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BLUES PLAYER

"Blues poured out from the pain of people who´d been suffering and abused for decades." - Erja Lyytinen

Posted: April 3, 2023
The blues has a distinct melancholic and somber tone, which is achieved through vocal techniques such as melisma, rhythmic techniques such as syncopation, and instrumental techniques such as “choking” guitar strings on the neck or applying a metal slide to the guitar strings to create a whining voice-like sound.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads from the African-American culture.

Guitar Thrills Magazine has covered some of the best blues artists. Samantha Fish, Danielle Nicole, Sue Foley, Sara Niemietz, and Ally Venable. However, it doesn’t end there as there are others that we have covered within a short time frame. Blues music is the highlight of our brand existence. We thrive on identifying a blues artist that isn’t as famous as others. There are hidden gems such as Magda Piskorczyk, Yulian Taylor, and Manuel Bellone. These names represent blues music at its best. You can identify certain elements that make each of these artists unique. But when all is said and done, they are all cut from the same cloth. Their foundation is the blues genre.

The opening comments refer to the origination of the blues genre. Though it may have originated in the U.S. it quickly made its way to other parts of the world. I don’t believe that the blues is part of any specific culture or background. The shouts, spirituals, and simple verse rhymes are engrained in the heart of men and women. Ultimately, it is how you relate to music. Emotion is often displayed in many different ways. Though there is no greater genre that accomplishes this than Blues.

There is a specific blues artist that was a tremendous find for me. Her name is Erja Lyytinen. If you are a blues you know about Erja and her accomplishments in the music industry. In some aspects she is different in her approach. She mixes in other music genre’s but not enough to change the blues element. Erja makes blues her own, and there is no apologizing for that. This is what makes her unique. A treasure, a diamond with a unlimited amount of facets.

Guitar Thrills Magazine is not the only media group to notice Erja Lyytinen as being something special. “She´s the future”, told Carlos Santana to audience when he asked Erja to join him on stage in front of 20 000 people at Kaisaniemi Park Finland 2018.

Erja Lyytinen, has released her biographical book called “The Blues Queen” including stories how she shares stages with the legends such as Carlos Santana, Dan Aykroyd, Sonny Landreth and Jennifer Batten. Lyytinen’s musical pallet is vast, encompassing the very best of contemporary blues-rock inspired and influenced by the blues greats of yore.

During 2020, with activities limited due to the lockdown, Lyytinen began to work on new ventures such as the development of her own brand of tea. She also worked on two songbooks including her most favorite songs. 2022 Erja Lyytinen returns with "Bad Seed", the first single to be released from the artist's self-produced new studio album 'Waiting For The Daylight'. By her admission, this track in particular "has a fat groove and makes you want to move", said Erja. For fans of the award-winning guitarist's playing, the composition features a wonderful guitar conversation between a slide guitar and a regular guitar. It may have been three years since the release of the Erja Lyytinen's last studio album 'Another World', but based upon the lead single alone, it's been certainly worth the wait

ABOUT ERJA LYYTINEN

European Blues Award-winning guitarist Erja Lyytinen (pronounced Air-ya Lute-in-en) marks a new chapter in her career with her latest studio album, 'Waiting For The Daylight’. The Helsinki native proudly self-produced this her now twelfth studio release. The album was recorded largely in her hometown at Hollywood Studios during the first half of 2022. As with both of her previous albums, 'Another World' and 'Stolen Hearts', the High-Flying Finn further explores the subjects of love and loss.

For her latest offering, Lyytinen explains that she wanted to make a 'band album'. "My drummer Iiro Laitinen and bassist Tatu Back are doing a fantastic job. We practised the songs a lot before going to the studio, which you can really hear on the tracks. My long-term keyboardist Harri Taittonen joined on the album, which was a real treat," she says. “I also wanted to improve my guitar chops and guitar skills, so I was practising a lot, exploring different guitarists and their technics. I wanted to make a guitar album, with lots of guitar solos and interesting guitar parts, and a lot of slide guitar of course. In some of the songs, I have played over twenty different guitar tracks, and the whole album sounds huge.”

Erja Lyytinen was in the middle of one of the busiest times of her career when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. However, despite the challenges she faced, the entrepreneurial artist continued to develop new products and ideas throughout the lockdown period including, an autobiographical book titled the 'Blues Queen' (now available in both Finnish and English), a pair of guitar tuition books and the development of her own brand of tea.

Lyytinen’s musical pallet is vast, encompassing the very best of contemporary blues-rock whilst inspired and influenced by the blues greats of yore. And that respect for those guitar greats has been reciprocated throughout the years.

One of the many highlights of the artist’s musical career was in 2018 when Erja opened for one of her musical heroes Carlos Santana at Helsinki's Kaisaniemi Park. The guitar legend invited Lyytinen to play on stage in front of 20,000 people. Carlos was full of praise, declaring: "It was inspiring to see her play. It was from the future, and I like the future.” It was here also where Santana gave Erja the nickname "Lightning", referring to Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Since the European borders opened once again, the celebrated slide guitar player has returned to the international stage. Lyytinen recently performed at shows and festivals in Finland, Belgium, Norway, Germany, and France as well as making her live debut in Algeria.

Throughout 2021, Erja Lyytinen and her band performed multiple times on Finnish national TV, including a much-revered appearance as part of the country's Independence Day celebration. The artist was also inducted into the prestigious Finnish Hall of Fame.

Consisting of nine original songs, ‘Waiting For The Daylight’ by Erja Lyytinen will be released on Friday 7th October 2022, via Tuohi Records. The album has been supported via a crowd funding campaign.

Now is an opportunity for Guitar Thrills Magazine to dial into this queen of the slide guitar.

INTERVIEW WITH ERJA LYYTINEN AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar Thrills: Hello Erja, it is an amazing privilege to interview you today. Thank you for entertaining us by answering some questions. One of the first questions we have for you is about your background. Tell us more about your culture. Is it one of the biggest influences for playing the blues?

Erja: Hello and thanks for having me on your interview! I started to play violin in the conservatory in the age of seven and later on picked up the guitar. My parents had a band and there was always a lot of music playing in the house. I was soaked in all kind of genres and when I picked up my Father´s guitar in the age of fourteen, I was playing all sorts of songs that I liked. I remember playing songs like Hotel California, Should I stay Or Should I Go, Stairway to Heaven and so on. My parents played dance music like, tango, waltz and some rock´n roll classics and people came to their gigs to dance for that music. So I learned many songs just by listening to my parents. I found soul music in the age of 17, but a couple of years later it was the blues that really moved me. The emotional depth that blues performers like Ray Charles, Koko Taylor and Bonnie Raitt have, really hit me in a big way and I started to practice blues songs and guitar solos. There wasn´t many blues bands in my home country back in those times. The scene was quite small back then.

Guitar Thrills: Does it matter to you where a genre was originated?

Erja: When I visited Mississippi for the first time in my life in 2005, this trip really had a huge impact on me. I had been reading a lot about blues music history and the raw way this beautiful music form was created, breaks your heart really. We all know about the slavery in the history. Blues poured out from the pain of people who´d been suffering and abused for decades. Music was a getaway from the hard life for those working on the cotton fields. So yes, the origin of the blues is very strong and makes me honour blues music even more. I wrote my music thesis of Son House and delta blues characters, so I was reading a lot about history of delta area too.

Guitar Thrills: How does it feel to be recognized with some of the best guitar players in the world?

Erja: To get a recognition feels simply amazing. I am very grateful to achieve nominations and rankings on different kind lists. When I was a teenager, I was reading Guitar Player and such and now seeing your name among my huge idols, I feel gratitude. I have been practicing tons and performing around the world and this is finally making some results. At the same token getting your name out there makes me wanna get even better and improve my guitar skills even more. Musicianship is always evolving, it never ends and as a musician you are never ready, which in my opinion is relieving thought. Most important to me is to keep on developing and going forward all the time and not to stuck to a one place.

Guitar Thrills: Every artist has a source of inspiration. Who inspired you to pursue a path in the blues genre?

Erja: I was watching Ray Charles performance on the VHS tape, when I decided to have my own blues band. I also heard music of Koko Taylor, Edgar Winter, Robben Ford at the same time and I was covering their songs with my very first blues band. I started to play the slide guitar and soon after my friend introduced me to Bonnie Raitt´s music too. I thought it was so cool that there was another woman playing slide guitar! There weren´t many women playing electric guitar, not that I knew of anyway. This was in the beginning of 90´s so I wasn´t checking on internet or Youtube for other artists like today I would. A bit later on I also learned about other slide guitar women, like Rory Block.

Guitar Thrills: Do you continue to look to artists for inspiration? Do you collaborate with any of the top blues artists?

Erja: I do follow my fellow guitarists and artists regularly and I´m so happy to see that blues/rock seems to be really blossoming at the moment. Sonny Landreth and Jennifer Batten played on my Another World album, and it was a dream come true in many ways! I am also open for collaborations and been asked to feature every now and then on other musician´s projects. One of the most interesting one was, when I got a request to play on a Dr John track, posthumously. I was creating guitar, vocal and violin tracks for the song “Danger Zone”. It was quite intriguing, to record with someone who had passed away. In some point I heard this squeaky sound coming from somewhere, wondering what was it. Then I realized it was the piano chair that had made the sound, squeaking under Dr John, while he was recording his parts.. That was haunting! Gave me goose bumps for sure..!

Guitar Thrills: What is one of your greatest accomplishments as a blues artist?

Erja: I think it is the wholeness of small things that has happened, getting recognition from colleagues, music magazines and such. Been nominated on the Canadian Maple Blues Awards in 2022 was also a big thing for me! I was also the first Finnish person to be nominated, so it felt great. The fact that I have had a chance of playing with greats like Carlos Santana has really had a huge effect on me personally. To share the stage with someone who has been in the industry for over 50 years and who you admire.. that´s something!!

Guitar Thrills: Artists always receive accolades for their accomplishments. Have you ever felt like you were past up by other well-known artists? If so, how did you overcome those thoughts and feelings?

Erja: Music industry works sometimes funnily. It´s not always the best player or singer that gets the recognition. Sometimes it might be the one who has the best marketing plan and a solid management behind. But still, never overlook on someone else´s prestige. We don´t know what kind of sacrifices one has to make to get where they are. So it´s best not to be jealous to other people´s achievements. I have been doing my music and career always with my feet deeply in the ground. For me, coming from Finland, up North, it already feels like an achievement, that I have managed to have an international blues guitar player´s career. Thanks to my collaborators, fans and for my persistence. I could have given up many times, but I simply love what I do and love playing for people and making my own music. Nothing beats the feeling on stage when you click with your band and the audience. And that is also the force that keeps me going, no matter what.

Guitar Thrills: Did you ever feel compelled to change genres? If so, what other genre have you considered and why?

Erja: I´m playing many different genres along with blues. Blues is the essence, but I tend to mix southern rock, classic rock and progressive elements to my playing all the time. That makes it all very interesting. Besides I guess my pedal board isn´t very much of traditional blues guitarist´s board – it includes various different pedals from modulation effects to Whammy and Wah Wah. The more, the merrier is my slogan what it comes to pedals nowadays..!

Guitar Thrills: When you perform on stage, what does your stage plot look like?

Erja: My drummer on my right side, keyboardist behind me and my bass player on the left. I have an old Mesaboogie head and Framus speaker along with my twin board, plus 5-6 guitars on stage.

Guitar Thrills: What is your favorite guitar brand? Please explain.

Erja: I have to admit that I really like Fender Stratocasters. I got quite a few of them and they work brilliantly in every kind of music. But I do also use G&L´s, and Ruokangas Guitars.

Guitar Thrills: What kind of projects are you currently working on? What can your fans anticipate for 2023?

Erja: This year we will be playing in Europe, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium and also we will be popping to Canada during the summer for some festivals. We are also planning to release a live album, which should be coming out by the Fall 2023. Playing live is so much fun, and our shows are very energetic, so making an live album is so different thing than a studio album.

Guitar Thrills: It has been amazing to ask you questions. We would like to follow up with you again. Would you consider setting up another interview with Guitar Thrills Magazine?

Erja: Well of course! Thank you for the interview!

Guitar Thrills: That is awesome. We look forward to it.

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