Finland’s leading slide guitarist Erja Lyytinen is back in the UK with a 7-date tour in September. The tour kicks off in Sheffield at The Greystones on Wednesday 20th September.

The tour follows hot on the heels of the release of Erja’s critically acclaimed album Stolen Hearts which was released earlier this year. The album was recorded at Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki and Erja’s vocals were recorded at State of the Ark Studios in London by multi-platinum selling engineer and producer Chris Kimsey (Rolling Stones). Kimsey also mixed the album.

National Rock Review recently caught up with Erja back home in Finland to talk about her new album, touring and her forthcoming appearance on the Stars Stars TV series.


NRR: I know you’ve been touring at the moment. You’ve done some shows in Sweden, you’ve been doing some shows in Finland, you’ve been all over Europe – I saw you were in Luxemburg. How have the shows been going so far?
Erja: The shows have been going really good, it’s been great to kind of get to play the songs at festivals where there is a lot of people and there is warm weather and a lot of buzz going on, so the songs start to kind of live differently. So yeah it’s been nice.
It’s been relatively busy, I mean not too busy because I think the whole of spring was so busy for me, I was like all of the time on tour. So I’ve been even having time to take off – it’s been nice. A few days every now and then and then go for a weekend for some shows – Hungary or whatever. So it’s been quite a nice summer actually.
NRR: I noticed that you’ve been performing some shows as part of a power trio this time around is that right?
Erja: Yes, actually my friends they are sitting here now (laughing). They are sitting here in my office. Yeah, we had kind of a couple of different shows.
We were playing up in the North in Finland in this, we call it a cafe next to a hay field, like in the middle of nowhere, I mean literally. There is a nice exhibition of 900 puppets standing in the field – so it’s like an art exhibition kind of a thing. So we played there and we had like 600 people coming out to see us in a field somewhere in the Northern part of Finland (laughing).
I had these two guys, really talented young guys Tatu Back and Jaakko Pöyhönen. So we had this power trio thing going on there and that was a really special show in some ways. I like a trio, I really like a trio it’s a nice format. There’s a lot of space for guitar and you know me I like playing loud stuff on stage (laughing).
NRR: So the guys in the power trio, how long have you known them, how did you meet?
Erja: Actually, I’ve known these two guys …I got to know them a couple of years ago and we’ve been jamming quite a lot together – so they have been kind of pushing my stuff. I mean like we’ve been practising some of the demos I’ve been bringing to them. I’ve been practising some of my new songs with them, so it’s been kind of like a rehearsal band in some ways for me. So it’s been fun to do some shows with them too.
NRR: So going to the trio format, has that changed the arrangement of any of the songs from the latest album – have you had to rethink those songs threw because obviously, you haven’t got the keys this time?
Erja: The hardest part is probably just getting used to that there is a lot of air when you play with a trio. Of course, we’ve been also playing some other cover songs and I’ve been playing a lot of slide guitar because with the slide I can really fill the space.
Yeah, but with the original songs from the latest album, for instance, you just have to kind of maybe play a bit more and try to do a bit more of the rhythm guitar parts. But, I think it’s mostly like a mental thing, you need to get your brain in the right position to be natural with the trio format. It’s very interesting.
NRR: You are going to be coming over to the UK very soon, you are going to back at the end of September. You must be really looking forward to that?
Erja: I am, I am – really looking forward to having English beer, meeting up with my friends, playing great venues (laughing).
NRR: Apart from those things that you’ve just mentioned, what’s your favourite thing about our little island?
Erja: I love the fact that you guys have such a vibrant music scene over there and you’ve got the history and you understand the music and you appreciate great music.
NRR: How would you compare the blues scene back home in Finland to the UK. Obviously, we’ve got a very vibrant blues scene over here and like you mentioned there, the history. Would you say you have the same kind of thing going off in Finland?
Erja: Well, I would say that the blues scene has definitely grown a lot even in the last five years. One of the reasons is that nowadays we have the Finnish Blues Awards, which happens once a year in Helsinki and all of these musicians and blues enthusiasts come there and meet each other and just bond and new things happen. So I think that has brought a lot more musicians together and yeah, so I would say it’s definitely growing, it’s been growing ever since I started to play the blues.
NRR: Obviously, we are very familiar with yourself and also with the likes of Robbie Hill and Ina Forsman. Are there any other names coming through the ranks out in Finland at the moment that we should be aware of?
Erja: Well, Micke Björklöf & Blue Strip, they’ve been playing in the European Blues Contest. These are the ones that tour the most right now.
NRR: I’ve been fortunate enough to see you perform many times now. With every visit to the UK it seems like the momentum is building, it feels like the crowds are getting bigger and the venues are getting bigger. Do you feel yourself like the momentum is building with each tour?
Erja: Yes, of course, that’s what you want otherwise there would be no point in trying it (laughing). So yeah, it does feel great and with this latest album, there has been a lot more interest towards the whole thing. I think people now are really getting what I’m doing – I’m a songwriter and I’m playing both slide guitar and standard guitar and enjoying being on stage, so that’s what you want. I love playing, I love performing and you need to have people to come and see and enjoy the show as well, so it goes both ways.
NRR: With the latest album, obviously it covers a lot of ground. You’ve got the stuff that everybody knows you for the traditional slide blues songs, there are some hard rocking songs on there – which I really like a lot, there are some ballads – there is all sorts on there. Going forward what direction do you think you are going to go in, or are you going to continue to keep the scope wide open?
Erja: I think I’m at the point right now as a musician that now everything is kind of starting to be one mixture of everything that I’ve been listening to. I have a feeling that something is happening musically in my career right now. I don’t know how the next album will be, but the feeling of the blues has gone deeper into my soul right now than ever before and in the same token I’ve noticed that I really enjoy doing rockier stuff, now I like to rock. I love British audiences because you appreciate rock music as well and there’s a lot of blues rock players in the UK, so it seems to be a bit trendy in some ways I would say.
NRR: I think you are right. Which band are you going to bring over to the UK this time, are you going to go with the trio or with the band which was with you previously?
Erja: I will come with the guys that I have been having there previously. So there’s Juha Verona on bass, Kai Jokiaho on drums and Harri Taittonen on keyboards and Hammond. They also played on the latest album, we have a great show together.
NRR: What’s the response been like so far from the fans towards the new album, are you happy with the ways the fans have responded?
Erja: Yeah, I think the whole response has been great for this album. I’ve been very pleased to notice that when you follow your own instincts and your own vision and it pays off it really feels great that you are going in the right direction.
NRR: What would you say is your favourite track right now that you are performing from the record?
Erja: I really like “Rocking Chair” (laughing), it is fun and “Slowly Burning”. I think the ballad has been growing ever since we started to play that in February and it is getting longer and longer (laughing), it’s a blues track.
NRR: I know that earlier this year you released a video for “24 Angels”, that was the last video to come out from this album. I don’t ever remember talking to you about that particular video, so I just wondered if you could tell us a little bit about the idea behind that song and the concept behind the video?
Erja: Alright let’s dig deeper then. Yeah, the song is about morality. It’s about either that somebody could have hurt you or you could have hurt somebody else. It’s about forgiveness too.
When we made the video and I got the script, I was like OK this could work nicely. There’s a couple and first, everything is lovely and everything is fine and there is all this idyllic house where they live. Then something happens, and they argue, there’s something going on. Then the guy hops into the car and there is a slight indication that he drives to his death and dies (laughing), you know it’s heavy. Anyway, it is a very deep story in a way that we were there in the cemetery and she is there alone this time.
So it is very deep, we are laughing now but back then it was traumatic. My mother watched the video and she doesn’t too often say too many words when she sees my work and she said that was traumatic (laughing).

NRR: I noticed you posted a cover of “Liquid” by The Rasmus on Facebook.
Erja: Yes (laughing).
NRR: I know obviously they are a Scandinavian band, although I’ve not heard from them for a long time so I don’t know if they are still going.
Erja: They are actually, I think are having a comeback, I saw them last time at the London O2 Academy, years ago and they had 800 people in the crowd.
NRR: I just wondered have you been performing that song in your set and what made you choose that song in particular to cover?
Erja: I don’t know, we were just jamming in the rehearsal studio with this bass player friend of mine Tatu Back and I just started to play those chords. Sometimes a familiar melody comes into your head and suddenly we were jamming this song and it was like OK let’s just record it.
It is a beautiful melody, it’s a beautiful song with a nice a chorus and everything. So we thought let’s just post it and see if people will like it or not and fortunately even the guys from Rasmus they liked it (laughing). So phew, it’s a nice song, but it’s quite an old song from the 90s – time goes so fast, but I remember when it was played on the radio.
NRR: So have you performed it live yet?
Erja: We haven’t, yet! We will see. Did you like the version?
NRR: It was great, I was watching it on Facebook. Like I said, I haven’t heard of them over here for a long while, but I do remember when they were played on the radio all the time and we used to hear them a lot over here. They seem to have gone quiet in the UK for now.
Erja: I think they will be back, I have a feeling of that.
NRR: I noticed earlier this year that you performed at a Hendrix tribute night in Finland. I was just wondering what was that like and also what’s your favourite Hendrix track to perform live and why?
Erja: Well lately actually we have been playing the track “Crosstown Traffic”. First, my intention was to just practice this song for this particular Jimi Hendrix tribute show, but ever since then, we have been playing it also in my live shows because it’s such a fun song and I’m doing this crazy slide Wah Wah guitar thing again, which I love to do. I’ve been playing “Little Wing”, it’s such a great song, with great guitar parts and a great chorus and a nice story too.
NRR: I also saw that you are going to be touring Erja Lyytinen and Friends “Blue Christmas” throughout Finland. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how it came together?
Erja: Well Christmas time is a special time, so we thought OK, let’s do something special for the fans and let’s bring some very energetic people on stage with me. It’s Maria Hänninen and Sami Saari performing with me.
Maria, she has this best rocker lady voice and I’ve actually been playing shows with her before that, but now it’s like we are going to do a proper tour. Sami is one of the biggest soul singers in Finland and they call him the “Godfather of Soul”, so I think it’s going to be a very interesting tour.
Then also Heikki Silvennoinen is going to join us for a couple of shows. So it’s like a nice Christmas concert tour with friends brought together with a great band on stage and just a couple of Christmas songs made with the rootsy style and then our own songs. Then we are going to perform songs together and play each other’s songs, and do stuff like that.
I think it’s always so interesting, and you learn so much when you do a project like this, you learn from the others so much and it’s good fun. We are going to play 12 shows together and I get to play 80 with my own band over the whole year, so it’s nice to do something different.
NRR: It seems like this year you have had a lot of collaborations, every time I look you are out on tour with somebody different.
Erja: I know it’s been fun though, it’s different but it’s been fun yeah.
NRR: You mentioned earlier on, that you had some demos that you’ve been jamming out with the other guys. So there are some new tracks in the pipeline?
Erja: Yeah, yes there is. I’ve actually listened to some of them today. Yeah, I need to finish these and I need to play more on this and that. So it seems like because a year ago I was sitting in the same spot where I am right now at my working office and I did most of the songs and was practising and doing them here.
Last summer was so tight, I was just concentrated and everything and it was very overwhelming in many ways and it took a lot of time. So now it’s starting to feel like yeah, maybe I could do a bit more of that composing again and writing lyrics. There’s a lot of cool stuff coming up.
This autumn is gonna bring me some very fascinating new stuff. I was asked to be a part of the “Stars Stars” programme here in Finland, which is like a song contest in some way. It’s called Stars Stars, which is a translation from the Finnish version.
So there is going to be different singers, they will sing different styles of music every week, and it’s a live show going out every Sunday on national TV. So it’s a very big thing for me, so that’s why I’m not touring in October/November because I’m doing TV. I’m going to be doing hip-hop and musicals and you know all kinds of stuff. That’s going to be interesting.
The first show comes out on the 8th October. It’s not like X-Factor or Idols because it’s not serious in a way. All of the artists they are just performing and doing something different what they wouldn’t do normally.

Stolen Hearts by Erja Lyytinen is out now via Tuohi Records. Erja will be touring the UK throughout September in support of the album.

ERJA LYYTINEN 
STOLEN HEARTS
SEPTEMBER 2017 UK TOUR

ALL TICKETS: £12.50
BOX OFFICE – 01472 349 222 (9am-5pm)
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Sheffield, Greystones
Wednesday 20th September 2017

Tickets: £12.50 / Box Office: 0114 266 5599
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The Greystones 
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Greystones Road, Sheffield, S11 7BS
www.mygreystones.co.uk

Edinburgh, The Caves
Thursday 21st September 2017

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Venue Tel: 0131 510 1122, 0131 510 6969
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https://tickets-scotland.com 
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The Caves, 8-12 Niddry Street South, 
EdinburghEH1 1NS

Nottingham, The Bodega
Friday 22nd September 2017

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Venue Box Office: 0115 896 4456
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23 Pelham St, Nottingham, NG1 2ED 
www.bodeganottingham.com 

Chester, Live Rooms
Saturday 23rd September 2017

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www.theliverooms.com
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Live Rooms, Homer House, 1 Station Road, 
Chester, Cheshire, CH1 3DR
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Manchester, Band On The Wall
Sunday 24th September 2017

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Band On The Wall, 25 Swan Street, 
The Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 5JZ
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London, Borderline
Monday 25th September 2017

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Borderline, Orange Yard, 16 Manette Street, 
London, W1D 4JB 
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Bristol, The Tunnels
Tuesday 26th September 2017

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The Tunnels, Arches 31 & 32, Bristol & Exeter Mews, 
Temple Meads, Bristol, BS1 6QF
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Erja Lyytinen
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About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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