Tarja Turunen: The 10 Songs That Changed My Life

Symphonic metal icon Tarja Turunen shares some of her favourite songs of all time – from Peter Gabriel to Slipknot

Tarja Turunen: The 10 Songs That Changed My Life
Amit Sharma

Finnish goth-metal queen Tarja Turunen on stealing Peter Gabriel’s look, supporting Liverpool FC and why she wants to be cast into the sea…

The first song that I remember hearing...

The Beatles – Let It Be (1970)

“My mother used to sing the lullaby Tuiki Tuiki Tähtönen for me every night, which translates as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in English. There were all these other Finnish songs that probably aren’t known to the rest of the world, but I also remember hearing a lot of Beatles, especially Let It Be. I found the words easy to pick up and learn. Their music is great for little children.”

The first song that I ever moshed to...

Stratovarius – Black Diamond (1997)

“They were the first metal band I saw live. It was a crazy experience for a young girl who hadn’t listened to much metal until that point. There was a lot of togetherness in the audience. It reminded me of football in the way it united people – and I’m a huge football fan. I support Liverpool because years ago they had a brilliant Finnish captain called Sami Hyypiä. I’m very happy with what the Reds have been achieving lately.”

The song that inspired me to make music...

Andrew Lloyd Webber – The Phantom Of The Opera (1986)

“When I first heard this song, I wanted to know how the soprano singer could hit those high notes. That in turn led to me finding a singing coach and harnessing my voice. Heavy metal and opera really aren’t that different, especially in terms of emotions and dramatics – both seem to tell deeper stories through the lyrics. When you see an orchestra performing at full blast, it’s an empowering and bombastic experience. They play louder than most metal bands do.”

The song that reminds me of a heartbreak...

Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You (1992)

“She had the most powerful voice – it was almost superhuman. No-one else could rival her, which made her the queen of pop. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see her perform live. She could express so much emotion in her voice and that’s what inspired me, despite being stylistically different singers. I’ve never really had an idol in this industry, but she’s probably the closest I have.”

My favourite song to play live...

Tarja Turunen – Love To Hate (2016)

“This song has all the elements I love about my music. Whenever I play it live with my band, it feels powerful and makes me emotional, every time. The lyrics are about the hatred we have within us as humans. We’re always looking around to check which neighbour has a better car, or other bullshit materialistic things. It’s like we don’t want to see the beauty in our own lives, or we’re too afraid to be happy in ourselves.”

The song that I am most proud of...

Tarja Turunen – Shadow Play (2019)

“This is probably the most progressive song I’ve ever written. It’s the story of a marionette who wasn’t allowed to be who she wanted to be. It’s my way of saying you should live your life to the full and not worry about tomorrow. This song also represents my love for theatre. My parents always used to take me with them. It’s a song that gives a feeling of hope.”

The song that fills me with joy...

Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer (1986)

“When I hear the trumpets at the beginning, they take me back to my youth. Peter Gabriel has been hugely influential to me. He’d even influenced my make-up on my first record without me knowing until later. I was flipping through my records at home and I was shocked to see him in exactly the same kind of make-up. This song has an incredibly positive mood and energy that makes me happy.”

The song that picks me up when I'm down...

Slipknot – Psychosocial (2008)

“Even though the lyrics are the total opposite of positivity, I can still find the joy that I need in this. The energy of it is unbelievable. I’ve seen Slipknot live and their show is just crazy. I also adore the actual sound of them, especially the guitars.”

The song that got me into gothic music...

The Cure – Lullaby (1989)

“I got to meet The Cure when they were playing the same festival as us a few weeks ago. With songs like Lullaby, they’ve been a really important band to me over the years. They’re very gothic, but in their own brilliantly distinctive way.”

The song I would like played at my funeral...

Tarja Turunen – Ave Maria (2015)

“I wrote this piece years ago and it’s a special one. It was on the only real classical album I’ve released so far [2015’s Ave Maria – En Plein Air], which was a process I enjoyed a lot and it all came very naturally. It’s my little piece of heaven, so let it ring! That said, I don’t know if I will have a funeral. I don’t want a place for people to remember me – I want to be somewhere out by the sea.”

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