Tarja Turunen: 10 Records That Changed My Life


Rocketing to fame in the metal world as the former vocalist for Nightwish, Tarja Turunen has been mixing her love of classical music and heavy metal for two decades. Following her exit from the Finnish heavyweights in 2005, she has released six solo albums and is still a formidable force in symphonic metal. But where did her love of all things heavy and classical come from? We caught up with the sensational songstress to discuss the music that made her.

My favourite album artwork is…

The Beatles – The Beatles (Apple, 1968)

“It’s the white album, it’s your imagination, you can think of anything you want – we all have our personal experiences. When you’re looking at the blank artwork thinking about what it represents, you can see why they did that. To me, it means that the album is a challenging album, it challenges the listener. After all the work they had done, they’d changed so much, and this album was an album that shows the wide range of incredible talent that these people had when they worked together. They were fearless. To me, the white represents all the colours of life, they’re all in there, but the music goes through all that.”

The album I wish I made is…

Queen – A Night At The Opera (EMI, 1975)

“I wish was a part of that album, there are so many great songs on it. The songwriting, the craziness, the freedom they felt in creating music that was appealing to so many people. The whole fact of being a musician, being free, and doing your art. When you listen to the album you can feel all that togetherness and the band blowing in the same direction. It’s a fantastic album.”

The album that broken my heart is…

Scorpions – Love At First Sting (EMI, 1984)

“Scorpions were super important to me when I was young, and when I was 1314 I was getting by first feelings of being a heartbroken girl ha ha. The song Still Loving You is one of those in particular. Many years after they asked me to sing on their record and for me that was closure ha ha. It’s weird the way things can happen in life, when someone is so special to you and then you get to work with them. The whole band and their music were a big deal in my youth. I felt super-honoured to work with them.”

Nobody will believe I own a copy of…

Lady Gaga – Joanne (Interscope, 2016)

“I have a pretty big CD collection at home from all kinds of genres and styles, I’m a music lover. I’ve got all the Lady Gaga albums and the latest Rihanna album. I’m buying albums just to listen to how producers work, for example, or if there’s a mixing engineer involved that I like. I listen to different styles because it helps me understand the people behind it better.”

The first album I ever bought was…

V/A – Classical music compilation

“When I started to study classical music, I was six years old, and I started to take piano lessons, then I started to get interested in the classical world in general. All the outside world didn’t matter when I was in front of my piano or keyboard. My first record was a classical collection of the hits from Mozart and Beethoven, it was two cassettes.”

The album I want to be remembered for is…

Tarja – The Shadow Self (earMUSIC, 2016)

“I’m very happy to have the freedom be able to be creative. If you listen to my last record it tells a pretty good story of who I am, at least today – I can stand behind the album and it really shows you my identity as an artist today, maybe better than any other album I’ve been involved with so far. I hate repeating myself, and I challenge myself with that every time I write a record. I never go where the limit is lowest, I always need to challenge myself, I want to progress, and I’m in a very good place at the moment.”

The album that reminds me of school is…

Whitney Houston – Whitney (Arista, 1987)

“I adored the Whitney album, the amazing songs like Didn’t We Almost Have It All. I was singing her songs when I was very little, I could never reach the high notes, and I thought ‘God, there must be a way to hit those high notes.’ I thought I’d become another Whitney until I saw Phantom Of The Opera. When the soprano hit the high notes I was like ‘How on Earth can you do that?!’ I was afraid to lose my voice, and if I was to become a singer I would have to take care of my instrument, so I started taking singing lessons, and in the little village I lived in there were only classical singing teachers. I never thought of becoming a classical singer, but then I was 15 and it all changed.”

The most underrated album is…

Burnclear – Lost For Life (unsigned, 2016)

“They’re a Finnish progressive metal band that my younger brother is involved in. They’re really talented young musicians, trying to find their way out to the world. If you give it a listen you can’t say it’s a shitty album, they just need somebody to light the way!”

The album I break the speed limit to is…

Disturbed – Indestructible (Reprise, 2008)

“It’s also my gym album; every time I go to the gym I go running with Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold. Disturbed give me a great energy, I like the vibe the band has. I’ve got the albums before this one, but this one was a big album.”

A kid asks me what metal is, I give them a copy of…

Metallica – Metallica (Elektra, 1991)

“Metal for me represents beautiful things. I’m a woman and I’ve been in this male-oriented world for 20 years now, which is incredible, and metal gives me an overwhelming power, the feeling that I’m ready for anything in life. But also it gives me the beauty part, the melodies that I’m seeking, it needs to tell me a story. For me, the first metal band was Metallica, and the Black Album is an easier album to understand for someone that hasn’t listened to metal before. Listen to this and then spread out because there’s so much more.”

Tarja’s latest album The Shadow Self is out now.

Tarja recalls impact of Nightwish breakthrough hit Nemo

10 years after Nightwish, Tarja Turunen is stronger than ever

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.