The set from Erja at HRH Blues in Sheffield this Easter was a highlight of the festival “High class set from the renowned queen of the blues slide guitar. In the set is Black Ocean for me a highlight and favourite on the album now a live favourite as prog meets blues under the charms and skills of Erja. We joined her on the rocking Chair, sang along with Stolen hearts. Then the trained steamed up the hill with her interpretation of Tina Turner’s Steamy windows. This was blues that sparkled as Erja smiled, played and won our hearts.”
Erja Lyytinen Talking about
Stolen Hearts and Being On Tour
BD:Hi Erja hope you are well, thanks for taking time to speak to Bluesdoodles, lots happening new album Stolen Hearts released 7th April and lots of touring including the UK from 9th April
EL: Really well thank you it is great to catch up with you again Liz.
BD: Before we talk lyrics, songs and touring how is life back in Finland juggling being Queen of The Slide Guitar with being a Mother
EL: Basically lots of balancing. Right now the twins are in daycare. Touring needs to be planned just organising life as off on a mini tour of Germany & Holland. It is all a rollercoaster ride often rather manic but definitely fun. You just have to jump-in and hope it all goes smoothly, often it doesn’t and you just go with the flow, that way you minimise the stress. Society and others have high expectations, which we are expected to obey. That we are all brilliant multi-taskers. Well, sometimes you have to concentrate on one thing and let the rest wait. The twins are used to me touring I have been doing it since they were two and half months old. February was a period of intense touring across Scandinavia with 24 shows in 27 days it was rather manic, we got through. Sometimes when I am in Finland the children can come on tour with me which is fun. I have a nanny to help and the twins love sitting in on the sound checks, playing with guitars we have really fun moments making lots of memories. I am a musician, a rock star but when I get home after a tour I am Mama again. The secret is to be versatile and I am definitely super happy. So glad I had the courage to have children, continue my musical journey one thing for certain is three years on I am a different person motherhood has definitely changed me.
BD: Stolen Hearts, your tenth album. Has a different shape to your Live In London and studio The Sky Is Crying. With eleven tracks that shimmer with blues that rock. Tell us about the thinking behind the album?
EL: Tenth album is definitely not a scary place to be. My expectations through life was that I would record lots of music. In fact, Number 10 does feel a good figure. This one feels like me, it is honest and a way for me to open up on the album. Reflects my life since motherhood and my life over the last two and half years has changed the way I look at things. I now try not to stress, not to be perfect. By the same token, I do lots of things and want to be good at what I do. On the album, this new feeling of relaxedness comes out. I now really enjoy being on stage, I now can open up and share. The album is very personal, the lyrics are heartbreaking stories. It is the end of a period of my life when I had the feeling that everything was going to collapse, eventually, it did, it took time to get out of that dark place. Music became my analyst where I could analyse my thoughts and feelings. This process deepened my musical expressions, now I am not afraid of being vulnerable, not afraid of being weak through that knowledge I have found an inner strength.
BD: You took the decision to record the album in two countries your homeland Finland and then U.K. Was it the lure of Chris Kempsey at the State of The Ark Studios?
EL: We recorded the backing tracks in Helsinki, some of the songs I had recorded one and half years ago and I needed to give myself more time as they didn’t sound right. We used Sonic Pump studios in Helsinki it is new with energetic young guys running the studio. Perfect place to record the backing tracks with the band. I wanted to take the album to the next level to give something new. Not just go to my home studio for the vocals and guitar, thought it would be nice to go abroad. I love England, I sing in English, so be good to have a producer who could check out my lyrics and pronunciation. It is so easy to phrase words that should be beautiful but mean something else English is so complicated with sayings and double meanings. I spoke to Alan Darby who is the songwriter I worked with in 24 Angels, which has a brilliant video. He suggested Chris, I checked out his CV and was blown away what an amazing history behind him having worked with so many Rock greats including The Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton and Bad Company. I contacted him and we started emailing, sent a demo from my home studio of rough over dubs. He instantly messaged back lets do it. He was so active in the 70’s & 80’s and the album was using lots of sounds from that era.
We went through studios and State Of The Ark was available it was cool a small boutique studio, with a homely atmosphere. It was an amazing experience from the first to the last track. I would recommend that everyone explores new soul mates in music it is invigorating.
BD:When reviewing the album, on the first listen what struck me was the range of tones and styles across the album from Heavy, brooding Rocking Chair (a new sound for Erja) through to the acoustic feel of Broken Eyes and the prog of Black Ocean. The diversity works there is a continuity in the lyrics, the emotional journey and the heartbeat of the blues ensures they all make sense. How did you come to create such different sounds and take the decision to record them?
EL: Yes, you are right it is the power of the lyrics they give the whole album a sense of context. I had other songs left out these were the ones that worked brilliant together. The album is about sadness, heartbreak, fear of loss, frustrations. Into the personal mix there is hope, happiness lust and sex. I cried when I listened to the whole finished album the emotions are so close to me they are personal. I did for a moment consider dropping Broken Eyes as it is a different tone from the rest but then I realised that it fitted perfectly lyrically. The lyrics are the link but Chris Kempsey is the genius that mixed the album. The engineer that mixes the album can either kill it or make it. Chris used a mix of Pro Tools and Analogue a mix of old and new reflecting the essence of the album. Old rock is behind the music, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix. I decided to forget about the radio, I am not pop, so like the bands of the seventies if the track is seven minutes like Black Ocean it stays that length, I wanted the long killer guitar solos. It is my music, my album and it was a joy to work with Chris. The mastering done at Air studios started by Beatles producer George Martin; working with Ray Staff was a professional joy. What a humble, lovely guy who had mastered icons including Bowie.
BD: 24 Angels, a single from the album, how do you make the decision on which track works as a standalone track? This number Co-written with Alan Darby, certainly sounds like your vocals are flirting with the mic and blues guitar that rocks?
EL: This track was the second, the first single was the title track Stolen Hearts last autumn to boost my tour last year and highlight the forthcoming album. The album was planned to be released earlier with crowdfunding campaign but for various reason it was delayed that is the way often in the music world. 24 Angels is a story worthwhile telling to people with pictures. It is multi-dimensional with lyrics that are about morality and forgiveness; about doing something to someone or someone doing something to you and the resulting suffering.
In the video, a relationship ends in a fight with hints of him dying in a car crash. It is that mix of forgiveness and regrets. Whilst writing the lyrics I was thinking of people walking the last walk on death row would you be regretting, how much you would suffer do you understand all that when walking the path. When I write I go to the very extremes. I have now opened that box and have for the first time explained my thinking behind my songwriting. This one I co-wrote with Alan Darby, a few years back he came up with the lyrics for the chorus ‘Bring me water, make me stronger’. He also put his emotions into the song. There were only simple chords before Alan jumped in and worked on the Erja idea. He made it rock more which really works. He is a sensitive guy with a long experience in songwriting for many including Eric Clapton & Bonnie Raitt among others.
BD: With the album taking you on new directions where are you planning to take us on the next road in Erja’s musical journey?
EL: Blues will always be at the heart of my music. I mainly listen to blues at home. But I like to make it modern for these times. It is more acceptable to do blues differently. There is a blues revival, with European invasion into blues music. I will always have my own style, I do not want to go back for one thing, it is impossible to get the sound nowadays. I am involved in a Jimi Hendrix tribute in May already sold 1000 seats. The show will be a celebration of fifty years since he visited Helsinki.
In music, you meet people and we all know that Rock n Roll can kill you. You have to take care of yourself so take care of myself try and eat healthy. Returning home after 31 shows in 37 days where you have no time for sports. It is important that you take it easy and do exercise take care of your heart physically and spiritually.
Now I have opened Erja’s box I have a couple of songs in the style of Stolen Hearts and have some ideas for the next album but they are my thoughts at the moment. I feel really strong about my writing new stuff at the moment.
BD: Having toured the new album, I believe you had a February launch date in Scandinavia. Do you have a personal favourite that really works on stage in front of an audience?
EL: I have had positive feedback in Scandinavia, where audiences can be a bit tight on the blues. I did wonder if they would like the new songs, a different Erja, but they seemed to like my new songs the edginess. So the feedback has been amazing. Personal favourite Black Ocean.
Looking forward to being back in the UK for five shows including launch party at 100 Club, London; HRH Blues and a double-header with your own Chantel McGregor. Hoping to be back to do more later on with a longer run of shows.
BD: Last time we finished with what your dream band would be this time – what are you listening to and what Erja Lyytinen track would you liked covered and by whom?
EL: Listening to Robert Randolph, his steel guitar sound is fabulous. Also, listening to John Mayer he is smooth, easy-going and Eric Johnson loving his new album EJ,
Who to cover my song What a question! It would have to be Stolen Hearts by Jimi Hendrix.
BD: Thank you for your time and looking forward to hearing the new numbers live at HRH in Sheffield.
Erja Lyytinen Exciting Blues Ensures Listeners Stolen Hearts
The release of her tenth studio album, Stolen Hearts, follows on from two critically claimed albums, Live in London and her tribute to Elmore James, her last studio album, The Sky Is Crying. The eleven track album has been lovingly created with production that is cooking the wondrous talent that is Erja Lyytinen. Recorded in two countries firstly in Helsinki at Sonic Pump Studios, then London where Chris Kinsey has used his breathtaking skills at State of the Ark Studios a hone Stolen Hearts into a standout album. Creating a blues-rock infused album full of textures, tones and another side of Erja’s immense musical talents to make acquaintance with on Stolen Hearts.
Stolen Hearts, will steal your musical soul, Erja has stretched her wings they shimmer with the blues and more. The album is confident, not looking over one shoulder to Blues music of the past but singing into the unknown as the album explores a wider range of tones. A crossover album striding across genres pushing them aside, making the music accessible to lovers of singers who sing powerful songs with gut-wrenching twisted guitar and deep and moody rhythms. Having listened to the album a number of times it grows and grows as new nuances are heard, different lines of lyric pop out and connect.
Every track is different some are stronger but none are weak. My thoughts on a handful the rest I leave for you to explore and describe in your own words. Opening with the title track, a gentle intro that picks up as a backdrop of percussive grooves for Erja’s vocals to rule as queen of the stolen heart. The edgy lyrics of a man-eater portrayed by a women who has the band at her fingertips and the guitar’s six-strings bend to her will on solos that create the landscape of the opening track. Laying down the intent this is an album that is another step in Erja’s journey as she weaves her spell over the blues of every hue. Second track in and we have a rocking good time tempo, redolent of Led Zeppelin but one-hundred percent Lyytinen. The bass acts as the Rocking Chair going back and forth as the seven verses unfold. The gripping speed and urgency reflects the lyrics about personal growth, how we should find peace and pride with what we have done and reflect in our Rocking Chair.
Co-written with guitarist Alan Darby, a single from the album, 24 Angels has deep melodies and breathy delivery as she flirts with the mic. Radio play should be a certainty with a track that fuses lyrics and vocals that allow the guitar to fly with the angels as we are lifted up with blues fuelled adrenalin.
Half way through you are as the listener pulsating with the energy power and poetry of Stolen Hearts. With a deep blue driving rhythm, Black Ocean is full of heavy riffs, solid repeated unchanging like waves crashing against a granite cliff. We know it is dangerous but we have to listen to Black Ocean with a Prog Rock feel, but never inaccessible. This is progressive-blues Lyytinen style. The keys add a soothing texture and the twin guitars add layers of sound that never overpower the lyrics and Erja’s vocals unless it is the emotional tension within the guitar solo.
The dreamy tempo of keys and guitars of Silver Stones, cooling the album down with melodies that etheral showing a vulnerability as the lyrics explore the pain of mental health and fantasy worlds we create and get lost in. The album explores human experiences and is up-tempo and reflective, we have rock and slow blues, slide guitar all mixed so that each track flows and showcases the depths of Erja Lyytinen’s deep luminescent talent. Closing with a slow acoustic feeling number Broken Eyes a song for piano and vocals. The power of the two create a love song we have all experienced. The only answer as the last notes fade is listen and explore Stolen Hearts again. Why? Stolen Hearts is an album of musical maturity that will remain a firm favourite for years to come in collections of lovers of contemporary blues without boundaries.
The release of Stolen Hearts coinciding with April 2017 UK Tour. The perfect chance to hear Erja’s new music live. The album is the first album to be released since 2015’s “Live In London”, and the first studio album to be released since 2014’s Elmore James tribute “The Sky Is Crying.”
The UK Tour starts at the Square & Compass in Ilminster on Sunday 9th April finishing in Sheffield at on Saturday 15th, See Tour dates below.
Erja chose to record Stolen Hearts at Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki. Erja’s vocals were recorded at State of the Ark Studios in London by multi-platinum selling engineer and producer Chris Kimsey, known for his contributions to classic Rolling Stones albums Sticky Fingers and Some Girls. Kimsey also mixed the album.
Expect to have your hearts stolen with the new album. as Erja flexes her blues muscles as we would expect. This album has more as she explores musical genres with influences country, Americana, funk, folk, prog, R&B, jazz and rock create an exciting album. The one certainty her trademark slide guitar blues is used with force to interconnect roots and its musical shoots together this is an adventure that Erja wants to share with you.
“Working with Erja was a revelation,” says Kimsey. “She has the ability to perform and write so many different kinds of songs, and her vocals and lyrics are powerful and they connect with listeners.”
Box Office: 0203 287 4994 or Book Online – HRHBlues
Booked your tickets now listen to 24 Angels from the forthcoming album Stolen Hearts
Fourth track of the Album, 24 Angels a song is about morality and forgiveness. While Erja wrote the lyrics she was thinking of death row, when the final judgement comes. How does the person feel while walking that last walk? Relief? Fear? Written in a more minor key and co-written with songwriter and guitarist Alan Darby. Last year I went to India to play some shows. During the slide solo I played an Indian scale with semitones, which gives the song a more of a mysterious vibe.