(Photo by Tina Korhonen)
"The kids have gone to bed, so we can have a nice, quiet chat". It has not been very long since Bluebird Reviews last talked to an old time friend of our website, the very talented singer/songwriter and slide guitar goddess Erja Lyytinen. Even through a video call, it immediately transpires that the Finnish artist is in great form, through her contagious positivity and happiness and one of the nicest smiles of the music business. Just few months ago, Lyytinen's brand new album Stolen Hearts has received numerous accolades from fans and media and the album is still going very strong, in terms of record selling.
The Finnish artist had not released a new studio album since the 2013's one Forbidden Fruit and the sole release, in-between Stolen Hearts and Forbidden Fruit, has been the splendid 2015 live album recorded in England at the historic London venue The 100 Club.
Given how prolific as a songwriter Erja Lyytinen has always been through the years, our website starts the conversation with the Finnish artist by asking whether the stop gap between Stolen Hearts and the previous record Forbidden Fruits was a conscious choice or there were external factors that delayed slightly the release of the album. "You are quite right about the time it took, but I guess that if you want to write good songs, than you need to take the time needed to do so. After releasing Forbidden Fruit in 2013, I started briefly after to work on a new album. Then came the live album in London, which it was a lot of fun to do, so lots of things were happening. It bothered me the gap of time it took to release a new studio album after Forbidden Fruit for some time. During this break from releasing new material, there has been a lot of writing and a lot of new songs coming up, well, maybe apart of City Of Angels, a song that I wrote at the time I was studying in Los Angeles back in 2004. About that song, I did not have it completely finished back than and I guess that what has been happening to me in my life in later years and where I am right now, helped me to finish that song. When I completed the song, I thought about the time I was living in L.A. the way I saw life at that time and a special bus trip with this woman sitting next to me and going crazy (chuckles). I wrote quite few songs of Stolen Heart in the last couple of years, like Black Ocean, Slowly Burning and Broken Eyes, for example. Lots of things happening in my life, as I was telling you before, between having kids and some other stuff, therefore the need of writing songs, even sometimes dark one, was something I deeply felt to do. I felt like I had to write from the heart, no matter the feelings I was going through. I just needed to be honest with myself and as a result, songs just simply poured out of me one after the other. It's often easy to write a love song and go through the famous seven different steps that I learned, while I was in America, on how to learn to write love songs. Instead, I avoided the easy route and just tried to portray significant moments of my life, especially those happening in the last 24 months prior to the record and translated those moments into songs, no matter whether the theme was a happy, sad or dark ones. I just wanted to be true to myself and write from the heart"
Lyytinen has been working very hard on the songs present in Stolen Hearts, being the perfectionist that she is. To achieve even a higher sound quality to the songs of her forthcoming album, the singer/songwriter and guitarist went all the way to London to record with Chris Kimsey, a very talented producer that had been working, through the years, with big names of the music industry like The Rolling Stones, INXS, Bad Company or Marillion, to mention just few of them. "Initially, I did all the backing tracks of the album in Helsinki and the guitar parts all by myself. I worked with a great engineer over there and I had a pretty good idea of how the album should have sounded like. With Chris, we did the vocals together and one of the most fascinating aspects in working with him was that we used a different microphone for each song we were working on. It has been a great experience to work in Chris Kimsey's studio in UK, focusing solely on working on my vocals. Each day we also mixed one or two songs, due to the tight schedule that Chris and I had. I would also say that his skills as a producer shine particularly in the mixing part of the album, he really did an awesome job. He is such a true professional, working hard for very long hours. To work with Chris has been a truly great experience. He was the missing piece of the puzzle in finishing Stolen Heart and I have truly great memories of the time we recorded Stolen Hearts. I am happy I have taken the time that I needed to improve the quality of some of the songs that I had written some time ago, like City Of Angels, 24 Angels and even further back in time, Silver Stones. Because, you know, in the end, all that matters is the quality of the songs and how good they sound."
It's a really great moment in the personal life and career of Erja Lyytinen, with a truly splendid new album out, a European Tour due to start this month and the recent news of her participation at a live TV music show to be broadcast on MTV3 and starting in October 2017, where Lyytinen will be one of the principal players. With all this love surrounding the Finnish artist right now, our website asks Erja Lyytinen whether the new album Stolen Hearts captures in full the artist's personality and reveal unknown aspects of her personal life. "The album does indeed reveal a great deal about my life. Naturally, not all the songs are based on me or my personal life but into the songs of the album there are all the emotions and some of the experiences I have been through my life lately. I guess that, through time, I get more confident about speaking openly about myself and my emotions than I used to on previous records. In Stolen Hearts there are moments where I talk about some dark time in my life, you know the way it is, sometimes, with relationship. As it happens to many people, it took some times for me to heal from those emotional wounds that hurt me for a while and thankfully, I managed to reverse this pain I have been to into the songs. In the end, to write many of the songs on the album was a very therapeutic thing for me to do. I hope that, by showing some vulnerability as a woman and as an artist, the people can understand the way I am a bit better and connect with me more on a spiritual level too."
(Photo by Nicki Vinall)
Throughout the different mood and vibes emerging from Lyytinen's lyrics in Stolen Heart, from a sonic perspective, the Finnish guitarist has never sounded any better than this, on the new record. There are different and very solid layers of sound within the album. Lyytinen is literally unstoppable, no matter whether it is Blues, Rock or even Funk she is playing. The latter being a surprisingly great and certainly welcomed addition by Lyytinen's fans and music critics, especially on one of the album's tracks, Love Laboratory. "When I was in my 20's, I played a lot of funky music. I was practicing guitar in the conservatory or at school and I always felt a natural affinity for the genre because I think that Funk is one of the musical cousins of the Blues. To be honest with you, I don't feel myself as a natural Funk player, more a Delta Blues kind of guitar player instead. I might have, unconsciously, picked up the style of the early stuff that Albert Collins used to play. There was a lot of funk in that. I guess that sometimes, when I feel that a song needs to be "funked up", then I'd go for it as I did in Love Laboratory. I am glad you enjoyed it."
Among many things happening in Erja Lyytinen's personal life, becoming a parent must be certainly one of those lifetime experiences that must have changed her life in some ways and taken the Finnish artist on a new, emotional journey. "Something I can tell you for sure is that becoming a parent has taught me to be a bit more open and direct, which is something that it's also displayed in the songs of the new album. It is a further step in growing up in the full circle of life, as a person, because I feel that we people never stop to grow up every day. Plus, the experience has given me a further wake-up call about the fact I am middle-aged! (chuckles). Seriously, it was a wonderful experience that changed my life and allowed me to see and live life with a different perspective."
Songs like City Of Angels and the closing, stripped-down Broken Eyes included in Lyytinen's new album confirm once again the quality of the Finnish artist's amazing singing style. Bluebird Reviews is keen to know whether Erja Lyytinen ever get upset about the fact that the media tend to focus more on her great talent as a guitarist, rather than a singer. "To be honest with you, I always respect what critics say about me and my albums. I read their reviews and take everything into my account but frankly, if any critic gives me 2 or 3 stars as a rating for any of my albums, I am not bothered at all. I know myself about all the blood, sweat and tears that go every time in the making of a new record and if there are people that can see that and understand that, then I am pleased. If not, hey, that it's not the end of the world. Talking about me being a singer, well, I have taken lots of singing lessons throughout my career, between the States and Scandinavia, with mixed results. Through times, as I feel I have done on Stolen Heart too, I have learned not to follow any particular process, while I am singing, but rather just let my voice go and sing my emotions and my feelings naturally. I like to use my voice in my songs a lot more, nowadays. Perhaps the use and appreciation of my voice in my songs is also part of that process about growing up overall in life, together with things like becoming a parent or going through some emotional tough times, as we discussed before."
Given the great reception that Stolen Hearts has received, our website is wondering whether after the European Tour starting now, there might be an American Tour happening anytime soon. "I would love to tour the United States but I don't think it is going to happen this year. My Tour Schedule is so full at the moment that there are more chances that a proper US Tour may take place in 2018, rather than this year. I hope the fans will understand, because I am really looking forward to get back to the States as soon as possible."
Just before parting company from this amazing artist, Bluebird Reviews asks Lyytinen agrees with one of the many statements of the great Pablo Picasso, when he was once said that "The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls". "Well, that it's pretty much my same feeling too! (chuckles). Seriously, for me art is everything that evolves around making music. The writing process, playing my guitars, singing. Music is not just an art, it is much more for me. It is something that I discovered when I was 15 and it's a force that triggered inside of me and still does. My love for music has always been spontaneous, since a very tender age. The feeling I had when I heard my father playing guitar, playing all the chords with me singing while he was playing when I was a little girl, then running into my room and writing my own music is something that will always stay with me. Music, as an art, is essential for a human soul to live a happy life and so is for me."