“When I was a child,” says the Toronto-born singer FJØRA via email, “I played this made up game with my sisters, [and] one of the characters in this fantasy world was ‘Fiora.’ Then, later on, I found out that the same pronunciation, only spelled as FJØRA, was a Faroese term of the Faroe Islands, meaning ‘rolling tide.’ For me, water is the greatest symbol of change, development, fluctuation, and rebirth. I felt it was perfect to use ‘FJØRA’ as the name for this next chapter of my life journey.”
While technological democratization continues to level the creative playing-field for artists, the availability of interesting music has gone from a steady trickle a few decades ago to a rapid torrent today. A quiet casualty of this genre-neutral development, however, might be contextual narrative: the why’s and where’s of how a piece of work came to be. That said, it’s within this exact framing — the story behind the music — that listening to FJØRA’s music takes on a substantial level of gravity.
The press release for her forthcoming Watercolor rightly touts it as a mix of “husky vocals with electronic samples, synthesizers, tribal-sounding percussion, and heavy bass,” but in adopting the pseudonym as a means to signify a new beginning, the EP becomes something beyond a series of “synth-infused pop earworm[s].” Instead, it represents a marker of personal transition along a lifelong creative timeline.
Born Alexandra Petkovski, her parents instilled within each of their three daughters an appreciation of music from a young age. Taking cues from them both — her mother a pianist and her father a music professor and acclaimed Macedonian jazz composer — those two threads, jazz and classical, were constants growing up, and from the age of four Alexandra excelled under this direction. “Focusing on the classical aspect of my musical education was definitely supported by my parents, but not necessarily pushed on me,” she says. “I honestly didn’t really understand or know that everyone else didn’t study music on this formal musical training level. I thought that all my friends were doing it, too.”
By her teens, Alexandra had completed the Royal Conservatory of Music levels of piano, taken up an interest in improvisational jazz, and teamed up with her sisters in the creation of a pop group called ASK, which opened up the threshold of popular music as a genre to her.
After attending arts high school, this focus on pop continued as her childhood group evolved into the GiGi Sisters. The vocal pop trio progressed, and while Alexandra began attending Queen’s University in Kingston, the sisters would open for the likes of X-Factor alumni Jillian Jensen and Jennel Garcia. “Another take-away from these groups was the confidence and practice gained in singing publicly,” she says, “as I had little to none prior.”
Alexandra moved south to attend Belmont University in pursuit of a Masters of Commercial Music in Composition and Arranging. She continued to hone her own compositions before graduating in 2016 and turning an eye to collaboration, connecting with various writers and producers before signing with Unsecret Music. “When I first met her, I was amazed at the array of talents she possesses,” Unsecret’s Matt Bronleewe told MusicRow magazine earlier this year. “It’s going to take years before the depths of those abilities fully come to light.”
“The beautiful thing about working with fellow artists, writers, and producers,” says Alexandra, “is that there is no one right way to do something or to create. I try to remain as open as possible when creating new music – this is especially important within co-writes.” Working with the likes of Bryan Todd, Kenny Fleetwood, Josh Hawkins, and Michael McEachern on her EP, the singer also connected with Charlie Lowell on a side-project, collaborating on “When The Silence Comes” through his Hollow // Hum vehicle. “[He] is an incredibly talented, motivated individual,” says Alexandra. “Working with him has been very inspirational to me. I met Charlie through my acting manager, Matt Bronleewe, as they were both in the band, Jars of Clay. Suffice to say, it is still very surreal to me that I get the opportunity to work with not one, but two members of this band I listened to growing up.”
Before allowing this “symbol of change, development, fluctuation, and rebirth” to fully take root in Nashville, however, Alexandra was recently greeted with news that she’d been accepted by New York University to join the Steinhardt Graduate School of Music’s composition program. “I am an intense lover of film scoring, music for multimedia, and combining this passion with my love of artistry is an exciting prospect.”
For those who create music there has never been much in the way of control regarding who listens to your music, how it’s received, or what legacy — if any — it might bear. But one of the controllable angles to a piece of work is the level of self-honesty exhibited throughout its creation and the level of personal relevance upheld in its release. “Believe me,” says Alexandra, “the realization that I can’t actually control or plan everything hit me the hardest. But I can’t. That’s really what it comes down to. No one can. Life kind of just happens.”
In that way, life is like the freeform jazz that her father passed down to her, giving Alexandra the tools to create something interesting and unique without ever trying to force the direction that work would take. And with Watercolor and her move on to the next stop after Nashville, that narrative continues to play out naturally. “I didn’t expect to find myself back in school necessarily at this stage of my life, but here I am.” “My intention these days is to just be,” she adds. “To create music within the paradigm of school, of my professional life, FJØRA, and keep my heart and mind open.”