Intervista a Johanna Kurkela (AURI) – [English Version]6 Marzo 2018
Il nuovo progetto musicale finlandese Auri nasce dalle menti di Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) , Johanna Kurkela (cantante e moglie di Holopainen) e Troy Donockley (Nightwish). Il loro primo album sta per vedere la luce tramite Nuclear Blast e, a parlarne è proprio Johanna Kurkela nell’intervista, nella versione in Inglese, di seguito. Presto sarà disponibile anche la versione in Italiano .
Hi Johanna, thank you so much for accepting this interview and welcome to Suoni Distorti Magazine. How are you?
Hi Benedetta and thank you for your questions! I’m feeling absolutely wonderful, eagerly anticipating March 23rd and the release of our debut album!
I fell in love with your voice find it out in Sonata Arctica’s collaborations. My congratulation. How was born your passion for Music?
As to my solo career, it all started when I was still in high school. I was born on 25th of April in a little village (translated in English) called “Snowriver” in the northern region of Finland. Our family has always been very musical. Growing up, I played the violin, piano, and listened to a myriad of different bands and artists like Celine Dion, Lara Fabian, Sarah McLachlan, The Gathering with Anneke van Giersbergen, Katatonia, Lacuna Coil, Silentium, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, just to mention a few. I haven’t really studied singing, apart from a handful of singing lessons I got as a present back in the early days.
I guess music has always been like a second nature to me. I didn’t really think much about it, until a mate of mine in high school suggested I’d make a demo, which later on ended up on the desk of Warner Music Finland and they decided to act on it. Once again, the importance of having the right people around you at the right time made a huge impact. I don’t think I would’ve become a professional singer otherwise. And even though my solo career whisked me off to sing songs by a more softer nature, throughout the years I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with many wonderful musicians, also colleagues from the metal world.
Sonata Arctic’s album “Unia” really struck a deep cord in me when it was released. Pretty soon after that, I met Tony Kakko through a mutual friend, we became better acquainted and a dream of some sort of a musical collaboration sparked. I still remember the day I got invited to sing on their album “The Days of Grays”. It was a huge deal for me. I also invited Eicca Toppinen from Apocalyptica to play cello on a song of mine called “Rakkauslaulu” (a song composed by Lauri Ylönen from the Rasmus). Sharing music with other people, especially in this sort of unique crossover way, has always been like fuel for me, feeding the flames of inspiration. I think, every artist is like a sponge, absorbing influence from things which feel meaningful. For the most part, it is a very subconscious thing, the sources which affect the art we make.
In Auri, one can most certainly hear many influences, but rather than try to pinpoint them all, we’d prefer the listener to just shut the mind, and let one’s heart listen instead. For me, the magic of music has never been something that can be captured with only words. It is a personal journey, a colouring book, the outlines of a scenery to be filled with each listener’s own emotions. There is no right or wrong in interpreting a song, if it jerks out something profound, beautiful and renewing inside the listener.
A brilliant career until to Auri, a real band and not a side-project. How was born the moniker?
The name of the band wasn’t decided until last year, when we started delving deeper into the album making and realised we needed a name for our band. We tossed around with ideas, and finally thought of Auri, which felt like the perfect name. Deriving from the word “aura”, meaning, golden, emanation, atmosphere, a soft breeze, etc. It is used in Finland as a girl’s name. And, it also happens to be the name of a character in Patrick Rothfuss’ books, a character who lives in her own world, almost in another dimension compared to the rest of the world, for the way she perceives life and the way she keeps to herself, only to come out at moonlight, in secret, to sit on rooftops of the world. She is a deep deep mystery, and an achingly beautiful and infinitely intriguing one at that.
Auri’s project is the Music born from three friends. It represents your actual identities. As you said: it’s the eponymous debut on a fairytale journey through time and space. What about lyrics-songwriting themes of this journey?
The way the album started to unfold is still pretty much a mystery. We didn’t really talk about what the album should be like, or what type of songs to write. We didn’t have a concept, no main songwriter, no producer. Each three just threw in ideas of songs, and collaborated on the basis of them, sending files back and forth between Finland and North Yorkshire, getting completely swept away by what the other one had done, added something new and then whisked the whole thing back again for further development. In a way it was like having a most uplifting and inspiring conversation between three people.
Never once had we any disagreements, or thought that some tracks didn’t fit in with the rest. It was the smoothest sailing I’ve ever experienced in making music, as if the music was in a weird way coming from the same source, despite the fact there were three people making it. In essence, the band Auri was formed by three friends aching to hear music still missing from the world. We’ve all been fans of each other’s music from the very first note we heard, and have been collaborating on each others musical projects on many occasions in the past. So, I guess one could say, the spirit of collaboration has been ever present with us three. Throughout the years it just developed into this shared dream of a unique, fearless, infinite open world of music, which we three might be able bring to life together. But as it happens, life often makes us wait for our dreams, and so the three of us stayed quite busy with our separate careers, until 2017, we were all suddenly free to embark on this long-awaited musical expedition together.
So, how born Auri’s music-songwriting?
For the music and lyrics, we drew inspiration from all the things we love. Walks in the forest and picking mushrooms, for instance, is where the first half of “Them Thar Chanterelles” got its inspiration from. Also, books by Patrick Rothfuss and other authors, films we love, the people we love, the way we love, live and look at life, it all seeps through the music of Auri. The only song that was written before we started the actual songwriting phase in 2017 was “Aphrodite Rising” from 2011, which in a way was the preliminary attempt to start the engines towards a collaboration of some sort. However, at that time, we soon realised we needed more time and space to pursue the matter the proper way, and so the song was put aside and the dream on hold for six more years.
How do you remember your Eurovision Song Contest’s experience in 2007?
Performing in the Finnish Eurovision Song Contest Preliminary happened around the release of my second solo album. Now, personally, I’ve never been one for valuing things through numbers, so I’m afraid the concept of competing has always been lost on me. But I do enjoy singing! For me, music has always been the most comfortable and honest means of communication with the outside world. Where words always meet the mind first, and easily get stuck, warped or lost forever, music never fails.
It can be a channel to share the joys and struggles, a source to spark epiphanies, an outlet to release emotions no words can hold, a way to find kindred spirits and feel less alone in the world. And yet, at the end of the day, it is just music. And yet, Auri isn’t anyone’s solo album. It doesn’t have a frontwoman or a frontman. For me, it’s just the feeling of finally finding the proper outlet for one’s creativity in music, being able to record and edit my own vocals independently, feeling completely at home in the music, finding such likeminded people to work with, and an environment without pressure or judgement, that you don’t have to hold anything back or make compromises, which usually, naturally occurs when working alongside people with different opinions and goals.
Being able to work seamlessly with others, while being completely open and channeling your deepest emotions through music, has been one the most life changing things for me to discover in Auri. A sort of altruistic connectedness, which hopefully is something others listening to this music can also tap into.
An adjective for Johanna Kurkela yesterday (in the past) and an adjective for Johanna Kurkela today?
Looking back on my career, the length of over a decade full of solo albums and live shows, I don’t really consider myself ever being a solo artist. There would be no Johanna Kurkela today without a plethora of songwriters, producers, record labels and musicians I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. As a singer, I’ve always felt more like piece in a puzzle, rather than the puzzle itself. And yet, I’m the only face and name the world has come to know through the songs I sing. It’s a funny paradox. And even funnier still now that I actually am, for the first time ever, in a real band, in Auri, I feel like this is the closest I’ve ever come to expressing my actual self through music, the closest I’ve ever come experiencing what it actually might feel like to be a solo artist.
Well Johanna, I thank you again for your time and I wish you all the best for you and Auri. Kiitos.
With kind regards
Intervista a cura di Benedetta K.