Anette Olzon is due to release her debut solo album, Shine next month. Ahead of the release I spoke to her to talk about the album, whether or not she has any touring plans, and of course I asked her some questions relating to her time with Nightwish. Read on to see what she had to say.
Your first solo album, Shine, is due for release at the end of March. When did you first start writing material for it?
I started writing in 2009 in the autumn, so some years ago, and the plan was to release it at that time but then I postponed it because I didn’t find a label that suited me and also I got my second child, so that’s why there have been some years between then and now. This was meant to be a side project between the (Nightwish) tours we had, and that was why I did it in 2009, because we had a bigger break between the albums.
You’ve worked with other songwriters for this album. How did it work – did they write songs and present them to you or were you working with them on each song?
Mainly I would come up with some melodies and they would help me with the music, but there are also songs like “Shine” where Stefan had made some music and played it for me then I came up with the melody and lyrics. With some of the songs we just sat down and jammed together with the piano and drums and the songs came from that. So, it was a little different for each song actually.
What are your inspirations for writing the lyrics?
The lyrics are very personal most of them, not all but most of them have some kind of meaning from my life. There is one song about my eldest son and there is one song about my husband at the time, so I’ve taken them from my life, autobiographical songs in a way.
“Lies” was written about your divorce wasn’t it?
Yes exactly, not totally about it, but in the mood of it, you know, how you feel when you are in that situation.
Fans reading the lyrics to “Lies” could easily think it’s about the Nightwish split.
Yes but that was also like a divorce, so it suits that situation too. Being in a band is not like a normal job, it’s like a family so it is like a big divorce when you end something like that too, so I think “Lies” does work for the Nightwish thing too.
I particularly liked “Watching me from afar”
That was written with the same two guys, Stefan and Johan [Stefan Orn and Johan Glossner]. Actually that one is one of our favourites, all three of us. We really like that song and it’s a love song. You could also think that it’s about someone who has passed away since I’m singing that you’re watching me from afar, but it’s actually about my current husband, when I was on tour, he wasn’t there but I could still feel his presence, so it’s a love song.
Reaction to your video, “Lies” seems to be very positive.
Yeah, it’s amazing. I had a great vision when it came to the whole video thing. I knew from the beginning what it was going to look like. I wanted this Nordic feeling because I think my music is a bit in that style and that’s how I see the whole album of “Shine”, a bit Nordic and Folkish in many ways, and I wanted something very Nordic to show the best of our nature and also of course the snow. We were lucky enough on the day we were shooting that we got snow because we didn’t have much snow here in the lower part of Sweden but on exactly that day the snow arrived in Gothenburg where we filmed it, so it was great but very cold. I can’t say it was so enjoyable all the time because I was freezing to death but the video looks really nice and I’m really happy that people like it. I think they understood the meaning of it you know, the whole vision I had.
A lot of the comments I’ve seen on the video have said how good your voice sounds – I think it sounds fantastic.
Thank you. It’s nice because it’s easier now to showcase my voice because I do the song by myself. It’s always easier when you come up with the melodies to make it suitable for my range, and where I find it suitable. In Nightwish I got the songs in a certain key so then I had to adapt my voice to the songs and of course they can be too high or too low. This time it’s also easier to use the dynamics of my voice to sing in different styles, and “Lies” is a great showcase where you can sing with a lower voice and then a raspy rocky voice and everything, so it’s a good song to show your voice in.
Are there any plans for live shows later in the year?
Yeah I’m really trying to get it together. The thing we’re working on is trying to find a good booking agent which is of course a bit harder when you’re a new artist, to find a suitable one. I’m hoping my manager can find one this week or next week, and then we will try to plan a tour as soon as possible.
How difficult was it trying to balance touring with Nightwish with raising your son?
When I joined Nightwish I had one child and he was 5 at that time, so it was hard to leave him but at the same time he was not like a little orphan. It was hard in many ways, but it got harder since I had my second child, Nemo, then you have a baby and it is much harder even if I brought him along. Now I have three kids so it gets harder and harder. Of course it depends on the kind of help you get from people around you and your family. I have a very good network, I have a mum who helps me. I think the hardest thing for me is missing my children when I’m away, but that’s something you have to deal with in this business.
With three kids, being on tour must be like having a rest for you.
Yes exactly, and that was the thing when I had my second child with me on tour, even if his daddy was there it felt like I couldn’t get any relaxation because I was on stage or I did an interview, and normally you can go and sleep in the bus and get a bit of a rest, but if you have your child with you then you have to be the mum so it was quite demanding for me on the European tour. I didn’t feel I could relax like in a normal job where you can relax a bit in the day from the family, so it was nice to have the family there but also hard. I think that’s why many musicians go on tour, because some of the guys in Nightwish go on tour to get away from the family, I know. I didn’t do that but I know some of them did because they felt it was like a holiday. In a way it can be that.
On the “Showtime Storytime” Nightwish DVD, you don’t appear in the documentary about the Imaginaerum tour. Why did you request that you not be seen or heard in it?
I said I didn’t want to be in that, it was my decision. There were many reasons. First of all we had only talked about the documentary in a loose way before the tour started, that maybe we would do a documentary, and then when everything ended and they kind of fired me in a very bad way, I was quite angry and sad about the situation. Then a few months later they asked my manager if I wanted to pay for this documentary and be in it, and my reaction was Why? There’s a new singer and they’d done this in a bad way so I didn’t want to participate. In many ways it was not only because I was angry but also because I didn’t understand why, and also because I didn’t want to have half of the documentary about me and then half about the new singer – there would be comparisons, and I didn’t know how they would showcase me, would they show me in a bad way or a good way. So the decision has many different layers, but I felt I didn’t want to be part of it, I wanted to leave that part of my life behind me at that point.
One thing I find depressing is how many people seem obsessed with championing their favourite singer as the “best” a band has had and criticising the other singers. Rather than simply admitting that each singer is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses they constantly compare and criticise.
When I joined Nightwish I had very big shoes to fill and they didn’t make it easy for me, the fans. It was a hard job for me to take because the fans didn’t approve of me. We sold more albums than Nightwish ever had in the past, so in that way I succeeded, but they made me feel very insecure and that I had to work so hard to be liked because of those comparisons with Tarja which I find quite amusing because we are so different. I think music is something where you can’t compete, I don’t think you can say who is best because we are all different and what you like may be something I don’t like and I think we should stop comparing. They are quite fanatical some of these fans, and I don’t know why Nightwish have this type of fan because I don’t think all bands have them, but there’s something about Nightwish that made these people quite fanatical.
There is also the fact that different voices work well on different things. I’m not sure how well Tarja’s beautiful soprano voice would work on some of the songs from Imaginarum for instance whereas your voice worked for them.
Yes and my voice wouldn’t suit those first songs from “Angels fall first”, and I had some difficulty singing those songs. I think what the boys did when they changed Tarja for a new singer, they wanted something new, a new sound, but at the same time maybe if they had chosen someone similar maybe it would have been easier for everyone in a way, but since the guys wanted a new style, that was the choice and the fans should maybe tried to have accept it a bit more, and many of them did of course, but it was hard for us all in many ways.
With any band breakup there are bad memories but also hopefully good ones too. What is one of your best memories from your time with Nightwish?
I think it was when we won a big award in Germany called the Echo award which is like a Grammy. The evening was just fantastic, I was there on the same stage with celebrities like Kylie Minogue and Foo Fighters, and we actually won the prize over Within Temptation and Foo Fighters which was just amazing, I couldn’t believe it, so that was a really nice evening, just to be a part of that big occasion, and Germany’s such a huge country you know so it was just wonderful, so I think that is one of the best memories I have.
Do you have any plans to join another band?
Not at the moment no. I don’t say I will never be in a band again. My old band that I was in before Nightwish, Alyson Avenue, we will probably do a reunion at some point because we have such a good friendship still and we share a studio where I do music with my own keyboard player, but at the moment I’m trying to focus on my solo stuff to get it started. Of course if there were to be a nice band where I feel that my heart is in the music and where I can do songs, be a songwriter then maybe, but I don’t think I’d be just a singer in a band again and not songwriting because now I feel that I like this songwriting thing. Maybe I will start my own band at some point, who knows.
First though as you say there’s the solo album to concentrate on. Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you so much.
Anette Olzon’s solo album, Shine will be released on 31st March 2014 via earMUSIC.
Anette Olzon – Official Facebook