Interview and Photos by: Zenae Zukowski
Zenae: When did you decide to make Act Two?
Tarja: Act One was released after two studio albums and with the material on those albums, so after three more studio albums, I felt like it was time for a second live album. It’s an opportunity for me to see where I’m at, at the moment as an artist. It’s also an opportunity for me to show my fans all around the world – the ones that haven’t been to my shows yet or the ones that have attended my shows where I’m at the moment in my career. Very important record for me because it takes a long time to produce a record like this, with all the material involved and everything, with all the concept that is there, how I wanted it to be presented. It took me a long time, but the timing was the best. I mean, timing is always very important.
Zenae: And the dresses you wear in both live albums, it looks like they came out from some fantasy novel and I was wondering what was the process of the designs since it suits your genre of music as well?
Tarja: It’s always been very important for me to wear very comfortable stage clothes. Second of all, the clothes, they definitely need to be presenting my music and to be me. And I’ve been very blessed to find people to design the clothes with me. I’m very involved in this process as well because very rarely I can walk past a store and see something particularly peculiar and amazing that I would like to wear in my concert. It has happened before, but it’s very rare that I can find something that is already hanging in a store you know because I wouldn’t like somebody else walking the streets with the same stage clothes. That would be like, “Hey, I’m wearing that in my show!”
I have a friend of mine, that actually the only childhood friend that’s still in my life very vivid is a friend from Finland. She started to make the outfits and she’s still doing them for me. And I have a special sponsorship deal in Germany with a German label. And Julia, their designer is absolutely wonderful, she’s working with Laura, with the leather and straight cuts, very strong identity as a woman you know, powerful designs. And so many talented people around me.
Zenae: Your voice is remarkable both on record and stage. Your performance in NYC is a prime example and there is also no strain nor difficulty. What is your secret to keep your voice top-notch?
Tarja: Secret is hard training. That’s the only secret. I mean I’ve been training as a vocalist singing since I was 15 and that training never stopped. No matter the success I had in Nightwish, no matter of my solo career, I still keep on learning and I hope that will never end. Because it would be very horrible for me one day wake up and say in the morning, “Hey now I know everything about lyrical singing.” Or, “Hey now I know everything about singing in general.” Oh my God, That would be the worst day of my life, I mean, really. There is always, always room to learn.
And that’s the whole thing. If I feel that I can be free and my technique is mind-blowingly strong. It can always fail me, if I let it fail me. I need to have that control all the time. Mind and body control. And that means also that physically I need to train in order to keep going on these hard tours and traveling around. If I get sick on a tour, I’m destroyed. So, you don’t see me too often canceling my shows because of my health. And that’s basically, and thank God, that’s basically also from keeping myself healthy.
Zenae: Yes. I’ve noticed some of your peers seeing their voices crack and honestly I did not hear any of that from you in NY, it sounded natural and flowed very well, which was highly impressionable.
Tarja: I feel that I am in my best condition nowadays in my singing and physical condition in general of my life. I’ve been good. So I think that you if you heard it last night, you can hear it. It’s just, I have a found a new home. We are living in Spain. My family have a beautiful daughter. Everything is in harmony sort of in my private life. So when that part is fine, I think, it definitely involves the artistic life of mine as well. You know everything that you get to experience in your life sort of you carry it along with you. It’s natural I think.
Zenae: That’s very true. It’s all about having a balance. Is there anything that you can reveal about follow up to The Shadow Self?
Tarja: Well yeah, I’m working on it. I’m writing songs, I’ve been writing songs the whole summer actually. And I’m really happy. I guess, at least as far as I’ve gone with the songs, I think the new album will be a little bit darker than the previous one. Not forgetting the symphonic side of my music, which is always … that was my first love when it comes to music. Classical music and my roots in that. I will never get away from it. But I think the heaviness of the album is very present. Also the progressive, so I’m writing a lot as well. Next album, next year, hopefully around September.
Zenae: I will keep that locked in my memory. You mentioned last night that music is your first love. And it has been evident throughout your entire career. Despite the challenges you have faced you never gave up on your passion or seemed to be afraid to experiment with different genres. So I wanted to know what keeps you motivated to carry on throughout all the challenges?
Tarja: It’s the love. I think that the love is so pure. I mean it’s just the way I breathe for music every day. It’s just there. I would become very miserable person if I did not have the music. I think that I would really be miserable if I wouldn’t be able to perform. If I wouldn’t get the feedback from my audience. The connection with my fans, is insanely beautiful, what I have with my fans. What’s going on, it’s insanely beautiful, and I have such a loyal fan base, all around the world, that are there to not only embrace my music, but embrace me. So it’s something that’s very magical.
I know that it’s not happening for every artist. So I embrace that, and I am very grateful for that. But nevertheless, the music that I do, I do it for myself. And when I’m writing my songs I never think about anything else than the reasons for me to write the song is mainly personal, always, why I want to write that particular song. Then when it’s out its there already, it’s like untouchable, for me. Somebody gets to hear it, “Yes, it’s perfect.” Somebody gets to like it, “Wow, it’s a gift, it’s a blessing.” Yeah, it’s art. It’s a living thing. And the inspiration is just the fact that there is so much to learn, like I said earlier, from music and it’s teaching you. If you let it teach you, it’s teaching you.
Zenae: You’re a true artist. Given the fact that you left Nightwish three albums ago, and have released at least ten albums (Studio/EP/Live), does it ever get frustrating from the fans who continue to request older Nightwish material?
Tarja: No, it’s not frustrating. I completely dealt with all the mess of what happened with the band after my departure. All that happened. I’m completely over with that fact, but I’m also completely embracing the whole body of work that I did with the band and the beautiful work that we did together. I’m fine with the whole fact of singing the songs. I feel way better nowadays singing those songs than I felt at the time I was recording them, because I feel better in every sense, I feel better. So it’s all fine. It’s part of my life. A very important part of my musical history. I don’t mind at all.
Zenae: It must of been difficult at first for you, but what is your friendship like with the current and previous Nightwish vocalists?
Tarja: Floor? We are in touch. She was about to have a baby. She was writing me how to handle with all the touring, because she knew that I had been touring with my own child for the first four years and a half. So I was super excited for her to get that same experience. I was offering my experience and knowledge in that sense. We are in touch. She’s gone to see my show.
I invited her to sing on my show. That’s nothing like what you could expect. Nothing. That’s the awful thing in this scene. There is so much competition around female vocal singers. We are sisters, on the road. I’ve met a lot of my sisters on the road. Simone (Simmons), I love you. So it’s all the time like that. We follow ourselves. We follow each other. We check what we are doing. We do things together. We support each other. That’s how it is.
Zenae: That’s how it should be. It’s beautiful hearing this.
Tarja: We don’t need to show anything else that we need. We don’t need to. We have what we have.
Zenae: For fun, if there is a biopic made about you, what actress would you like to portray you?
Tarja: Wow. This is a tough one. Well, let’s say Jane Fonda would be a great one. She’s funny, gorgeous, strong as hell, brilliant.
Zenae: Do you bring your daughter with you on tour?
Tarja: She’s here actually. She was at the Atlanta show. She was in the New York show. They came as a surprise visit, it was not meant to be like this. But I have been spending too much time away from her, so my family misses me as I miss them, so they came over as a surprise visit. Seriously, they did that a couple of days ago, and I was like, “Do I see you. Is this really happening?” Yeah, my daughter is here with me in New York now. But yes, the first four years and a half, she was everywhere with me. She was five months old, I took her for the first. It was a Christmas tour, very cold. She was born in Buenos Aires, so my first tour was in, after the birds, was in Finland, for Christmas and New Year. I played like 15 Christmas concerts, in theaters and churches and things like that. With the baby, we went and we checked it out, how is it going to be with her, being on the road. She was amazing.
She completely, she’s like naturally born on this road of rock and roll and traveling. And seeing her mummy perform, and being at the backstage, playing around with everything that she has in the backstage, with the water bottles and with fruits. That’s the toys. She doesn’t need anything else than that. She needs love around, and that’s what she has got. She has got all the love. Now she is six years old, going to school, speaking three languages, and being a very open minded little girl. Very happy little camper.
Zenae: Is she interested in being a singer?
Tarja: She is singing all the time. She’s naturally born artist already, in that sense. Because of the fact that both the parents are working in music, my husband being my manager, and me with the art. But she’s a piano player. She wanted to start to play piano when she was four. She said to me, “I want to start playing piano.” Okay. She’s doing that, she’s doing pretty well.
Singing-wise, pitch perfect little girl, sings well. Mummy is very proud. But that’s her life, it’s not my life, and I really want her to find that passion in her life, no matter if it’s gonna be math, or science or athletic, or anything. She’s really good in sports as well. She’s doing judo, really good in judo. She has a yellow belt already, when she was five years, we got the yellow belt. And it’s about her. She’s an individual. Obviously I’m there to help her out, support her, but I want her to find her passion, like I had the opportunity to find mine. My parents, they never got the chance to do what they loved, so they gave me and my brothers the opportunity to be what we wanted to be, or to become what we wanted to be.
So I really definitely … If I am kicking and alive, I want to be the mother that gives that opportunity to my own child, since I only have one. One shot.
Zenae: Is there anything that you wanted to add or say to your fans?
Tarja: I really want to shout out my gratitude. That’s the whole thing. I wouldn’t be me without them. It’s for real, because nobody would listen to my music, or nobody would care, I wouldn’t be here doing what I love. That is, what I said last night, to the people … I encourage people to live their dreams. It’s always a matter of taking risks in your life, so on and so on. And it’s not easy, it’s not easy to live with something, or do something that you really love. First of all, find that love is already one path that you need to take. But at least, I’m trying to encourage that in my lyrics and in my songs in general. It’s a lot about dreams and a lot about fighting and a lot about finding yourself. And so thank you. And just want to thank all of you for being there for me. And here in America, thank you for the patience. I’ve been waiting just to be here, so always there for you.