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Sandhja: “Sing It Away is a song about overcoming sorrow and hardship” (Finnish semifinalist – Exclusive Interview)

ESC+Plus has talked to Sandhja, semifinalist of this year’s Finnish national selection for Eurovision. Sandhja will perform “Sing It Away” in the third semi-final of UMK 2016 set on February 20.

ESC+Plus: Hello! First of all, thank you so much for your time and congratulations on having been selected to compete in the Finnish national selection for Eurovision 2016.

Can you tell us about you, your musical career and important achievements?

My name is Sandhja and I’m a half Finnish, half Guyanese singer-songwriter. I have made music professionally for 6 years with my own name and released my debut album “Gold” in May of 2014. I met my producer Petri Matara at the age of 18 and I’ve been on that road ever since. I’m very much of a dreamer. When I was a teenager I used to spend many hours by myself singing and writing poems – living in my own little imaginary musical world. I’ve been writing since I was a little girl and told everyone at the age of 4 that I’m destined to become a singer-songwriter. Singing and telling stories has always been second nature to me. Therefore, it seems like a dream to be able pursue my music along with good friends, that I am proud to call my team.

In addition to being an artist, I graduated as a nurse in December of 2014. Taking care of people who are at their weakest brings me perspective to life and inspires me to write deep and meaningful song lyrics.

E+: What impelled you to take part in “UMK 2016”?

My first two singles “Hold Me” and “Gold” got good airplay in the Finnish radio stations, but the Finnish people don’t recognize my music to be native. Because my music sounds international and is sung in English, most people disregard it as being music performed by an American or British artist. UMK 2016 is meant to change this. It is very important to me that my music gets recognition in Finland, because I feel that it’s very difficult to be successful elsewhere in the world, if you don’t have the support from your home.

E+: How did you feel when you knew you had qualified for the semi-finals? Did you expect it?

My record company Sony had suggested that we trial for the semi-finals of UMK 2016 just a day before the deadline. Before I would have declined due to being too sensitive, but now I felt that I was ready as an artist. UMK 2016 has given me the chance to show the Finnish nation who I am as a singer, songwriter and performer and show the Finnish audience my true potential.

E+: What it would mean for you to represent Finland?

Representing Finland would be an honor. It would mean that the Finnish nation have acknowledged my talent and are backing me up on my journey to the Eurovision.

E+: Can you tell us about your song? What is the story behind the lyrics?

“Sing It Away” is a song about overcoming sorrow and hardship. Everybody gets hurt, but we are never alone – together we can sing away our troubles. Singing has always been a way for me to channel hurt into something beautiful. Dancing, laughing and spending time with people you love and trust are other ways that I relieve stress. But singing has always been my most powerful method of achieving peace of mind.

E+: Why do you think your song has to be selected for Stockholm? What are you strengths to reach the top in the competition?

I am a strong performer. Everything I sing, I sing it from my soul. All my songs have an important message or story that I have experienced. I believe that the only way to succeed in the music industry is by being your genuine self. I think that people are tired of pretence and crave for music that comes from the heart.

My strengths are my deep and soulful voice, expressive performance and genuine joy. I love music and I let it show.

E+: Have you started to prepare your stage performance for “UMK 2016”?

Yes, the wheels of the Sandhja-show are in motion. Me and my stylist, dear friend and main partner in crime, Hanna Ruax, both have great imaginations and we are not afraid dream big, so the outfits and style on stage is going to be mind-blowing. I have an amazing team that help me with my preparations and make sure I can concentrate in what I do best, which is singing and performing, so I am confident that everything will look and sound amazing.

E+: Do you usually watch Eurovision?

I must admit that I’m never been a crazy Eurovision fanatic and that’s why it has been a cultural shock how people feel to strongly about the Eurovision. My best memories are from childhood, as my aunts are very big Eurovision fans. The fanaticism skipped a generation.

E+: If you could choose a Eurovision former participant to sing along with, who would it be?

I would like to sing with Loreen. She has a similar strong and soulful voice like I have, but her style is more mystical and I am more sunny and bubbly, which would make us a good duetto.

E+: Besides Eurovision, what are your plans for this year?

This year is going to be all about music! I will be releasing my second album later on in the spring and going to have a lot of gigs. I’m aiming for the Nordic and European music market, so a lot of hard work is in place.

E+: Finally, can you send a message for our readers and Eurovision fans?

All I want to say to the readers and Eurovision fans is, that when you feel like life is beating you down, just Sing It Away! Music is healing! Love, peace and rock n’ roll! 😉

E+: Thank you for your time and good luck!

About Tony Rodríguez (Spain)