Before the X factor, Elias played the guitar and sang on streets and in metro stations in Helsinki. As his income consisted of listeners’ coins, his friends named him “Mr Change”. Busy with his debut album, Elias thought his street musician days were over. But a year after the victory, going into a beautiful summer, he realized he was missing the freedom to play what, when and where he wanted.
The street musician, who had already in 2006 been nominated the best in the city, returned to entertain (or according to some, irritate) the citizens and tourists of Helsinki – occasionally. In the fall, when Elias and Markus were busy with weekly gigs, Mr Change was rarely seen, but in the more quiet early winter, his raspy voice can be heard up to three-four times a week, usually in the Sörnäinen metro station, or his favorite, the Kaisaniemi “study pipe”, the tunnel leading from the metro station to the nearby university.
Despite the same voice and the shared passion for music, Mr Change should not be confused with stage-Elias. While the artist considers his audience in his song choices (well known covers, X factor songs, most loved tracks from his album for his fans), the street musician may play a whole set of Goo Goo Dolls, if he feels like it. He doesn’t perform, but sings in his own world, his eyes tightly shut. Only his humble bows to thank for coins tossed into his guitar bag reveals him observing the passers-by. But if you approach him in a friendly way, like with a song request, you may see a glimpse of the smiley Elias himself.
“Slide” and “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls during the early stages of X factor:
“Sex on Fire” and “Umbrella”, and an original song by Elias, which was published on his album with Finnish lyrics:
“Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls, and “Hyvä tyttö” (Good girl) from Elias’s album, summer 2011:
Text and photo: Leena Ikonen. Videos: Tomi Takamaa (1-4), Eeva-Liisa Tukia (5-6)