Tarja Turunen‘s latest release is a Christmas album. But From Spirits And Ghosts is not the typical holiday fare. Turunen takes a darker, more gothic approach. She gives us the scoop on the album, some of her favorite Christmas memories, other upcoming releases and more.
Chad Bowar: What inspired you to do a Christmas album?
Tarja Turunen: Everything that I create nowadays has something to do with me personally. It is very hard actually for me to work on something that has nothing to do with me. Christmas comes to us whether we like it or not and it comes every year. You see it mostly as a happy celebration of the families and as something that brings joy to the people in general. But the reality of the true happiness for many people is very different. There are many people that cannot find joy from the jingle bells and Christmas carols.
When I lost my mother in 2003 I felt that my Christmas was over. I didn’t feel like celebrating it, nor preparing it. There was just silence and emptiness for me in Christmas. Only after I became a mother myself and I saw the excitement and joy in my own child’s eyes, I started to feel the magic of Christmas again through my child. It was a beautiful feeling. I wanted to make an album for all those lonely people during Christmas and wanted to give them a feeling of peace and hope with these songs.
What led you to put a darker spin on the songs?
There is a contrast in everything in life. Even in Christmas. As for me Christmas was for many years a dark celebration because of my mother’s passing, I know that it is like that for many other people as well. But music is something that can really help and give relief. It has done that to me several times, so this album could well become something like that for a lonely soul. Hopefully.
How did you go about selecting which songs to do?
The direction was very clear since the beginning of choosing the songs that were going to be recorded. The songs on the album are some of my favorite Christmas songs. They are songs that I have been performing in my own Christmas concerts during past years or they are songs that I had always wanted to record.
Did you write the song “Together” specifically for this album?
I wanted to write one song for this album, because I was eager to see myself what kind of song that would be! “Together” is not a traditional Christmas carol, but that ties up the whole concept of this darker seasonal album.
Was it difficult to get into the Christmas mood when you recorded it in the summer?
And I recorded my vocals in the middle of Caribbean! I honestly didn’t have any problems in getting to the right mood for these songs even though I sang them in a sunny location. The music was the key element here and the beautiful songs with their arrangements helped me to get myself into them. The fact is that if I wanted to approach the Christmas market with this album, I had to work during the summer.
Tell us about the graphic novel that’s being released in conjunction with the album.
The graphic novel is based on my song “Together” and its lyrics. I chose Conor for the novel, because his drawings are emotional. I didn’t want to have a cartoon kind of a novel, but a novel that talks to you though images in a beautiful, calming way. The drawings needed to present my song and it was important to me find the correct artist for it. My record label came with the idea for this graphic novel and I loved it immediately because it is something I have never worked with so far in my career. And as usual, I love challenges.
You’re doing some Concert For A Dark Christmas shows in December. Will they be exclusively Christmas music?
Yes. I will be singing mostly the songs from the new album plus some other Christmas songs as well. The idea is to represent my latest work for my listeners. The concerts will happen with a full symphonic orchestra and choir. I hope to make more tours like this in the forthcoming years.
What was your favorite Christmas carol growing up?
I love the Finnish traditional Christmas song called “Varpunen jouluaamuna”. It’s a very melancholic story with a beautiful melody. I am always singing this song in my Christmas concerts.
What’s the fondest Christmas memory as a child?
I always played piano and the rest of my family was singing along with me. Those moments were amazing.
What holiday traditions that you grew up with have you passed along to your family?
Baking Christmas pastries with my little daughter, decorating a real Christmas tree, going to Christmas sauna and the magical stories of Santa. The real Santa that comes from Finland!
How is a Finnish Christmas different than an Argentinian Christmas?
In Finland it can be -30 degrees during Christmas while in Argentina or in Buenos Aires is +30 degrees! That is a BIG difference. In Finland Christmas is celebrated quietly indoors with the family and we eat lots of traditional Christmas meals. In Buenos Aires, the people are firing fireworks to the sky and eating lots of sweet things. The Santas are running in shorts in the streets of Buenos Aires!
Were you satisfied with the response to last year’s The Shadow Self?
I am still on tour with this album. The reception has been really great all over the world. My fans have received the album with joy and seen my excitement of it during my performances. I cannot really complain at all. I have been able to play shows in countries where I never thought of going as an artist, so I feel very grateful.
What’s your timetable for your next studio album of “regular” music?
I have just released three albums in two years of time! Seriously, I am working very hard every day to maintain this crazy life I have. I have started already to write music for the new rock record, but that album won’t see a light of day any time soon. You will be the first one to know more about it when the time is right. Next year there will be a live DVD release and more shows during the festival season and with this album in general. There will also be classical music tours happening and another Christmas tour towards the end of the year.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I would just like to say thank you for the support and love!
(interview published November 16, 2017)