Erja Lyytinen in Conversation with Bluesdoodles; Liz had great fun talking to Erja covering guitars, singing, Finland her Live album and so much more.
BD: Tell us a little about your musical memories growing up in a small town Kupio in Finland
EL: Kupio is a small city that is growing and also a University City so lots of musicians, including Nightwish, there is something in the water lots of great guitar players as well. There are three music high schools in Kupio; these give you the chance at 16 to explore music rehearse and practice rather that going to lessons that do not interest you. All very helpful as 16-19 is a fragile age this allowed me to develop my own music. In fact my niece has had a wonderful experience as her week of job experience was on the tour bus selling merchandise while I was with Riku Niemi Orchestra, with horns, strings and band it was a big thing and for her something to remember, this has a great effect on young people.
BD: Did you always imagine yourself as a professional musician?
EL: My family was musical my Dad played guitar and my Mum bass so lots of music and I would sing along with them. So yes I always thought I would be a professional musician. Music touched me, moved me; it felt amazing. Started playing guitar when I was 14 or 15 didn’t know what style I would play but knew it would be popular music could have been rock, blues or pop. For a while as a teenager I did think I might study psychology; how people think and feel did interest me. For me though song writing is like being therapeutic for people you are offering a story that touches the listener and in some way can help people in dealing with their emotions. Yes for me music is the best therapy.
BD: What attracted you to the Blues
EL: My mother listened to lots of music her collection was wide and I probably heard lots of blues through her. Then I was in a soul band at college and got into the blues through Ray Charles’ Georgia On My Mind – that was IT! It was going to have to be the blues band with some gospel, I was looking for something and found it.
BD: Is there a vibrant blues scene in Finland?
EL: Yes, it is getting bigger recognition all the time. Last year saw the first Finnish Blues Awards with lots of categories including Newcomers, Lifetime Achievement, Best Track of the Year etc. The media is starting giving blues attention, and wanted to know about me because I was recognised internationally and is now giving blues a lot more space. Finland is a long way north, isolated, but we have the Delta Finland! Internet has helped to break down borders so you have a feeling that borders are not so heavy and hard to cross.
BD: How do you personally define the blues as a woman
EL: Blues, it is a feeling a deep feeling, there is an honesty, humour and seriousness in the same song. When there is deep, heavy stuff you need the lighter side as well.
BD: Do you consider yourself as a guitarist first, vocalist second or they equally important
EL: I am more of a guitarist if I had to choose; in fact I was a singer first but I practiced the guitar more, then came the pedals and amps and other stuff that makes it all so interesting (laughing). So now they both complement each other and I love the opportunity playing just the guitar or the opposite as a singer it is so different as one can concentrate on them completely, but together can create something quite different
BD: Your latest album is a Live In London, what is the difference between live and studio albums and why did you choose the 100 club as the place to record the album.
EL: This is my second live album already done Songs From The Road in Finland back in 2011 how time flies. The attraction of a live album it is easy to do, it is everything you do on stage. I am a live performer I love the interaction and it is honest it is what you are doing in that moment. Yes the studio produces a cleaner sound but added pressure to get it right, there are many different things that can be done in a studio but the live sound is good. I am trying to catch that feel in my next album which is in pre-production.
The 100 Club is a venue that is in Central London and easy to reach for audiences. So many big names have performed there and in 1970 Sun House a musical legend of mine recorded and album I felt the connection.
BD: As a woman, do you still come across the male naysayers – girls can’t/shouldn’t play guitar?
EL: Yes, like all women in all fields I am sure you have as well met sexism (we laugh and agree); but there is a definite change there are so many more women guitarists playing the guitar. When I was 20 I felt that other than the likes of Bonnie Raitt there were just a few others. Now there is a new generation including Chantel McGregor, Dani Wilde, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Samantha Fish and hope in a way we helped to lay a platform so they can develop their own style. I used to wear dresses and short skirts and corsets, now it is shorts, jeans and a top why it is easier to move around the stage simply right for me now.
I have just done a tour with Riku Niemi Orchestra, Ladies Sing Blues Erja Lyytinen, Aija Puurtinen and Maria Hanninen it was fun as we were all wearing nice dresses and sometimes it is just fun to dress up and sing.
BD: Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and playing?
EL: Never had one idol though from an early age loved the music of Ray Charles, Bonnie Riatt and Koko Taylor, but I have wide ranging tastes and influences.
BD: What advice have you had and what advice will you pass on
EL: I have listened to lots of advice but very stubborn too so do it my way – advice I would give excuse the rude word – Move the Fuck on… in other words forget the bad do your own thing!
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing
EL: Now that is a hard question so many greats… It also depends on what you are playing let’s see…
Guitar – John Mayall perhaps his whole band
Drums – Steve Jordan and /or Hannah Ford
Bass – Willie Weeks and/or Nik West
Piano: the late Charles Brown
If we have Hannah on drums it will be really rockin’!
Thank you so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule as your are on tour in the U.K. To read what Bluesdoodles thought about Live In London check it out HERE
Monday 5th – BARNES, BULL’S HEAD – Box Office: 0208 761 9078 Book Online – HERE
Wednesday 7th – WOLVERHAMPTON, ROBIN 2 – Box Office: 01902 401211 Book Online – HERE
Thursday 8th – EDINBURGH, VOODOO ROOMS – Box Office: 0131 556 7060 Book Online HERE
Friday 9th – KEIGHLEY, KEIGHLEY BLUES CLUB – Box Office: 01535 600310 Book Online HERE
Saturday 10th- BLAKENEY, THE HARBOUR ROOM – Box Office: 01263 741666
Monday 12th – OXFORD, HAVEN MUSIC CLUB – Box Office: 01865 244516 Book Online HERE
Wednesday 14th – EVESHAM, IRON ROAD – Box Office: 07831338277 Book Online HERE
Thursday 15th – CHISLEHURST, BEAVERWOOD CLUB – Box Office: 0208 761 9078 Book Online HERE
Friday 16th – SUTTON, BOOM BOOM CLUB – Box Office: 0208 761 9078 Book Online HERE
Saturday 17th – CHESTER, CHESTER BLUES FESTIVAL – Box Office: 01472 349222 Book Online HERE
Sunday 18th – FROME, FROME BLUES FESTIVAL – Box Office: 01472 349222 Book Online HERE