equality factor: self-producing and rule-making punani power-perfectionist
latest release: cropcircles
musical idols: Björk, Freddy Mercury
based in: Helsinki, Finland
Finnish singer-songwriter, producer, podcast host, and comedian Ronja Stanley reinvented herself nearly a decade into her career as a pop musician. When New Ro was conceived, the Helsinki native left behind both the safety net and the shackles of being signed with a major music label. Today, two years into her journey as an independent artist, she thrives stunting her pussy power and musical talent by her rules – and her rules only.
Ronja Stanley was born to a Swedish mother and British father in 1991. Growing up in a creative family – her mother being an author, her father producing films and records – Ronja quickly realized that she, too was destined to become an artist. She found her passion for singing in kindergarten and soon after began to plan her musical career. “I harassed my parents to let me sign a record deal – which I thought was the only way to make it as an artist. I had this intense urge to move forward with things and be able to start my career”, she looks back on her artistic beginnings. “I’m sixteen now, I’m already in my teens, I don’t have the child star value – what am I gonna do now? Now, I have to be a teenage star!”
And a teenage star she became when her parents finally caved and let her sign a record deal at the age of 17. Thanks to her golden voice and family connections within the industry, getting her foot through the door was easy. What proved to be more difficult was to maintain control over the kind of work she was creating. As a young woman at a major record label, getting your voice heard and vision taken seriously is very unlikely. “Since I was 17, I was like ‘I’m not gonna sign with anyone unless I can write my own stuff and do my own thing’, but doing your own thing is obviously hard. You have to know yourself and have the confidence to do that”, Ronja explains. At that time, she often lacked the confidence and experience to speak up in the male-dominated studio environment. “Just seeing women – and, non-cis hetero men – doing stuff, that would’ve been helpful”, she says today.
Despite accumulating hundreds of thousands of clicks on her music videos and celebrating great national success under the artist name of Ronya, Ronja Stanley felt not taken seriously within her production team. Surrounded by large amounts of condescending males, she felt her artistic vision suppressed and her desire to learn and explore new creative territory at times even ridiculed. “I felt like I’ve had this experience with so many guys in the studio where they’re like ‘you don’t know how to write a chorus’, and they’re not half as talented as me, and this is MY thing, MY skills, and they’re just shitting on a younger person who is really trying to learn. If I’d had a female in the studio, I would’ve definitely felt more safe.” Finally, Ronja decided to go her own way as an independent artist.
“There came a point where I was like, fuck everyone and everything, I just wanna do my own thing. I was like, I wanna rebrand this, and I want a clean slate.”
In 2018, 27-year-old Ronja Stanley dropped both her label and former artist name. Through a somewhat painful metamorphosis of her personal and work life, she shed her old image. “I’ve had so many fucked up experiences, and horrible things with guys in the business – and also in my personal life – that Ronya, the name that I had before, it was kind of representing that for me. I want to have something that’s new and just mine, and that doesn’t make me think of these people that make me feel bad.” After landing back on her feet, she released her first song as New Ro in 2018. Celebrating her newfound pussy empowerment, “I Cum” had to be an ode to her femininity and sexuality, of course.
When “I Cum” was released, Ronja still stuck to collaborating with producers when creating her music. Despite it being an anthem to her freedom as an artist, she was not able to let go fully – yet. Ronja had been secretly building her production skills for several years, but the discouragement of mansplaining misogynists in previous working environments had kept her from releasing her own productions thus far. “It took me a long time to sort of find my personal style and what I wanted to do. I was a bit unlucky with who I was working with. I was kind of lost, just in general”, she says, reflecting upon those past times. The ice finally broke in mid-2019. Upon admiring the freestyle set and sheer badassness of a fellow Finnish female on stage at the Helsinki club Post Bar, Ronja realized that she, too, could be in charge of her own productions. “Representation is so crucial”, she says. Her love for her then-boyfriend (now fiancé!) promptly inspired her to create her first fully self-produced body of work: the Kosmos EP.
“I want independence. I don’t want to be this kind of damsel in distress, needing all these men and colleagues to survive as an artist. I want to be able to do it myself and thrive that way.”
The freedom of being in control and creating all by herself marked the final step in Ronja Stanley’s transformation towards the outspoken badass, empowering, and self-loving artist that New Ro is today. Fully in control, New Ro today makes music that first and foremost serves her artistic expression and healing. She taught herself all that she brings to the table, and she is proud of that. “I have to have the skills to be in control, and I can’t rely on anyone else – and I don’t want to rely on anyone else.” After following the lead of others for years, Ronja Stanley became her own boss. Making herself happy turned out to be of much greater importance than the institutional power of a big label – for both her mental health and the quality of her music.
“I’d rather do this and build it up slowly, finding my audience, than having to compromise creatively. Which is what you have to do.”
By making music that is authentic to herself, New Ro also happened to become a vessel of empowerment for others. To her, equality means “being able to be [herself] in the world.” With her unapologetic ways of self-expression and self-love, she encourages others to follow suit. “I think about how I felt in the world, so I definitely feel like I want to give that feeling to someone else, of finding my place in the world. It’s as much for myself, as it is for everyone else. It is a pressure for me to fight the good fight and use my voice responsibly.”
Ronja’s first LP as New Ro, “Late Bloomer'' will see the light of day on February 5th of 2021. Both a conceptual album and a metaphorical memoir, it is a celebration of her rebirth as an and blossoming as a bad bitch: “I think that I am blossoming now, more so than I have before. I feel like I can just be myself in a way that I haven’t experienced before, and it’s really empowering.” After a decade of trials and tribulations with record labels, she did not feel understood by, New Ro now releases her music through Solina Records, a Finnish record label founded in 2005.
Here, she enjoys “100% creative freedom, which really is the only way [she] will ever agree to working with a label.”