Interview with Anette Olzon – “It was a time of sadness and that is always good when you’re going to write a metal album…”

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It’s been a long 7 years since we’ve heard Anette Olzon release a solo album. However, a spark was clearly in the air, as she and her label both felt, around the same time, that it was time for a new release. We spoke to Anette on September 1st, 2021, about her upcoming album, Strong,” and the songs therein, as well as a bit about nursing life and bullying. Watch the interview here, or read the transcript below…

Hello, we’re here with Anette Olzon today. How are you?

I’m fine. Thank you. It’s nice to talk to someone in Finland. It’s been a while.

How have these last few weird years been treating you? I heard you took up nursing?

It’s been quite busy. Since 2014, I started studying to be a registered nurse, and that took some years. At the same time, I tried to stay within singing, so Tähdet, Tähdet if you remember, and it made me get a little bit behind. So it took me, instead of three years to do nursing, it took me three and a half years. So then I’ve been working, of course, as a nurse for three years now.

I hope that’s not been too rough in the COVID times.

No, luckily I don’t work with COVID patients. Some of the nurses in my department had to go to a COVID [clinic], but thankfully the boss didn’t push me to do it. I didn’t want to so I’ve been with only normal patients.

It’s good that you get a choice in that.

Well, luckily someone else wanted to go.

Now you’ve got your second solo album coming out right away and as I understand, it’s been since 2014 since you’ve last done a proper solo release. What made you decide that now is the time to do another one?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I felt that I’ve been singing quite a lot now with THE DARK ELEMENT and other stuff and I felt that I had some thoughts in my head. At the same time, when I thought about it, the record label sent me an email that, “shouldn’t we do a solo?” and I was like, “Yeah, hey, I was just thinking the same.” And the timing was good, actually. I did have time for it, it was last spring with COVID, and actually it gave me a lot of inspiration, of course, with everything that happened in the world, and my father passed away in COVID. So it was a time of sadness and that is always good when you’re going to write a metal album with some serious matters. So I took inspiration from it all, you know, COVID and my father and the world, everything.

The last time, you worked with Johan Glössner and Stefan Örn. So what inspired you to work with Magnus Karlsson this time?

Actually, from the beginning, to be honest, the record label put me up with another guy; I don’t have to mention names, but it was a guy from another country. He started to send me some things, but I felt that it was hard for me to… we were not on the same page, so to say. So after some months, I sent the record label that, I need Magnus. And that was because I knew from “Allen/Olzon” that he can do good songs, and he lives close by to me, it’s one hour apart. He’s Swedish, which is much easier. I said that it’s either him or there’s no album, and I got him, and I’m very happy about that.

I just noticed that the names of your solo albums are both five letters that start with S and they’re both a very positive sounding word as well. Is that intentional? Or was that just a coincidence?

No, I didn’t think about it like that. Actually, you know, you always normally take the title of the album, normally from the singles or the single. That’s normal and I wanted “Strong” to be the first single, I didn’t get that, but it wasn’t my choice. And it is a COVID song, actually, but in a more positive… Of course, there are things in the lyrics, that you can lose your friends and such, but it is a story about being strong, that we should fight, and we all have to stay strong in this pandemic. So I thought “Strong.” Also the other titles are quite long, much longer. Maybe “Parasite” would have worked, but I also thought that I’m 50 years old this year when the album is coming out, and we get stronger with age, and a lot of things have happened in my life. So I actually feel really strong, so I thought it was really suitable.

You mentioned also in the past that “Shine” was a very personal album, with a lot of light and dark themes. Do you feel that “Strong” is similar, in a later, different part of your life? Or do you think it’s a really completely different atmosphere?

They are very different. When I started to write this album, and my husband, who is a metal guy, and… actually death metal, sorry. He said to me, “You can’t write these love things,” and they needed to be much darker and more serious matters. And I was like, “Oh, hell, what am I gonna write about?” Of course, there are some personal things, like my father’s passing is there, with a slow song. But instead, like in “Shine,” it was a lot about things around me. My bullying in school, when I was bullied, my mother’s cancer, and my son’s birth. It was all around me and that was what I needed to write about that time. But I’ve done that, so we have moved on, there’s not much to say.

So this album of course has some things about me, but more, it’s how I view the world. And then I mean from 2020. In the spring, what happened in the world, there was a lot of political stuff happening in other countries, the environment issues… the world is not in its best place, as I see it. There are things that are different from when I was a young kid, and I have children. So of course, when you’re 50 and have young children and [you’re] older, you think about what are we going to leave to them.

Also, there are some things about me. Like, “Catcher of My Dreams” is about my nightmares and that I have night terrors. I’ve had night frights – as you say – I’ve had it since I was a very young child, I wake up and I’m paralyzed. And this is something I still have, but more in stressful times, but it’s really horrible. So then I thought that I would write a song about that. So of course, there are some songs, but not as personal as “Shine.” Maybe two or three songs are more from me.

Do you find that there’s any… well, I guess you kind of already mentioned that if there’s a general theme, it’s about strength, perseverance, survival, that sort of thing?

Yeah, if you listen to some of the songs that are… they can be felt as negative and such, there’s still a message in them, that we can do something and you can do something and you can change your situation. Like in “Sick of You,” it’s about an abusive relationship. It’s not something from my own life, but I see others around me, we see it all the time, especially now in COVID, with the women who are beaten and actually killed, and a lot of it has to do with the pandemic. So that was also something I saw and I wanted to write the song about how she now – or he, but more she – has put up with all this shit for many years. Now she’s tossing him out, and I think that is strong. I hope a lot of women that may listen to the song can get the courage to get out of that kind of relationship, because it is very abusive, and it can also be, not physical but mental abuse, you know that someone is pushing you down. “Catcher of My Dreams” actually is also positive because you talk about someone who’s catching your dreams. For me, my husband is my catcher. I can turn to him in the night when I’m scared and he can comfort me.

You already just answered a bunch of these, but you were talking about some of the stories from the songs and I was going to ask about some of my favorites, like “I Need to Stay,” which is a surprisingly epic song. Is there anything interesting about that one that you can tell?

Well, that is also something that has to do with COVID and my father’s passing. When I wrote it, he had passed. And to be honest, me and my father, we didn’t always have a good relationship. He wasn’t the best father for me all the time, which is very sad. But this song is about that kind of thing. I thought about him, how he might have thought, before he passed away, that some things that you have said, maybe to your child or children, sometime in the life, like “I don’t want you” or, you know, some parents say that, “when you came, my life felt really hard” or something. They didn’t want their children. And I know people that have heard that too, not only me. This is like when that parent then knows that death is coming, you’re not going to stay here for long, and maybe you feel that you need to have time to say that, I didn’t mean that. Because normally, I don’t think you mean that. And I’m sorry. So for me, it’s a very serious song. And it is epic, and it should be, because it’s like… I need to be able to say this, I need to change what I did before I die. So for me, it’s a very sad song.

I love the dynamics in it, because it’s very, very passionate, very powerful as well, but still you there is a kind of melancholic subject.

Yeah, it is very sad if you know the [story] behind it.

So what was the creative process like for this release? Did you start with lyrical ideas or melodies or did Magnus start first? How did you guys collaborate?

It was very different [depending on] which song it was. “Fantastic Fanatic,” I got it in my head and started singing it in the bathtub one evening. I had the whole idea in my head with the verse and the chorus and the subject. It’s something that I wanted to write for a long time, because I have Facebook, I have Instagram, and mainly Facebook, I don’t write so much… but I do read what people say. I think sometimes people vent things, they’re like, you shouldn’t eat meat, I’m a vegan, you should do like me, you know, and I don’t have anything against people that have an opinion and how they want to live, but I do get disturbed when people tell me how to live my life. Also the environment is really something we need to think about. But a lot of people on Instagram, for instance, like influencers and such, they say they are so environment friendly and then they sit in the airplane six times a year going to get some photos, you know, and I’m sorry, but I get quite irritated. I don’t want to vent on Facebook, so instead I wrote a song. So that was my idea [laughs]. But also there’s been… I said to Magnus, “I want to do a song and this kind of…” like, I like FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, so “Strong” is actually a bit from that kind of music style. “I want this kind of song,” and then he starts to do something and then I do the lyrics, and some ideas have been from him, that he sent me music, no melody or anything, just the music piece, verse, and chorus. “Do you like this?” And then I can say, “Yeah, but I want faster drums there,” so it’s been very different. We haven’t met, we just do it by internet and files. So it’s been working very easy, very easily.

It’s incredible to think that if this pandemic had hit 10-20 years ago, so many albums wouldn’t have happened because of that.

That’s the thing. You don’t have to see each other, which is of course nice. When you had bands when I was younger, 20 years old, you met in the studio, you made all the songs together, you record it together, you were like, whoa, and that’s fun too, but it’s a very efficient way to make music, this kind of way.

I noticed, as I mentioned briefly, there are quite big stylistic differences between this album and your last solo album, which was kind of more pretty and folky, almost a little more acoustic, and this is much more heavy metal. So how did that turn out? Was it meant to be different from the start or did it just kind of come out that way?

For me, “Shine” and “Strong” don’t have anything to do with each other. First of all, it’s been so many years between them, it’s a different label, and I did “Shine” when I was in NIGHTWISH. I couldn’t like, do a metal album, it didn’t feel okay to compete with NIGHTWISH. I actually did this like a hobby album when I had time. So I have never had the intention to do a second “Shine.” That was what I did then and now, when I wanted to do an album, of course, I also know that I have fans that really are more into metal and symphonic metal and that kind of style. And also, I sing that mostly now and I like it a lot. So I wanted to do a metal album, just like, now I can do whatever I want and I want to do a metal album. Yeah, that’s what I did.

Those were my main questions about the album itself, but is there anything else interesting or exciting about it that I didn’t ask about, that you wanted to share?

I’ve already released three songs and I’ve gotten a lot of good responses. A lot of people like the songs and they say that it’s, you know, metal but still very melodic, and they say a lot of ABBA metal, which is always what I want to do, you know, I like ABBA. I just hope that those that are going to buy it and listen, know that this is written from the heart, with the style I like, and I’ve implemented growls because I really like that, and I hope they like it. So they will like… two or three more albums, of course [laughs].

I love the addition of the growls, I thought that was really nice detail to add a little flavor in there.

Yeah and I think this time, it’s my husband who growls, and I said that I wanted like, one song, and then we took another song, and then we were up to six songs, and I could have done it in all the songs, but he said, “Nah, you cannot have it in all the songs.” We also did just tiny parts. Also, it was because the record label that I am in has, from what I know, never released anything with growls, so I didn’t know if they would allow it. But now I know that people like it and it’s working. So the next album will [have] a little bit more in all the songs, you can put it in more parts than just a small part. But that was like a trial. You have to try things.

It’s hard to imagine this would have been your first time collaborating with your husband, but what was it like for this album?

We have been working together before, because he’s a bass player, so he’s been playing with me live with “Shine” and acoustically too. We’re a good team. He has helped me a lot with some lyrics too, he is really good at English, he has been living there, and such. So no, but I didn’t actually know how he would sound growling because I’ve only heard some records he’d done when he was very young. So I just sent him to this studio and said, “Yeah, hopefully we’ll be okay.” Actually, I was surprised. I think he sounded really aggressive and cool and I’m really proud of him.

Incredible. I love to see the odd little family collaboration here and there.

You know, I have children that are really talented. So maybe in the next album, I will have Nemo and Mio join me actually, because they are both playing instruments and singing a lot.

You could eventually have a whole heavy metal Von Trapp family.

Yeah, of course. Some of the kids actually like hip-hop more, but you’ll see [laughs]. That’s what kids these kids listen to today, you know? Hip-hop and stuff.

My other kind of main question that I wanted to ask as we wrap this up is… you mentioned that you’ve been bullied a lot, and I’ve been hearing a lot about a lot of artists standing up against bullying lately, and especially hearing a lot of more stories about even artists themselves getting actively bullied. You know, there’s a lot of haters out there on the internet. Do you have any just… straight-up advice for people who are getting bullied?

Well, I have been bullied in my childhood and actually, not so many years ago, in my adult life, I was a nurse student and I came to a department to do my internship, and they bullied me, and I was actually at the same time in the local magazine, a big story about “Shine” or something, I don’t remember. So I was kind of in the focus, and I think this was jealousy. You never know, I hadn’t done anything and actually, they bullied me so hard that I cried every day. I went home and I’m like, you know, 47 years old and it was like being back in school, and I hadn’t done anything. Like in school, it’s nothing about you.

All I can say is that [you] should know that it’s never about you. It can be jealousy, it can be that they have a boring life, I don’t know. And haters on the internet, too, they still hate on me and still write horrible things to me, like “you suck.” I get those messages all the time, on my Instagram. So what I didn’t do, was stand up for myself in my childhood. It took me many years before I actually took that one girl, who was the worst, and yeah… you know, I took her aside, then I gave her a lot of beating actually [laughs], that was not a thing I do, but that made it stop. I’m not saying you should do that, but you really need to go to the principal, to the teachers, you have to call the police. Here in Sweden, you can go to the police because it can be a felony to bully someone. If you’re an adult and you’re bullied in your workspace, just quit. If you have a boss bullying you – that also happens – just quit. And the haters on the internet, I mean, don’t answer them. Don’t give them your energy, block them. I block every one, a single comment, it can be sexual, I block them. I block them instantly. I don’t read YouTube [laughter]. If I did, I would be crying every day. No, but it’s horrible and I think people who are bullying others, either as children or… it’s even more horrible when you’re an adult, because you should know better. But if you just look at Facebook, you see them, it’s like… they can be my age and bullying children. So it’s horrible. Yeah, but you have to go to someone and you have to not just let it be, because they will not quit.

Thank you very much for that! Is there anything else you’d like to say before I let you get back to your studies?

Actually, I have one more interview with Finland. But no, I just want to say that I miss Finland. I hope I can come back to Finland soon. It’s been a long time now. We actually lived in Finland for many weeks, so we felt a bit like we were Finnish. I hope I can be there again and I hope that everyone would like my album. That’s what I hope for.

Well, we hope we get to see you do some shows one way or another soon. And thank you so much.

Thank you and have a really nice day.