The brightest star on the Finnish rock scene, the soprano singer known as Tarja Turunen, has become one of the most well known Finnish faces in the world of music.
Tarja started her musical studies at the age of six, and continued them in a Musical Institute in her hometown of Puhos, a small Finnish village close to the city of Kitee. She moved to the Music College in Savonlinna and then on to the prestigious Sibelius Academy of Kuopio city to study Church music and classical singing. Just a few months after being accepted at the Academy, Tarja was invited to record 3 songs for an acoustic project. Tarja accepted and thus Nightwish was born.
“I never thought of being a singer in a heavy metal band,” said Tarja. “My dream was always to be a singer, but since my studies were completely built around classical music, I thought that was my way. Anyway, I have always loved challenges and been brave, so I thought, “ Why not try out?” It was exciting to see the reaction of the listeners to Nightwish´s first album and how people accepted the fact that I was a classically trained singer singing melodic heavy metal. It was something that didn’t happen every day at that time!”
Shortly after signing the band in 1997, Spinefarm released the debut album from Nightwish, Angels Fall First. Nightwish were one of the first metal bands to have a female lead vocalist, and one of the pioneers of the so-called “symphonic-metal” sub-genre. Media and fans all over the world very quickly praised Tarja, even though she was a relative newcomer to the metal scene. Her unique voice and classical technique adapted to metal music and is now considered a milestone in the history of metal.
The debut album was followed in 1998 by Nightwish’s breakthrough album, the platinum selling Oceanborn, which contained such hit songs as “Sleeping Sun” and “Walking in the Air” and established the band’s profile internationally. In May 2000, Nightwish released their third album, Wishmaster, which immediately rose to the charts all over the world and went platinum in Finland in a matter of weeks.
Despite Nightwish’s growing success, Tarja continued her musical studies and also performed classical music on a variety of high profile international stages. Most famously, Tarja toured the classical stages of South America in Chile and Argentina in 2002 performing a Lied Concert named “Noche Escandinava” (Scandinavian Night) together with Marjut Paavilainen, Ingvild Storhaug and Izumi Kawakatzu.
After six albums together, 2005 would mark the end of Tarja’s career with Nightwish. An October ’05 concert in Helsinki was meant to be the perfect ending for an extremely successful World Tour, to be crowned with the recording of a live DVD. After the final bow, Tarja was handed a letter by her band mates where they stated that she would no longer be the lead singer of the band.
Tarja began focusing on her solo career and began touring in December 2005 with a series of Christmas concerts that took her to Finland, Spain, Germany and Romania. She performed traditional Finnish and international Christmas songs and released a Christmas album, Henkäys Ikuisuudesta (Breath From Heaven) which achieved Platinum status in Finland.
“It was very hard to perform shortly after being fired from the band, but I didn’t see any other way to continue. Music is my way of life; I sing for the joy of it. The tour was a success and made me understand that I have an audience on my own and people have place for my music in their hearts. I am truly grateful for this gift. “
In 2007, Tarja released her first solo album, My Winter Storm, which was recorded at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Studios. The album achieved its first Gold (later became Platinum) on the very first day of release in Finland and soon reached the top of the charts. International commercial success quickly followed with Tarja’s first-ever Gold certification in Russia and as well as from Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Tarja toured worldwide throughout 2007 and 2008.
“I had been waiting for the moment so long, that I could go for a rock tour on my own and with my own band. I guess the people could see me really smiling during the concerts and I think that smile has not faded away since. Everything is different when supporting and loving people surround me. There is nothing else I need to think rather than music itself.”
Since the beginning of 2010, Tarja has been working on “What Lies Beneath,” which will be released on August 31, 2010 on The End Records in the US and worldwide on Universal.
In March 2010 German hard rock veterans Scorpions released their final studio album, Sting In The Tail. The album included a guest appearance by Tarja on the song, “The Good Die Young.”
“It is such an honour to be invited to take part in the Scorpions last album,” said Tarja. “I was not aware it was going to be their last record until they announced it, so now I have mixed feeling of happiness and a bit of sadness, too.”
Tarja also performed with Scorpions on one of the most popular European TV shows, “Wetten Dass..?” earlier this year which was reportedly watched by over 9 million viewers throughout Europe.
With this brilliant start to her solo career, Tarja’s fans can look forward to how their ‘angel of music’ will surprise them next. Whether classical music or metal, her powerful voice remains full of beauty and with her enchanting charisma, Tarja continues to capture the hearts of her listeners and fascinate audiences worldwide.
Her story will certainly be continued.