It takes a special artist to snatch triumph from the jaws of disaster. Rewind to 2016 and everything was going right for Ina Forsman. The 24-year-old singer had gone from Finland’s best-kept secret to Ruf’s hottest new signing. Her self-titled debut had wowed the music press, from Classic Rock (“dynamite voice”) to Blues Blast (“debut album of the year”). She’d blazed her reputation in the US and Europe on that year’s Blues Caravan tour, and couldn’t slow the torrent of new songs that flowed from her.
Then fate threw a curveball. While gigging in New York, Ina lost her phone – and with it, every last scrap of new material. A lesser artist would have crumbled. But as you’d expect from a road-warrior who paid her dues under blues heroes like Guy Verlinde and Helge Tallqvist, Ina stood tall, breathed deep, wiped the slate clean and took two more years to pen a fresh batch of songs. “For a long time, I was so angry at myself,” she remembers. “But at the end of the day, I’m happy I lost my phone. I lived a little more life – and was able to write better songs with more emotion.”
We’ve had the introductions. Now, on second album Been Meaning To Tell You, Ina brings the listener closer than an old friend, spilling her deepest emotions while surveying the beauty (and beasts) of the modern world. Tracked at Austin’s Wire Recording Studio with producer Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff and a world-class band, these are twelve songs for life’s highs and lows, whether you want speaker-rattling soul for wild nights or a slow-blues for licking your wounds. “Let the music heal you,” Ina advises, “or break you momentarily if you’re not ready to get back up yet.”
Some listeners will focus on Ina’s incredible vocal, as she slips from the feline purr of Be My Home and the rapid-fire punch of Get Mine, to the conversational flow of Figure. But perhaps still more impressive is the quality of her original songwriting. As on her debut, Ina is a creative force here, penning all the lyrics and co-writing the music, on an emotional rollercoaster that swerves between the acid-jazz of All Good, Genius’s raucous soul and the shivering slow-blues Miss Mistreated. “That song is about getting out of a bad relationship,” explains Ina, “and I wrote Who Hurt You for my best friend, who spent a long time trying to leave an abusive relationship.”
She’s full of surprises. Try Every Single Beat, with its Latin rhythms and a lyric that Ina hopes will let you “feel the moment and stop being so goddamn concerned what other people are thinking”. Try Chains, with its throbbing percussion and gang-chant vocals. Even when she writes a love song, Ina twists the template, with Whatcha Gonna Do and Why You Gotta Be That Way giving two perspectives on sexual harassment. “The first song tells the situation from a man’s point of view,” she explains. “He sees a beautiful girl, tries to get her attention and ends up making some fucked-up decisions. The second song tells the story from the girl’s point of view: she just wants to carry on with her stuff but this dude won’t leave her alone.”
It all ends with the stunning Sunny – a smoky acapella masterclass, written entirely by Ina, that sends you off into the world with goosebumps, ready to spread the word about this extraordinary artist. Been Meaning To Tell You is the second album that you hoped Ina Forsman was capable of – and then some. Let us all be thankful that she lost her phone…