Singer And Nurse
She succeeded singer Tarja in Nightwish in 2007. With Nightwish she made ‘Dark Passion Play’, ‘Imaginaerum’ and ‘Imaginaerum: The Score’, before she was fired in the middle of a tour in October 2012. After that, she took some time off to focus on other important things in her life. She released a solo album called ‘Shine’ in 2014 which was laid back and acoustic. Although busy with the upbringing of her 3 kids she started studying at University to become a registered nurse. Now she is really back at the musical front with a project called The Dark Element, together with Finnish guitarist and song writer Jani Liimatainen, ex-Sonata Arctica. High time for HeadBangers LifeStyle to get up close and personal with the talented Swedish singer.
How does it feel to be back?
,,It feels good actually. This is a side thing for me and Jani, so I did not go in with any expectations other than just to have fun and record an album. Now it’s released and when people embrace it you get such a positive vibe. After many years people having said bad things about me that’s nice for a change so I’m happy being back.’’
What was your first reaction when the project was suggested?
,,I was hesitant because I hadn’t done anything for a while. I was studying hard at University. I have small children so at first there was a time issue. I didn’t hear Jani’s previous work so it was a bit of a gamble because they didn’t have any songs ready for me yet, and I usually always have to hear something before I commit to it. But I discussed it with my husband and he encouraged me to do it. So, it took me some days to think it over but I am happy I did it.’’
What was your input on the material?
,,The vocals, haha. Jani did all the lyrics and melodies but I could change it if I wanted. But he did such a great job and I didn’t feel like putting energy in nitpicking so everything was fine. I told Jani in which key the song should be in so they would suit me and I was free to do the vocals as I wanted. I did the vocal harmonies myself, so I’ve been arranging a lot in the vocals.’’
That was all?
,,Well, first of all there was no time for me to write and when I write lyrics it is for my own songs, because this style is not the style I write songs in. The songs on ‘Shine’ are more my thing, more laid back and acoustic. I am happy Jani wrote the lyrics so I could focus on the vocals.’’
What was your reaction when you heard the final mixes?
,, I was happy. First you have a demo where Jani sings, then I put my vocals on it and you think some songs are better than others, then Jani put his little mix on it and you go ‘yeah maybe’ and then mixing guy [Jacob Hansen] comes in and the magic happens. I am so very happy with every song. He did a really good job.’’
,,For me it’s about life with all its ups and downs.’’-Anette Olzon
Is there a theme or message on this album?
,,Not that I know of. Jani had his own thoughts when he wrote it but all I know is that most songs are written for this project and my voice. For me it is about life, the struggles, love, illness, but in the end you should live life and be happy about it. That’s the theme for me and what I was feeling when I sang it. For me it’s about life with all its ups and downs.’’
The lyrics are pretty dark but the music is in contrast, very uplifting. Are the lyrics the dark element?
,,I think Jani wanted this album to be super catchy, a bit cheesy at times. Easy on the ears music wise and sometimes he would put a bit of darkness in the lyrics. When I talk about the dark element it is the dark spot inside. On the outside you are positive and try to uphold a positive attitude, but when you’re alone, or in your own space, that dark, gloomy side comes out and since Jani is Finnish I’m pretty sure this is kind of the feeling he has. Finnish people are known to be a bit gloomy, haha. You have to be a bit melancholic.’’
After Nightwish and before The Dark Element you made a solo album. Was that to get things off your chest?
,,No, I already made the whole album in 2009 when we had a longer break from Nightwish. I changed from being no one to become a somewhat famous singer. When I took the job my husband divorced me, I left my child at home, it was such a stressful period of time, those years, the touring. It went by with such speed that I still don’t remember everything. During the break I told Tuomas [Holopainen] that I wanted to record my own album. I didn’t want it to be anything like Nightwish because I didn’t want to compete with my own band. That is also why ‘Shine’ is so far away from Nightwish, that was the aim. I always said to Tuomas that I wanted to do an acoustic album; it was something I always longed to do. It was a thing to write off what had happened in my earlier life. When I was young I was bullied in school, I was lonely, didn’t have many friends, all of that came out and also missing my child when I was away. For me it is a diary, it’s my life in the bad things and the good things.’’
,,I don’t like opera, I prefer rock ‘n roll”-Anette Olzon
For five years you were the voice of Nightwish. Do you feel you were given a fair chance?
,,No, in retrospective I wasn’t. I always felt like I came in with an impossible task. It was really impossible for me to try and get those fans who liked the Nightwish sound from the beginning to like the new sound. Of course, we also gained a lot of new fans that wouldn’t have listened to the operatic theme. I mean commercially ‘The Dark Passion’ was a big success so in that respect it went okay, but I think it was an impossible task. And still I have to suffer for it. For me it’s sad because even if I’m not the best singer, I am a natural talent, I haven’t taken many singing lessons but I sing from the heart and do it the best I can. It is really mean to say that I can’t sing, what some people say. That I am a plain pop singer. Of course it hurts but you have to know that people are emotional and Nightwish fans are very emotional and I have to live with it. Now at this time it’s not the same hatred, and although they still say I never fitted in with Nightwish, I think I did a good job. It was hard and it made me lose my self confidence as a singer. When I joined I was very happy to go on stage, I didn’t have any pressure but it built up. The guys in the band supported me but you need the love of the fans. Floor [Jansen] has it easier because she can sing both styles, I took the hard blows. If I talk to people outside the symphonic genre, they like it because it is a bit easier on the ears. Me, I don’t like opera, I prefer rock ‘n roll but we all have different tastes and they expect a certain sound and I respect that.’’
Besides a singer you are also a mother and a nurse. To me it seems like a real balancing act.
,,Sometimes I feel like I take too much on me but I always like to try new things so too often I say ‘yes’ to offers. It is tiring, last autumn was really hard, I almost hit the wall. It was suffering my school. The study is tough, I didn’t get the results that I wanted in my exams and I want to be perfect in everything which of course is not possible. So this year I’ll try to be a bit more relaxed, look at my health and settle for not always chasing the highest grades. It’s been hard but at the same time it’s fun to try things, haha. Sometimes you need to take a step back. Also when I was out of the band I had to find something else. I was so tired of the music business so that wasn’t an option. I wanted to be a normal person again but then again I must do stuff and sometimes it’s a bit too much.’’
Are your priorities different now than 10 years ago?
,,In a way they are. All my life I wanted to be a full time singer, that was a dream since I was a little child and I wanted to become famous, and in a way I’ve been that but I didn’t like everything that came with it. At the same time I’m a bit lazy and very stubborn. I’ve had talks with labels in my twenties where they wanted to decide what I would wear and sing and then that little child comes out and says ‘no’. I made my life a bit hard but at the same time it made me the person I am now.’’
,,Kids nowadays want to be famous, it doesn’t matter with what.”-Anette Olzon
What sparked your interest in music?
,,I come from a musical family, on my mother’s side everybody was involved in music. My mother did it part time. She had a normal job and in the weekends she left and sang. It came naturally for me, I could sing at a very early age. I heard I had a voice and it gave me pleasure when I was having a hard time at school and all I did was going home, crying and singing; it helped me get through life and stopped me from jumping in the ocean. For me it’s something I need to do to feel good. I want to be a singer, I didn’t want the fame. Kids nowadays want to be famous, it doesn’t matter with what. When I was getting famous in Nightwish I didn’t like it when people knew who I was. When they came up to me saying what they thought of me. I still feel kind of embarrassed, awkward. I’m not shy because I like to be on stage. Of course I am a little narcissistic like any singer and artist, but that whole thing about ‘famous’ is not important to me because with that comes pressure to be perfect all the time. My second son, Nemo, knows he will be amazing later which is cool. We don’t want to suppress him but sometimes we tell him he doesn’t have to be the best in everything but then he says ‘I cannot sing mum’, but he’s good at piano. I think it is cool he has this confidence.’’
Is there a difference between Anette on stage and Anette off stage?
,,For sure, off stage I am a bit more boring, I am a cheerful clown like person and as a child it was my way to be seen. Today I am a bit more anti social, I like to be alone. There still is a bit of this exhibitionist left, but if I go to a job I don’t have to be in the spotlight. On stage you put on a stage persona but it is still a lot about me. Sometimes I dance strangely, I’m not acting, I am very impulsive and don’t think too much on stage.’’
Are you superstitious?
,,No I’m not. Of course I won’t walk under a ladder and if I see a black cat I have to say ‘pri-pri- pri’, three times. On stage there is no superstition but I always say a prayer before I go on stage. That’s my thing. If I don’t do it, it might be a bad gig.’’
,,A lot of people in the music business don’t know how to act and behave in normal life.”-Anette Olzon
What advice would you give to kids who want to become a musician?
,,First of all, get an education in a regular job if you are not a music or a vocal teacher. Get a degree; you can do music on the side. What I have seen around me is that if you don’t have something to fall back on, you might sell yourself in a shitty business. Get a good education and also a normal job, it is good to know how to behave in a normal world. A lot of people in the music business don’t know how to act and behave in normal life. How to do a job, how to communicate.’’
What are your next plans?
,,I have a reunion show coming up with Alyson Avenue at a big festival in Malmö [Sweden] in June and I received some requests to sing on a few projects. I hope to do something on my own but first I have to finish my university, so I’m studying hard. Should have finished by now but hopefully I’m done next month. Then I will start working as a nurse. In Sweden we have a lack of nurses so it’s no problem to get a job. I have been thinking of quitting so many times, but at the same time I always wanted to have a university degree. I want it for myself and my children. A nurse always has a job.’’
All Bandphotos by Patric Ullaeus
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