Jon Ali is In The Know’s music contributor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more.
It’s about time we formally introduced you to Miki Ratsula.
As an out trans non-binary artist, the Southern California-based Finnish-American singer, songwriter and producer has built a sizable audience by transparently welcoming people into their world — and, honestly, we couldn’t be more grateful.
From the very early days of their career, Miki has used their platform to candidly document their life. From coming out to their first relationship with a girl to getting their top surgery, they’ve been telling their story to give queer people the representation and comfort they deserve to see more of 2022.
Miki first gained some success posting covers of hits like Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to YouTube. But it wasn’t until late in high school when Miki came out that their music really started to gain traction.
Although Miki describes their early music as “super cheesy love songs,” they acknowledge that releasing music about their girlfriend gave people a model for queer love and what it meant to them at the time. “I started to gain more followers because they were interested in my and my girlfriend’s story. They just loved the example that we were sharing and the fact that I was writing music about it,” Miki said in a statement.
Over the next couple of years, Miki not only really took the time to develop and grow stronger as a songwriter but also became a full-fledged music producer, allowing for a more laser-focused vision of themself as an artist.
Fast forward to the months right before the pandemic in 2020, and Miki wasn’t in the best mental state creatively or personally. Unsure of which direction to take and succumbing to the pressures placed on burgeoning artists, Miki said, “I was in this really weird space before Covid. It was also before my top surgery, and before I came out as nonbinary, so I was just dealing with a lot of things at once.”
But it was during lockdown, when Miki happened to schedule multiple writing sessions with friends and other artists, that the creativity began to flow again. Between the collaborative stimulation and having the space and time to really focus on themself, Miki started to write again, and in just a few months, they had enough songs for a full-length record.
All of which led to the release of Miki’s debut album, i owe it to myself, an acoustic-driven pop dream guided by Miki’s inviting smooth vocals and a lush, lo-fi-inspired production. Capturing the full emotional seesaw that rocks between youth and adulthood, i owe it to myself is Miki at their most vulnerable and fully realized.
“I quite literally owe my debut album to myself. I owe myself the opportunity to produce it alone, to be vulnerable in my writing, to share where my head’s been at over the last few years, and to show the world just exactly who Miki Ratsula is,” Miki told In The Know.
From start to finish, Miki is effortlessly able to really dive into their own trauma and personal experiences, all while learning to forgive and accept themself as a young queer person with a sense of ease and comfort in the process.
Each of the tracks on the album feels wholeheartedly raw and carries a particular story, very much like a journal entry. “I was very conscious of the story I was telling and how well it flowed together. But at the same time, just as the album explores, I wanted to be unapologetically authentic with this record so I also didn’t let any pressure change anything from what I would’ve liked to do. I wanted to make sure this album was the right way for me to step into the music industry, both from an expectation standpoint but also by staying true to what I wanted to share.”
Songs like the opener “(i hate myself sometimes),” the Lauren Sanderson-assisted “suffocate” and “i walked a mile in my room” do this beautifully through clear lyrical intention and backing of atmospheric synths and subdued beats.
“This album is for myself just as much as it is for my listeners. It gave me a space to process, grow, and grieve everything I’ve been navigating these last couple of years,” Miki told In The Know.
And yes, while the album does come with its beautifully heartbreaking moments, it does not stray away from its bright moments either. The dreamy “grocery store” and the giddy and breezy Dana Williams-assisted “sugarcane” are celebratory pop gems embracing unapologetic, sweet, sweet love. Miki is a bit of a proud romantic in that way, and we love to hear it.
If you ask Miki about their favorite moment on the record, however, it’s “i didn’t know any better,” a more pop-rock leaning confessional where Miki seems to have reached a moment of true clarity for themself.
“Why was I spending so much of my time putting all my eggs in the wrong basket/ Shut my soul up in a casket/ And for those who have been asking, I didn’t know any better…,” Miki chants in the chorus.
“I’m proud of every song for many different reasons but I think I’m most proud of ‘i didn’t know any better,’” Miki told In The Know. “It’s some of my favorite lyrics and explores a side of production I’ve been wanting to tackle in my music. It just overall feels so good to sing and perform and listen to, and I’m just really proud of how it comes together.”
“I hope listeners get a better understanding of who I am with this album and the mark I hope to make in the music industry,” Miki continued. “I also hope they feel safe and loved when they listen to the record. I want to encourage listeners to be vulnerable with themself, and I think this record can help people do just that.”
“I just want to be the artist I needed growing up,” Miki concluded, and we think that’s exactly who they’ve become on this truly heartfelt and impressive debut record.
Quality music from a member of the queer community is always a gift, especially when it’s this honest. Let’s keep working on championing our own, shall we? Miki is the real deal.
Miki’s debut album is available to stream everywhere here!
Be sure to catch them on the road with Lauren Sanderson and JORDY throughout April and May. Get your tickets at mikiratsula.com/tour!
If you enjoyed this story, check out Jon Ali’s recent article about Tom Aspaul!
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