Often referred to as the Finnish equivalent to Justin Bieber, Isac Elliot has had a career by the age of 15 many can only dream of at 25. Having already released two albums, opened for One Direction and earned himself a phenomenal fan-base, Elliot is looking to make 2016 his biggest and best year yet. A relative unknown in the UK and US, he kindly agreed to this interview to chat social media, Madison Square Garden and the importance of supportive fans and family.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Isac Elliot: Hi everybody or moi like we say in Finland. I am Isac Elliot, I just turned 15 years old. I have always been into music, sung in a boys’ choir for many years and have done musicals in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. When I was 11, my dad and I wrote a song called "My Favorite Girl.” Just to get a feel of how it is to sing in a studio, we went to my dad's friends' small studio and recorded it. I was lucky to get signed by Sony Music off of that song, also when I was 11. I released my first single "New Way Home,” when I was 12. I did not know anything about what I was doing. I just knew I loved music and I was super happy to get a song of my own out, picked up by radio in the Nordics and then I got to go out on tour. Since then, it’s been non-stop traveling, recording, touring, shooting videos and getting to live my dream.
PW: You're a teenage music sensation, but when did you first realize that you wanted to be a part of the music industry?
IE: Well, I did not just wake up one day thinking I wanted to become a singer. I guess everybody has their own thing, their own passion. Singing and music is mine. When I was in first grade my teacher called my parents and said that she thought I had some talent with music and that I should try out for this boys’ choir. I did, I got in and sang there for 3 years. Then I was picked out to do musicals and that is where I got to sing and perform solo for the first time. I loved the rush of going on stage. One of the plays was put up by Björn and Benny from Abba and they encouraged me to get into pop music. I did not think of it back then because I was only 10 years old, but I guess it was a big deal. From there everything has just happened one step at a time. I just have fun with it. I let the others take care of the industry bit of this all. I think the rush after getting your own song ready, to hear it for the first time on radio, getting great feedback and selling out your first show ever - 900 people - was what made me think "OK, I never want this to end.” I always wanted to have my fans here. I always wanted to make music.
PW: Which bands and artists have most influenced and inspired you?
IE: Well, I listen to pop music a lot like Michael Jackson and Beyoncé. Great singers and the ones whose records I have been practicing singing along to. I also like Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars. Straight out pop. Right now, I listen to a lot of DJs and Rap. I think it is interesting and good to listen to all types of music. I don't want to limit myself to just one artist or genre. There are things you really can enjoy and learn from in all types of music. Even classical music is really cool sometimes. It sounds so big and dramatic.
PW: Can you remember the first album you bought and concert you attended? How did they impact you?
IE: The first record I ever got was my Chemical Romance's The Black Parade. I went to see them at a show in Helsinki when I was 6. Billy Talent was the warm up artist. I was really into that rock-punk thing back then. I remember going to the show and sitting next to us was a group of girls. When the band entered the stage they started crying and I asked my dad to talk to them as there clearly was something wrong and they were really sad. My dad told me it was part of the game and that it was tears of joy from seeing the band. The way the crowd responded to the music, to emotion, to roar was like "wow! This is so cool.” That summer I tried to collect money to buy a "black parade suit.”
PW: Is there a band or artist out there you think you're in any way similar to?
IE: Well over here, many compare me to Justin Bieber as we both started out young and we are both in the pop genre. Justin has influenced me and the way I sing. He is a great vocalist and I big inspiration. But I still like to think of myself as the first Isac Elliot, not as the new something. I also really enjoy say one direction's and 5SOS' attitude and the way they really seem to have fun and enjoy the ride. Opening for One Direction on their tour was like a dream. I am a huge fan, love their music and love their attitude. To open up for them in stadiums was huge and their fans were so nice to me. I met the band and they were super nice. They wanted to know that I was enjoying being at the shows and that I was well taken care of. So nice of them. They didn't have to do it. Especially Harry took a lot of time talking with me. We also talked about a song that they once recorded, never used and then passed on to me. We even sang a bit of it together.
PW: Abba's Benny and Bjorn have been a big part of building your career, as has your working with the likes of Redone and Rami Yacoub. What advice did they give you and what did they bring to the evolution of your music?
IE: Well I think their advice has been quite simple but yet really good. Enjoy what you are doing, music should be fun. And surround yourself with a small group of people you can really trust and listen to these adults.
PW: You've released two albums, 2013's “Wake Up World” and 2014's “Follow Me”. Looking back, how do you think your sound and style changed over those two albums? Did you feel like you were growing as an artist while recording them both?
IE: Well first of all as I said, I did my first singles and album when I was 11-12 so my voice has changed a lot since then. I remember the struggle during the tour of my first album. My voice started dropping and it was so hard. Also as I was so young back then I really did not know much about working your songs, singing in the studio and stuff like that. I just jumped in the pool's deep end and tried to get to the other side. Now I am in the writing sessions when we make new songs so the songs and the music is much more personal. I have been lucky and gotten to work with big songwriters and producers for my upcoming album. I have learned a lot and they have been able to push me in the studio. Though they have massive success they are all super nice and down to earth and make me feel comfortable, confident and good about my singing.
PW: Could you pick your favorite tracks from each album or would that be like asking you to pick a favorite family member?
IE: It changes. I have album favorites, I have live favorites, up-tempo favorites and ballad favorites. When you get to work on a single and sing it a million times you get a bit tired and another song takes its place. So it’s really hard. I would love to hear what you and the fans think though!
PW: Tell me a little about your latest single “No One Else”.
IE: The song is quite different from what I usually do. It does not have a lot of production around it. It is more about the vocals, the lyrics. I wanted to have a song like that. A song where I just can sing my heart out about this relationship where you want to be together with somebody, that is all you ever think about, but there is always something in the way. At the end of the day you are left questioning your previous thoughts and maybe this person really is the right one for you.
PW: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?
IE: This is too hard of a question. There are just too many good melodies, lyrics, artists and genres. It is like picking the best flavor of ice cream. You can never get it right. You always want another flavor added to the mix. That is why I always take a bowl of mixed flavored ice cream. Never two scoops of the same ice cream.
PW: You've sold out arenas and opened for the likes of One Direction but of all the shows you've played so far, do you have any particularly memorable ones?
IE: As amazing as it is to sell out shows or play with your idols I am guessing it is quite easy to pick the most memorable ones. I am supporting cancer research a lot here in Scandinavia. We even have an annual tour where all the income goes to cancer research. While on tour, I get to visit hospitals and perform acoustic for fans and children that are hospitalized. That is something that you never forget. That is something I really cherish. My life is so easy compared to the struggles of others. If I can make their day even a little bit better with my music, then I am more than honored to do so.
PW: What are your touring and performance plans for this year? Would you like to head back over to the UK?
IE: I would absolutely love to come back to the UK. I have had two shows over there. One in Birmingham and one in Sheffield. I just loved the crowds and in Sheffield I even got to meet a lot of the fans. I am having my new album released there during the summer and after the summer festivals, we hope to announce a tour in late fall. Can't wait for it!
PW: If you could share a stage with four bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would they be and which venue would you play?
IE: I guess Madison Square Garden is quite legendary and my management is from New York so it would be easy in terms of travel for them. I would pick One Direction, Queen, Michael Jackson and Drake – a good mix of crazy good artists.
PW: How has social media impacted your career? Do you think you'd have the status you do without it and would you agree it's a necessary tool for bands and artists today?
IE: Social media is the key to everything. It is where I can spread my music, where fans can spread my music, where I can connect with them and where they can connect with me. They do so much for me and I want to give back so I try to notice and respond to as many of them as I can on social media. It’s super addictive. Sometimes I have to hand in my phone to my parents because they feel like all I do is look at the socials. I love to do it and to connect with my fans, but it can't be all you think of. You have to let go and focus on the stuff and people around you as well. Of course, I see the bad stuff on social media too but I try not to pay too much attention to those comments though. Sometimes there can be 10,000 positive comments and all you really remember is that one negative one hidden within them. You can easily get sucked into that social media bubble where you feel like all of your life is there. I had coaching regarding how to move around on the web and on social media, and I’m fully aware that negative comments come with the job. But I feel really bad for fans and for people who receive negative comments online who don’t have the support of a fandom or others around them, like I do with my team and my family. Online bullying is so bad and I really would like it to stop.
PW: Finally, what advice would you give to other young people such as yourself who are considering pursuing a career in music? Is there anything you know now that you wish you'd known sooner?
IE: Dream big, surround yourself with a good team you can trust, work hard and believe in your dreams. Never take anything for granted. If you want to achieve something you need to work hard and put in the effort yourself. Never give up and never let the haters bring you down. I also live by the motto: 'if your neighbors aren't laughing at your dreams your dreams are not big enough’ The most important thing though is to have fun!