DATE OF INTERVIEW:
3rd March 2014
The end of March 2014 will finally see the release of Anette Olzon's long-awaited debut solo record, 'Shine'. A pleasingly diverse blend of pop, rock, metal, classical and folk, it contains ten melodically sublime compositions with a heartfelt, emotionally-charged vocal performance that finally allows the Swedish singer to showcase the full range and strength of her voice. So a year and a half after her untimely exit from Nightwish, it seems she is indeed all set to shine in her new career as a solo artist. Ahead of the album's release, Metal Discovery spent a most pleasant twenty minutes on the phone with Anette as she chatted away candidly and effervescently about the record and her fresh start...
METAL DISCOVERY: Fine, thanks. How you doing?
ANETTE: Hi, how are you?
(Anette Olzon on the emotional essence of her vocal performance on debut solo album 'Shine')
"Almost all of the songs are lead vocals from the demo recording where we just went in, I did it, and it was like, “boom”."
Anette Olzon - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Patric Ullaeus
Interview by Mark Holmes
ANETTE: Fine, thank you.
MD: How’s your day going now? I read about your pram troubles earlier in your blog.
ANETTE: Yeah, I’ve had a shitty day. You know when it just starts in a bad way, and I started in a really bad mood, but now I’m better… [laughs]
MD: Heeey! It’s the start of the week so it can only get better from now on.
ANETTE: Yeah, and I mean, Mondays are like that but I was so into going out, and I had all the kids with me and everything, and then the pram doesn’t work, and you’re like, “what the hell?” But I think it was some dirt in the wheel so it was stuck. It will work tomorrow!
MD: I’ve been blown away by your new album, ‘Shine’… it really does shine in so many different ways!
ANETTE: Thank you!
MD: I gather all the songs, apart from one, were written back in 2009 when you had some downtime from Nightwish?
ANETTE: Exactly, exactly, in-between tours.
MD: So how good does it feel to actually get the album out there now after so many years of waiting?
ANETTE: It’s wonderful and, in a way, you’ve heard the songs for so many years so you’re like, “aha, here we go”… but, at the same time, when we mixed them, we did some new stuff to them and, of course, I did the backing vocals and some new elements, so they are like fresh new songs. And I was quite frustrated when I couldn’t get them out before because the plan was for 2010, so it was a bit of a delay. But still, you know, I think it was for a good reason. They were meant to come out now, I guess… [laughs]
MD: Yeah, and obviously worth waiting for as well!
MD: It’s quite a diverse album as well with all the different instrumentations because you’ve got elements of metal, rock, pop, classical and even a bit of folk in there. Obviously at the centre of all that are some very powerful songs so rather than set out to make a genre record, was genre secondary? Like, did you start out with the songs and then flavour them with all the different styles?
ANETTE: Yeah. And, I mean, when we did the songs, as I said, in 2009 I was still in Nightwish so the main thing was that I couldn’t compete with my own band. That was the first thing I said to the boys, when I sat down with my songwriters. So we did ‘Falling’ and that was a bit in the same feeling as Nightwish and rock, of course. So then I felt, no, this is too rocky so we have to change it. And then we started doing ‘Floating’ and stuff, so it came out to be something totally different. Then, of course, when things changed and I wasn’t in the band anymore, we had some more freedom to put some more strings and element into it, and guitars. Because I think if I had released it in 2010, it would have been less guitars; I’m quite sure.
And, also, I was signed to a rockier label – you have to attract some of those fans too. And I think it’s good because you have to keep your fans and show them that you still do the same kind of style in a way. I mean, not the same style but that you’re still there. But, then, if you want to do a little bit in the other direction, you can maybe do it on the second or third album. We’ll see where I evolve from this one...
MD: In terms of the lyrics it strikes me as a very personal album, so did you have any apprehensions about making yourself so emotionally bare in the songs?
ANETTE: I think it just came naturally. I’ve done some lyrics and stuff when I was younger, at the age of 20 in my former band, and then I was writing a lot of melancholic stuff. I always tend to write better when I’m in a sadder mood - I don’t know why, we are all different. So that album, I was quite tired after the long tour and all these things that have happened, and being in a big band, and doing all those new things. I think I just had to get everything out. And then it started to be personal, of course, even if not every single word is personal but, of course, it’s from my life.
And I think it was good; it’s some kind of healing process too when you write down the things you have inside, even if it’s from your childhood or whatever. And I think the next album might be more positive, you never know. It depends on how you are but, at that time, I was quite exhausted and tired from the whole touring of ‘Dark Passion Play’, which was a huge tour. So maybe that’s why they were a bit more melancholic, in a way… [laughs]
MD: You mentioned healing through writing so was it a cathartic experience when capturing some of those personal experiences and emotions in your music?
ANETTE: Yeah, I think so. And I think, you know, I’m also that kind of person. I’m very open and talkative with people and you can easily get to know me, but I have a big integrity when it comes to how I feel deep inside… I’m quite a positive person when you meet me because I don’t want to sit down and moan about negative stuff. I only show that side to the very closest people around me so, of course, I need to get it out in something. And I think the lyrics and writing it down is really good because, even if it’s personal, I’m not talking to you about it directly; I can write it in the lyrics. And people can interpret them as they want. I think it’s a good way; it’s like writing a book, in a way, to get it out of your system.
MD: I guess like any kind of art form, like painting, music or writing a book, like you say, it’s all about expressing your emotions in different ways. So art is a good medium for doing that.
ANETTE: Yeah, it is.
MD: Obviously, you made two incredible albums with Nigtwish although your vocals throughout this one are even more heartfelt and intense with a lot more emotional depth. So did that come quite naturally through singing about such personal subjects?
ANETTE: Yeah, I think it did and it is easier to implement singing and your emotions in your own songs, I guess. It feels like that. I mean, I have been singing other people’s music mostly, and it was something different when you got in and sang these songs because, of course, if you write about something personal, like some family or something, of course it’s something that will reach down to your heart and it will be easier to express that. I think it was mainly because it was my own songs coming out.
MD: You get to showcase the full range of your voice too, on the album. I think ‘Lies’ is a good example of that because you have the low-end of your voice on the verse, and the high-end in the chorus. So did you feel you had a lot more creative freedom where your voice could really flourish on this album, more so than singing in Nightwish?
ANETTE: Yeah, I mean, because here, we started from my voice. It was the first thing we did, like, sit down, I sang and they played around it. And then, also, Johan and Stefan who I wrote the songs with, are really good because they could hear where I sounded the best. It’s sometimes good to have someone else listening and they were like, “hmmm, I think this should be higher here.” And then, of course, when I went in to do the songs with all the emotions, like ‘Lies’ for instance, those lead vocals are the demo vocals. Almost all of the songs are lead vocals from the demo recording where we just went in, I did it, and it was like, “boom”. And I think that was also why it was so emotional because it was the first time I went in and sang those songs.
I know Céline Dion said once, I don’t know if she still does that, but when she was going to record something she didn’t want to sing them too many times because she wanted to have the fresh feeling. And I think it’s the same with me because, with Nightwish, the ‘Imaginaerum’ album, when we came to record the demo, that was the first time I sang them and they sounded so good, you know, with the voice and everything, both me and Marco. And then when we went to do the actual album some months later, Tuomas was like, “it doesn’t sound the same, it’s not as good as it was.” And that’s the thing, I think, because sometimes when you go in and sing something that needs to be emotional, you are the best when you do it the first time. You start to struggle with it, you know, thirty times, take after take after take… that emotional thing will just go away. So, I think, mainly because it was also very few takes and, of course, as you say, we can put the songs where I feel the best; where it suits me.
MD: Yeah, definitely. Also with ‘Lies’, since the video’s been released, I’ve read some comments online where people seem to think it’s about your exit from Nightwish. Did you kind of anticipate that misinterpretation?
ANETTE: Yeah and I mean, first of all, I didn’t think this was going to be the first single; it was the record label who chose it. I thought it was going to be ‘Shine’, actually. So when I was thinking about the video and the single, I thought about ‘Shine’ and then I had to implement it on ‘Lies’. But, of course, in a way, I can see that it’s also… but, I don’t know… for me, personally, the lyrics could be about that, but I know it’s all about my own divorce and the feelings you have.
But, of course, what I can say is that it doesn’t matter what kind of relationship is ending, it can be the same feelings, you know. And what we had is just lost, and what we said were only lies because we couldn’t keep them. We said we were gonna be married until we died and, you know, that’s what I mean, in a way, with the lies. And, of course, another relationship where you say, “we’re always gonna be in a band together, we’re gonna be friends”, and then you’re not. So, I mean, you could implement them in that way too and any relationship, of course, that happens in life where you go separate ways.
MD: Exactly, and I’ve heard so many artists compare divorcing a band to divorcing a spouse so I guess it’s naturally related anyway, although one of those divorces is a lot more public than the other one.
ANETTE: Yeah and, I mean, in a band it is like a family because you live in a bus, you get to see all the good and bad sides from each other, and that’s only family. I mean, that’s what I said before, only my closest family and friends will know how I am when I’m myself. When I’m out there, I’m not the same person in a way because you don’t show your worst side, but in a band you do – they will see you in the morning, they will see you in the evening, they will see you when you’re ill, they will see you when you’re tired, when you’re drunk. So, in a way, when you then end that thing, you have been so personal with the people that it is like a big family, and it is like a divorce in that way.
MD: I guess so. And ‘Lies’ is such an upbeat and positive sounding song so I presume the main message is nothing to do with self-pity; it’s more about optimism and becoming emotionally stronger from a bad experience?
ANETTE: Yeah, and always in a divorce, even if it’s one person who finally says, “enough now, I don’t want to do this anymore”, normally it’s two people, if there’s no cheating and stuff, who can see the marriage is not going in the direction you want to. But then it can be one person who takes the step and the other one can be a bit more like, “oh, he or she left me”, but it’s still two people who couldn’t make it happen. It’s the same with a band; it was like a group of people who couldn’t make it happen but someone took the decision and said, “enough now”. So, I mean, it’s a positive thing because then you have to move on, for sure, but I think it’s good to get it out of your system… [laughs]… either way…
MD: Definitely! I guess with the album as a whole, as well, the central theme is a statement of optimisim and emotional resilience, which is, I presume, why you chose the track ‘Shine’ for the album title? Despite some melancholy, as you previously said, the album does strike me as having a very optimistic outlook as a whole.
ANETTE: Yeah, I mean, there are also some love songs on it so it’s not all about just gloom. So there are some love songs and ‘Shine’ is about keeping strong when things do hit you in the face, or if people are mean, like if you’re bullied at school… and since I have been bullied at school, it was kind of a song about that. Even if things go against you and you have harder times, which we all have in many ways and people will treat you badly, then you just can say, “screw it, I will make my own way, and my own path, and I’ll shine.” So that’s the message, you know, just shine, show who you are; don’t care about what other people think, just be you. It’s a very strong song for me… [laughs]
MD: Ooo yeah, well, it’s a very strong album, and it’s a very good message as well!
ANETTE: Yeah, good! [laughs]