A guy dressed in jeans and a t-shirt goes around knocking on the doors of one record company after another. One tells him his songs aren’t good enough, while another thinks his image lacks black eyeliner and dark nail polish. “Why don't you sing in Finnish?” is the comment from a third one. In 2002, ten years after Haber's acoustic duo Sunrise was formed, it becomes a four-man rock band. Record companies still keep giving him the cold shoulder.
Welcome to my wonderland
It'll take time to find out where we stand
In all this mess
There was the first day for me too
And I had no guide and I was lost like you
I still am
It takes four long years to find an open door.
– At times I was told this was my last chance and if I missed it, I would never get another one. I was 30 years old and they were already talking about last chances...There were times when I, too, gave the record companies the middle finger.
According to Haber, they were not interested in his kind of "average guy" stuff. His project needed to wait for the right time.
Sunrise Avenue singer Samu Haber thinks Helsinki Airport has an awesome vibe!
− Things have since moved on and all is well, but I must say I'm glad I followed my heart. There are no shortcuts to happiness anywhere, he says today, after the release of the band's fourth album Unholy Ground.
Haber writes his own songs, and the excerpt above is from a song called Welcome to My Life – the most personal piece he has written. The years of hard work have been worth it: the band has sold a million albums and two million singles. Their last album went gold in Germany and reached number three in the charts. The band's popularity in Central Europe has opened other doors for Haber, too: he was one of the Voice of Germany coaches last autumn.
Choose to be me, to be free, to be my way
I saw the light shining right in my eyes
Haber seems happy with the band's achievements. He looks like the "boy next door" – somebody who would pick his mum and dad as his idols.
– I admire people who dare to take risks. I think that Steve Jobs and Kimi Räikkönen really really wanted to get where they did, and of course it was no accident that Sami Hyypiä ended up as a star defender in Liverpool and is now the coach at Leverkusen.
Haber also appreciates those who just live their normal, everyday life, without the urge to reach for the sky.
− Each to their own. My mother always says that your life is going well if you are happy on Tuesday mornings.
This boy-from-next-door describes himself as an outgoing person, a team player who often stops to ask how other people are doing, checking to make sure they are doing OK. Sometimes these ponderings keep him awake until the small hours.
– Of course, being awake during the night is par for the course for artistic souls – even though some consider my art mainstream fluff – otherwise there would be no music.
No I don't wanna leave
but I must keep moving ahead
'cause my life belongs to the other side
behind the great ocean's waves
Haber defines Sunrise Avenue's music as folk played with rock guitars, not a million miles away from pop. In the US this type of band is about fifteen to the dozen. Still, Haber almost won the competition to record the theme tune for the James Bond movie Skyfall – with victory eventually going to Adele. Is his music not mainstream fluff then?
– Well, what does mainstream fluff actually mean? The Beatles did that, and we’d be more than happy to be put in the same category as them!
In 2013 Haber clocked up over 120 flights. Most often Sunrise Avenue flies to European cities, but on holidays Haber likes to fly to small Asian destinations via Bangkok, or in the opposite direction, to the west coast of the US. He is happy that his "home port", Helsinki Airport, offers "sweet connections to just about anywhere".
− There are still very few airports that offer free Wi-Fi, which should be one of the basics everywhere, but Helsinki Airport has had it for years.
– For me, Helsinki Airport is by far the best airport on the planet: it is small enough, the services get better year after year, and its vibe is awesome!
Text: Tiia Soininen
Photo: Matti Rajala