The Universal years

I walked through the Helsinki airport after flying for 17 hours slightly delirious and listening to Primus.  After selling or giving away most of my stuff, I was
carrying almost everything I owned.  I had 2 electric guitars, an amazing 1963 Guild acoustic, and an army duffle full of clothes.  I dropped my luggage off and went straight to an Aikakone
gig in front of about 50,000 people for “Helsinki day” in a big park in Helsinki.  No rehearsal, no sleep, no problem.  What a great way to start a new beginning!

It wasn’t smooth for a long time after that.  First of all I knew about 5 people in the whole country.  And one of them was an ex I was sharing an apartment with!  I
was supposed to have a bunch of gigs with Aikakone, but that was the only one we actually did!  I had thought I’d have a good income for at least 3 months.  It didn’t happen.  I’d paid off my debts before leaving, so I only had $500.00 when I came to Finland.  I was worried, but this time I didn’t chicken out.

Universal Music and Maki came to my rescue.  I did odd jobs for Maki, like painting his house, and meanwhile I got a chance to try and write a lyric for a song Maki had written.  Maki was really nonchalant about my trying to write for his song.  He told me there were a lot of other guys writing lyrics for it and the best lyric in Universal’s opinion would be the one that made the record.  Without Maki offering up this opportunity things would have ended up real different.  I used Buddy Kaye’s method of writing little movies that Iam had taught me.  The lyric came together pretty easily that way.  I turned the lyric in to Hannu Sormunen, the A&R director at Universal.  He called me up the next day.  He told me; “..we want to take your lyric and offer you a publishing deal.”  I was in shock.  This was huge.  My first publishing deal, and a major publisher at that!  I never intended to be a songwriter, but suddenly here I am!  Thank you Iam for showing me how to do it!

Universal was really good to me.  I think Hannu was taking pity on how broke and struggling I was.  He gave me the chance to  write more for songs for the same teen-age girl band they were working with, called “Tik Tak,” who’d taken my first lyric.  I got together with some of the other people who wrote for the record and got more songs on it.  Maki and I wrote all the singles.  Maki’s like that.  He’s the guy the record companies go to for a hit.  Then another big break happened.

During this whole thing Hannu asked me if I could teach the lead singer, Petra, to sing in english without an accent.  I told him I would try, but when I met her the first time I realized she didn’t know anything about singing.  She was only 14, full of talent and had exceptionally good english skills.  I realized I needed to teach her the same singing technique I had learned from Bob.  She was my first student.  I ended up teaching the whole band, and the work kept me from starving! 

This led to other students and a growing reputation as a singing teach.  I’ve worked with many of the top singers in Finland in one way or another.  I owe it all to Bob Rose.  Without his super easy to get singing technique I couldn’t have done it.

Ultimately, when the chance for a BBD (Bigger, Better Deal) came up I parted ways with Universal.  I really owe them my song writing career.

But this isn’t the end of the story.. not by any means.  Once I was into the first contract Maki and I were writing a lot of songs.  Most of them would end up translated into Finnish, but I still tried really hard to make them as amazing as I could.  Except for one...  It was a little story about a cowboy from Montana who meets a Finnish girl named Hanna and ends up gong to Finland and roping reindeer.  I wrote the lyric as a joke, using a little melody that Maki was messing around with as his version of country music.  We recorded it and Maki sent it to EMI as a joke, I ended up with an artist deal with EMI over it!  Another huge thing, sort of.  You can read more about it here if you want to.

One more important thing... Maki partnered up with a guy named Jon Wesamaa and started a record company called Helsinki Records.  This was SO important, since it involved building a studio and gave me a place to write and teach.  You can read more about it here.

Some of the bands I’ve worked with while I was with Universal publishing

Tik Tak


The biggest Universal hits with english lyrics:
Don’t look back  A.K.A. Lopeta(Tik Tak)
Upside down and inside out (Tik Tak)
Money, money (Tuula)

This spans the period during my Universal publishing deal

My single cover, released on EMI in 2000