1/ So First Off - Tell Us your Name, City and Country and what you currently do for a living?
My name is Tommi Tikka and I live in Finland currently. I have a governmental position working with languages and am in a band called The Impersonators. I also write songs for other artists. And then there’s this blog called Music to Celebrate Life that you might have heard of. LOL.
2/ Is This Something You Always Wanted To Do? What Do You Enjoy About It?
Okay. So, I’m not sure what the word “this” in the question is referring to, so I will assume it refers to question 1 in its entirety. Here goes.
I love languages. My mom and grandad both speak five languages fluently and ever since I was a kid, I was always encouraged to study languages. In my case, I’m afraid I only ever truly mastered two languages: English and Finnish. These were the languages I grew up with. Having said that, I do dabble with Spanish, Swedish and German. My mom made sure I knew the basics of these languages. In other words, it was no accident that I became a linguist.
But apart from that, I always loved poetry and lyrics. I must have been no more than eight or nine when I realized the power of good lyrics. Somebody had bought me a book that had the lyrics to all the Beatles tunes. I remember reading the lyrics to the song “Nowhere Man.” Although I was too young to understand or recognize the situation the lyrics describe, there was something that stirred up in me when I read the following lines:
He's a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Even though, being too young, I couldn’t yet understand these lines, I wanted to. I had this feeling that Lennon had fitted a whole world of regret and pain in just those three lines. It was just a lucky guess but it turned out I was right. And of course, I had already fallen in love with music a few years earlier. I wrote my first tune when I was seven. I started playing guitar when I was six.
Pretty soon after studying the Beatles’ lyrics, I began paying attention to what I was doing lyrically. I still think that there are way too many love songs out in the cosmos and of course, I’m guilty of producing quite a few during the past two decades – sorry about that. However, the lyrics I like best deal with other topics besides love. One of my all-time favorite lyrics is Gene Clark’s “Echoes.” Google the lyrics and read them, you’ll know what I mean.
I’ll talk more about the blog and playlist a bit later.
3/ Tell Us About Your First Musical Memory - Why Do You Think You Remember It?
I still remember hearing Paul Anka’s “Lonely Boy” for the first time. I must have been six at the time. My dad was listening to the track in our car. We had this old Chevrolet from the sixties and the sound system wasn’t great but when the song blasted out of the loudspeakers I was sold. I still think it’s a killer track. I love the intensity of it, the rhythm, the constant harmony over the melody. It’s one of the few pop songs that does not feature the lead vocal without the harmony at all. Paul Anka is a great writer and a great singer.
Also, a bit later, in middle school, my mom introduced me to all these Elvis movies. I remember being impressed by all the female attention this guy was getting every time he sang and played the guitar. This further turned me on to music. LMAO. From that point onward, I must have dallied around with music about six or seven hours a day, playing the guitar and honing my craft as a songwriter but I also began discovering new bands and reading music magazines. This is really when I became a music junkie.
4/ Who Did You Make Your First Mixtape / Playlist For - What Was The Result - Did They Dig It?
I made it for my dad in 1988 – I was sixteen then. Can you imagine doing something like that for your parents? LOL. I did it probably because my dad was the guy who introduced me to music. We always had music playing in the background. When he came home from work on Friday nights, he’d pour himself a stiff drink and put a record on. I’d wander downstairs to listen and he’d introduce the artist to me, saying things like, “Son, this is one of Dean Martin’s greatest track…” or “Have you ever heard this Curtis Mayfield album?”
Anyway, so he wanted to me to tape some Eagles tunes for the car. My dad continues to be an avid Eagles fan. He asked me if I could include songs from all of their albums and mix them up so they would make a great listening experience. He wanted me to include some of the more obscure tracks as well. I remember including songs like “Most of Us Are Sad” and “Those Shoes.” So I did just this and he liked it enough to come back to me after a few weeks to ask for another tape. This time I was to do the very same thing but with CCR. A month after that it was time for yet another tape, one of Simon and Garfunkel.
After a while, I started making these sort of tapes for myself and for my friends. I still have one that I really like. It’s a cassette full of Beatles tracks. It has what they call “deep cuts” these days. I don’t think I included any of the singles. I still listen to it a lot. It has stuff like “Misery,” “No Reply,” “Things We Said Today,” “Hey Bulldog,” “Piggies” etc. By the way, if you don’t know those songs, you are not a true Beatle fan.
5/ What Made You Go Online And Search About Music Curation?
I was looking for a blog that might be interested in featuring one of my brother’s tracks or was it one of mine. I’ve told this story a few times already in interviews, so I hope I’m getting this right. Andrew, the CEO of Music to, would remember. Anyway, then I stumbled on the Music to website. This was a year and a half ago. I put in an application to join the community and was lucky enough to get an email saying, “Let’s give it a shot.” So I did.
It’s been great fun and really, the best part has been that I’ve made some great new friends and received a vehicle for my write-ups. Oh, and obviously, it’s been super cool to discover new bands and songs. There’s also a lot of talent in the community and to have been able to witness the growth of Matt Jenko, for instance, as a musician and producer has been thrilling. Writing songs with Andrew has been a fantastic experience. He’s great to work with and also, a very talented guy. In terms of writing and selecting topics and tunes, I’ve learned a lot reading Chris McCann’s blog Music to Burn A Million Miles. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. Being part of this community gives you front row seats to a lot of things. There’s not enough space here to make a full list but I will tell you this much, it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If you are given a chance to be part of it, you should grab that opportunity with both hands.
6/ Tell us about the name of your Playlist - where did that come from?
Well, I had to think of a name when I put in the application – just like the rest of us. It was a requirement. And the first thing that came to mind was Music to Celebrate Life. There’s actually a story behind this.
The day before I submitted the application, I had talked to my dad, who’s been quite sick for a few years. When we were having a cup of coffee at my parents’ place, he was telling me what a rocky patch it had been. I remember telling him, “Sounds horrid.” His response was, “Yeah. What can I tell you, it’s been a real celebration!” That’s where the actual name came from but of course there was a bit more to it than just that.
Once you are in your mid-forties, you usually have enough mileage under your belt to look at the world a bit differently than you did when you were in your mid-twenties. And most of the time, you don’t view the world as a happier and easier place but rather you’ve developed an appreciation for how complex life is and how difficult and unfair it can be at times. However, this doesn’t mean that life sucks. Actually, to me, it means the opposite. What once was rather black and white and one-dimensional presents itself now as a rich, colorful kaleidoscope of fate. The good news is there appears to be a lot more opportunities buzzing around than you thought; the bad news is that there seems to be no guarantees of anything, not even life itself. So my original idea was to celebrate this brave new world that I was becoming aware of, everything that was great about it but also everything that was scary about it.
The funny thing is that in retrospect, I would change the name to Music to Reflect on Life. The word “celebration” is a bit misleading. Most likely because I took it from that sarcastic comment my dad made about learning to live with bad health. You cannot blame people for getting it wrong when they submit music. The blog does have a description to explain what it’s all about but artists seldom read that and as a result, I get all these EDM tracks with a pitch that explains how liberating, both sexually and philosophically (I am not making this up), dancing is and how the track’s about making out with so and so (again, I am not making this up). And there’s nothing wrong with that. If there’s something us old rock’n’rollers who’ve recorded for major labels and been in the biz for quite a while enjoy it’s the making out bit but for the purposes of my blog, I’m looking for something with a bit more lyrical depth.
7/ What does a track have to have to make it onto your list, is there something special that you look for?
I always feel a bit hesitant to answer these sort of questions. First off, I don’t want to place myself on a pedestal or in the ivory tower and have artists jump through hoops to get onto my playlist or into my blog. To be honest with you, I feel I’m the fortunate one in this equation. Whenever someone fills out the submission form and approaches me, I feel very lucky because this means that that particular musician considers the playlist worthy enough to submit. It’s a great feeling.
I rarely get music I dislike utterly. Most of the time, if a song does not make it to the playlist or my blog, it’s more a question of it not being a good fit for what I am doing with my write-ups than it is a question of quality. This is why I sometimes add the track to the Spotify playlist even if I have decided not to feature it in my blog.
How to get featured then? If you have a song that has strong lyrics and deal with other topics besides love that always helps. The song can also deal with love and relationships but if it does, it should offer an original or a grown-up perspective at least, something that inspires a write-up. You see, and I know this is a bit selfish, I need to write these things and when you are doing it every week, you will run out of topics fast unless you choose just the right tracks. So in other words, give me something that’s deep enough to work with.
Also, in terms of the music, you should probably take a quick listen to what kind of music is on the blog’s Spotify playlist. That’ll give you an idea.
Hope this helps.
8/ What can an artist do in their track submission to your list to ensure that you'll listen to their track?
Include the lyrics and write a paragraph or two about them and yourself. What inspired the track? What are the lyrics about? Who are you? And give me a list of all your important links, social channels and beyond. I just won’t have the time to go hunting for information about you. Sorry, I wish I did but I don’t. It’s a music blog, not a blog for solving mysteries.
9/ We know - these change all the time - but as of this week - what are your all time top 5 favorite tracks.
They never change for me and I don’t see them ever changing as they’ve been the same for thirty years. I feel it’s very difficult to break the spell these tunes cast. Because they are not just brilliant melodies, they’re also brilliant lyrics and productions.
“Nowhere Man” by The Beatles
“Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones
“Heroes And Villains” by The Beach Boys
“Baba O’Riley” by The Who
“She Don’t Care About” Time by The Byrds
Don’t get me wrong. There are so many great tunes in the world but usually they’re not great as a whole. Take “Down South Jukin’” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. To me that’s one of the ultimate Southern Rock songs, not the version on their first album but that alternate version on Skynyrd’s First And…Last. However, it’s not exactly poetry, is it? Yet, I love it.
10/ And finally - which Music to Curator should we interview next?
Brent Faulkner from Music To Atone To