Kürzlich hatte Bluesfeeling die Gelegenheit, Erja Lyytinen, Blueswirbelwind aus Finnland, zu interviewen. Wie sie zum Blues und insbesondere zum Slideguitar-Spielen kam, wer ihre Vorbilder sind – und natürlich über ihre neue Scheibe “Live in London”. Enjoy!
Erja, what does music mean to you?
Wow – it means many things nowadays. It is passion for me, definitely! Nowadays it’s also a work where you get a payment from. It is my hobby. – And it is something that I’ve done since I was a very, very small kid.I grew up in a musical family, so for me making music was really natural.
What are the musicians you are influenced by? And what brought you to play slide guitar?
We’ve had a lot of different musicians I’ve been listen to all that years. Where would I start? Of course I’ve grown up with my parents. And when I was 15 years old I’ve started to tour with them. And we had tour which was consisting a lot of different kind of music. There were songs called “Proud Mary”, “Yellow River”, “Tutti Frutti” or some “Hotel California” from Eagles, “Flower in your hair”. So I grew up listening different kind of music.
And further on?
Then I went to conservatory and started to learn playing the solo guitar. At first I was listening to a lot of Jazz players like Scott Henderson, Pat Methany, Mike Stern. I still like such stuff, but when I first time listened to the Blues, I thought: Wowing this is something deeper in a way. Robben Ford was one of the first ones I’ve listened to. He was playing a modern Blues style. I wasn’t so much involved in the old style when I was starting playing the guitar…electric guitar! Delta Blues didn’t really ring my bell when I was sixteen.
Actually I was listening to a lot of guitar players as Bonnie Raitt – she is phenomenal! Or the Rockabilly guitarist Brian Setzer, Duke Robillard and Albert Collins. So I learned a lot of different styles and Blues as well. In the beginning I was in the modern Blues. Later on I started with the older stuff. I remember when I heard Elmore James’ “Dust my Broom”-track, I thought: Wow, this is something great! And it was – so to speak - quite easy to play the slide guitar. But actually I did learn quite a lot from listen to Bonnie Raitt. Back then I was playing in open tunings the playing was really hard for me.
What do you prefer now?
Nowadays I play in Open D and Open G. I think it gives a totally different sound to the slide guitar. It more fun…
…than Open E?
Oh E? Why not, with a capo. It depends on the atmosphere you want to create. A lot of guitarist prefer that and do the lowest E string down to D…heavy guitarists J to get that bottom. And I do like that kind of power in my hands!
What was your first guitar?
My first was an “Aria Pro 2”. It was a used guitar and my daddy said one day to me: Okay Erja, it is time to get your own guitar. I’ve played my father’s guitars at first… My father probably had something else in his mind, but I loved that Aria Pro somehow. But he bought it for me and it was about 400 Finnish marks – a lot of money. That was a great thing – and so I turned to be a solo guitar player…
…and singer of course. You’ve created your own special style. A wide spread of Blues and sparkling Soul, Funk and a little bit of Country. How would you describe your style?
Well, I wish critics would do that for me. I think it is all of these elements you’ve said. It is very rooty. I wouldn’t call it jazzy but with a wide spread of harmonies and big chords. I like using like 5th chords and added chords. I like to do things a little bit outside the box.
Erja, you’ve done 9 studio releases and two live CDs. Your latest album is “Live in London”. Does your latest release mean something special to you? What’s the main intention of the album?
Well, I always felt that I’m best on stage. To be in studio and try to deliver a great track without the interaction with the audience is really a hard one… I only had one Live DVD out before that – except the Blues Caravan DVD from 2006 that was a different thing. But this one was with my band. This band I made the DVD with we had been playing for three years together, almost 300 shows. And it was really tight, so it was a really good time to make the DVD. And we thought maybe we could record it at the U.K. Because we had a good thing out there and we had nice people appreciate what we do coming up to our shows. So we ‘ve chosen to do the record at the famous “Hundred Club” which is a really famous place. All the good guys played there, one of my favorites Son House played there, recording there in the seventies.
And your record went really well…
…yes! They chose my “Live in London”-album is the best international live album in the Blues matters. It's amazing. And then again: I’m Finnish Blues artist and suddenly in June in the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association radio list our CD is No 1 – this is amazing. It’s great!
And it was quickly recorded…
…yes, it was recorded in a night and that’s it…
…with a lot of fun, I can hear that…so how do you manage songwriting?
Recently I’m writing new songs and they are quite deep actually. And there is something dark that I needed to put out on the songs. Sometimes you have “shit happens” in your life and then you have to resolve it somehow. And for me music writing is one of the tools I use.
…is songwriting some kind of diary for you?
In a way. It’s not all what I write when I do the text. It’s not totally true was has happened to me or somebody else. But there are elements. Always something that has kind of touched me in a way I need to speak about it. It is for me a therapy and if it delivers to somebody else who gets something out of it, then it’s even better. And then at least two people get some relief. That’s the best feedback!
I hope people get something of the lyrics and the music. Music moves. That really has to work. But sometimes it’s nice to have a story to take people somewhere. It’s the Bluesfeeling J
You are one the road and have a lot of travelling around when you are on tour. How do you manage to keep calm and to relax? What’s your secret to keep with your feet on the ground?
I really don’t take drugs and really even drink alcohol, I don’t smoke or drink coffee. I love tee: Schwarztee bitte für mich (lacht) mit Honig! It works. That’s my “secret” desire. But it is quite hard especially now on this German tour, because I brought my twins with me.
How old are they?
One year and ten month exactly today. So I’m a crazy woman. It feels actually quite rough with them, because they start to be in that age they want to move a lot. So sitting in the car - that’s not nice. When they fall asleep in the car it’s great. But if they don’t sleep it’s some kind of a nightmare…
Is there a Finish invasion of Blues music on the way to Europe and especially Germany at the moment? What do you think of the Finnish Blues scene?
It is definitely getting more recognizable for instance thinking of my career. In the U.K. we got some great feedback. If you see Micke Björklöf and other bands in Finland have a long career and touring all over Europe. But nowadays it’s much easier to get known. You go online and you instantly meet somebody else who’ll search for another band. And maybe now for females is time for invade the Blues circus. (lacht). It just happens and it’s because of the information which is easier to get.
Do you think there is a renaissance of Blues worldwide?
Yesss, if you look at the U.K. there are 20plus Blues musicians, that’s great! It’s like another Folk/Blues revival happening in Europe.
Yes, and most of them want to play modern Blues not traditional or Delta Blues. A little bit more mainstream Blues music, isn’t it?
Yes that means that the genre is not dead. It’s evolving! I’m pretty sure some hardcore Blues fans in the south of Northern Amerika would say something like “Baby, this doesn’t really sound like Blues!” – Because they have their own history and their stories. But nowadays we think about refugees coming from Iraq or Syria. They have awful stories to tell. They have different Blues But the music what it would be: Is it ethnic? But if you’re getting to the Blues sound so you can transform that to some different styles as well.
I think the thing is – as Warren Haynes told to me – you mustn’t forget about the roots of Blues and where Blues music did come from.
A really good point – I would say the same. Back in 2005 when I went to the Mississippi for the first time – Mr. Thomas Ruf from Ruf-Records took me there – it was a really, really huge thing for me.
I realized how deep everything was. I could only imagine the feeling that was going on there for hundreds of years. All the slavery, the abuse, the violence – and then this music form coming out. I stood there some morning next to the cotton field we are doing these promotion photos in this heavy air and atmosphere, the morning dew and the sun raising up. Mr. Ian Parker wrote me a song probably after that day and it’s called “Mississippi Calling”. This describes pretty well the feeling we had on that day.
Thank you for the interview – Bluesfeeling wishes you a lot of fun and success with your blues music!