking to heavy hitter industry players.
Move to LA
Then in 2009 an opportunity arrived for me to start studies at the UCLA Film Scoring program while continuing to work in my full-time role remotely. I made the move to Los Angeles.
Full-Time Music Only
Around 2010, I could no longer continue to hold the full-time job and work on my music career, so it was time to bite the bullet and trust that the income from my music work could support me. I had already worked full-time hours on my music for years, so this was no different other than the safety net of the coding job was now gone.
I applied all my learned skills – networking, remote teams, and tools for connecting, working, and staying organized. I traveled to Europe for co-writing sessions and continued to work with all my new connections in the industry. My clientele widened to cover a huge international network, and I made new friends globally.
Creating opportunities in the music industry takes initiative, and I’ve made some big moves along the way. One of them was organizing a songwriting trip with two co-writers to Scandinavia. I connected with some publishers in Finland and Sweden through shared connections, and we set up as many sessions as possible.
We ended up at the Helsinki Records studio for a co-writing session. At the end of the session, one of the writers gets a text asking if we’d be available for one extra session early next morning. We said sure, let’s do it! That session ended being with a young up-and-coming producer Joonas who had landed a deal with Sony Music to produce the debut albom for a new 12-year-old pop artist. We wrote a song called First Kiss, and once it was released, it became a platinum selling hit.
Over the years, I also became close friends with the Helsinki Records owner Maki, and we’ve done many songs together since.
Not every project becomes successful, but the key is to focus on the love of music instead of success. You have to stay hungry, driven, and inspired. I have so many songs and compositions that I consider simply amazing, yet they never became massive hits. One great example is the title song Gone With The River for a short film of the same name.
I continued with this same approach to anything in the music industry. Relentless pursuit of meeting people, writing the best possible songs, composing the best possible scores, and always over-delivering well beyond expectations.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with people I consider my mentors, including Ralph Murphy (RIP), Wendy Starland (check out this interview discussing one of our collaborations), Kai Robøle, and Richard Niles.
In 2015 I moved to St Petersburg, FL, where we still live today with my beautiful wife and two amazing children. I work remotely from my home studio and office with clients, coworkers, cowriters, and artists worldwide. My main focus is composition, songwriting, and production for film, TV, video games, artists, labels, and publishers.
Achievements So Far
Other proudest achievements in music I haven’t mentioned already include scoring a Super Bowl commercial for Scion, landing music on huge UFC fight promo spots and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, and really fun co-writes with John Fulford in K-Pop like the song Money Maker.
Some of my many clients include Red Bull Media House, XBox, UFC, PGA Golf, Sony Music, Warner Chappell, Peer Music, Scion, Verizon, and Fox News. My music can also be heard in over 800 episodes of current TV shows.
I’ve composed and produced an incredible amount of music for publishers like Position Music, Lab Hits, 10 West Music, Pop Machine (Universal Production Music), Instant Music Licensing, and many others. A lot of my work has been released and featured on so many cool things I’ve lost count by now.
The journey has not been easy but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and today I’m still just as driven to keep pushing higher. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in the music business comes easy. You have to put yourself out there, create your own opportunities.
I’m continuing to work full-time on my music, but for years now, I’ve felt the need to find a way to share what I’ve learned and experienced; a lot of it is something you don’t learn in a school program. They prepare you well to get started, but the practical experience and networking are something only you can create yourself. I can guide you through it, and that’s my aim with this blog.