Saara Aalto is bringing her perfect blend of show-stopping pop numbers and beautifully crafted ballads to Dublin’s Academy this October with her Wild Wild Wonderland Tour. She had a quick chat with GCN about what’s in store for fans and how her career has progressed since X Factor.
Hi Saara, so what can your Irish fans expect from the show in October?
This is my first headline tour after the X Factor, so I’ll be performing some of the X Factor songs along with songs from my new album Wild Wild Wonderland. It’ll be a great variety of uptempo numbers, some emotional acoustic numbers and I’ll be playing the piano myself.
The new series of X Factor has just started, how was your experience on the show?
It changed my life but it was the hardest experience, it was really tough! You live in the X Factor house for four months and you don’t have anything else in your life, you only have that. It was quite special because I’d moved straight from Finland into the X Factor house. I was learning cultural habits and behaviours from scratch, using another language as your main language. I could speak English but when you are in the middle of 20-year-old people and they speak so quickly and they have their own slang, it was very hard for me to follow everything! I was so exhausted but I loved it. And of course I loved working with Brian Friedman, who was the creative director, that was the best thing.
You became a judge on the Finnish version of X Factor, what was it like being on the other side of the desk?
It was really interesting, I always wanted to be a judge on a TV singing competition because I felt like I would have a lot to give. I took it very seriously, I even gave my singers private singing lessons. My girl won, so I think it helped!
Going from one huge platform to another, you represented Finland at Eurovision this year. How was that experience?
It was always my childhood dream to go to Eurovision. But I have to say it was also a really hard process! Because it’s not just the three-minute show that you do as you actually prepare for it for nine months. I started the work in October, so it was a long process. It was great, I really got what I wanted from it, I got so many new fans. I got to work with Brian Friedman again for my performance. When X Factor finished, he’d said ‘Saara, if you ever need me again just ask me’, so when I found out about Eurovision I knew he’d be perfect.
Was it strange having all the cameras following you around making the behind the scenes documentary about your experience?
It was like a nice memory, so I could see what I actually did! Because honestly doing the Eurovision and after X Factor, my life was so hectic I really can’t remember that much about it! I was always travelling and working so it was kind of nice having cameras following you so you could look back and say ‘Oh, this is what I did!’ It’s really good, you don’t have to remember anything yourself!
You also released a book about your journey – No Fear, could you tell us about that?
Well, the whole X Factor thing was so big in Finland, like the whole country was basically following my journey. It was something that no one in Finland had done before, it was so surreal that a Finnish girl had done that. A publisher approached me about making a book about my life and journey. It was a long process as well. During the X Factor tour, I’d be on buses from place to place and the author would call me and I would be giving her interviews on the bus.
Is your album Wild Wild Wonderland a good reflection of who Saara Aalto is as an artist?
It’s a perfect image of my life. X Factor helped me to present myself even better, I got so much support from Brian and the public. In Finland, I felt like an outsider as people didn’t get my style or how I wanted to be. I always wanted to be really flamboyant, with big costumes and big shows – it’s not very Finnish! But then when I was doing the show they were like – ‘Oh NOW we get her’! The album is about being brave, being colourful and being in my own Wonderland, that everything is possible.
As a lesbian woman in the pop world and with the show, was there ever pressure to not be upfront about your sexuality?
When I started going out with my girlfriend, it took a while to come out. I was hiding it for about a year, as I wanted to make sure she was the one for me before coming out with her. It’s a big responsibility when you are a public person and when you do it with somebody who is not a famous person, my girlfriend also needed time to think about if she wanted to be a public person. But we both agreed that if we could help somebody by being an example we both wanted to do it. It was three years ago when I came out with her, so at that time I didn’t really have a record label or anybody to prevent me, it was only me and my decision. I was like it’s my decision, it’s my 28th birthday, I’m old enough to be who I want to be. I feel I’m lucky in a way because everybody let me be who I am. I would never do something if someone told me I couldn’t be myself, it’s kind of like my motto. Everybody was really fine with my sexuality, I didn’t expect that, I thought I would have some problems. In Finland, in some smaller places, it’s still really hard, that’s why I feel like I need to do this and I need to keep talking about it.
What are your plans for the future?
For now, I’m concentrating on the tour but there will be a lot of new adventures. I don’t know how but I always end up in weird places, but of course, there will be new music as well!
What are you looking forward to about visiting Ireland?
I’ve been to Dublin during the X Factor tour and it was actually the final city and it was the best audience that we had. It was amazing. So I’m assuming the audiences are usually really good? I’m super excited to come visit.
We are super excited to see Saara in Dublin too!
You can buy tickets for Saara Aalto’s Dublin show here.
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