ANETTE OLZON - A Light In The Dark

April 15, 2014, 3 years ago

By Carl Begai

anette olzon feature

Swedish vocalist ANETTE OLZON is no stranger to controversy. Since her highly publicized and decidedly ugly firing from NIGHTWISH in 2012 - the reasons for which still remain murky - she's been the target of keyboard warrior badmouthing, having exchanged the Anette vs Tarja slugfest (her daily reality from the moment she joined the band) for an Olzon vs Nightwish cage match. At the same time, she's moved on supported by heaps of praise for those that fell in love with her chapters of Nightwish history. A work in progress since 2009, Olzon has finally released her first official solo album entitled Shine. She's fully aware some Nightwish fans and the existing haters are going to crucify her new musical direction, but she's determined not to let them bring her down. Olzon considers Shine a huge victory that has taken her well beyond her beginnings with ALYSON AVENUE and roads travelled with Nightwish.

"The whole production for Shine was great because the guys really know what they're doing," Olzon says of the team she wrote the album with. "They're very talented and they've done songs for artists like Celine Dion. Stefan Örn and Johan Glössner wrote the songs with me, and they've done so many things. Stefan has his own band, and he also writes songs for major artists here in Sweden. He's also worked abroad, and was responsible for the winning song at Eurovision a few years ago (from Azerbaijan). And Johan is a studio musician and plays everything from jazz to blues to rock, so he's more from the contemporary blues style rather than rock n' roll. They thought this was a lot of fun, but when I came to them as the metal singer in Nightwish they thought we were going to do a metal album and got really excited. Then I told them it wasn't going to be a metal album and I think they were a bit disappointed at first (laughs)."

Shine is reminiscent of ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGEN's (ex-THE GATHERING) recent works Drive and Everything Changes, walking both sides of a pop rock line rather than trying to cash in on her Nightwish symphonic metal past.

"We will see now how my fans from before will like it. I think the fans that really like me, and not only because of Nightwish, will be open-minded and appreciative of Shine. The metal fans, you never know, but I'm hoping to attract the pop and rock fans as well. It doesn't sound like Nightwish and I've been very clear about that. People have asked me if I'm going to play Nightwish songs live and the answer has always been no. Some people are still hoping for that (laughs). Hopefully people will like this album, and as long as it sells and I get an audience I'll be able to go out play for them, which would be nice."

First single 'Lies' is a solid start for Olzon in that it has a little bit of everything to offer; guitars, pop elments, and folk-oriented dynamics. On the other hand, 'Falling' is more of a rock song and really isn't a representation of the whole album.

"Nine of the songs were composed in 2009, and I did one song ('One Million Faces') with Fredrik Bergh from BLOODBOUND and Martijn Spierenburg . I haven't written very many songs compared to other artists, but when I write now compared to before I have subjects and concepts. I did a song just a couple of days ago, and it wasn't about Nightwish specifically, but the subject was being in a band and getting a lot of hate from other people."

There's little doubt the events leading up to Olzon getting the boot from Nightwish made her out to be the bad guy, turning any press she does for her Shine into a potential exercise in character assassination. It doesn't help her situation in that the Nightwish camp has been quick to refute many of her recent accusations of backstabbing and mismanagement that have appeared online. Quite frankly, I was prepared to get stonewalled when asking about the debacle. Turns out I was way off the mark.

Rather than dig for the scurvy details and assorted dirt kicked up before and after her firing, the focus is on Olzon getting kicked out mid-tour. It's not a move most bands can afford to make in today's music industry economy. Sure as hell not without a back-up plan. And yet, 48 hours after Olzon was cut loose former After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen had taken over her post on stage, ultimately becoming the band's permanent singer.

"It's hard for me to say why the firing happened when it did because I don't really know what happened behind my back," says Olzon. "I think there were some things happening that I didn't know about. It has become clearer to me now that they had some sort of a plan when I told them I was pregnant. I actually think they had some suspicions I was pregnant during the summer festivals, so I think they may have had a back-up plan."

Olzon pegs the band's reaction to her pregnancy as the primary reason for the falling out.

"We had some discussions during the tour in America about how to cover the remaining gigs for the tours that were coming up, and we did have something of an argument before that. I didn't want to have a substitute singer in the band, I wanted to do the South American shows. I would have been too pregnant to go to Australia so I wanted to push the dates back, but Tuomas (Holopainen / keyboards, founder) didn't want that. Discussions about a substitute came up and at first I was like 'Yeah, well.... okay...' but when they mentioned Floor it was an automatic 'No' from me. I didn't think it was a good idea because I knew what would happen; I knew the fans would love Floor because she's a metal singer and I'm a pop singer, and I wanted to keep my job. Because I couldn't do the Australian tour, I think that's when they started thinking about a new singer. We had a bit of an argument, then I got ill, and after that.... I don't know if they planned this."
"They say it wasn't like that but if I wasn't pregnant I don't think this situation would have happened. Of course we had some problems before with different opinions about how touring should be, how many gigs in a row, the places where we played. We didn't fight because of that, though. If I didn't want to go somewhere and they did, we went because the majority decided. I had my 3-year-old son with me, so we did try to solve the touring problem. I can't say it was definitely like that because they say it isn't, but for me that was the problem."

"If I would have been Tarja, I wouldn't have been nervous about having Floor step in as a substitute because I know the fans would wait for me. They would have been saying 'We want Tarja back.' But, I'm Anette and I've received a lot of hatred against my voice and my persona since I joined Nightwish. I remember thinking that if I agreed to Floor coming in to substitute I would end up thinking 'This whole thing again?' when I came back. I could see what would happen."
"Of course I knew we had our gigs to do, and I was pregnant so it was my own fault, but it was only one small tour that I wanted to push back. I could have done all the other gigs and I didn't understand why they needed a substitute singer when I wanted to go. Maybe they felt that they wanted to have another singer. I think that's what they wanted, but they weren't quite honest about it. I guess when I said no they got frustrated. Maybe when I got ill they saw a way out. Of course, then I got angry when they did what they did and wrote something in my blog. They got pissed off at me, I was pissed at them, and it led to where we are now, I guess."

During a recent interview with Holopainen, he revealed that in spite of the bad blood between Nightwish and Olzon there was every intention of including her in the band's recently released Showtime, Storytime documentary. The production was 80% complete when Nightwish were ultimately forced to take all interview and live footage featuring Olzon off the DVD at the insistence of Olzon and her management. Asked to explain her reasons for the move, it's the only time during the discussion where she truly sounds bitter.

"First of all, I didn't think they would do the documentary because... what kind of documentary could it be?" she asks. "I could just see they could do something like what they did with Tarja to make it look like I was the evil person, because that's what they've done before. I was really suspicious about the whole thing, and of course I was really angry because they fired me in a really bad way and I wasn't happy about the situation. I didn't want to be looked at in a weird way on a DVD, and I didn't want to be compared with Floor."

Regardless of the bad taste left in her mouth, Olzon admits the Nightwish experience was a valuable one with long-reaching positive effects on her approach to music and life in general.

"I've changed since I joined the band. My mother says I'm quite a different person. When I joined Nightwish I was still that young girl with a dream of becoming a professional singer, where everything would be just fun and glory. My mom is a singer, she's been in the business, and she knows that's not how it is when you're in a band. So, at the time she was like 'Okay...' (laughs). She says that I got a lot from the Nightwish experience because I'm wiser and experienced, and I won't take bullshit anymore. She can see that I have tougher skin now."

There was also a noticeable development on Olzon's voice between the Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum albums, and although the songs on Shine don't necessarily call for the same set of pipes there's a definite edge to her singing.

"I learned to use my voice in different ways. I've always sung with emotion, but before joining Nightwish I was scared of using a softer voice because I was always using a powerful voice instead. It's easier for me to sing at the top of my voice, so I was afraid when I had to use my softer voice in Nightwish. In the studio I could do the ending part of 'The Poet And The Pendulum' (from Dark Passion Play), and I tried to do it live several times. There was something lacking in my self-confidence, so physically I could do it but mentally I couldn't. Tuomas (Holopainen) insisted that I could but I was always say 'No, I can't.' Now I can do it."

Recalling one of Olzon's finest moment in Imaginaerum; the song 'Scaretale', particularly the over-the-top theatre-worthy delivery of the line "Burning farms and squealing pigs."

"I remember Tuomas' face when we recorded that," Olzon laughs. "He didn't know what I was going to do, and the whole Imaginaerum thing was a lot of fun because it was like a musical. When it comes to theatrical stuff, I love it, and my big dream is to be a singer in a musical. Imaginaerum was great for that because I could act; I could be a jazz singer, I could be doing nasty things... I was playing a role. The 'squealing pigs' was a perfect moment for that."

For the record, Olzon is dead serious about not performing Nightwish songs live in the future. Ever.

"No, I will never do any Nightwish songs live. You can be sure of that. I was asked to do a tour this past Christmas where I would have been singing some Nightwish songs and I refused. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, Tuomas is quite disturbed that Tarja is singing some of his songs, so out of respect I'm not going to do that. They're his songs and Floor is singing them now. I also don't be a Nightwish singer for the rest of my life because they have a new one. It would be different if I had written those songs because I would own them and have every right to perform them."

How about the possibility of a tour with Tarja? It's an idea that's no doubt floating around in many a concert promoter's head.

"I don't think so, no. Not because I don't like her, but because our music is so different from each other I think it would be ridiculous to pair us together for a tour. She's doing metal and I'm not. I can't see it happening, but you never know. I think I'd do much better going out with someone more like me."

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