Isac Elliot is Finland's unlikely teen pop veteran. At seventeen he is starting to take more responsibility in his own career.
It is freezing outside. Isac Elliot sits behind the executive director’s desk in the corner office at Sony Music Finland’s headquarters in Helsinki.
If you don’t know who Isac Elliot is, let’s start with some facts. He’s a pop star with more than a million monthly listeners on Spotify. He’s a veteran in music business. He’s seventeen.
”I was so young when I started my career, this has taught me how to behave in formal company. With the adults”, Elliot says.
”But of course with my friends I can act like a normal, goofy teenager.”
Isac Elliot Lundén was twelve years old when his first single ”New Way Home” came out in 2013. It was an immediate teen pop smash and a life changer.
”I was twelve, my dad was working as a teacher and all of a sudden we found ourselves sitting in the backseat of our car surrounded by fans shouting and knocking the windows. Everything was completely new”, Elliot says.
”I remember the first time when I had a showcase gig abroad, somewhere in Europe. The record company had booked a four-star hotel for us and my dad said he is so proud of my success. Later on, the glow around hotel stays has vanished.”
I was twelve, my dad was working as a teacher and all of a sudden we found ourselves sitting in the backseat of our car surrounded by fans shouting and knocking the windows.
37 per cent adult oriented pop
Starting a career really young can mess your head. Everyone remembers tragic examples such as Britney Spears and Justin Bieber.
Isac Elliot doesn’t act like these pop stars.
Quite the opposite, during the interview Isac wants to remind me several times that ”no artist or genre is worthier than another” and that he ”really appreciates everyone, who has chosen a career similar to his”.
In his own opinion, he has already taken the difficult step from a teen pop star into something more mature. His gigs are not family events anymore. Fans are coming to the shows by themselves and investing their own money in the tickets. At last.
”Two years ago I was lost with my vision and had no idea what to do. It was a really tough time, especially mentally. Now we are trying to figure out what will be my own sound”, Elliot says.
Isac's streaming statistics prove that his listener base is in fact maturing.
”Today I checked from Spotify that exactly 37 per cent of my followers are over 18-year-olds. This percentage is higher than ever before.”
The unplanning strategist
In Finland Elliot gained loads of new fame last year when he released an ep with a local rap star Mikael Gabriel, sung in Finnish. Two of the ep’s songs are still among Elliot’s most popular songs on Spotify, beating all but one song from Elliot’s latests album Faith, released in December 2017.
After the massively successful collaboration ep, it was natural for him to do a festival run in the Finnish summer, but now it is time for Europe. Elliot says that he keeps on receiving messages from Turkey, Greece, Austria and Germany – all countries in which he is still relatively unknown. But yet again social media has proven its unpredictable power.
”This will sound totally crazy, but I visited a Latvian television show and suddenly I started receiving dozens and dozens messages from Latvian girls on social media. Then I just decided to reply to as many as possible. We were on our way to a gig, and I just sat in the car and replied. Stayed up late and replied. Then they posted screencaps on their Instagram stories, which led to even more messages from more countries. It was completely unplanned, but it turned out to be a strategy. That’s 2018, I think!”, Elliot recalls.
”When we visited Copenhagen few weeks ago, there were 50 people waiting at the airport. It’s crazier than it was in Norway during my breakthrough. Next we are going to Greece and Turkey to meet new fans.”
Finns are getting better
Isac Elliot also has a new album in the works already. He has been writing songs at their family’s summer cottage in the archipelago of Espoo, near Helsinki. One of the people working with Isac Elliot on the record is Jurek Reunamäki. Jurek is an example of the new generation of talented pop producers Finland has spawned during the last few years. These producers’ fame has been so far limited to their native country, but hopefully a change is about to come soon. For example Henri ”Hank Solo” Salonen wrote a half of Alma’s new Heavy Rules mixtape.
The pop scene has to be the hardest one out there.
About 60 per cent of the songwriters in the upcoming album are Finns, Isac says.
”But the nationality doesn’t matter anymore – as these Finns are as gifted as anyone else”, Elliot says.
At the same time, a culture of poptimism has finally reached Finland, even though Elliot recalls a local rock band saying on the radio that they could also “take the easy way and cut their hair short like Justin Bieber” some time ago.
”I have to say that the pop scene has to be the hardest one out there. It still annoys me how ignorant people can be!”
Life back to music
But what about the music then? If the music’s not good enough, no social media strategy or pretty face will help. It is an argument that Isac Elliot wants to stress too.
He says he’s been listening a lot to rap music during the last few years. He mentions blushingly that he’s into emo rap – not Lil Pump, though.
“I have to say that I like it. And it is very deep, but…. I really like $uicideboy$ and that kind of deep hip hop. But I still feel like a newcomer with rap.”
I'd like to be in the same category as Zara Larsson. She makes mainstream music for young people, but she has a cool sound.
The sole reference Elliot namedrops regarding his new music is The Weeknd. But for an artist to stand out among dozens of random acts on the playlists, his sound has to be unique: maybe weird but not too weird. And that’s a true specialty of producer Jurek Reunamäki.
But most importantly, this is Elliot’s own vision, because he’s not a kid anymore.
”Practically, I would like to be in the same category as Zara Larsson. She makes mainstream music for young people, but she has a cool sound. I can imagine her going on until she’s the same age as The Weeknd – and maybe even the same age as Justin Timberlake”, Elliot says.
”Lately I’ve gotten rid of my shyness and feel that I have learned how music business works, at last. I have also started taking part in our strategy meetings. Now I have more to say.