ALMA is "Chasing Highs" — and stateside stardom!
In recent years, the Finnish singer-songwriter has become a go-to collaborator for pop cool-girls like Miley Cyrus and Tove Lo. Now, with the recent release of her eclectic, experimental debut album, Have U Seen Her?, the Nordic export (real name: Alma-Sofia Miettinen) is ready for the spotlight.
Here, ALMA, 24, opens up to PEOPLE about her rise to fame, A-list collaborators and coming out.
She got her start on Finland's version of American Idol.
In 2013, ALMA competed on Finland's Idols reality singing competition, on which she placed fifth.
"I was 17 when I first got famous in my home country and started going around the world and traveling," she says of how the show launched her career. "My whole world changed."
Indeed, ALMA went on to work with EDM producers like Felix Jaehn (2016's "Bonfire") and Martin Solveig (2017's "All Stars") and released a slew of EPS, including Dye My Hair and Heavy Rules Mixtape, which featured the soulful international dance hit "Chasing Highs."
ALMA is pals with Tove Lo — and met her through their mutual friend, Charli XCX.
Since 2017, ALMA and Tove Lo have teamed up several times: They were both featured on Charli XCX's 2017 single "Out of My Head"; that same year, ALMA appeared on the star-studded remix of Tove's single "bitches"; Tove invited ALMA onto her Sunshine Kitty album for their duet, "Bad as the Boys", and ALMA opened on her latest tour; and Tove sings on ALMA's Have U Seen Her? track "Worst Behaviour."
"We met at a party at Charli XCX's — that's how I always meet people; she's like connection in L.A. with all pop people and every genre — and we just like fell in love. Maybe it's because we've both come from Nordic places," ALMA says. "It's just very relaxed. I always want to collaborate with friends because if you don't have a good relationship between the artists, I think people can smell it."
Another friend and frequent collaborator? Miley Cyrus.
ALMA has cowritten multiple hits with Cyrus, including the riotous "Mother's Daughter," divorce kiss-off "Slide Away" and the latest Charlie's Angels theme, "Don't Call Me Angel" (with Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey).
"We met at a party and she was like, 'Hey, your album is super cool,' and I was just like, 'Yep. You're Miley Cyrus and you're super cool too.' I've always been a Miley fan and I love powerful, female artist who does what the f— they want to do — and she's like queen of that," ALMA says.
The artists hit it off immediately after they met.
"Literally, the next day we were in the studio and we were making music and actually, the first song we did together was 'Slide Away.' I feel like we were in the same place in life, like we had same things in our head and it was a connection we both really needed," ALMA says. "It was just so easy to write all of the songs. It was like we're not trying much — they just came. We both have the same energy: It's just very fast and very real and very honest."
She gets personal on her new album, addressing her sexuality for the first time in her music.
Early into her career, ALMA focused on party-starting dance-pop. She goes deeper on Have U Seen Her?
ALMA reveals she actually had an album ready two years ago, but she started over.
"There was a moment when I went back home and I felt like I wanted to talk about what was really happening and about the side that I wasn't showing on my music before," she says.
Part of that was coming out publicly.
"I was scared about talking about stuff and also it really took the time for me to really admit that I'm a bit famous in my home country. And some people really care what I do and I just felt like I can't talk about anything, like, 'What if they hate me?'" says ALMA, who decided not to sing about her romantic life at first. "I was like, 'I'm not going to talk about my relationships or love or.'"
After meeting queer fans while touring, though, she had a change of heart.
"I started traveling around the world and I saw that being gay is not okay in every country and talking with my fans, like LGBTQ fans, I just felt like: Holy s—, if I just f—ing say it out loud and talk about love in a way how I feel it with girls, maybe that's going to change the world even little bit and I had to do it and maybe someday it's not a problem anymore anywhere.'"
And so, in songs like "Lonely Night" and "My Girl," ALMA sings about her relationships more specifically.
"I never had that big coming out moment," she says. "But one this album, I change the word — I use the word 'she' because usually I always used the word 'you' or 'them' or whatever. I wanted to change that because there are so many songs for straight people and I think we — me and other gay people — have to change the love songs into our perspective, and there's no problem with that."