November 14, 2017 Interview – Tarja Turunen Talks From Spirits And Ghosts
In life, there are ups and there are downs, but loyal through it all is father time’s old friend music. An expression that connects with us on a deeper level, during times of joy, sadness, and anguish, classically trained Vocalist Tarja Turunen can attest to the power of music. Through the years, she has found comfort in her creative muse, reflecting light and dark, proving that one is needed to balance the other.
From her near decade tenure fronting Nightwish to her prolific solo career, Turunen continues to move forward at what seems like the speed of sound. Recently we caught up with the acclaimed singer to talk the busy last few years, the concept behind her new Christmas album, From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas), the importance of family, future plans, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Last we spoke, in 2015, you were busy once again supporting some new music. It seems you have kept yourself extremely busy over the past few years. Sometimes creative inspiration can be a challenge. That said, is it safe to say your creative juices have been flowing freely for some time now?
Tarja Turunen – You can say it like that (laughs). I feel very happy at the moment where my life is at and where music has taken me artistically. I feel good and I feel comfortable with my art. It has been absolutely wonderful to express myself with my art in these past couple of years and be happy with it. I feel productive. That is why the Rock album came out last year, the Christmas album this year, and next year will be Act II live DVD that was filmed some time ago in Milano, Italy.
There is a lot of things going on within Rock and Classic music, but that is how I am. Some people told me I am the biggest workaholic they know, it is kind of true, but I really enjoy where I am and what I do. I feel very privileged to be able to live with music today. We are living hard times in the music business. I am still in awe that I am there and doing what I love. I am very blessed.
CrypticRock.com – It is wonderful to be able to do what you love for a living. You have recorded a variety of different styled albums in recent years including 2016’s The Shadow Self. Now you are set to release From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas), your first ever Christmas record. What inspired this album?
Tarja Turunen – Some people asked me, “Am I a Christmas kind of person?” Christmas is something that comes to us whether we like it or not, it comes to every one of us. Since I have been with a theme for some years that there are always two sides of things, there is always the contrast of light and shadows. There is a contrast and the other side of Christmas as well. Christmas is seen as a happy celebration of families. There is a lot of “Jingle Bells” and happy tunes around. You can hear mainly happy Christmas music everywhere you go during December.
That said, there are many lonely people at Christmas, that is a fact. There are people who we have lost, I myself lost my mother in 2003. After that I kind of lost the Christmas feeling with her passing. I didn’t find myself celebrating Christmas for many years until recently when I became a mother myself. Now I see the joy in my own child’s eyes every Christmas and the excitement in a child, I kind of started to feel Christmas myself again.
When I happened to think about this album and why this album, and why like this in such a cinematic way, it was because of those lonely people. I was thinking perhaps because music gave me hope, good vibes, and relief during hard times in my life, I am sure it can give that to many other people. This album is for those people. When you think of the track listing on the album, you think, “Oh god, is she going to sing ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ or ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’?” Songs that everybody has covered, but give them a listen. I tried to do them and approach them differently. They have been done with an orchestra, choir, and percussion instruments, and my voice. In that sense, it was an easy production for me.
CrypticRock.com – The album does have a distinct sound to it. It definitely leans more to classical and traditional Christmas music opposed to a happy go lucky sound. The tone is a little darker, these are also very timeless songs. What was it like recording them?
Tarja Turunen – It never really occurred to me when I was recording them. I have been doing a Christmas tour almost every year since 2005, I have been touring Classic concerts in churches and theaters. People have seen me in Europe, mainly in Finland, but also other countries with orchestras and different lineups. I am very used to singing Christmas toward the end of the year. Even my Rock and Metal fans have been following me and coming to see these concerts. It has become a tradition for them to see me in that environment.
When I was recording these songs, I never let myself think so many artists have covered these songs and how should I do it or what should be my way? It was so clear from the beginning from when I worked with the orchestra arrangements with LA based Film Composer Jim Dooley. I was just talking with him and we were really talking about a lot about the arrangements. We were talking about how they should be done in a darker, yet beautiful way, like a score way. I am a big fan of movie scores, soundtracks, and movies in general. That has definitely been an inspiration for this album. It was a different approach, that is what I wanted and that is what I got.
CrypticRock.com – That is very exciting to hear and it certainly has a strong cinematic feel.
Tarja Turunen – I am very happy with Jim Dooley’s work. He did an amazing job with the orchestra and choir arrangements. It was exactly what I wanted to approach with a cinematic sound on this album.
CrypticRock.com – It does have a very beautiful sound. Amidst the track list is your original track “Together.” You placed the song in the middle of it all. What was it like writing this song?
Tarja Turunen – Finally, when I decided all the songs for the album, I said to myself, “Damn it, I need to write a Christmas song myself.” I can’t just do an album of covers and that is it, I wanted to give a try and write a Christmas song myself.
Obviously my Christmas song is nothing like a traditional Christmas cover you can think of (laughs). It is a symphonic song, sort of darker, but that is just the beautiful darkness, the darkness that lights inside of me. This song tightens up the whole concept of the album of lonely people. It talks about those people who are longing to be with someone this time of year and are not necessarily able to. Hopefully those people listening can find some peace in it where they are.
CrypticRock.com – Music has that power. It can make you feel better, whether you are upset or angry. It is a wonderful release of emotion.
Tarja Turunen – Exactly. For me it has been like that forever since I was a little kid. I was bullied in school and music was the only thing that really made me feel good about going to school. It has always been like that. It still is today!
CrypticRock.com – Many people can relate to that. This album also has a graphic novel to be released in association with it.
Tarja Turunen – Yes, it is the first time I have ever done something like that. The idea itself came from my label, EarMusic. They introduced me to it and I fell in love with it immediately, because again, I had never done anything like that. They then introduced me to several artist where I choose my favorite one. Conor Boyle is an artist whose pictures were talking to me, they were more emotional. They were not particularly like a cartoon, but more moody, mysterious sort of pictures which appeal to me.
The graphic novel is based on my song “Together.” It is as simple as that, it is a short story made with beautiful pictures. It was a really nice thing to do and something to add to the album. It was something you can grasp and see through it.
CrypticRock.com – People will really love it. Speaking of visuals, the live performances has always been a very important part of what you do. That said, it has been a while since you visited North American soil. Is there a possibility that fans can see you return soon?
Tarja Turunen – I am super happy because I can finally say yes! I am coming! I am finally coming! Yes, it has been really tough. There is a show confirmed for ProgPower USA in September of 2018 and we are trying to book more shows around it. I am really hopefully there will be plenty of shows in the US next year, but touring the fall, September or so. I am really missing my fans there and I know I have serious support there with my fan club who are amazing. People are really patiently waiting and they have been there for many years for me. It is an amazing thing.
CrypticRock.com – It will be very exciting to see you return to the US, it has been a while. You mentioned about the strong support, it has been over a decade now since you moved on from Nightwish. However, fans still always talk about how much you meant to the band. Do you find it humbling that, even after all this time, people still talk about your time with Nightwish?
Tarja Turunen – It was, it is, and it will always be a very important part of my life and history of music. Seriously, it gave my wings to be able to be an artist alone after all these years. As a soloist, I have been longer than in the band, but I was an original member. I don’t know where the band would be without my participation, I was there when everything started and we made it big time during almost nine years I was with the band.
I understand people are still referring to that time. I still get a lot of supportive and loving messages about it. The music was beautiful and it still is. That is the part that will never be gone, it will always be there. That is the amazing thing.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and that is a testament to your importance to Nightwish, that people still talk about it a decade removed. At this point in your career, you are very active and play shows a lot. You are also a mom, that can be a challenging job within itself. What is the key for you to balancing music and family?
Tarja Turunen – Well, that I have such an incredible family. My husband supports me full-time. He is my manager and also we have been able to combine a love life and business life for seventeen years. It is not like I met him yesterday (laughs). We also have created a beautiful creator, a little girl who if five years old. She has been there with me. Every since she was born, I took her on all the tours with me, until she turned four. She has been in every recording session with me, seeing mommy singing. She has been everywhere with me, the world is her home, so to speak.
She is a very open-minded little girl that nowadays goes to school and I go on tour alone. It has been a big change in our life, and yes, it is a tough thing to be an artist and a mother. I have definitely been super blessed with the people who understand my art and me as a person, because otherwise I would suffer so much. If I left home desperate to come back, it would be really hard for my art and myself personally. So we don’t suffer, we miss each other. That is why my touring nowadays is shorter, I don’t do months and months of touring. I do a couple of weeks and come home because I want to spend time with my family.
CrypticRock.com – It is wonderful that you have that balance and your daughter can share it with you.
Tarja Turunen – Yes, she has seen me everywhere (laughs). You should check my instagram account, she is the best headbanger (laughs). It is crazy!
CrypticRock.com – That is really nice to hear. Has she shown an interest in singing?
Tarja Turunen – Yea. She is in a theater school. She goes once a week which means she is singing, playing piano, and dancing. A few days ago she was saying to me, “Mommy I would like to go on the stage already.” I said to her, “What do you mean? How do you mean?” She said, “I want to be like you.” I told her, “Hold your horses a little, study hard!”
Whatever comes out of her little mind and soul, it is all fine with me. I chose to be a professional musician when I was young. My parents were there for me and whatever is her passion I will be there for her. She also sings on the record on “Deck the Halls” with me. So you can hear her there.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool. Well best of luck to your aspiring little musician. As you may recall, CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. I know you are a fan of movies and Horror. Last we spoke, you had said you have not watched as many since you have a little child now. If you have seen any new Horror/Sci-Fi related films lately, what were some of your favorites?
Tarja Turunen – (laughs) It is still the same! The only thing we go to see are cartoons. I try to escape to see some historic or romantic movies from time to time, but it is really tough. My daughter is very sensitive in that sense, with music especially. If there is any spooky kind of music coming out of the TV, or anywhere, she says, “Mom, turn it off.” (laughs) She is very sensitive with that. For example, if you listen to the record, like “Deck the Halls” or “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” she is not a very huge fan of that. She is always thinking, “Hmm… should I take this in a good way or a bad way?” So, Horror movies? I haven’t been able to do. That much free time I haven’t had (laughs). I would like to see It.