Interview with Nightwish 76

Source: Metal Hammer
November 2004

My Life Story

With the phenomenous success of "Once" Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen has proven that women are deservedly back in the front line of heavy metal. Daniel Lane discovers that the classically trained singer is more than just a simple country girl.

When and where were you born ?

"I was born in a little village in the east of Finland. It´s got a population of only 500, so I´m really just a simple country girl at heart.

What´s your earliest childhood memory ?

"My first childhood memory, and I remember it all quite vividly, was when I was around three or four years old and my father was building a new home for us. I was running around the building site and going into dangerous areas where I wasn´t supposed to go, as children do, and I remember my older brother - who´s seven years older than I am - looking out for me."

Do you have any other siblings ?

"Yes, I have another brother who is five years younger than me. I´m the middle child. We´re a really close family, and I love my brothers dearly. The annoying thing about being in a band is that when you´re off tour, you only get to see your family about two or three times a year and I really miss them. But they´re musicians too and they understand you have to tour and promote your band. Needless to say I´m getting pretty big phone bills right now - for keeping in touch with everyone back home."

How did you get along with your siblings when you were growing up ?

"I always remember fighting with my younger brother. Which was fine until I realized he was already stronger than I was. I think he was five and I was 10 and we were fighting and he was beating me really badly.
But it was a different story with my older brother. He´s seven years older than me so he was more responsible. He looked out for me and I looked out for my younger brother."

Did they vet your boyfriends ?

"Yes. It was very much like that. My younger brother would be like, "Why are you seeing that guy ?" And, "What do you see in him ?" My older brother brother was much more laid back though."

What was your upbringing like ?

"When I think of my childhood I instantly think of the landscape. We lived right next to a forest surrounded by lakes. I pretty much spent most of my childhood playing and going for walks in the forest, and swimming in the lakes. It was a pretty safe environment to bring up children. And I went to the little village school. There were only 70 people in the whole school and I was the only girl. For the first six years of primary school I was the only girl. I have two brothers that I´d fight with at home, and then I´d go to school and be surrounded by even more guys !"

How did you get on with your parents as a kid ?

"I had a really good relationship with my parents growing up. I was your typical "good girl" - I always got good grades and school and I was dedicated to my musical studies as well. My parents have always been supportive of my music, they started me off playing classical piano when I was five, and when I was about 10 it seemed like I´d be taking some kind of music class every night after school. My parents also thought they got off lightly in the teenage angst stakes too. I remember talking to my mother recently ad she said I didn´t really have any awkward teenage moments. But I know I did I just didn´t show it much."

Have your parents influenced who you are today either positively or negatively ?

"Yes, definitely. My personality is very much like my mother´s. She´s a very strong woman and I draw my strength from her. And the more sensible side of me comes from my father. But the real influence on who I am right now comes from my husband. Everyone talks about the British´s "stiff upper lip", but Finnish people are even more reserved than the British ! So my husband has been teaching me ways of how to connect with my emotions and how to show my emotions, which is really important for being a performer."

Who was your role model when you where growing up ?

"Looking back now, I´d say my mother. I really admire her a lot. But as far as famous people go I never really had a role model in that respect. I used to really like Whitney Houston. I really adored her songs and just really loved her voice. I would be singing her songs all the time, but I never considered her as a role model."

Did religion play a part in your upbringing ?

" A lot of people in Finland are Lutherians, and I am Lutherian too. I´d considered myself as a Christian, but we didn´t go to church every week. We used to go at Easter and at Christmas time, which are the main two Christian events. I used to go to church camps with other children from the congregation as well, and later I joined the church quire. I became a soloist, and I still go back at Christmas and give performances at the church in my home town."

What was school like for you ?

"As I said before I was the only girl at primary school, and that was just hell. I was teased and bullied, but I think that was down to my musical abilities. The head teacher of the school was also head of the music department and being the only girl in a school full of boys he was always putting me forward for things and I guess my classmates resented that. It was just the whole small town mindset, and if things hadn´t have picked up later on at school, I really don´t think I´d be here today."

What did you do after high school ?

"I left home at 15 actually, and went to college in Savonlinna, a nearby city, and I studied music. After three years I went to music university and then to the Sibelius Academy in Germany and I´ve just completed my degree in classical singing."

How did that impact on the band ?

"It was just really problematic scheduling it all, but it was really good to spend some time in Germany studying music. I got to spend some quality time with myself and, at that time, I wasn´t well known in Germany..."

Not like now with your face plastered across busses and billboards ?

"Yes, not like now. It was pretty intensive, spending seven days singing and I didn´t have much time to myself , but now I´m a qualified singer. I´m really pleased how everything turned out, because if I hadn´t have gone to Sibelius I wouldn´t be at this stage in my singing career."

Finally, do you think there is a difference between the way you are and the person you are perceived as being ?

" When I´m on stage I´m very happy but when I´m on tour it can begin to grate a little bit. Y´know, every day you´re surrounded by people who want to talk to you and it can be a bit intimidating for me being the only girl in the band. Although I´m happy to talk with the press and spend time with the fans, I need a little time for me. So if you meet me and I´m in a bad mood you´ll just have to accept me who I am or should just leave me alone."

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