An interview with Erja Lyytinen
Words: Vincent Abbate
It’s a half-hour before showtime and Erja Lyytinen is about to take care of the last, most vital bit of business before taking the stage.
Loosening up the left hand? Overrated.
Doing vocal exercises? You’re joking.
It’s her make-up that demands attention. It’s time to get made up. She looks fine just as she is – more than that, really – but nowadays, fine and $2.75 will get you a ride on the New York subway. For better or worse, styling is part of Lyytinen’s job description; she wouldn’t dream of standing unmasked under the bright lights any more than Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley would. The vocal warm-ups can wait.
“When I walk downstairs later, I’ll hum a little bit.”
The Finnish Blues Awards
January 13th, 2018 @ Nosturi, Helsinki
Words & photos: Vincent Abbate
You never know where the blues is gonna take you.
Last December, when a guitarist friend invited me to the 2018 Finnish Blues Awards, I thought: Why the heck not? Helsinki is just a two-and-a-half-hour flight from my home base in Germany. Any chance to see a new city and meet a new culture first-hand – even for 24 hours – is a chance I grab.
And I knew this much: There’s no shortage of capable bands in Finland. Like the Wentus Blues Band, who I first stumbled upon 15 years ago in Dresden. Or the combo led by young singer Ina Forsman, part of the Ruf Records Blues Caravan 2016. Leading the pack is slide guitar goddess Erja Lyytinen, who has a particularly strong following in England and is a bona fide celebrity at home. There’s also Erja’s long-time (now former) right-hand man Davide Floreno – my host – a rock solid guitar player in his own right.
But beyond that, as I sat inside the black Mercedes sedan carrying me from Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport to the city center, I really had no idea what to expect. The first impressions were of a flat, barren, snow-covered landscape deep in a wintertime slumber. And boy does it get dark early. By four p.m., while I settled into my hotel room overlooking the loading cranes in the Port of Helsinki, evening had already taken hold.