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 musicalmy 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 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
Award-winning Finnish blues guitarist and vocalist Erja Lyytinen will embark on a 12-date UK tour starting inDarlington Blues Club on Friday October 2. Tickets are available from the venues and the official Erja Lyytinen website.
Erja was recently voted the Number 1Solo Artist and Number 1Live Album for her latest release “Live InLondon” in the Blues Matters Writer’s Poll 2015.
Erja’s UK tour dovetails the release of her latest album “Live In London”, recorded at London’s prestigious 100 Club.
Bluesdoodles love the album Live In London read what we said HERE then book your tickets to see her live.
Live In London (CD & DVD)
Release Date 8th June 2015
Live albums are in the vogue at the moment and Erja Lyytinen’s is one that will never gather dust as she transports you into the world of Elmore James and the blues that her skillful slide guitar when interpreting his work or delivering numbers she has written. The energy gained from the years of touring before setting down this capture of Erja and her band playing live is evident by the honed musicianship, immaculate timing and the pure joy of playing in front of an audience at the iconic 100 Club, London.
Opening, with a Fred McDowell number It’s a Blessing we hear just Erja’s vocals a cappella deep and full of emotion we hear a holler that is repeated by Miri and Roger and then the hard driven notes from the guitar draws the number to a close setting the scene for her live in London album. We hear the first of the four tracks that Erja was involved in writing, two of which are co-written by her long-time musical partner Davide Floreno. The guitar work on Let It Shine, is as you expect from the first lady of slide guitar outstanding with her vocals full of sultry warmth and promise pitch against the guitar adding colour and texture that draws you deep into the spellbinding performance.
In the middle of the album we have a quartet of self-penned numbers Grip On The Blues, opens with a Hendrix, psychedelic overtone from the guitar and a rhythm section that is tighter than tight so the shape and format captures and tames the vocals of Erja. This is an interesting track showing the depth of the skills Erja the Finnish guitar can offer an audience. We hear a change of tone and tempo with a track that is lighter with Change of Season, and her voice is full of controlled emotions as she sings the lyrics that have a mesmerizing quality. Back to blues with a track has an energy that flows across the auditorium with Everything Is Fine, a track that shows the synergy between the whole band they are playing as one the guitar work has a bell-like quality then gets a little dirty; Erja is both the light and dark side of the blues. Finishing this section of the concert is Hold On Together; electrifying blues that just flows and sways with the beat laid down by the rhythm section, thus Erja can take the reins and play and deliver the track with freedom that brings a warmth to her blues.
Back to Elmore James for the last three tracks, with The Sky Is Crying, Erja captures the tone and mood of this song so well and the drumming from Miri Mittinen is as ever hits the beat so that the guitar can have the support it needs to slip slide away. Closing with an eleven minute rendition of a full on spring cleaning version of Dust My Broom, and cobwebs will be cleared away with her steaming slide and soaring vocals, the bass line is delivered with purpose by Roger Inniss, the silence falls and deepens for the guitar lead break that goes quieter and quieter and the intensity just grows no wonder the audience goes wow.. this certainly hits the blues spot and a fitting closing number for this recorded concert.
1. It’s A Blessing (Fred McDowell)
2. Let It Shine (Erja Luytinen)
3. Person To Person (Elmore James & Marshall)
4. Hand in Hand (Elmore James)
5. Grip Of The Blues (Erja Luytinen)
6. Change of Season (Erja Luytinen & Davide Floreno)
7. Everything’s Fine (Erja Luytinen & Davide Floreno)
8. Hold On Together (Erja Luytinen)
9. The Sky Is Crying (Elmore James & Clarence Lewis)
10. It Hurts Me Too (Elmore James & Marshall Sehorn)
11. Dust My Broom (Elmore James & Joe Bihari)
Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN doodle paws out of TEN ….