Aksel Kankaanranta: “I realized I can sing when I was about fourteen or fifteen”

This Saturday, March 7th, it’s time to find out who’ll carry the Finnish flag in Eurovision 2020, when Uuden musiikin kilpailu (UMK) takes place in Tampere, Finland. Six contestants compete for a ticket to Rotterdam. One of these contestants is Aksel Kankaanranta, who kindly answered some questions we asked from him. This is what this talented musician told us about his UMK-song, his career and his relationship to Eurovision:

Hello Aksel Kankaanranta and thank you that you agreed to do this interview! At first I’d like to ask what is your relationship to Eurovision? Do you usually watch the contest and do you have some favorite songs from the previous Eurovision years?

I watched Eurovision every year when I was younger, but now I only watch it occasionally. My personal favorite is Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale, mostly because of the violin, which I used to play.

You have such a beautiful voice and you can put your soul into your performances amazingly well. Have you always known you wanted to be a musician or did you have some other career plans?

Well, I realized I can sing when I was about fourteen or fifteen, so I’m a bit of a late bloomer considering that.

You were a runner-up in The Voice of Finland in 2017. What kind of experience that competition was and what did you learn there about music and performing?

The Voice of Finland was a bit of a longshot, honestly. I never intended to get that far, but here we are. During Voice I learned a great many things about performing and singing, keeping your eyes open during the performance and mostly how to suppress my anxiety to face the crowds.

Whole Finland knows your voice from the mega hit Jättiläinen by Pyhimys (real name Mikko Kuoppala), which was for example the most popular song of the Finnish Spotify-list in the year it came out. How did you end up to sing in that song and how it has affected in your career?

Well, it was a bit of a surprise, I got a call in december 2017 from the A&R at Fried Music, and they said that this guy wants you on his song, and I’m like okay. I’ve never listened to Pyhimys and only knew Mikko from Teflon Brothers, but I said yeah, why not. And then we booked a session and got the thing recorded in one or two takes. I listened to the demo and said that this is actually quite good, and I never thought that it would blow up like that, well about a year later Pyhimys got a total of six Emma statues (Finland’s equivalent of a Grammy) and I myself got two of those afterwards, so I was pretty dumbfounded. 

How was your song ”Looking Back” born and when it was decided that the song would be sent to UMK?

The song itself was written in LA when the producer of the song Joonas Angeria lived there. He got booked into a songwriting session with his good friend Whitney Phillips and this almost newfound band called Before You Exit. Somehow the song never made into their discography but instead it found it’s way to me. The decision to send it to UMK was done after I got a call from the Fried Music A&R Jukka Immonen, and then we went on to record it and suprisingly it got selected!

What do you do when you don’t do music? 

Well, usually when I don’t do music I hang around with my friends and take my best friend’s dog to the park. Alongside those things I play lots of video games.

Who are your musical role models?

I’ve never thought about this, but I would guess that Freddie Mercury might be one them. I guess.

Besides your own great song, do you have some other favorite of this year’s UMK-songs?

Bananas, it just works.

What would winning UMK and representing Finland in The Eurovision Song Contest mean to you?

Well, for starters it would be kind of awesome, I think I’ll cross that bridge if I get there.

What would you like to say to our readers and your fans in Finland and abroad?

Well, thanks to everyone who is supporting me and I hope I don’t give the wrong impression with my social awkwardness and shyness, it’s just a part of me.

Thank you so much for this interview Aksel Kankaanranta and good luck to UMK!

Aksel Kankaanranta will compete in Saturday’s show in 3rd position with his song Looking Back.


If Aksel Kankaanranta is your favorite in UMK 2020, don’t forget to vote him in our poll:

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