I had a wonderful time with the Brazilian audience. When I went to the stage I couldn’t hear any music in my ears, I just heard the ‘Whoa’ from the audience, it was amazing.”
Wikimetal: Hello Tarja, this is Nando from Wikimetal.
Tarja Turunen: Hi, hi, how are you, Nando?
W: Good, how are you today?
TT: I am very good.
W: First of all, let me thank you very much for the interview. It’s a real honor to speak with you.
TT: No problem at all.
W: Could you please tell us who inspired you to become a singer? And how did you first get involved with music?
TT: Well, since I was a little kid, ever since I was born I was somehow one way or another singing everywhere. My first performance was already when I was three years old, so it was very natural for me to be singing around. My family was very musically talented. Even though I was the first one that started music professionally in my family, all of them had great voices, both my parents and my older brother. So there was music around in my family, so when I started to play around some kids’ melodies with the piano they put me in piano lessons when I was five or six years old. And then singing came to the picture along the way, but classical singing a bit later, because if you are a girl and you are growing, classical singing is very dangerous if you start it too early in age. So I started it when I was fifteen, but I think it was The Phantom of the Opera that really made me realize that I wanted to become a classical singer, sort of. I wanted to learn how to use my voice in a healthy way.
W: And that was the Andrew Lloyd Webber… Did you see the play or did you listen to the music?
TT: I only got to see the play many many years later, and I was crying and crying and crying… It was very overwhelming, you know, because it was really the young girl’s dream come true. And I’ve already seen the “Love Never Dies”, the second part of the same musical, and it’s fantastic, I mean the music is very emotional. So at the time, when I was a girl, I was dreaming about it, of course.
W: It is fantastic. It’s great music. Changing the subject, Tarja, we know that the rock scene in Scandinavia is very strong, especially in Finland, right, where you come from. Has it always been like this? What are the reasons for this to happen and what is the scene over there at the moment?
TT: It’s been like that for as long as I remember. Since I was a little girl there were bands around. Not that those bands made it huge abroad, but in Finland there was always this rocky-metal scene happening underground. And then when it started to happen with bands like Stradovarius and Sentenced and Amorphis – those were I think the three first ones that got known abroad – sort of helped other ones to make the same happen. And know it’s… I haven’t been living in Finland for many years, I’m not so much into the scene anymore, but what I can tell is that there are really lots of bands, lots of clubs and festivals every Summer time, that means, the Summer is very short in Finland, only three months or even less, so there are festivals in every city and every village, and many of these are rock festivals.
W: I feel very jealous when you say that.
W: Can we say that hard rock and heavy metal are like mainstream in Finland?
TT: Yeah, many bands, many big bands in this genre are hitting number one in Finland, in the charts.
I think it was ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ that really made me realize that I wanted to become a classical singer.”
W: Well, this is great. Talking about music style, how would you compare your solo career with Nightwish?
TT: There are many differences, if you consider… First of all I would say immediately the songwriting in itself, because, I was not writing songs in Nightwish and I am writing songs on my own now, or with someone else that I like to write with, it’s very different, of course, what comes out. And it’s my passion, how I see music today and what influences me writing music. Of course there are movies that I love, and classical music, even rock, purely rock, and metal as well. So there are all these things as a sparkle, dynamic changes in my music, and you cannot really… If you listen to my albums you cannot say that they are heavy metal albums, they are not like that – if you compare bands – they are not metal albums. My albums are… They are albums from an artist and where I felt very very free in doing those songs, and putting all my blood in them, all the passion that I have in music and love. So musically there are differences, of course, the elements are more or less the same that I used, but the production is pretty pretty different because I give much more space to my voice as a soloist and for the orchestra and choir. I always work very carefully with the arrangers, they must know that there has to be a space for the beautiful orchestra to sparkle in my music.
W: I was going to ask you this later, but since you’ve mentioned, how hard was it for you to start writing songs when you were starting your solo career? And how did you feel at the time when your first solo album was released and was so successful and so well acclaimed?
TT: Every begging in life, if you think of it, if you have to start from scratch, will be hard one way or another. It was hard for me, because I didn’t really know if I was able to do that, first of all. It took all my guts to do it, all my dreams, but I really had no idea if I would be able to do it. Of course there were people to help me out, there were professional songwriters, and they tried to dig out what was going on in my heart and my mind and what I want to say, but it was such an experience for me to start out with that, because since I was respected and since my voice was heard, for the first time I really could say: “Ok, I want to make a song about this, and I want to do it like this.” And it was the first time ever, and it came true, it was unbelievable, a blessing, seriously. But now it has become easier, and it has become, in a way, for me, something rather normal to do. It’s never easy to deliver a song, but when the song is there, you know within yourself if it’s a good song or a bad song, and so all the rest doesn’t matter. There are bad days, and sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t, but there is always a reason for a good song in the album.
W: And how did you feel after this challenge that I imagine it was for you, to have such an acclaimed album? I believe it’s the most commercially successful album of your career, wasn’t it? Or am I wrong?
TT: Yeah, yeah. Well, if you consider, I have two albums only, so the first one was, yes of course, and the times change, the business has changed, and I’m very very lucky to be able to do an international career on my own today, because the times are really hard. Bands are on the road, everybody is trying to get some kind of living out of this now, when the albums are not selling anymore, so of course, definitely it makes me so damn happy about it that there is a huge storm of people supporting me and loving me in many many countries, all over the world. And that, of course, keeps me going, the support.
W: I don’t have to tell you that we love you very much in Brazil, you already know that, so…
TT: I’m very happy every time hearing that, believe me.
W: I believe you. Anyway, we had a brief meeting when you were in Rock in Rio last year. We spoke quickly in the backstage. How was that experience for you?
TT: It was very strange, to be honest. Strange in a way that, first of all, it was the first time for me in Rock in Rio, and it was the first time for Angra, as well, in Rock in Rio, if I understand correctly. So it was very exciting for all of us, so we had a band rehearsal the day before and everything went fine, and then we are there, and we didn’t have a sound check, and everything was delayed, and the bands’ crew was in trouble with some timing schedules, and we couldn’t make it in time… So there was a lot of trouble, technical issues around us, but we tried to do our very very best, so even though it was very hard, I had a great time with these guys, and I had a wonderful time with the Brazilian audience. They really seemed like they’d been waiting for me such a long time, when I went to the stage I couldn’t hear any more then them, I couldn’t hear any music in my ears, I just heard the “Whoa” from the audience, it was amazing.
W: And it will be even better than that on your shows on your own here.
TT: Yes, I think that they will be some tears shared in that evening.
W: Changing the subject, Tarja, we have a classic question on our show, one that we ask every single person we interview: just imagine yourself listening to music on your ipod on shuffle mode and a song comes up that you lose control totally, you start headbanging wherever you are. Which song would that be, so we can listen to that one on our show now?
TT: Wow, headbanging… Well, there is a song, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and when the song grows, until almost its end, it has such radical changes. Ever since I heard this song I fell in love with it immediately. It’s unbelievable, the songwriting, the performance of Queen, Freddie Mercury, I mean, “the voice of the universe”… That really gives great energy to my day.
W: Ok, so we’ll be listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” right now.
W: You mentioned that song, that’s one of my all time favorites, I think it’s one of the best songs ever written. You spoke about Freddie Mercury, who are your all time favorite singers?
TT: I was very sad when I heard the news of Whitney Houston passing. I was very young when I got in touch with her music and her incredible voice. And she was this huge inspiration for me when I was a little girl, I sang all her songs: “Didn’t we almost have it all” and “Greatest Love of All”, and all these hits that she had at the time… And such a power with the voice, I was so sad when she died, only some weeks ago. She was definitely one of them. Otherwise, I really adore Peter Gabriel, his voice and his charisma and character as well, all these years of his career, even in Genesis, he was something spectacular and he still is. And he is a really great man, I have been honored to meet him once in my life, so I never forget that. At least those two singers, I can tell that they meant a lot to me.
W: Talking about the highlights of your career, you have sung with so many rock legends and opera legends. If you could think of one special moment in your career, which one would that be?
TT: Wow, that’s a tough one. I’ve been a very lucky girl, believe me, I’ve been very very lucky and I’ve been so blessed to be able to work with all these great artists. And to be honest, nowadays I live my dream, I live my dream every day by being a solo artist and doing my music. Every day is different, but every day is like a dream come true for me. Even though it sounds very naïve, it’s really like that, because, every day when I walk to the stage and I see all my fans there, and see tears in their eyes, all the happy faces, it makes me dream again, it makes me live again, it makes me believe in what I do. So it’s very hard to choose only one day in my past…
W: Well, anyway, would you prefer to say something that you want to have happen, or a dream that you haven’t achieved yet?
TT: Well, there are many. I am a dreamer, as I said before, I am a dreamer – a girl who dreams, and I have a lot of challenges in front of me that I know already. First of all, the biggest challenge is to become a mother – that I would love. That is kind of a huge responsibility and huge dream.
W: Well, that a pretty big dream. I’m not a mother, of course, but I am a father and that was a real dream for me, I live that dream every day. Being a woman singing, let’s say hard rock, heavy metal, what kind of prejudice have you suffered in your career?
TT: Sometimes, if I want to present my music to some promoters that haven’t heard about me yet, or there is a discussion of me being able to perhaps do some shows in some countries where I haven’t been yet, or they don’t know me yet, I might have fans, but some promoters, if they don’t know me, they are very keen on figuring out what’s going on. And if you say the word “heavy metal”, for some promoters it’s just too much to handle, because some people are, you know, dealing with other kinds of artists, and other people are dealing with others. So there has been trouble sometimes to get my music heard by the right people, to go on the road and have shows on my own. But other than that, I haven’t ever really had any problems. Because I am a woman, I’ve been really respected, mainly because I’ve always been very clear of what I am and where I come from, that I don’t come from heavy metal, but I come from classical music, that I do what I love, and people respect that. They know my background and they know, they see and they hear. Other than that, there hasn’t really been any issues.
The biggest challenge is to become a mother – that I would love. That’s kind of a huge responsibility and huge dream.”
W: Changing the subject again, Tarja, I’m not asking about any reunion with your other band, of course, but I’d like to ask you if there’s any chance that you guys could share the same stage, maybe jamming or either touring together, is there any chance that will happen?
TT: I think that’s a quite hard task to do, seriously. I think that… I fear it’s rather impossible, seriously. How I am feeling now, and where I am at the moment, I am really not seeking that, I’m not looking for that. But life is strange, strange things happen and sudden things happen, so I can never say no, but seriously, very very hard.
W: Yeah, yeah, I just asked that thinking of what happened with Metallica on their 30-year anniversary, anyway. But I don’t think that those guys ever imagined that that could happen anyway. Now, we would like to listen to a song again. I would like to ask you to choose a song that you feel really proud for having written.
TT: Wow… In your radio, ok… Play “Until my last breath”, because it gives me a good energy and I sing for my fans until my very very last breath.
W: We are back from the song now, we have one of our hosts, our co-hosts, Daniel is here.
W(Daniel Dystyler): Hi Tarja, how are you?
TT: Hi, how are you?
W(DD): I’m sure you don’t remember, but we spoke briefly at the Rock in Rio concert, right after your show with Angra.
TT: Oh, right!
W (DD): It was great, you were very very nice. Let me ask you this, what will the set lists of your concerts in Brazil be like? Are there any new songs?
TT: Yeah. Actually, I’ve been very careful now choosing the… I’ve been choosing the songs very carefully because, as I remember, it has been already three years since I was in Brazil the last time with my band, so I’ve been choosing songs that my fans can hear, definitely, as many new songs as possible. So the set list is very rich in a way, because we are filming a DVD just a couple of days before, in Argentina, and having this done just shortly before we are fully prepared to rock with you guys in Brazil, with a very rich set list combining both of my albums, some amazing songs and some surprises for Brazilian audience, definitely.
W(DD): I have a daughter, she is thirteen. Her name is Amanda and she really loves you, and she loves also The Phantom of the Opera, she loves the songs. And she knew that I would probably be talking to you today, so she asked me to ask you: what could you tell a young girl who’s just decided to become an opera singer, what would your advice be? And also, how does it feel to be a role model for so many young female singers today?
TT: Well, as you said, your daughter loves Phantom of the Opera, that was the most… I think one of the most important songs in my youth, sort of, that made me sing classical music, made me go find a classical singing teacher. And that is something that I would like you to tell your daughter as well: go find a good teacher, go have fun with your teacher, hear a professional opinion about you, see what is there for you in music, because it’s a journey, it’s an adventure, it’s a very rocky road in a way that there is not one way forward, there are lots of rocks that will hit you in a way, but it’s such an adventure that really gives you lots of love and good mood. But to trust your own instincts and be very brave is, of course, very hard today in this hard hard business, but never lose faith. If you lose your faith, you lose your dreams and then you become miserable. And that I would never ever suggest, I mean, there are always solutions, there are always doors open.
W(DD): Cool, very coll. We’re almost finishing now our interview. Are you already working on a new album?
TT: Yes, I am, and I have done pretty much, actually. Even though I’ve been on the road for a long time – this has been the longest tour so far in my career, I’m talking to you now from Mexico City, and we’ve been on the road already, I’ve been on the road already for more than four months with the same luggage, the same five pieces of luggage, and so it’s been tough. But the new album is coming together very nicely and I’ve written lots of songs, and that is… The production will hopefully start in June, with the drums recordings and guitar recordings in Argentina. So whenever the hell I get back home in Argentina, Buenos Aires, I will start working on the album very very soon.
W: Ok, so Tarja, just to finish… Before we finish, I’d like to thank you so much for your time again. Could you leave a last message inviting all of your fans and all of our listeners to the shows in Brazil?
TT: Yes, of course. You are most welcome to my shows. I’m really expecting to have a great time with you guys, I’ve missed you all, I love you so much, and thank you for all these many years you’ve been with me already along my journey of music. So, you are working with me, people, you Brazilian people. Love you all. See you very soon!
W(DD): Excellent, Tarja, thanks so much for your time, and it was a pleasure talking to you again.
TT: Thank you very much, see you very soon.
W: Sure, we’ll be there in April. Thank you very much, Tarja.
TT: Thank you, bye!
W: Bye bye.