Every week at PopCrush, we’re putting the spotlight on one up-and-coming act you need to know about. Why? So you can get on board early before everyone else and their mother jumps on the bandwagon…and so you can be that one friend in the group who’s always like, “Um, actually, I prefer their earlier work.”

Peppina loved to write songs, but she didn't think she would actually enjoy being in the spotlight.

But then, after sharing her music on the Joseph Gordon-Levitt's HitRECord, she had the opportunity to not only perform her songs live, but also head to Los Angeles for her first performance outside her native Finland.

"At that point, I was only writing and thought I wanted to be a songwriter," the 22-year-old tells PopCrush.

"But then when I performed, I felt the energy of the room, and they were all listening. Some came to me after the show and said they were crying because of how much the song moved them. So that’s basically the moment I realized that I wanted to do this for real and wanted to see where it went."

Fast-forward to the present, Peppina made the move to New York City to let her music career grow.

More recently, she dropped her new EP, Spark, which she says is a taste of what people can expect from her upcoming album, Fire, set to release in the fall.

We had a chance to chat with Peppina about her new life in the Big Apple, how she went from songwriter to full-fledged artist and what she has coming up the pipeline.

You’re from Helsinki but now live in New York. What inspired the move?

First of all, it just made the most sense. As I started getting more connections in the U.S., most of them just so happened to be in New York City. And an equally big reason was the first time I stepped foot in the city, I could just feel energy everywhere in the air. It was unbelievable. I come from Finland. And in the entire country, there’s only five million people. Then I’m suddenly in the city with almost 10 million people. It was really crazy, but it’s also where I need to be. I wanted to be a part of all of this — whatever it is — and it’s been my dream ever since. It’s really amazing that I’m able to live here now.

And how has the city shaped your music?

I’ve learned a lot from the city. The work ethic that people here have; people work non-stop. It’s really inspiring. It really makes you push yourself a little harder. Also, the same inspiration I felt is still there, every time I walk Midtown or downtown. It’s amazing, and I’m writing more than I ever have in my whole life. I’m just so inspired [in New York]. And it really translates in my work.

You’re classically trained in the flute, but you don’t really bring that instrument out on Spark. When did you decide that pop music was your wanted to go? And do you ever bring the flute out once in a while?

Oh, I wish I did. I’ve been meaning to. But I think when you get classical training, it’s really beat into your head that there’s a right way of play and a wrong way of playing. And if you’re not playing it the right way, you just shouldn’t do it. So it’s really hard to pick it up after a long time of not playing. Every time I make a tiny sound [on the flute], I quickly think that it’s not the way it should be. I get discouraged, and I don’t play.

But I think it was the very first moment when I got my piano. When I was 10, it was really nice. I got this electric piano. It was the full-sized one, and it was such a nice break from from everything but also was a new kind of way to experience music. When you play classical, like I said, there’s one way of doing it. And your goal is to replicate what someone already did. But when you’re playing contemporary music or pop music or when you write your own music, the goal is the complete opposite. You’re supposed to do something new. You’re supposed to put your own spin on it. And at 10 years old, I loved playing with the harmonies and not having any rules. So I think from that moment on, if I had anything to do with music, it would have to be in the pop or contemporary world. I was never replicating something. I was always looking to create something.

You got a big break when Joseph Gordon-Levitt reached out to you after you started using his media platform. Can you talk about that whole experience?

I just turned 16 and had been messing around with writing songs with lyrics. I picked up the guitar when I was 15, and I can play the guitar as well as I can play the piano. So I had to make the melodies with my own voice. Once I made the melodies with my voice, I started writing lyrics. I was playing with the idea of singing these songs and becoming and artist, and actually the first platform I used was Myspace. I put up a couple of songs on Myspace. Then I felt I had to share the somewhere for anyone to find it, and I shared it on Facebook. People liked it, even people in School would like my stuff. That’s the thing I hated about it. Anything I share I’m going to share it with people I actually know. And when people find it, they’re going to judge me good and bad, and I didn’t like that feeling of being in the spotlight.

So I almost scrapped the idea entirely until I found HitRECord because that site is all about collaborating. It wasn’t like the other platforms that showcase your talent and show people what you’re doing. On HitRECord, it’s about working with each other’s work. I was really inspired by that concept. You don’t have to put a bio about yourself. You don’t have to put a photo. It felt like no one in Helsinki even knew about the site. So it felt like such a safe space to really see what I could do. I was only getting started in [song]writing and really figuring out what I wanted to write about. And it turned into the best possible thing I could have done because it really gave me an opportunity to experiment in a way that I never would have if I had to be there with my name and face and be judged. [Laughs.] The community is so welcoming and is really about collaborating with others.

Then things started to speed up, and my music became really popular. I think three of my songs are still some of the most played songs on the site to this day. It got really crazy, but I could just [turn off] my computer and go about my day. And one day, I get a Skype call from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I really loved him in movies and all his work. And he told me that two of my songs were being featured on the TV show that they’re debuting on the site, and they were inviting me to Los Angeles to perform at the Orpheum Theater (Sp?) in front tons of people for the TV show. I had just turned 18 at that time, and I’ve never performed anywhere outside of a flute concert or some school event. And I knew they had no idea who I was and thought I was some kind of artist because of all the music I had on [the site]. So I had to say yes. I couldn’t say no to something like that. I would regret it my entire. So I flew to LA with my dad.

I met Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and he asked me what college I went to. And I had to tell him I was still in high school. They thought I was like 25 and already performing in clubs in Finland and doing the real artist thing. They got the high school girl, but it really turned out great. It got me to push my boundaries and got me to fall in love with performing. At that point, I was only writing and thought I wanted to be a songwriter. But then when I performed, I felt the energy of the room, and they were all listening. Some came to me after the show and said they were crying because of how much the song moved them. So that’s basically the moment I realized that I wanted to do this for real and wanted to see where it went.

Even though the tracks on Spark carry a lot of energy, there are some strong messages in them. What are you trying to convey in this collection of songs?

With everything that I write, the message is so important to me. All of the songs are poppy, and they’re happy songs. But I want people to get inspired. I want people to believe that there’s nothing they can’t do. It’s never too late for anything. You’re never too small for anything. And no matter how hard it gets, it’s never too much. There’s always reasons to keep going. Whether it’s something in yourself or from maybe your family, that’s what Spark is all about. It’s meant to be an uplifting experience for people.

What’s next for you?

Actually, I’m excited about everything that’s coming out. In reality, Spark is the first taste of my full-length album, Fire, which will be my first album. We’re planning on releasing it sometime in the fall. And we’re busy working on additional materials for it, including a bunch of new songs and a couple of covers. And we’re also working on my first music video for the first single, “Fire.” I’m super excited about how Spark is being received, and I can’t wait till everyone gets to the rest of the package.

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