Interview by Miriam C.
For all of us, Christmas has a different and personal meaning but no matter what, you’ll always listen to the same good ol’songs and this in effect sometimes can be pretty boring. The Finnish soprano is not new to offer us magniloquents covers rearrangements and with “ From Spirit and Ghost (Score for a Dark Christmas)” [you can read the review here], she has set a high bar more than ever by once again challenge herself and the listener. As per tradition, expect the unexpected from Tarja, see it from yourself by reading our interview here.
So Tarja, on time for Christmas, you are releasing your new album “From Spirit and Ghost (Score for a Dark Christmas)”. What you can share about its musical conception?
I started working on the album in January with Jim Dooley. First I chose the songs and talked about the direction of each one of them with him. Soon after I wrote the song “Together” for the album and after the orchestra and choir arrangements were done, recorded the vocals in Caribbean. At home. This album was probably the easiest album production I have ever worked with, because it includes only few people of my team.
Compared to your first Christmas album “Henkäys ikuisuudesta” released back to 2006, what are the common traits that you can find with “From Spirit and Ghost (Score for a Dark Christmas)” ?
The only common thing between these two albums is the fact that I am singing Christmas songs on both of them. Direction and production wise the albums are very different.
I’ve got the chance to listen to the album and it proposes a fully new and in-depth Christmas experience: more darker and sinister. To who is dedicated this album and how you did manage to come up with the general concept?
The album is not just dedicated to someone or some people. It is an album that hopefully gives a feeling of hope and peace for those who are seeking for it. On this album, I explored the other side of Christmas: the Christmas of the lonely people and the missing ones, the Christmas for those that do not find joy in the blinking lights and the jingle bells. So I wanted to make a darker album, but at the same time make it as beautiful as possible.
In addition to covering the classic carols, in “ From Spirit and Ghost (Score for a Dark Christmas)” features the original song “Together”. Would you like to tell more about this song?
My song “Together” ties the whole album concept within. I wrote the lyrics about those lonely people during Christmas. Naturally, it is not the most traditional Christmas carol that you can think of, but suits to the album atmosphere perfectly. Since I started choosing the songs for the album, I decided to write one song myself for it. I wanted to see myself what kind of song I can come up with and this is the result.
I’m aware that there are a lot, if not maybe thousand of carols and I’ve being wondering, how you were able to determine and select the final tracklist without compromising too much?
I wanted to choose internationally known songs this time, since my first Christmas record includes pretty much only traditional Finnish and classical songs. I also wanted to choose songs that can make my album interesting for the listener, so that you can listen to it without getting bored. Never really occured to me during the production of the album that there are thousands of other artists that have covered these songs. I wanted them to sound like my own songs and that is the way I am always working on my cover songs.
You, Jim Dooley and Tim Palmer are a well-settled producing team that works perfectly since the release of “Colours in the Dark” in 2013. After so many years, what is the boost that still drive you in this long-term artistic relationship?
Since a long time I wanted to work on an album like this with Jim Dooley. Jim knows my interest in music and we like working together. Even though we usually work in distance, it never has been a problem for us. I am super proud how he could twist these known songs into the atmosphere that you can find on the album. It was very challenging job for him, but he made it work beautifully. Naturally, I wanted Tim Palmer to mix the album, even though this was the first time he was mixing purely orchestral album from me. Sincerely, I like the fact that I can give challenges for the people that have been working with me through the years. Like I am challenging myself with my work constantly, I do the same with the people that are there for me. I have a perfect team of great, talented people nowadays and I am truly grateful for it.
Tarja, you have got our fans used to great and well-concocted visual outlooks: this time, what you got inspired from and do you mind unveil more about the behind-the-scenes (dresses and make-up)?
I just loved working on these pictures and images that appear on the album versions. I also loved working on the videos. Like on my last rock record, I still went with the same theme of black and white on the Christmas record, because I felt it was the strongest way to go. I liked getting dressed up as a character this time and create a fantasy kind of atmosphere for the pictures. Movies were my inspiration, so you can quite clearly see that. Last time I did that was on my first rock record “My Winter Storm” which is celebrating it’s 10 years anniversary, so I though it was about a time for me to get back in that “role”. I have found a great beauty team behind me, called Mijas Natural and those girls worked their asses off in creating my creepy, but at the same time beautiful looks. I gave them pictures for inspiration and this is what we came up with together. The dresses were made by my lovely childhood friend Sirja again. She made them in less than 24h….amazing.
So, the waiting is over and it’s the moment that, after years, the fans are have been expected for: it’s recent news that you’ll play with Raskasta Joulua during their Finnish tour and you’ll release a song in duet with Marco Hietala. What are your feelings about this and how this collaboration born?
I got asked first to join the tour for some shows in Finland by the promoter of these concerts. I was fully aware of the project and the fact that Marco is part of it, but I didn’t see that as a problem at all. Actually, my only concern was how to make it happen, since I am very busy myself with my own shows this year. I am happy to return to Finland and eager to see what kind of person will stand next to me on stage. I am sure it is not going to be the same man I know since the band times. We will make beautiful music together and that is what matters.
What’s next in the pipeline? Where can your fans catch you in the next days?
I am currently on tour in South America and immediately after these shows having classical concerts in the same continent. Then my Christmas concerts with the new album will happen in Czech Republic and Ukraine. I will be celebrating Christmas in New York with my family, which makes us all super happy. I hope to get a lot of snow there so that my little girl can get excited. Next year, you can expect the release of the live DVD “Act II” and many more shows to come along with it plus classical concert tours as usual.
So, Tarja, it’s time for your parting words – I really thank you for your time – please greet freely our readers and your fans. Thanks again!
Thank you for the support and love. I hope to see you all next year in US. Can’t wait, it has been way too long since. Love you!