One of the greatest and most popular frontwomen in metal (its most symphonic aspect that is), the original frontwoman of Nightwish, Tarja Turunen, who for the past 7 years has focused more on her solo career. Her tour will bring her to Greece on the 31st of October and Metalpaths had the chance to talk with her about issues concerning her solo career, female-fronted metal and much more…
Good afternoon Tarja! Your latest album “Colours In The Dark” came out last year. From touring and playing almost the entire new album, what kind of feedback have you received from playing it live?
Oh it’s been really wonderful to play the album, and in general being on tour with this great band I have, I’m very blessed by many things. I think this new album brought me to a place very comfortable. Musicwise, lyricwise, soundwise, in many ways. I had a lot of conversations with my fans, they really loved it and the media received it very well. So I’m very happy I can’t complain at all.
Which leads me to my next question, where would you spot the differences between this album and your previous works?
Well on this album I ultimately found my sound, what I was looking for since the beginning. How heavy the guitars sound, the orchestral arrangements, it’s the perfection that I was looking for in my previous albums, but I wasn’t there yet. But it’s the time you need to learn and, not some mistakes necesarilly, I don’t think that my albums had any mistakes, it’s just the process or the time I was leading, but this album is a little bit more progressive, it’s a rock album, it’s a more dynamic album, that’s all I can say.
As a musician do you prefer being on the road more or in the studio recording new material?
Well there are very different circumstances in general, I love both circumstances but I need performing, I am a performer and I would be a really sick person if I didn’t sing for my audience. I mean seriously I love singing and I love performing, I love thinking about my stage setup, about what musicians I’ll bring, I love all that. I love travelling, even with my family now. Αnd in general I love travelling seeing all the places and going back to the places I’ve been already, it has it’s own charm. So I can say I prefer the touring part anyway.
Talking for touring, your tour will be 2 years long. Taking into account the fact that you gave birth to a daughter in 2012, how hard and challenging is it for you to be a metal frontwoman and a mother?
In my case to you it might sound strange that I combine my work along with my family. So far my daughter is now 2 years old, she’s been everywhere with me, and the father cause my husband is my manager. You know we combine both worlds together, and I’ve been blessed having a family that supports my work. And of course it will eventually one day change when she goes to school, but
until now she has become a world traveler, she’s coming to Greece with me, and it’s great to see how she’s learning how she’s growing how she has an open mind, because she’s seen so much already. I would do nothing to harm her or to stress her. Of course I need to think carefully about the schedule, about the organization in general, I have a nanny with me to help and she’s ok with that. There are no stressful situations for her, even though the life on tour is stressful, but I will truly accept the fact that this is her life, she doesn’t know another life, she doesn’t know being at home. So this is normal life for her.
From what I’ve seen in your live setlists, you’re only playing 3 songs from the Nightwish days. Does that mean you’d like to separate your past from your artistic present and future, even though you left a great legacy with Nightwish?
Actually I play only one song or no song. Of course it’s a part of my history a really important part of my musical history, it brought me where I am today. It’s a part of me and it’ll always be I don’t have any problems with that. It gave a totally new direction in my life, it’s very hard to think where I would be without that first demo that was offered to me. On the other hand, I have a life of my own as an artist, I have my own style, I’m writing my own songs, I’m producing my own music, I have my own audience, also good part of that audience could be fans of Nightwish. I love music an that is what I care for, that is what I deliver to people. In my live shows I’m gonna play songs off my new album in Greece, also playing songs from my previous albums, and having fun, that is where I base my whole work approach on. I don’t wanna spent any moment of my life being sad. So that is what it means to me, to see this passionate and emotional audience in front of me. And that’s what I care for, to make people happy with my music.
Have you caught up with what Nightwish have done in their last 2 albums? And if so, what are your thoughts on that?
I haven’t been interested in listening their albums, sorry. I don’t know the music. I’ve heard some songs on the radio, but that’s all I know.
Back to something that really caught my eye: on the 29th of July, 2014 it was announced that you will be one of the star coaches of the popular TV program The Voice of Finland. How did it occur and what are your thoughts on those talent shows?
Well it was the only one I could say “yes” to collaborate with. I was offered to be a judge in many other programs, but this isn’t about judging, it’s about coaching, it’s about helping the singers become better at what they do and what they think of what they could become. We are there to help and that’s what coaches do. It’s a work that you don’t see, it’s a work that happens behind the cameras, lots of work, requires a lot of time from all of us, but it’s such fun for us. Seriously, it was the only program I could say “yes I’m gonna go for it” if I had the chance to do my tours in between and match the schedules and everything. They need a lot of work to control their schedule. You won’t be able to see anything until next year though. I think there are two sides of the coin actually, the thing that these singers have in front of them is like a golden plate, it’s a big thing to sing in front of the TV cameras in general. So all of these girls are already winners in a sense, cause they’ve been chosen already among thousands and thousands of singers in those blind auditions and hopefully they can handle it, mentally, physically, there are things to be taken care of. This is the hardest part because the music today is not living its best moments, but I’m there to help, I’m there to help share something from my own experience. Hopefully the winner can handle it, because it doesn’t end there it’s where it begins, a reality that should not be forgotten.
Well, it’s kind of incredible to see how it all started. When I started there were female voices, but not so many of them, and then suddenly there’s a bloom and a whole new scene was born. Actually it’s been really incredible to be part of this, I’ve been approached by many of these girls telling me they started singing, taking singing lessons, they wanted to become better in what they do. And it’s really great to be able to help, if I’m able to help I will. Again I’m talking about music and music is happiness, it means happiness to many people. It’s something really important in life even though people think it’s not important. Every art is and music is one of them, a very important factor in their daily life. Life without music would be terrible. As for singing I cannot say that it’s as strong as it was some years ago, I might be wrong. I don’t know, I’m not too familiar with the bands in female metal, I’m much sinking in the barriers of my own music, but I feel really blessed to be one of the first ones, because I think it’s something very unique that once happened, and it should remain like that.
There’s always something, I mean come on man, you cannot be on everything out of everything. There’s always something, of course you’ve been told many times that everything has been written and done already, it’s very hard to think something new and to invent something new. But you have to believe in that, I have to believe in that, if I didn’t believe in that I would become a very miserable person. I need to think that I can still grow as a human. I have to believe in that, because it’ll be really sad to be struggling and running in circles. For me in each of my albums I try to renew myself, even though I keep some basic elements I hate to repeat myself. If I write a song, for example, that sounds like a song from my previous album, I trash it immediately. I guess some people will go to where’s the easiest way to go, but I’m not like that at all. So that’s why I put myself in limits, my personal limits. I’m a singer also, I want to become better in what I do, taking singing lessons. Of courses there are always challenges, and you need to be capable to break all the rules, otherwise you’ll stay in the place where you’re comfortable. And I don’t feel comfortable in that place.
You’ve worked with some of the greatest voices in rock music in general, such as Kiko Loureiro of Angra on the 20th anniversary show of “Angels Cry” and Klaus Meine of Scorpions on “The Good Die Young” song off “Sting In The Tail”. Are there any other singers (male or female) you’d like to collaborate with?
Oh there are many and if mention one or two, I’d miss the other 60! [laughs] I have a long lists of artists I’d dream of working with, I’m a dreamer, I need to keep on dreaming! [laughs] But of course if Peter Gabriel would call me and say “Tarja I would love to have a duet with you” I would go for it okay? [laughs] Sting also, singers like that, I love their voices. There are many classical singers I’d love to sing with also, all these collaborations. I mean writing a song with Mike Oldfield, it never occured to me until the moment that it happened they called me to make a song with him, I was like “wait what the hell is going on around here?”. Things are happening like that and that’s what I love in music in general. If you keep your mind open things happen. I was listening to Scorpions when I was a teenager, I love the band and then finally I end up singing on their record is something that I never thought of doing, but it happened so it’s a wonderful thing its a beautiful thing in general.
What are your memories from the last time you’ve played in Athens, Greece?
Oh well I remember the people waiting for me outside the venue, I went to greet them and I think there were some TV cameras also. But they were singing to me, screaming to me. I feel really fortunate to be able to come to Greece, cause my fans are awesome, they are really passionate and loving, and caring. I’m really happy to be able to return.
Any future plans apart from touring?
The Voice Of Finland will be going on until next year, and after that we have the Beauty And The Beast tour, with that orchestral choir, we’re doing some shows with that project. After that I take all summer off to finish my record, half the record has been recorded the drums and guitars have been recorded. Roughly mixed but the album has a release date for beginning of 2016 so next year is the year I need to finish everything. There’s also going to be a concert tour at the end of next year, at Christmas because next year is the 10th anniversary of the Christmas tour concerts that I’m doing. There’s also going to be a big tour concert in Finland. Actually apart from touring there is the Voice Of Finland, finishing my record and hopefully some holidays, and a chance to go scuba diving, I’m into scuba diving a lot. So yeah that’s about it!
That was about it Tarja. Thanks a lot for the interview it’s been an honour. The final words are yours.
Oh perfect this is the hardest part always! [laughs] But thank you for calling and thank you to all the fans of Greece for the beautiful acceptance and I really really look forward to rock with you people!