Interview with Floor Jansen — “I found it very important to find something that fits me and realize that that’s a process.”

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After participating with the Dutch program, Beste Zangers, Floor Jansen launched a solo career that is now crowned by her debut single, “Fire,” which will be followed by a full-length album in 2023. After her NIGHTWISH show at Helsingin Jäähalli, we had a chance to meet up with the singer to talk about her newly launched solo career. Watch the interview here or read the transcript below…

Hi Floor! Thank you so much for doing these press days in Finland, especially because I heard you were sick before. How are you doing now? Are you feeling better?

I’m doing okay, yeah.

That’s nice to hear. You just had two shows in Finland and despite the feeling of being sick, do you think they went okay? Were you happy about being on stage again?

I was very happy to be on stage again, yeah. They went well, I mean, especially the second one in Helsinki. That was fun. My voice was really there, I was still a bit sick but you know, much easier than the first in Tampere. I have to say that was very, very scary to do because I could barely stand just a few hours before [the show] I had no energy. My voice was hoarse from getting stomach flu and I did not sleep. So that was very challenging, but despite everything, I think I pulled through well. The beginning was hard, but then I got the energy from the audience and from there it just built up to be a good show.

Earlier on, I mentioned I’m from Belgium. You probably have heard about the girl group, K3 [a girl group that plays music predominantly for children] always have to be happy during their shows and they always say it’s hard to fake it sometimes when you’re feeling down or sick. How is that for you?

I can’t really fake it. So in the beginning, I felt like I had to fake it and I could feel that the voice was there, so I started to get really worried like, it was a 2-hour show. And unlike K3, it’s quite heavy singing work. You can’t just do it, but I agree on the end of faking it, but I got the energy from the audience and then there was no faking. It was just all real.

So is it mostly on adrenaline that you went through the show?

Yes, that and I got a B12 injection, a vitamin, it gives you this instant energy, which the day after is gone. It feels horrible, but it really worked for the show. So that’s really helped me.

And then you had to do the show in Helsinki. So did you get another of those injections?

No, but I rested and rested and rested. And yeah, and I took fever reducers.

Human. :II: Nature.got Platinum during the Helsinki show. Do moments like that still mean a lot to you when they happen on stage?

Absolutely. Let’s not forget that this is my second studio album with the band, you know? This year, we can celebrate 10 years of me and NIGHTWISH but it’s the second album only, a studio album, and for Kai, it was the first, where he was a member [that] also played on [the album], so to make that goal, that is special, so even if it’s for Tuomas and Emppu maybe less special, it’s for everybody always very special that it’s still our fans making this happen. You release an album and especially, we released the album, and then the pandemic hit just after it hit basically. So there was a lot of insecurity around this album. It’s not a given fact that NIGHTWISH will sell platinum in Finland, not at all. We did, so we are super proud.

You mentioned the pandemic… during the pandemic you posted a vlog with Joost [Van den Broeck] working on your solo material. Now, what was the process like? Did you stick with Joost throughout or did you change the team afterwards?

I started working with Joost and we’ve been really working on trying to find my sound. But him coming from metal and me coming from metal made it very hard to kind of make the step away from that. So I contacted Gordon Groothedde, whom we actually worked with on the last AFTER FOREVER album, who has been working with pop more than with metal actually. I told him I’m searching for this sound and it’s hard to find and I wonder if you have time to sit with me, and our cooperation kind of really launched the sound that I wanted to have. Together we wrote “Fire,” the song that has been released. And so the stuff that I’ve been doing with Joost probably will never actually make the album but he was an essential part of getting the ball rolling.

Was it fun to work with Joost again after quite a while (if you don’t count AYREON)?

With AYREON, of course, and REVAMP, so we have been working throughout the years but it’s definitely fun to try and set this up as well.

Was it scary for you to try to find a sound that works for you because it’s something so essential that needs to suit you as a person too?

Scary maybe is not the right word, but I found it very important to find something that fits me and realize that that’s a process. So yeah, you need to write a lot of different kinds of songs with different people. So next to Joost, I also wrote with another Dutch songwriter. Some songs will make it, some will not. It’s important to take your time for it. It was a very interesting journey to be on- I could only, in the beginning, describe what I didn’t want and from there, you kind of need to find something that you do want.

Was it like you had the idea in your mind but you couldn’t really express it in words?

I couldn’t really pinpoint it. I want it to be less is more. I don’t want it to be rock. I don’t want it to be metal. I’m not going to be Miss Pop. I’m not going to be your metal Britney Spears. No metal barbies, so there was a lot of “no I don’t want to do this.” I don’t want to do that. But I want to be able to really use my voice without it becoming too much. Pop music doesn’t always facilitate as much space musically as metal actually does. So in a sense, you kind of simplify a concept that I’ve been able to… You know with NIGHTWISH we don’t simplify anything. There is no less is more, it’s more is more. So how do you make that more compact and how do you show what you can do without showing off? Or unnecessarily overcomplicating things? And that was definitely a journey and it happened so that I have been talking with all of this to Gordon Groothedde, the producer, and told him about those things I don’t want and what I would like to give or take. Can’t we book a time together, it would be so much fun. So we were looking into that and as we were matching our schedules, he said, you know, after our talk, I had this song in my head that I wrote with and for somebody a while ago that I think could actually fit you. I’m going to check with her if I could play this for you. And so he did and I was like, yeah this… so we kind of formed it more towards my voice, recorded it, and that was the kickstart actually of what I consider my sound and from there, you can search and after that together, we wrote “Fire.” So yeah, it had to start somewhere and it was very cool that the lady who co-wrote it and was supposed to have it on her album said it’s better for your voice, you should definitely have it, so that’s super cool because you know songs are so personal. I had to step away from the idea that I would have to write everything myself or at least co-write, so I had to let that part go, this is definitely my song but I didn’t write it. But hey, I’m doing that in NIGHTWISH too, and I totally find my way and sing it, so that is as much my songs as the stuff I write. So I was totally cool with that.

Was it for the rest of the songs – since I guess maybe for some you had a bigger part in the songwriting – fun to write again?

Yeah, absolutely. I do feel that I’ve been growing as a singer throughout the years, much more than I have as a songwriter. So when I started picking it back up, it started with a lot of insecurities. What do I really have to add to the world, especially if you sing in a band with a songwriter such as Tuomas Holopainen, so what do I have to add? I started with my simple chord progressions and my ideas. It was very cool to see that. I have a style of my own actually, I do have something to say, and I feel that together with the right people, I can actually write cool songs. So that is also how “Fire” came to be. I’m super proud of that. It’s really fun to keep growing in that too and find new securities and more of my sound and my do’s and don’ts in that too.

I think a lot of people can relate to that. It’s interesting though that you of all people experience imposter syndrome too.

Yeah, of course. I’m as human as anybody and it’s great to become good at something. Something that I did actually… I was born with this voice. Lucky me. Then I had the opportunity to actually study it and get better at it. The rest is a lot of hard work, but yeah, that is something that I’m sure about, but there are many other things that I’m not. Just like anybody else.

Now, I remember you did an interview with De Volkskrant in 2018. I’m paraphrasing here but it sounded like you were frustrated that when Dutch journalists used to interview you, they were always surprised that you’re such a big name in the metal scene. You mentioned they would never play you on the radio, that you’d never get invited to talk shows (unless something special happened to you). Then you participated with Beste Zangers, where you gained a lot more fans and interest. However, did you feel the change when you released “Fire?” Did they play your song on the radio over there?

Yes, it really changed now. “Fire” already became the top song and I’m hitting all kinds of lists and targets and it’s a whole different ballgame, but this is also not metal and I understand the difference. Of course, I do. Beste Zangers did not only open a market for me but it also opened a market for NIGHTWISH, so even though our songs might not be played on the radio as easily as my pop song now does, it’s still something that gets much more airplay, gets much more attention, is more looked upon by the Dutch audience as something that is not directly “not for me” because it’s metal. And just that difference in approach is massive for me because that’s the thing I was so bothered about in that interview and that has been bothering me throughout my entire career. As soon as it gets labeled metal, it’s not cool, and it’s never going to get any commercial attention. It never gets the chance just by labeling it. First of all, I didn’t want to ever label anything, that’s something the media does, and then they’ve labeled it and said it’s not cool without ever even hearing it without further ado. I think there something has changed at least a little bit. So that’s super cool and it’s nice to see someone like me that maybe has been doing metal and is more known for that than anything else can do something on the side and be respected for it as a musician and as an artist in total and that is a recognition that I find super, super special because that is something that has been earned by making music and by speaking up and saying, “Hey guys, we’re doing this. Hear me out now!” And they did. So that’s super cool.

Do you think that interview may have been part of the reason why you got invited to the show?

I wouldn’t know. I’m not part of the organization, but it certainly kickstarted thinking processes for some people.

Do you feel like, other than maybe putting NIGHTWISH more on the map in the Netherlands and neighboring countries (since you are also participating in the German Sing Meinen Song), do you feel like it also put maybe more metal also to the surface there?

Oh, absolutely. I’d like to think so. At least, that’s also why I got the Pop Prize in The Netherlands, which is a huge recognition for a Dutch artist. It was really because I dared to step out of my comfort zone and say guys, why aren’t you hearing my music? And become that ambassador of metal as they call it and that it had its results. You know, even for people that would normally really say it’s just not for me. Is it? Have you ever heard it? No, but then there comes this idea that they had. I managed to kind of change the idea of something that is a total no to a maybe and also towards NIGHTWISH. Maybe I should actually listen to it. And there were so many people that had the reaction…I didn’t know it was like that. Yeah, that’s beautiful.

Going back to your first single, “Fire,” what I thought was interesting about the song is that it musically also feels like a fire, it sorta expands in a similar way. What came first the lyrics or the music?

A bit simultaneously. So the first ideas were for music and as the song was progressing, as it was building itself, with us, you know, its process that we were in, ideas for the lyrics came. So as Wouter Hardy and Gordon Groothedde, who I co-wrote it with for fine-tuning ideas building up towards the chorus and then they were, it was the outlays that we made, were fine-tuning, then I started to write the lyrics. Then we put things together. I can’t really remember because sometimes when you write and melodies come, with those melodies come also words, or at least part of words that would be cool to have in their sounds. “Fire”… maybe that word came from the get-go. I honestly can’t remember because it’s just the process that we were in, but it definitely grew together and it, for me, at least very soon within the song as it was building, I felt like this needs to be about the pandemic. Like okay, here comes another song about the pandemic but I wanted to stay in the metaphors of fire and that we want to have life back in our society. We want to be able to go back out and live our lives to the fullest. Be back on fire. From there, it was almost as if it wrote itself.

During these pandemic times, you also started a YouTube channel. You started to interact more with the fans than you were before because you probably didn’t have the time to do that. Do you feel like the pandemic changed your life or maybe changed you as a person?

Yeah, it surely opened my eyes to the whole world of social media. And indeed, as you said, I normally wouldn’t have time for it and it’s to be seen how much time I will have left for it. But now it’s such a vital part of my life, it sort of got more integrated, and I got more used to it. I enjoyed it more because for me, it was something that other people do and I wasn’t actively into it. I enjoy it more myself now as well. So that has changed, but I’m not sure if I changed as a person, but it once again proved that anything can happen in life. You can be prepared for stuff like this, but yeah, you need to be able to kind of go with whatever life throws at you and that’s a good life lesson once again.

You mentioned that you started enjoying doing social media things. You’re one of the few musicians who also go to the comment sections to read and comment. Is that important to you?

I find it important to stay in touch, definitely. But there are times that I can’t simply read them.

What were the reactions to “Fire” from your fans? Were they surprised it was a pop song?

I hope not, because I’ve never said it would be anything else but I actually read quite often that people were expecting something like it and that they were not disappointed and they love how the song builds and they find it very much “Floor.” And that was the biggest compliment, because that was the thing I was looking for, like okay, the sound what we talked about earlier, it’s not this, not that, and it shouldn’t be something like that. It has to fit me, it has to sound like me. For some reason, this song sounds exactly like me and people really felt that, so that was wonderful to get back from my audience.

I think even though it’s a pop song, I feel it still maybe has this metal or rock edge that is just embedded in your voice or something if you know what I mean. I guess that’s what makes it Floor?

Maybe it is because I don’t sing heavy. Just a couple of notes. Yeah, there’s not a heavy guitar in there at all. But I know what you mean and that’s the cool thing with this song.

I think maybe your voice is just so much part of metal that it is different to differentiate, you’re sort of an icon.

Of course, the association you make, you know, you might listen to it completely different than somebody that got to know me through Beste Zangers, the Dutch TV show, or maybe now the people in Germany that will get to see me from the German version for Sing Meinen Song, people who usually listen to pop music will perceive the song maybe differently and people that don’t know me from before it will perceive it differently, that’s cool.

Yeah, that’s an interesting way of looking at it. I guess it’s sort of like when Rob Halford would sing a pop song, it would also sound metal to me. It would be interesting to ask someone who doesn’t listen to metal what they think about your song.

We did ask our fans on social media to play the song to their non-metal friend and see what he or she has to say. That was super cool to see what came back from that.

NIGHTWISH is also one of the most reacted bands on YouTube. Have people already been reacting to “Fire” too?

It’s unbelievable how fast that went. I think… because I had this little celebration on YouTube around the launch. And before that was done the first video was already out. So yeah, there are reaction videos already. [laughs]

There are different kinds of reaction videos. Do you have any favorite kind of reaction video?

I have to honestly admit that I spend very little time looking at those because I just don’t have that kind of time. Yeah, I really don’t. My life is so completely over-full that sometimes friends or family or colleagues write things to me that you see that this, you see that, and I never actually make it to see them all. But if I would, I’ve been trying to see a couple where I want to have… I love… I’m a vocal technique nerd, so if anything, I want to see an actual vocal coach react technically, but it sometimes takes me forever to go through a super long video where they talk about anything but that, and then maybe it’s interesting for other people, I’m not judging it like that, but I can’t really get out of what I want to hear. I’m curious about their technical analysis in that sense. So that would be fun to see more. Yeah, if I have time.

You also just announced you’re doing a double shift at Pinkpop. How are you feeling about that?

I can’t believe it because it’s such a things-come-full-circle kind of thing, because I was asked for Pinkpop in 2020 for my solo thing and it is such an honor. Damn, you know, solo I was… whoa, I was almost scared about it. But of course, it didn’t happen, then it was postponed to ’21 but then NIGHTWISH got booked for ’22, and that kind of meant that my slot disappeared. And it’s hard to be disappointed if NIGHTWISH can play at Pinkpop, so I wasn’t, but of course, I was like well I still hope I can do this solo one day. And as I want to release an album in ’23, I was like, hey, you never know maybe ’23 then and I have a whole band and a whole tour. Then this kind of happened like yeah, you can also do solo now. Yeah, I’m just gonna take… this is crazy I can do Pinkpop for both solo and the band on one day. I first had to check how long the sets were because I don’t want to overdo it. I don’t want to get tired on my solo show and then not be fit enough for NIGHTWISH, that would be unforgivable. But both are an hour and our regular NIGHTWISH shows are 2 hours, which should be fine.

Now have you ever done a double shift like that?

Never. [laughs]

Speaking of live shows, obviously, your solo album only comes out in 2023. Do you have any plans to play live?

Well, we’re looking into when we can play when NIGHTWISH is not playing, and that is the puzzle we’re facing right now. There are a few things like Pinkpop and a few small solo things that I would like to do this year. But the focus is more on when there’s a whole album, for the next… and first really also do this NIGHTWISH world tour is actively touring solo, and NIGHTWISH at the same time is something I don’t [have] ambition [for] at all, and it has to stay fair to myself, my family, and both people I work with solo, and NIGHTWISH, so let’s do this NIGHTWISH world tour, finish the album, and more in ’23 for solo tours.

Are you excited about the world tour?

Very yeah. It was so nice to kick it off. It was very, very, very unfair, I had to be so sick that I could barely actually enjoy it to the max, but it is now kickstarted and there is not a government in the world that will keep me away from my stage now.

Are you like looking forward to spending time on a bus again? Did you miss that aspect of touring as well?

Yeah, I did. Our last proper bus tour with NIGHTWISH was when we did the European show, the European leg of the Endless Forms Most Beautiful Tour, which ended in December 2018. So yes, put me on a bus.

I noticed there was a post on Facebook about Tuomas working on demos for NIGHTWISH’s 10th studio album. Do you have any more intel into that?

Nothing more than you have. [laughs] He has and I can’t wait to hear it. It’s super cool that he just got inspired and kept writing. That’s just awesome how that works.

Seems very fast for him as well.

Well, he’s had 2 years, you know?

I guess that’s about right! Anyway, I think that’s it for my questions. Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with your fans?

Not more than that I’m super excited to come back out and super proud of my first solo song. I’m so happy it got received so well, despite it being so different from anything I’ve ever done before, and of course, thanks for having me!

Written by Laureline Tilkin