Anette Olzon: The age of light

Anette Olzon is a sensitive woman. You just have to count how many times she uses the word “sad” to understand how the events of her personal and professional life have affected her. However, the singer shows real positivity today, at the dawn of a solo career that can finally bloom now that Nightwish is a thing of the past. Shine, Anette Olzon’s first post-Nightwish record, is an ode to optimism, a hymn to positive feelings, far removed from metal. After various collaborations, this is a second step forward that proves the singer has become rather sought-after.

Speaking of Nightwish, how could we possibly talk to the singer without mentioning her former band? Anette Olzon is sticking to her guns: like Tarja Turunen, she was “fired in a bad way”. She confesses feeling really close to her predecessor because of their similar stories and the fact that “many people still believe that we are the bad ones, […] that we are the divas, etc”. But Nightwish belongs to the past now, and Anette Olzon readily talked to us about the genesis of her first solo album.

« The only thing that I thought about Nightwish was, since I was in the band at the moment when I wrote the songs, that I didn’t want to sound anything like Nightwish and it shouldn’t compete with my band. »

Radio Metal: You’ve been working on this solo album, for five years. What took you so long, were you too busy with Nightwish?

Anette Olzon: Yeah, I mean that was one of the things because I was planning to release this between our tours, but then when I had done the songs and everything, I got pregnant with my second child also. So I found that I didn’t want to stress it, you know, you need to have time to put an album out, do the promotion and touring. So it was both the pregnancy and Nightwish touring that came between, you know (laughs).

The album is the expression of your own, personal influences, but did somehow your work with Nightwish influence you in the writing?

No, it didn’t, actually, and I think, since I haven’t written so many songs since I was very young, it was a totally new process for me, so I didn’t think about Nightwish. The only thing that I thought about Nightwish was, since I was in the band at the moment when I wrote the songs, that I didn’t want to sound anything like Nightwish and it shouldn’t compete with my band. So that was the only thing I had to think about, but otherwise there hasn’t been anything, any impact from Nightwish.

Actually, can you tell us more about your influences for this album, especially the non metal influences, since this album is a sort of mix of metal, pop and rock?

Yeah, I mean, I didn’t think so much when I did the songs, because when we sat down, me and the guys that I wrote the songs with, Stefan and Johan, we were like empty papers and we didn’t know each other, so it was totally new for us. It was a new situation and when we started to do the songs, first we did “Falling”, which is a bit more like a rock song, and it was nice, but then we said we should do something else. We just sat down and all those a bit softer songs came out. But my influences when it comes to my music, there’s a lot of them because when I was younger, my family was a musical family, so it’s been a lot of jazz and fusion and no rock’n’ roll at all, it was more contemporary style. And also since my mum and my brother were into music, we listened a lot to their favorite artists, so it was a lot of Sheena Easton, Whitney Houston, it was Toto, all of those different music. So I guess when I wrote the songs I just took some of my whole life of music and that’s what happened. So I didn’t think about any special influences, but then of course there’s a lot of things since I’ve been doing music since I was a young child, and been in a lot of different cover bands, of course there will always be melodies in my head, you know, from different things.

This album was produced by Stefan Örn who has previously worked with MADONNA, CELINE DION, JANET JACKSON and JESSICA SIMPSON, among others. Since this is a very song oriented album, was it important for you to work with someone that has experience in pop music and popular female artists?

Yeah, I mean, I think that, when I wanted to have someone to write the songs with, I was thinking about someone who is really good at songwriting and has done it for many many years, because I am good at melodies and lyrics but I cannot do the music and the arrangements and Stefan is a really talented songwriter and Johan too. So we contacted them and asked if they wanted to work with me. And of course you can hear that they know what they’re doing, you know, they have been working as you said with Céline Dion and all those bigger names, so they know how to make my voice sound good in the right key. I’ve been working a lot on that, to see where I sounded the best. And, since I didn’t want to go metal and sound like Nightwish, since I didn’t want to compete, I think pop-rock was the way to go.

« Every time I’ve had a really bad time and very dark time […] I’ve always been able to think positive in the end and see some kind of light that makes you feel you want to move on and live. »

Is this solo project your main project now? Do you have other projects, other bands in the making?

No, this is my main project at the time. I’ve had some people asking me to join something but I want to only think about this now, because it’s been taking a lot of time and I want to build my solo career up, you know. But in the future, I would like to do other things too, of course, if I have time for it and if there is an interest from bands and projects, but for the time being, I will just focus on this.

Which bands contacted you to join them?

Well, it has been different ones, it’s been bands and projects, I mean, some projects from other artists that have asked me. I don’t want to say any names about that (laughs)! But there have been some requests, yeah!

Do you intend to promote this album on stage?

Yes, I would like to do that. We are currently talking to booking agents because we want to make a tour, so hopefully, quite soon, I would like to go and make a tour, maybe in the spring if that’s possible.

Will the musicians who recorded the album be on stage with you or will you maybe have a live band?

I mean if they want to go, of course, they can go, but they have other things to do in the studio since they are studio musicians, Stefan and Johan. So I would take tour musicians, you know, not a band because I would be the solo artist but there will be musicians following me, of course.

You declared about this album that « The overall message is that life can be really dark and filled with hardship and sadness, but you can always choose to see some light coming through, to make you stronger and full of life – making you SHINE no matter what. » Are you talking about personal dark experiences you had to go through and that made you stronger?

Yeah, I’ve had some of those in my life. I think that most people, if they have lived like 40 years, have had some harder times. It can be divorce or it can be rough childhood or it can be that you were bullied in school or it can be that you lost your job, or you know, someone you loved treated you badly, so I talk about those things. And of course I’ve had my share of harder things in life, but every time I’ve had a really bad time and very dark time or if I’ve really been quite depressed or been sad for a long time, I’ve always been able to think positive in the end and see some kind of light that makes you feel you want to move on and live. Because life is so good and that’s what I want people to think: that even if it’s really dark and if it’s really hard, you can always try and think positive.

And have you always been so positive, actually, or did you have, maybe, some very dark moments when you said “Okay, I give up”, or something like that?

Yeah, I’ve always been a very positive person, ever since I was a very young child, I’ve been quite naive and also positive, and I always thought people were really kind, you know. So, of course, I’ve had my share of nasty people and nasty moments. But yeah, I’ve had two moments in my life when I actually felt like “I just want to die, I don’t want to move on, life is too hard”, and it was when I was a teenager, I was really a fool and I had a really hard time, I had no friends, I was really lonely, my mum worked all the time and I was just so lonely that I didn’t see any positive thing for a few years. But then of course, finally I saw the light (laughs) and then when I was around 30, I got a depression after my first child. After giving birth to him, I ran into a depression and I felt my life wasn’t what I wanted it to be. So I’ve had two darker periods, like really dark periods in my life, but luckily every time I felt that I wanted to move on from the dark side. And now when I have darker times it’s easier to think that it will all be fine, because you have been in that really dark space, so you know that there will be a nicer period of time afterwards.

« I wrote that [« One Million Faces »] after waking up one morning when I had dreamt about [Nightwish] and everything that happened, and then I was just so sad and felt really that I missed my friends and so on. »

Is what happened with Nightwish one of those bad experiences you talk about on the album?

Yeah, I didn’t think about that because the album was made in 2009, but there is one song that I actually wrote last year “One Million Faces” and that song is, in a way, about Nightwish, yeah. I wrote that after waking up one morning when I had dreamt about the band and everything that happened, and then I was just so sad and felt really that I missed my friends and so on. Then I wrote that song “One Million Faces”, so, of course yeah it was a really hard time to divorce from the band (laughs), yeah!

About that particular episode, you declared that you were fired just like Tarja Turunen was. Did that make you feel close to her?

I mean, yeah, in a way, of course it was different because what they did to her was really mean in the way that they also put the letter out on the internet and made her feel bad, you know, with everyone seeing it. With me they were a bit nicer because they didn’t tell everyone that I was fired, and so on, but still we were both fired in a bad way and I was really sad and I know she was really sad, as seen in interviews and so on. Yeah I’ve been feeling a bit more connected to her in a way that our story with the band ended in the same way and also that many people still believe that we are the bad ones, you know, that we are the divas, and so, of course I do feel some kind of similarity with her, yes.

While you were in the band, how did they portray Tarja? Did they actually describe her as a diva?

Yeah. Yeah, I mean every time, mostly it wasn’t the band guys who talked about Tarja because they didn’t talk so much about her, but if it came up, they would mainly say that her husband (note: Marcello Cabuli, Tarja Turunen’s manager) was a bit of a pain. But sometimes, when we went to Finland, there were people, like friends of the band, who always came up to me and talked badly about Tarja. I was like really… I don’t understand why, because I didn’t care about what happened with Tarja because I wasn’t in the band [at the time] and I didn’t want to talk badly about her because I don’t know her. So yeah, there were people who talked really badly about her, amongst the friends of the band.

Actually, have you already met her?

No I haven’t! Isn’t this weird?! (Laughs) But I hope we’ll meet one day because we have the same record label and I think it would be nice, yes, to say hello and ask her how she is and how is the baby, you know. She’s coming to play in Sweden in May, so if I have the time I will try to go and see her when she’s in Göteborg, because I think we should say hello to each other (laughs)!

The band declared that what you said about you being fired is defamatory. Have they taken some legal actions against you?

No, they haven’t. They haven’t done that. I don’t think they could because I didn’t lie, so (laughs)… That’s what it is, we all have our stories we tell people and if they want to say that was what it was, then that’s what it was but I was fired so I’m not lying about it.

« I do have a dream that I would be able to sing more with the classical voice at one point, so let’s see, but I think you’re never an accomplished singer. »

We know that you had to play the oboe for 8 years. Do you still play it sometimes or are you definitely disgusted by this instrument?

Oh, I hated it, it was such a hard instrument and my teacher said I was really good at playing it but I never practiced because I wanted to sing and I wanted to play the piano. So, no I haven’t played oboe since I sold my oboe when I was like – I think I was 15 years old, or something (laughs)! So, no I would never play it again!

Apparently you still take singing lessons from a private teacher from time to time. Is it important for you to never stop working on your voice and to constantly learn, even now that you’re a professional singer?

I haven’t met her for a while now, but I always try to practice and what I do is also that I try to sing and practice with my head voice and of course as a singer, you always want to be better. You want to be better in those things that you know you are not so good at, and for me of course it’s the classical singing that I haven’t done so much over the years, so when I practice I try to practice my head voice and the more classical approach. I do have a dream that I would be able to sing more with the classical voice at one point, so let’s see, but I think you’re never an accomplished singer, you can always know more; you always need to work with your voice.

You did make a lot appearance as a guest on other bands albums. What can we expect from you in the next few months, do you already have that kind of collaboration scheduled? Like, for example, the one you did with Pain?

No, I haven’t actually, at the moment. I’ve talked to some artists and bands about maybe doing something. I was thinking actually I should do a bonus song for my album with Peter (Tägtgren), so maybe that will happen, maybe we will do a song together for a bonus edition or something. And then of course when I go on tour, maybe I would like to do some songs on stage, like the Pain song or Brother Firetribe or something. So, we’ll see, maybe I will ask Peter or someone to come and join me on the tour. (Laughs) That would be fun!

Do you know what your first name Anette means in french?

No, I just know that it makes me think about Antoinette and those things, but I don’t know what it means, maybe I heard it once or twice, but… Do you know?

Yeah, Aneth is french for dill, which is a herb, that’s used to add some flavour to fish and to soup!

Oh perfect, I like fish or soup (laugh) well, that’s nice to hear! I mean, when I got my name, Anette, I didn’t like it a lot, I was like “I want to be called Josephine” like Napoleon’s wife Josephine, I don’t know why but I wanted to be called Josephine! But then, when I grew older, I started to think Anette is a good name and I like Antoinette and Jeanette and all those names. So that’s good to know that it’s a herb! (Laughs)

Interview conducted by phone on February, 7th 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription : Judith.
Introduction : Alastor

Anette Olzon official website : www.anette-olzon.com

Album Shine, out since March, 28th 2014 via EarMusic.

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