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BLUES PLAYER

"Being a creative artist means you need to be open and vulnerable ." - Erja Lyytinen

Posted: May 7, 2024
Extensive research has found that the creative person is happy in both their work and everyday lives when they felt a strong sense of well being and positive emotions. “Euphoric or happiness”. You don’t have to be a musician to be unhappy or invoke feelings of dread or despair. However, the musician would seem to be the one individual that would experience Euphoria more often than anyone.

Photo by: Hannu Juutilainen

Euphoria is the experience (or affect) of pleasure or excitement and intense feelings of well-being and happiness. Certain natural rewards and social activities, such as aerobic exercise, laughter, listening to or making music and dancing, can induce a state of euphoria.

A term you don’t hear often. However, everyone knows the results. Usually, it takes something that we enjoy, that will cause us to be “Euphoria”, or a state of being happy. If someone is in a band, or is experiencing a level of success they must be happy, right?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Some artists turn to drugs, and even attempt suicide because they are unhappy. Often, I wondered how this can be, you have the life that many people could only dream about.

Music history has had large amounts of musicians pass away too early because they were unhappy. Some instances were a direct result of mental disorders. Others could be traced back to substance abuse. Such as Curt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Chester Bennington, Jimi Hendrix and many more. One of my favorite artists was Chris Cornell. Accordingly, the Associate Press “The Cornell family alleged in the lawsuit filed in 2018 in Los Angeles Superior Court that medication, especially the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam, prescribed by Dr. Robert Koblin led to erratic behavior”. In fairness, this wasn’t the cause of his death. Allegedly, there was a history of substance abuse that led to his last action as an unforgettable artist.

Why do they do it? Performing before a live audience, with a career that you love, should bring you nothing but joy and happiness. For years, the “tortured artist” was a definition for artists who felt tormented over their lack of creativity. Vincent Van Gogh was considered a tortured artist. However, it turns out that he had mental disorder. It had nothing to do with his lack of creativity.

Extensive research has found that the creative person is happy in both their work and everyday lives when they felt a strong sense of well being and positive emotions. “Euphoric or happiness”. You don’t have to be a musician to be unhappy or invoke feelings of dread or despair. However, the musician would seem to be the one individual that would experience Euphoria more often than anyone.

Our guest today is Erja Lyytinen. Before we start this interview, we are not privy to any information of his state of being. Only that her career choice has caused her great happiness in her life. However, we want to get his insight into this topic.

 ABOUT ERJA LYYTINEN

Erja Lyytinen is one of the leading blues-rock guitarists on the international touring circuit. During a recording career spanning 19 years, the High-Flying Finn has released twelve studio albums as well as several live albums. Lyytinen’s musical pallet is vast, encompassing the very best of contemporary blues-rock whilst inspired and influenced by the blues greats of yore.

The artist’s last studio album Waiting for the Daylight was released in 2022 and was ranked #3 on Finland´s Official Physical Album Charts and #14 on the IBBA October Charts in the UK.

The first single released from Erja's latest studio offering, Bad Seed was chosen as the 13th Best Rock Song of the year by Classic Rock Magazine. Furthermore, Lyytinen’s guitar solo from “Bad Seed” reached 10th place in Guitar World’s Best guitar solo of 2022 reader's poll.

Lyytinen has been acknowledged for her work by her fans, peers, and the industry alike with a treasure trove of accolades. This includes being ranked #2 on Total Guitar Magazine’s “10 Best Guitarists Now” poll as well as being awarded “Best Guitarist” at the 2017 European Blues Awards.

Erja made history by being the first Finnish artist nominated at Canada´s Maple Blues Awards in the B.B. King International Artist of the Year category.

On 6th December 2022 - Independence Day in Finland, the Queen of the Slide guitar was cordially invited to the Presidential Castle. An event that rounded out a wonderful year in a fitting fashion.

In the first half of 2023, Erja Lyytinen released the latest instalment of her series of guitar tuition books. Subsequently, Lyytinen’s newest concert album Diamonds on the Road – Live 2023 was released on the 6th of October 2023.

The artist's busy touring schedule will see Erja Lyytinen perform on several continents during 2024 as well as her first UK shows since the pandemic. For further information, please visit https://erjalyytinen.com/

INTERVIEW WITH ERJA LYYTINEN AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar Thrills: Hi Erja. Thank you for joining us today. I know, it’s a topic that everyone wants to speak about. However, it is important. Especially, as fans we need to understand the true realities of the life of an artist. We don’t have any reason to believe, that life as an accomplished musician has been any less than exciting for you. However, have you ever experienced melancholy or negative effects that can be traced back to your time in the music industry?

Erja: Being a creative artist means you need to be open and vulnerable to be able to make your next best song. Yet at the same token you need to have a tough skin to take a possible criticism from the industry. So, it might be a bit challenging sometimes. Also renewing yourself as an artist constantly, educating yourself to keep on improving as an artist and as a musician can sometimes be hard. So, you need to keep it positive and be resilient for the industry around you, and understand that as a musician, you are never “ready”. You can always learn something new. That´s the beauty of being a musician. But always remember to celebrate your achievements and to thank yourself for the work you´ve done so far. Remembering the good things you have already experienced. That at least has helped me a lot mentally in the music business.

Guitar Thrills: You know the stories, and probably have more insight into the lives of many of these musicians. What is the vibe that you get from the artists you have worked with, are they happy individuals? If so, is it their accomplishments that brings them positive feelings or vibes?

Erja: Achieving something you´ve dreamed about for a long time always gives energy and positive vibes. But as man always wants more, it´s like shopping, the feeling of euphoria lasts only for some time and then you are off to the next task to get more thrills. In a way it also keeps us moving and wanting us to improve ourselves, to reach that next level. When traveling and playing around the world, I meet other musicians and some of them are more content with their lives than the others. But mostly you meet musicians that really want to do what they are doing. The ones who don´t, usually leave the business in some point anyway. So, if an artist has been in the industry more than two decades, they already know the downsides and upsides and they understand, that there are different kind of seasons in this business, and you just must learn how to cope with it. I recently played in a rock club in England, where I saw writing on the wall. It said something like: “Life´s not about waiting for the next storm but learn how to dance in the rain.” Well said!

Guitar Thrills: Mental disorders seem to affect everyone despite their career. The artist has a creative way of handling depression. Such as throwing themselves into their work. Why has this not worked for many of the artists that have passed away? There is no right or wrong answer. It’s all opinion based.

Erja: I guess it might be that some of us are more sensitive than the others. And whenever there is alcohol or drugs involved, it makes everything even more complicated.  Music business can be tough too, you might have wrong people around you, who want to only take an advantage of you. So, you need people around you that you can really trust.

I have been always fortunate to have great friends outside of the music industry, too, with whom I can talk about everything. I also have family, which balances the life on the road.

Guitar Thrills: Excellent feedback. We have high expectations for you as an artist. I am sure many of your fans do as well. Does that put undue pressure upon you? If so, how do you handle it?

Erja: I don´t really think about it. I think my own expectations toward myself are higher anyway than others’ expectations to me, ha-ha! I do like challenging myself. With my latest studio album called “Waiting for the Daylight”, I was pushing myself as a guitarist, singer, and a songwriter. I was trying to find new techniques when creating solos and not taking the usual way out. So, for me pushing and developing myself keeps me fueling my path to become better artist.

Guitar Thrills: It sounds that you are really focused, and the success you receive only adds to your creativity.

Guitar Thrills: Even the best artists feel a measure of failure at times. How do you overcome it?

Erja: I try to stay positive and don´t let the failure get to you. You haven´t failed, unless if you say to yourself so. So, it´s a matter of perceiving things. There´ll be always something new waiting on the next corner. Of course, some chances might be offered to you only once, and if you miss these, you just must live with it. Sometimes good luck and a chance play their role on how things proceed. But mostly it´s hard work. And always take your turn, even if it scares you!

Guitar Thrills: It seems that you have a good head on your shoulders, and you are centered. This undoubtedly will lead to your longevity as an artist, which will contribute to your happiness.

Guitar Thrills: I have received mixed feelings from artists regarding touring. Do you look forward to touring? What are some pros and cons about it?

Erja: We recently did 3, 5 weeks tour that took us to Australia, France, and the UK.  Long travels can be overwhelming, so this time I flew the longest flights in the business class. As touring is expensive, you mostly travel in economy class, but a little luxury is sometimes more than welcomed. I like exercising and go to gym every time if I possibly can keep my mind fresh and my body in shape. Touring requires a lot physically. Last night I slept hardly 6 hours, and the night before only 4 hours. So, I have learned to sleep almost everywhere possible. In the other hand, I love touring, I love the laughs in the tour bus with my band mates, changing the scenery, meeting new people, tasting food I haven´t had before, playing for the audiences around the world. It´s enjoyable and yes, gives me a great happiness.

Guitar Thrills: You are one of top performing guitarists in our day. What has contributed to your playing ability?

Erja: Thank you. I have studied music and guitar playing in various schools, like Malmö Musik Högskolan in Sweden, Copenhagen Rytmisk Konservatorium in Denmark and in Musician´s Institute in Los Angeles. I graduated from Helsinki Sibelius Academy in 2010. I learned a lot in all these schools, but I feel I have learned the most by playing gigs around the world. The road is a good teacher. I enjoy playing live very much and I like the interaction between my band and the audience. It´s exciting and every night is different. I always warm up before going on stage, and during a gig break at home I rehearse guitar playing and try to play something new to keep up with developing.

Guitar Thrills: What other artists have you performed with, or opened for that have been unforgettable?

Erja: I have supported artists like Tom Jones, and Carlos Santana. I also did a little tour with Jennifer Batten in 2019 and got to play a festival in Switzerland with the slide master Sonny Landreth. I have shared stage with Kenny Neal, Joe Bonamassa, Dan Aykroyd, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Sue Foley, Deborah Coleman. so many great players I have had a chance to play with.

Guitar Thrills: What brand of guitar do you normally take with you on the road, and why?

Erja: I use few different brands. My favorite guitar is G&L Asat Z-3, that has been my favorite axe for a couple of decades. I also have a couple of guitars from Finnish brand Ruokangas Guitars. They have custom made guitars for me and especially my “Blond Queen” model has a fantastic, smooth neck, that enables me to play faster licks. The neck is a bit smaller than on all my Fender Stratocasters, which I also use a lot. When playing live, I tend to have 5-7 different guitars with me. Some are tuned in to regular tunings, and some are tuned to open tunings like open G, open D, or open C. Each guitar has a different character, and it´s cool to change the guitars to match each song. Now my guitar rack has four Fenders, two Ruokangas guitars, one Tokai Stratocaster and one G&L. It´s quite a cool selection, I think.

Guitar Thrills: It has been an excellent opportunity to interview you. We hope it doesn’t end here. We will be keeping tabs on your career and are open to do what we can to promote it. Thank you for your time.

Erja: Thank you so much for supporting. Welcome to the shows and subscribe to my newsletter for the latest tour news!




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