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Erja Lyytinen

Erja Lyytinen

Genre: Finnish vocalist, guitarist and songwriter

Location: Foreign parts, Outside the UK

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About Erja Lyytinen

Since the release of Stolen Hearts in 2017, Erja Lyytinen has starred on MTV Finland’s Tähdet, Tähdet show, picked up the much-coveted European Guitarist of the Year award, performed in front of 80,000 people in her hometown of Helsinki on New Year's Eve, shared the stage with the legendary Carlos Santana as well as clocking up in excess of 100 headline shows across Europe per annum.

As an artist, Erja Lyytinen’s musical growth has seen the High Flying Finn continue to evolve, push boundaries without fear of exploring new sounds and musical ground. In that respect, Lyytinen intends to not make the same record twice. With her last studio album Another World, the gifted guitarist confirms that she has only scratched the surface thus far. “The album title is the idea of stepping into a new territory, musically and spiritually,” she explains. “Walking towards a new land of musical ideas, not being afraid to express myself. This album is open-minded, curious and empowering.”

Having first entered a recording studio some 17 years ago, singer/guitarist Erja Lyytinen has become a bona fide star in her homeland and a fixture on the international music scene. In that time, "the Finnish slide goddess" (The Blues Magazine) has recorded in places as diverse as Helsinki, London and Memphis, earning numerous accolades along the way.

Lyytinen’s musical pallet is vast, encompassing the very best of contemporary blues-rock whilst inspired and influenced by the blues greats of yore. Celebrated slide guitar master Sonny Landreth, upon discovering Lyytinen's music remarked: "I sure enjoyed her guitar skills. She’s obviously made a big name for herself. Things are going well for her and for good reason."

Born into a musical family in the town of Kuopio, Lyytinen quickly emerged as an artist to watch in her native country. She recorded her international debut Pilgrimage after signing with Germany's prestigious Ruf Records label in 2005. The 2006 Blues Caravan tour gave audiences in Europe and the United States a first taste of her spirited live performances.

The solo follow-up Dreamland Blues took her back to the USA to record with David and Kinney Kimbrough (sons of Mississippi blues legend Junior Kimbrough). After two years on the road, she returned with Grip of the Blues in 2008, mixing hard-edged blues with modern R&B. Her 2010 release Voracious Love was even more adventurous: The lavishly orchestrated "Bed of Roses" – featuring contributions from Marco Hietala (Nightwish) on vocals and Apocalyptica cellist Paavo Lötjönen – showed once and for all that Lyytinen is unafraid to push the stylistic envelope. With 2013's Forbidden Fruit, she returned to more familiar territory.

Canada's Blues Underground Network chose The Sky Is Crying as Best European Blues Album and Best Tribute Album of 2014. It also placed in the top three international albums of 2014 as chosen by writers at Britain's Blues Matters, who also honoured Erja as the #2 international solo artist.

The Elmore James tribute The Sky Is Crying proved to be a breakthrough. Released in 2014, it was universally hailed as her best and bluesiest recording to date. This collection of stripped-down, old-school blues convinced even the most discerning listeners that Lyytinen's feel for the blues runs deep and that as a slide player, she has few peers. Live in London, a sizzling live set of Elmore James covers and original material released a year later, culminated with Erja being voted the #1 international solo artist by Blues Matters and Artist of the Year at the Finnish Blues Awards.

For Lyytinen’s 2017 studio album Stolen Hearts, the Finnish Bandleader amassed a talented group of musicians in Helsinki during the summer of 2016, then ventured to London's State of the Ark Studios to record with multi-platinum selling engineer and producer Chris Kimsey, known above all for his contributions to classic Rolling Stones albums like Sticky Fingers and Some Girls. In fact, Stolen Hearts was mixed on the very same EMI console Kimsey had often used with the Stones. "Chris said it was like meeting an old girlfriend after many years. He sat in front of the desk and his magic started to happen." Mastering was completed at Air Studios Mastering (part of the world-famous Air Studios started by Beatles producer George Martin) by Ray Staff, whose credits include iconic rock albums such as David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes.

Stolen Hearts was released at a time when Erja Lyytinen was broadening her horizons. In the run-up to its release, Lyytinen played a sold-out tour of Finland with her compatriot Heikki Silvennoinen and made her first-ever concert appearances in India. She recalls the process of making the record "purifying" – the product of difficult times of "heartbreak, frustration, disappointment, fear of loss and yet, at the same time, the deepest love."

In the months that followed the release of Stolen Hearts, Lyytinen undertook two successful tours throughout the UK and her Blue Christmas tour with Sami Saari and Maria Hänninen across Finland. She also took part in the Finnish TV-show Tähdet, Tähdet (Stars, Stars) and sang for half a million people each week. The icing on the cake came in late November 2017 when it was announced that Erja won a European Blues Award for “Best Guitarist”. In December 2017, Erja was voted the 7th best blues guitarist in a poll of The MusicRadar in which 136,000 votes were cast.

In June 2018 Erja got to open for Santana at Helsinki’s Kaisaniemi Park. Carlos Santana invited Erja to play on stage in front of 20 000 people. “It was inspiring to see her play. It was from the future and I like the future” Santana said giving her a nickname “Lightning” referring to Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Erja Lyytinen’s last studio album Another World marked the next chapter in both her personal and professional life. “While Stolen Hearts was made during tough times,” she reflects, “Another World is like spring, bringing in new fresh life and hope. The whole album is rockier and funkier, with elements of blues, pop, hard-rock, prog-rock – one song even has an Irish vibe.”

For Lyytinen’s last album she called in a whole raft of her esteemed friends and colleagues that include slide guitar wizard Sonny Landreth and former Michael Jackson guitarist Jennifer Batten. With each of the nine songs featured on Another World, the Scandinavian guitar virtuoso elevated herself as both a songwriter and an artist and has truly pushed the boundaries of her musicianship whilst exploring areas above and beyond the traditional blues arena.

A global team effort that included Lyytinen’s first Producer credit, Another World was recorded, mixed and mastered by an international ensemble of world-class professionals. The songs passed through several locations including Gavin Lurssen’s Grammy-winning Lurssen Mastering in LA, while the mix was crafted by Austin, Texas legend Chris Bell.

Throughout 2019 Lyytinen completely embraced the idea of stepping into new territories both musically and geographically during a year which saw the artist cross the Atlantic on several occasions whilst undertaking several shows in Canada. The highlight of which being a performance alongside Hollywood star and Blues Brother - Dan Aykroyd as part of a collaboration with the Downchild Blue’s Band at the Toronto Jazz Festival.

Likewise, the gifted guitarist is not afraid to explore new musical avenues or work with artists outside of the blues genre. Midway through 2019, Lyytinen was honoured to support legendary Welsh singer/songwriter Sir Tom Jones during his Finnish tour.

Following the release of Another World Lyytinen’s personal growth and self-expression has not always been musical. The versatile artist added another string to her bow by releasing her first book. The biography, which is titled Blues Queen (Blueskuningatar), was released in the final quarter of 2019. Although initially it was released in Finnish there are plans to release the book in other languages further down the line.

Erja Lyytinen kick-started 2020 with a run of headline shows throughout mainland Europe before returning to her homeland of Finland for an extensive domestic tour during February and March.

Lyytinen was in the midst of one of her busiest years to date when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Her touring and promotional activities had been catalyzed by a string of high-profile achievements during 2019. With overseas travel restricted and large gatherings prohibited, several months of touring were sadly cancelled or rescheduled.

Throughout the first half of 2020, with activities limited due to the lockdown, Lyytinen began work on new ventures such as the development of her own brand of tea namely ‘The Blues Queen’, working on her first song book as well as reworking her recent biographical book into new languages.

In June ‘2020 Lyytinen was voted Number 2 on Total Guitar’s "10 World's Best Guitarists Now” poll, an achievement that was celebrated by the media at home in Finland. During the same month the artist also had the opportunity to perform a much celebrated and historic live stream from the top of the Novapolis building in Kuopio, which was watched by tens of thousands of viewers around the world.

During the precarious days of the COVID-19 pandemic Lyytinen returned to her hometown of Kuopio on Mother’s Day Eve to perform as part of an exclusive online pay per view event. That monumental occasion is now represented as the artist’s third live album, the rather unique and historic ‘Lockdown Live 2020’ CD/DVD package, which is due for a November 2020 release.

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