Finnish vocalist Tarja Turunen has such an iconic, storied career. Her achievements surpass her time with Nightwish. She has transcended as one memorable singer/songwriter with an impeccable solo career since the mid-2000s. On December 2nd, 2022, highlights of the vocalist’s solo offerings were made available in her best of album, Best Of: Living The Dream, via EarMusic. We caught up with Turunen to discuss the collection and highlight her overall career as a vocalist.
Let’s highlight your solo career, in celebration of, Best Of: Living The Dream. What was the process like putting together the Best Of album?
Oh, good question. It was actually a very long process. I started thinking about it, working on it, already, a long time, even before COVID came. First of all, I wrote a book, and the book is called Singing in My Blood. It was kind of the beginning of it all, the whole process for the Best Of and then, gathering the material. Even before choosing the songs, I was starting to check the artwork and what should be there, which photos should be used, and so on, and so on. It was a very, very long process and time taking, seriously. But choosing the songs was actually, it was a nice challenge. It was a nice challenge, because why this and not the other one is always the same thing. But having had many albums already and nice songs and all that.
But eventually, when we decided to have a bigger package of it all, as a Best Of, I had an opportunity to come up with a, let’s say, double album. There is also a third album available, that’s a very, very limited fan edition, box edition. So it gave me the chance to choose a lot of songs actually. But for the main album, they are the songs that are mainly the fan favorites, those ones that are being requested by my fans in my shows, to play the songs, they’ve been released as the singles and so on and so on. More rocking ones.
I actually wanted to ask you about the book, because I noticed COVID has affected everybody in different ways. You spent your time, I guess, writing the book and now the Best Of album. So what brought the book together? And how is that experience for you, versus making a Best Of album?
Yeah, it was very different, the whole process of writing a book, thinking about the book, what should be there. Because it brought back so many memories. It was actually very therapeutic. It was very nice, the whole process of it, because I had forgotten so many things and I wanted to remember again. And photos are great for that. I went through thousands of photos. They were seriously dusting my garage. And those ones that are not digital yet. And talking with the people that have been working with me, the ones that have been there in the past, and the ones that are currently there. And it was a very, very interesting process. And it made me realize that I have lived a very, let’s say, very fulfilling life as an artist. And it was really beautiful. But writing, it was a long process and all that. But it’s great. It’s not a biography. Let’s say it’s not a biography, nothing like that. It’s a glimpse of my artistic view, who I am as an artist, and my music, but it’s different.
Nice. Looking back throughout your solo career, which album do you think, would you say, was the most challenging experience for you?
Absolutely, the first one, for sure. My Winter Storm album. Because after being a band member, in a band, for such a long time, and I didn’t write any songs within the band, I was arranging vocals and that’s it. So I didn’t know if I had it in me as a songwriter. And I had the whole new world in front. I had my expectations, but pressure was there, coming from all sides. Somebody trying to take a piece of me, every direction possible. But I had to find a new label. I needed to find musicians to work with, a whole team to team up with. And there was a producer also involved. Everything was new. So I was a nervous wreck, to be honest with you. And so, I was also writing songs with the other composers, and it was really, really tense sessions. And now, I go back to the beginnings of my career as a solo artist. And of course, I’m very proud of the album, but it feels very innocent to me. If I go back and re-record the album, it would totally become new to me. I would do things differently, with all the experience I have at the moment, but I wouldn’t touch it. I wouldn’t dare. It has to be like that. I’m proud of my beginning, but it was a very big challenge.
And with that, it looks like you haven’t stopped writing over the years. And between your first album to In The Raw, how would you say you evolved as an artist over the years?
Oh, so much. It’s been a very interesting journey within myself actually. A self discovery journey, where I have found my darkness and the beauty of it. I have found that I can be free with my art, to express myself. It’s very liberating, the whole feeling of having the control of your career and having a career that is so broad as well. That is not only that I’m doing one thing, I’m doing a lot of things at the same time, which I enjoy. Absolutely. It’s really incredible. But I’m facing challenges every day, and I kind of very much seek for them as well. But I have grown.
Life is like that. Life is teaching you. But I have to tell you that I do not have any regrets in that sense, those mistakes I’ve made. Yeah, for sure. Everyone does. But hey, regrets, I don’t have. So in that sense, I have grown, got to understand myself better as a person, first of all. And things are getting more into… Let’s say my last album was very personal to me, the most personal album so far. So I’m getting out of my shadows, let’s say, revealing myself a bit more, which is a good feeling.
Building confidence, knowing yourself more. It’s all part of the process.
It’s beautiful. And now, to go all the way back to the beginning of your career with Nightwish, I had to ask this, since we’re going through your entire collection, is there a particular album or song from your time with Nightwish that still holds dear to you today?
Wow, all the albums are very different, since the beginning until the very end. All albums have been very different. One song, if I should. Well, I’m very proud of the last album actually. Well, I’m proud of all the albums, but I have to say that I really, really felt we were in a good place, like songwriting, my voice, the band, the feeling. Everything clicked together on the last album. In a way, unfortunately, my last album. But Once album, it’s a really powerful emotional album. And so, there are many songs on that album that I really cherish and I treasure kind of beautiful orchestra pieces. But to name only one, it’s very difficult.
No, it’s fine. It’s always one of those things that, if there’s any highlights in your head, in the moment, anything that pops up. Now that shows have returned after an extended absence from the pandemic, how was it for you, initially, to return to the stage?
Oh my God, girl. It was such an emotional hurricane inside of me. It’s a big place for people. We did some festival shows. It was the beginning for me. I entered huge audiences, in front. In a sense, it was the wave of energy coming from the people. Everybody’s super happy, crying for happiness, crying because being so emotional, the people, my crew, everybody, fans, all that. The energy was overwhelmingly beautiful. And so, it made me realize how much I missed it, made me realize that I am really an artist. I don’t want to do anything else in my life, because it could have been totally different. I was just talking with some of my musicians and they said the same, how good it felt to be back on stage. Because it really made us realize that, “Hey, this is where I belong.” But it could be different. It could be that, after a couple of years, you don’t want it anymore. And it has happened to many people that I know of, that they don’t want it anymore. They don’t want to go back on the road. It’s challenging. It’s really challenging. Older you get, touring is not easy to do. It’s physically exhausting and all that, but oh, you need to love it. Otherwise, you can’t do it. So I’m loving it. And yeah, absolutely amazing feeling.
You made a good point, because you have to love to do this. And a lot of artists and bands have fallen apart during the pandemic. You’ve seen people leave. They decide that they want to stay with their family. Their health isn’t up to par to be on the road. A lot of changes. The pandemic also gave people time to rediscover themselves and see where they belong, whether on stage or off stage.
Absolutely. No, because you know how it is. We artists, like me, I’ve been touring so much. I’ve been constantly away from home. And there hasn’t been time really to stop and to gather your thoughts, even though we should do that. We all should do that. We should not live in a tunnel of turmoil, of work, work, work, work, and nothing else. Because you have to have meaning and you need to find your roots and you need to feel if you are happy or not, you need to face yourself. And sometimes, it’s scary to do that, but COVID, in a way, was the situation for everybody. We needed to face ourselves and face our fears. And fear is such a word, and it’s such a powerful thing in general, that, oof, it can kill you. And so, it’s very important to stop and to rethink about things.
Yes, exactly. Fear is definitely the word that stops everybody from either moving forward or taking a step back, either way.
Because it’s a risk. Whether you make a change, no matter what it is, the change is always difficult. And yeah, I’ve been writing even songs, many songs about it actually, that we must keep on fighting for our dreams. And taking the risks is only one way to go. If you don’t find yourself happy, you need to seek that happiness. Look for it.
And people need to be reminded or uplifted, because especially during these times, people haven’t really healed from the pandemic. It’s been such a mess. But now that 2022 is coming to a close and moving ahead, what are some of your plans for next year?
I will go on a three week Christmas tour, here in Europe. It’s a tradition. I’ve been doing this Christmas concert since 2005. I would love to go to the US for Christmas shows one day, but hey, it’s a dream. But next year, there will be a lot of touring. Still with In The Raw album, my latest rock album, here in Europe, I’m closing those kind of postponed tours in Europe with that album, with the Best Of album also starting to make shows next year. And hopefully, very soon, we can make an announcement about a US tour for next year. Very happy about it. We are working on it every day to make that really happen. So soon you will hear some news. So I, unfortunately, can’t tell you yet when, but hey, soon. And the new album, I’m writing songs currently, working, not in the production yet, but working on the songs. And you can expect that album in 24. But a lot of things are coming up. Next year will be a heavy, heavily touring year and songwriting year. And hopefully, I find time to produce albums in the meantime.
It definitely sounds like a busy year. And hearing a possible US tour. Now, that is personally exciting for me and for all the US fans too. But that would be amazing to have you back here. It’s been a few years, I think, aside from, I think, a ProgPower performance you had. Is there anything else that you wanted to say or add to your fans about the Best Of album or anything in general?
Yeah, well, I always want to thank them. I’m super grateful for their love and support. And the US is a very, very actually really important market to me, that I’m receiving lots of messages and support from and from you. So it’s really lovely to have you. And so, yeah, hopefully, you will see me there very soon. And yeah, we’ll keep rocking together. Thank you so much.