For nearly a decade prior to her own personal artistic reincarnation, Tarja Turunen emerged as a definitive voice and a pioneering purveyor of symphonic metal. As a classically-trained, multi-range soprano, Tarja soared as the fronting songstress of Finnish powerhouse, Nightwish.
What was the catalyst that drove you to begin going through your catalog to compile a best of compilation?
My latest In the Raw album happens to be the most personal album in my career, because I wrote the lyrics for it right after having a stroke. Recovering from it and after touring with the album, I decided it was a perfect time to start working with the Best Of album. It gave me a way to breathe a little and gather my strengths for the next rock release that is already on the horizon.
It's tough to decide on a setlist, let alone a career-spanning tracklist for a Best Of album. How difficult was it to condense 15 years into 29 tracks?
It was a nice challenge, indeed. But I really enjoyed working through the albums, refreshing my memories of what truly had happened during these extremely beautiful years. It was such a wonderful experience and made me very grateful for all that I have at the moment. The decision which song should go into the compilation and which not was difficult, because my work as an artist goes beyond the rock barriers.
I wanted not only to release one album with a few songs, but work on a bigger package for those who really want to get to know the real me. The first album consists, let’s say, of the fan favourite songs, the ones that are mostly requested on my shows and also are single cuts from the albums.
The second album has my personal favourite rock tracks, which are more progressive and symphonic songs from my career. The third album consists of songs from my Ave Maria album, Christmas albums and even songs from Outlanders which is my latest electronic music project.
You’ve discussed how as an artist, you always strive to keep evolving and never want to repeat yourself. Do you feel like you have accomplished that in reflecting on the entirety of your body of work?
Oh man, have I tried! (laughs).
Always, in every artist's work something keeps on repeating itself. Whether it is the way you are writing the songs or the sound and style that you are
I am trying to look for inspiration everywhere, keep an open mind and push myself to my limits. I just cannot write songs that scratch the surface only and I know that this drive makes me work double as hard as some other artists do. I do see and hear the progress in my work though and I can relate that progress with myself as a person and as an artist.
The song “Eye of the Storm” is said to have given you a sense of closure - you discussed how that track was therapeutic during a very uncertain time in your life. Does the release of this Best of give you that same sense of closure?
Oh absolutely. This release really does that to me. As I said earlier, it gives me time to rethink myself before I head into the production of my next rock release.
You had to begin your solo career under unceremonious circumstances. Looking back on that turbulent time, do you feel any gratification that things panned out the way they did?
One way or another I would have found myself working solo, because the situation in the band was not healthy for a long time and I didn’t want to get myself sick physically. BUT would I have wanted to end things differently with them, oh yes! That decision was unfortunately out of my reach.
I must say though, that I fought very hard to find a solid surface within the turbulence that was going on at that time. I never thought of quitting with music or disappearing from the scene. Music has always been the driving force in me and my biggest motivation and reason to get up in the morning, so I wanted to find my voice as an artist. My life ever since the years in the band has been really gratifying. Never before I have felt free to create and express myself. You cannot put any value on that freedom.
Your music is predicated on emotion. In revisiting your catalog, were there any instances that were tough to relive?
Working with my first ever solo rock album, My Winter Storm, was a tough time for me generally. I stepped into the unknown with that album without really knowing what to expect from my future. There were so many people telling me what I should do and what to avoid and what I really wanted myself, was to find my way to do things.
I am very happy that I could keep my mind about things that were going on at that time, so that now that I look back at that first album, I can say proudly that it is an innocent and emotional beginning for me. It gave me the wings to start on my own and I am eternally grateful for my fans that supported me through that difficult time.
The collection features a broad variety of collaborations from Alissa White-Gluz, Jason Hook, Björn Strid, and Chad Smith. Has there been anyone you are keen on working with that you haven’t already?
The world is filled with great artists and bands I would love to work with. I truly enjoy collaborations in general because I always learn something within the process. We, as artists work differently, even though we seek similar results. But I let the future decide with whom I get to work next. I cannot just mention all the people I admire here now.
Working on this retrospective, how would you summarize the last 15 years or your career? What would you consider your biggest accomplishment thus far and in looking back, is there anything you would have maybe done different?
It has been an amazing roller coaster ride! My life has been like a circus life for the last 25 years and I don’t see the end for it. I enjoy working with music more than ever and I truly hope that it will keep on making me happy the rest of my life. I am glad and proud that I have found my voice as an artist.
Something to change?
Maybe only the fact that sometimes it would have been good to find the brake for my engine, but I kept on going and ended up straining myself. But you only learn when you encounter trouble with health or something drastic happens. I wouldn’t change anything really. All the experiences and life changes that I have gone through are part of my music today - as they should be.