We chat to Erja about her new release Lockdown Live 2020, learning how to survive on an uninhabitable planet and tea!
Mark: Tonight, we are chatting with Erja Lyytinen and about the new album, LockedDown Live 2020, which will be released on the 6th of November this year on the Tuhoe records label. It’s an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to speak here. And thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us here on the Rock and Blues By Hughes Show.
Erja: My pleasure, Mark. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Mark: You’re welcome. You’re most welcome. Could you give us a little background on yourself and how you started out in the music industry and what your early influences were?
Erja: Oh, well, I actually started to play violin when I was seven years old. I went to conservatory and my parents are well, they’re both musicians. And so we always had all the instruments in the house. And so when I was a teenager, I kind of, you know, abandoned violin and classical music and got into the rock, rock and blues and electric guitar. So I picked up my father’s guitar and started to do my own music. And yeah, that was so at the age of 14, 15, I kind of decided that this is what I want to do. I want to play guitar and learn as much as I can from it. And so I ended up doing a lot of different music schools around the world. I’d be studying in Sweden and Denmark and Los Angeles and so on. And of course, in Finland too. And I’ve been fortunate to build my own international career as a businessman as well. So, yeah.
Mark: And who would you say your influences were then?
Erja: Uh, there were a lot of influences actually. In the early eighties, I was listening to Coco Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown. And some time and some some point I had this moment when I was listening to a lot of soul music. And then came the blues and later on, all the sort of so to speak old traditional blues guitar players like Muddy Waters and Sonhouse and Elmore James and so on.
Mark: So how would you describe your music for people who perhaps have not heard of you before?
Erja: Well, it’s it’s it has changed a lot since I started. Yeah. Nowadays I would say it’s electric rock blues basically. And my band has four members. There’s drums, bass and guitar and keyboards. And we are not afraid to use different styles and sounds. And and I myself, as a guitar player, I, I use a lot of pedals, so I got like at least a dozen different guitar pedals like on stage I use whammies,and wah wah pedal and distortion pedals and fuzz pedals and multi effect and all sorts of sounds. So I like being crazy on stage and yeah.
Mark: A bit, a bit of a slide in there as well
Erja: Of course. Yeah. I love playing slide, it’s so much fun. You never know where you’re going to end up with it and I really, really have to play the slide guitar. So maybe that’s one of the things that kind of you know, it’s that’s why it’s so fascinating to play slide guitar. So there’s no rules really.
Mark: Exactly. Lockdown Live 2020. What made you decide to record the album at this point in time?
Erja: Yeah, well, we had we recorded this lockdown live in May this year and we had just had two months of silence from touring, you know, after after one when the Corona situation started. So we had to stop our touring. We were in the middle of a tour here in Finland doing great concert houses and sold out concerts. And then we had to step up on the 13th of March. Everybody remembers that date here. And, well, it’s a couple of months that we figured, OK, let’s do a proper stream streaming gig, like with multiple cameras and let’s make the sound great and and have the proper lights there and hold my whole crew there. And so we decided I decided to stream a gig on Mother’s Day on 10th of May and I went to my birth town Koppio to record this from this warehouse studio at Bluesounds and, yeah, that was going back to that moment, like when everything was really new, we were we were just getting familiar with the virus and and the restrictions and everything. And so back then, we had a lot of hope that, OK, in the fall 2020, we’ll be doing a lot more gigs again. And, you know, but here we are waiting for the second wave. And so. So, yeah, basically we streamed a gig, which we recorded. Now looking back to that time it’s great that we recorded it because I don’t think there’s going to be much of a live album coming out from this year. So in a way, that’s kind of a nice like a part of history, you know, where it’s such a different thing to do a live show without an actual audience present.
Mark: Did you find there was any rustiness or did you like it almost like you got straight back into the groove, so to speak.
Erja: Well, we hadn’t played much of a show. You know, we had two months of break from touring but music is in You. We were all really excited, really seeing each other and to be able to really do this recording and the streaming gig so I can see the enthusiasm we have when I look back on that, that the feeling of it, we are all really enjoying what we’re doing there. So yeah. It was a good concert. Yeah.
Mark: It’s probably an obvious question, but why the BluesSound studios in Koppio.
Erja: Yeah, it’s my birth town and we thought about going to go Oslo. Well we were going to also visit our parents. I went there, you know, just their yard to say hi because we didn’t get to go inside the house and so on. But I wanted to wish my mother a happy Mother’s Day. And we also knew the Blue Sounds offered their camera, a camera crew to this occasion. And so there was just a nice little points why we came, why we did it in Koppio.
Mark: It’s a retrospective. Look back on your work. There’s some early work in Wildflower and Dreamland Blues and then Stolen Hearts in another world from the later albums. How did you go about choosing what tracks you wanted to record?
Erja: Well, we tried to, we wanted to give people an energetic and happy and uplifting experience. So we chose the songs that are kind of a part of the regular life set and also the songs that we don’t have. Like a lot of interaction, actually, because we’ve been playing one of my ballads called Slowly Burning, which is like ten minutes long. But it kind of requires the audience there. You kind of like that interaction, especially in the blues music interaction between the audience. Really, it’s important. So we chose the songs that would really, definitely work, having a streaming audience watching us, because it’s basically like a studio life or a play on a TV show when there’s not really much of a people there, just the camera crew, but people will be watching it maybe afterwards or or life then. And so, yeah, we picked up the rockier tunes and because it was Mother’s Day, we also had a couple of popular tunes like Torn from my latest Another World album. And then we also added one song from my very first solo album, which was actually released in 2003 in Yavin with the Blues here in Finland. And that was a remarkable day because Bonnie Raitt and Coco Taylor played the same festival back then. But yeah, the song we played from that album was the title track Wildflower, which actually tells about one’s freedom, you know, one’s freedom. So it’s kind of straight to the point, because now we’ve been restricted from doing very much. s
Mark: Just touching on that then Another World, you said you recently watched the video for that where it gave you chills because people wearing masks and learning how to survive on an uninhabitable planet is a bit déjà vu they’re or forethought.
Erja: Yep, yep. Tell me about it. Ah. Yeah, that is so strange to think of if we would have put it out this year, that would have been like, oh well, but yeah, that the song tells about, you know, it’s like a long lost love. And and then at the same token, you know, well, like in the love life you want, when you have a breakup, then the world kind of turns to gray. And in this song, it’s like that aspect. And then at the same token, in the thought of you know, that we cannot live on this planet with destroying it and we cannot breathe the air. And watching back the filming of the world, people running in the smoky air using those masks. And you go like, oh, what’s happening nowadays? So, yeah, it’s interesting. So, yeah, maybe I should start like a fortune teller.
Mark: Fingers in a few pies, that’s for sure. Which ones are a little bit later.
Mark: Last album In Another World, you self produced that, did you produce this album as well?
Erja: Pretty much so. Well, it’s a live album, so everything is played once. And that’s it. That’s it. We live with it. Well, the rest of your life. So. And my engineer,Olli Huttunen and I, actually he did the mixing and yeah, I was going through the mixes and we were listening to them and doing some final adjustments. So in that token it was like an easy task really. And and then also the filming you have to kind of think of the way we changed some of the some of the filming spots, like when we when we obviously when you stream the gig, you, you do it like once there and and later on you can use some better angles, you know, to pick up the right. So soloists in each song and stuff like that. But just minor changes for that streaming concert which we put out back then live.
Mark: You’ve been keeping yourself quite busy. Look down by the look of things. You’ve been a couple of new ventures. So you develop your own brand of tea. The Blues Queen working on your first songbook. I’m reworking your biography. Blues Queen. I’ve got to ask the question why tea?
Erja: I love tea! I’m a huge tea drinker really. I mean, I drink maybe two or three pots every day and that’s why I love England. You guys love tea as well it’s everywhere and. Yeah. Yeah. Like I like the you know the tea has to the right temperature and all that stuff so. Oh I think that’s been my kind of a hobby for years now. And, and I’ve been going to this tea shop called Demaris Tea House here in the city centre of Helsinki. I live in the centre myself as well. And and we became friends with the lady who keeps a tea shop. And and so we were organising these tea, whisky and blues nights. Helsinki during summer and and, you know, for a small audience because of the restrictions and everything. So it was like a cullen eristic evening with music and and drinks and food and so we thought about, OK, let’s it would be really cool to have my own tea brand and why not. Because I was simply Love tea so. Yeah. And so it has it had to be something that suits with blue. So we, we thought about smokey. Lapsang would be great. And I’ve always liked the taste of Earl Grey. So we have some Earl Grey there and then we added some Finnish Kaloner plant growing the Finnish forests. So to keep to give the tea a bit of a texture,
Mark: It’s a fairly unique one by the sound of it as well.
Erja: Yeah, it is. And it looks lovely. It’s kind of a colour, a bit like purple probably.
Mark: Ok, sounds interesting. Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Erja: Oh well, yeah, I’ve done some melodies and riffs and such, but I haven’t. I haven’t had a really time to concentrate. I’m actually making like proper songs so. Yeah. So that time has to wait a little bit more. But yeah we’ll see. Maybe, maybe during this year, by the end of the year we will go to the studio and try some stuff out because we are supposed to do some shows here in Finland, but they’ve all been cancelled because of the situation on the second wave that is just currently happening years ago. So it can wait. But yeah, it’s time for the music then creating music.
Mark: So speaking of a second wave, you’ve got a tour scheduled for May next year in the UK.the tour this year was cancelled and then you’ve got a tour scheduled for February next year. A couple of dates, the Chantel McGregor, and then you’re off on a bit of a solo tour. How did the connection with Chantele come about?
Erja: Oh, I’ve known Chantel for years and she’s she’s amazing guitar player. I’m so proud of her. And she writes great songs. And she came to jam with me a few years back on my UK tour. And, you know, we became friends and. Yeah. It’s always great to play with her. It’s a nice musical evening every time, and I’m really hoping that we get to do the tour in February, but it looks a bit tough for you guys there right now.
Mark: So no one’s exactly sure what’s going on at the moment. It’s anyone’s guess, to be perfectly honest with you. So more importantly, where can our listeners find out more about yourself and where can they get a copy of the album?
Erja: Oh, that’s right. Well, just go to my website www.ErjaLyytinen.com So you’ll find the information from there. We get a story where you can preorder the album. It’s released as a CD/DVD and a vinyl it’s going to be a double vinyl So yeah. And you can also get some tea from my website. Well it’s to leave it there.
Mark: Perhaps you should do it as a package vinyl and tea
Erja: Tea and music. Perfect.
Mark: Well thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and chatting with you on the rock and blues by Hughes show.
Erja: Thank you so much, Mark.