Rising Music Star Mauri Dark On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry
Be brave and challenge yourself. Making frightening things will give you more courage. I now know that I can never get rid of the stage fright completely, but I have gotten a million times bolder than I was. Overcoming your fears is one of the most powerful feelings in life.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mauri Dark.
Mauri Dark (Mauri Kosonen, born 1978) is a Turku, Finland based singer/songwriter, established musician, professional visual artist and entrepreneur. He has done 9 studio albums (5 with metal duo Mystons), hundreds of shows with different bands and instruments, and several large public artworks as visual artist. Mauri Dark’s dark folky debut solo album Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man was released on Dec 18, 2020. Mauri’s baritone guitar and deep low voice led timeless acoustic album is a good fit for the fans of Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Mauri! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Turku, Finland in an Island called Hirvensalo (Moose’s Island) with my parents and my older brother. At the time it was countryside and a nice environment to grow up surrounded by nature, the Baltic sea and the largest archipelago in the world. My friends were very different aged kids (the only ones that lived close) and we played a lot in the nearby forests. It was a safe and a happy childhood. My dad worked as an electrician-entrepreneur and my mom as head nurse in the radiology department of the city hospital.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I remember we listened to music a lot as kids. Someone’s big brother had KISS cassettes and vinyl LPs and we were instant fans of the music and the demon, starchild, cat and spaceman personalities with makeups. My brother, my cousin and I founded a KISS playback band with authentic plywood guitar replicas, the famous axe bass of Gene Simmons and empty paint cans for drums. Little “Gene” spat blood (ketchup) in demon makeup and I was star-eyed Paul Stanley. We played 1,5 hours playback concerts to torment our relatives. First real instrument, drums, came at the age of 7. At 16, in high school, I started to play in bands, write lyrics and also paint with oil colors. At 18 I got a guitar and started singing and writing songs. I worked in various jobs, for example as renovation painter, hospital receptionist, forklift driver and years as graphic designer/ art director and also got two polytechnic 4-year educations, BA of Media and Communication and BA of Culture and Arts (Visual Artist). All this time I also made music and art. They have always been there for me.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most interesting experiences was to play my Finnish language songs spontaneously in the middle of the crowd in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2004. It is like an ant nest, a small area market place packed with busy people. When I was playing nearby there in a bus stop in the middle of the night, I met an old man who basically lived in the bus stop. He worked overly long days, 7 days a week in a tea shop and the owner let him sleep a couple of hours in the shop floor before opening time. I was the lucky guy from a rich Western country able to fly to another side of the world. It was an eye-opening experience and talk I had with him. We had very similar thoughts on life but our backgrounds and lives were completely different. The previous week Tsunami had hit neighboring countries Thailand and Indonesia and the man thought it as God’s punishment. I learned then how music is able to connect people and how all people are similar in their primal thoughts no matter what the circumstances.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The first DIY European tours were a joy and an exhausting learning process. A lot of partying and no sleep made good adventures then. One lesson I learned the hard way is to get your van checked before going on tour. I realized that in a motorway in Poland. The front brakes were worn out, we were busy making it to the show in time and speed limit was 130 km/h / 80 mph. After India, Poland is probably the craziest country to drive a car in. Speed limits or regulations don’t matter to Polish that much. I kept braking with handbrake and we somehow made it to the show in time and got the car fixed. The irony of it was that there was only one people in the audience. A national football game was going on! A second lesson is that things get sorted somehow on tour no matter how bad they look and you always have to give all you got no matter the size of the audience.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
In visual arts I am working with façade artwork, called “Big Blue” that involves a life size blue whale installed on the wall as glass artwork. It is made of 189 large glass sheets, totaling an area of 837 m2 (9000 square feet). It will get also underwater moving lights. In music my debut solo album was released on December 18. For it I got well-known professionals US Mastering Engineer Vlado Meller, who has done Metallica and Johnny Cash and Mixing Engineer Hiili Hiilesmaa who has worked with HIM and Apocalyptica. Now I am working with the album promotion with award winning US Promoter / Manager Michael Stoven.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Firstly most of the revolutionary things that have turned big, popular and meaningful are initially small things in the margin before they are discovered by greater audience. They are often also cross-genre work that blend different elements and will start a category of their own. It is important not to suffocate those who are not doing mainstream things now. Being timeless is much more important thing than being fashionable. It leads to quality that lasts. Secondly having the same content repeated in various forms all over again, makes us more narrow-minded and duller. It is harmful to our imagination and thought process. Finally the importance of diversity comes also in its power to give creative influence to other artists/ professionals to be later transformed into flavors in a completely different new work.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1st: Get good quality instruments and equipment. They inspire you more are easier to play and sound better and make you a better artist. In the long run vintage music instruments gain value and you save money. You need one good instrument much more than ten crappy ones. This is exactly what I did before I realized this.
2nd: Learn to do everything first yourself at some level to get an understanding when it is good to hire people to do some things for you. You will also buy time to make things that you are best at. I have the tendency of trying to do everything. I have understood later on that when I know how something is done, it is easier to find the right persons to follow your vision and do it much better than yourself for the best outcome.
3rd: Be brave and challenge yourself. Making frightening things will give you more courage. I now know that I can never get rid of the stage fright completely, but I have gotten a million times bolder than I was. Overcoming your fears is one of the most powerful feelings in life.
4th: It does not hurt to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask people of any level to work with you. They will do it if they are into what you do and if you are able to pay them. It is their job and in music and arts related jobs most of the people are music and arts lovers. Make sure that the quality of your part of the work is best possible kind. Every time I have asked someone to work with me the initial thought has been, that they are too big or busy or whatever. In most cases it has turned favorably. Without asking you can never find out.
5th: Do the promo and prepare to be rejected a lot. I used to be a very sensitive, fragile artist (still am beneath the hardened surface) who thought once I get the work ready, it will be discovered. This is not the case. These days promotion is just as important as the art itself. There are so many artists. Those who make the most noise get noticed. Then the quality really counts. Arts and music are a matter of taste so if 99 people out of 100 hate your work then the 1 out of 100 who really digs it is the one your art or music is for.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
When you get older you need things you did not need when you were younger. Do some sort of sports to stay in good physical condition. It helps with everything. Try to eat healthy and regular and sleep enough. Sobriety helps you to be more in balance and focused with yourself and get your enjoyment in the arts that you do. In creative work it is very hard not to think about your unfinished work day and night. It makes you burn out if you cannot find a way to interrupt the creative process. Get a hobby or passion to give your mind some rest. Watch a series, read, or do something physical and completely different from your work. See friends. Everything involving being in nature helps to thrive creatively. Nature has all the music and art in itself. Seek creative nourishment from other artists and musicians works. Explore how they are done. Hire people to do things for you. Try to enjoy and do everything as well as you can. Trust your primitive artist instincts and be uniquely you!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I have a song in my new album called “Love Will Prevail”. That could be transformed into love spreading movement. I know it has been tried before, but love is a powerful force. Love exists in various forms in us. People need to find love into the things that they do, love and understanding for fellow humans and realize that hate creates only more hate and negative things and makes everyone feel worse in the end. Internet and social media are very easy and fast platforms to spread hate and misinformation. I sincerely wish that the COVID-19 age would make us understand that were all in this together and we just have to start making better decisions and strive towards good things. It will improve our own lives too.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am really grateful to everyone who has been involved in my creative work. On “Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man” album I worked with well-known, audio industry names who have worked with albums that have sold millions: Mixing Engineer Hiili Hiilesmaa, Mastering Engineer Vlado Meller and also associate producer Jussi Vuola and with music video for “Dreams Of A Middle-Aged Man” single with director Vesa Ranta, who I and many others think is best cinematographer in Finland and perhaps Scandinavia. What I realized about all of them is that they share love for music and their work. That is what really makes them stand out above others. The hunger to reach the best possible creative result. That love and passion in what we do is the key towards success with hard work of course.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Favorite life lesson quote that comes to mind is from my father. It is a traditional Finnish saying which he transformed into a joke kind of thing when telling it. It is a bit weird but makes you think and reminds me of his sense of humor which is very important in life. You have to be able to laugh at things, at yourself and at the obstacles that life tosses on your way. The translation from finnish goes: “Eat the clay sparingly, said the frog to his son, because the page (or side) of the world is long.”
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I admire Tom Waits greatly. His uniqueness, the quality of his music and his uncompromising loyalty to his own art are at unbelievable level. I have most of his albums with Closing time and Mule Variations as my favorites. Mule Variations kind of blends easiest the two sides of his art: the crazier, noisier stuff and the warm ballads. Waits has one of the most interesting, meaningful, deep and cryptic lyrics out there. He makes stories and sounds that taste of life, experience and wisdom. His songs have also been some of the most successful hits of other artists proving the quality of the compositions. I have never seen him play live but saw a video concert that was pure magic. Not many artists are capable of capturing that kind of live momentum to a video. It is proof that he is one of a kind and completely at his own level.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find my accounts easiest from https://www.mauridark.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you it was a pleasure!