Tarja Turunen Interview
Chatting to Tarja only hours before she is due onstage for her debut solo gig in the UK, it is perhaps finally possible to lay any lasting ghosts of her messy split with Nightwish to rest. Here, sat in a chilly hotel in the heart of Camden, she is a pleasure to converse with; warm, confident and enthusiastic about her work, the classically trained singer makes it easy to talk about her career in its own right. The new album, corresponding tour and Christmas plans are all discussed in earnest as Finland’s leading lady prepares to take centre stage once again.
Your new album ‘My Winter Storm’ has done incredibly well in Europe – including a number one slot in your native Finland. How does that feel?
Because it was my first album on my own and very personal to me, there was such a different process in making it. I was there from scratch deciding who I was going to work with, how it would sound, the style of the album, etc. It’s a great opportunity and, as I see, the beginning for me. The other night I was speaking with some fans and they said “we are so happy that you’re continuing!”, but I feel very personally that it is the beginning, so the success of this album has been fantastic. I didn’t want to repeat something that I had done before; it’s quite a different album, and it could have been easy for me to repeat things from the past. I definitely took some elements from the past of course, but I wanted to make an album that really presents me as a person.
Did you not worry about potentially alienating Nightwish fans?
Of course it’s going to be something new for many fans because it’s not a heavy metal album, so in a way it was a brave step to take…but I was never really thinking about that in the process of making the album as it was the passion that drove me, not thinking about what kind of album I should be making in order to please the people. I think that when I am making music, if I can be really happy with it and get my message across, then that is the most important thing.
The first single from the album is ‘I Walk Alone’. Was the release of this single part of the overall plan to present yourself as a person?
Many people have come up to me and said that I am not walking alone, but that I am with them, and this is of course true! In the song it says “My winter storm holding me awake”, and it was two guys from Sweden that wrote the lyrics, so I didn’t write the song myself, but I was so touched by those lines. It’s a beautiful image, but also very powerful, and people have been just that for me. My fans have been the power behind me and beside me, they have been holding me awake, and so they are my winter storm. There wouldn’t be me doing this, there wouldn’t be my music without these people, and in the two years that I haven’t been part of a successful band, they have made me realise this even more.
In the video for the song you portray four different characters yourself; The Dead Boy, The Queen of Ice, The Phoenix and The Doll. How do those four characters fit in with the song and album as a whole?
It was so strange, because nearly one and a half years ago, the word spread that I was going to make a solo album, and I was sent so many songs, and although they were from different songwriters, they dealt with the same things. I discovered these characters from the songs, and I soon began to create a story which really helped me to make new music. It’s a very personal story for me, and whilst there isn’t really a storyline as such in the actual album, this story helped me make new music. It was fun using the characters, because image is 50/50 with the music in this album, and I have been very influenced by concept albums in this respect. I wanted to connect the album, the artwork and the videos, and it was great portraying these characters as at least people who didn’t know my music could watch the video and think “well, at least it’s something new…”. People still ask me whether that was actually me playing the spooky dead boy!
It is a double take moment! You’re performing the last date of your ‘Warm Up Tour’ tonight, how has it been touring with a new band?
It has been stunning, I have never been so happy in my whole life! We have such a good time together, and we are already getting things done for the proper tour, so I really hope we can tour together again. Of course the guys have many bands themselves so I can’t tell them that they must consider me and nothing else, but I hope we can work together again, as I’m very very happy.
Speaking of shows, you recently performed at the Finnish 90th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations. How was that?
I was very honoured to get an invitation to be part of that concert, because it was a very important day for Finland. It was in a big arena full of people, and it was the feeling of independence that got to me, because we [in Finland] have such a great country to live in. To be able to do this kind of concert was a great challenge for me as it was in the middle of the tour, and when I can perform at the occasional classical concert and then rock out at metal festivals, it’s fantastic!
During the concert you performed ‘God Save The Queen’ in Finnish…
Do you know what, it wasn’t until I was practicing the song that I realised! The song itself was once offered to Finland as its national anthem in the 17 or 1800’s, but I didn’t know what it was until I read the chords and started singing it and it sounded really familiar…
Haha! So any plans for Christmas? You’ve had a busy year.
Yeah I can really feel that the Holidays are coming. I need the Holidays this year…it has been really busy, but packed with good memories, good times and good moments, though sometimes a little stressful as well. I’m spending Christmas with my family and New Year in Argentina, before going scuba diving in the Caribbean! I’ve missed that a lot.
Sounds awesome. Thanks for chatting with us Tarja, and good luck for tonight!
Thanks! And no problem.
Interview by Merlin Alderslade
(Check the Gig Reviews section to read Soundshock’s take on Tarja’s debut gig)
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