Tuomo 2011

I was always considering the possibility to record a solo album, but I had to wait until I had the right concept for it. When I wrote “Don’t take it too hard” and “True friend,” I knew that I could never give those to someone else to sing, so it was time.

Tuomo Prättälä


Tuomo at London’s King’s Cross St Pancras Station

When one thinks of Soul and Funk music, the country of Finland doesn’t naturally come to the forefront of one’s mind. However, for quite a few years now high quality Soulful, Funky and Jazzy vibes have been emanating from this land until now better known for its broad manufacturing output. Well Tuomo Prättälä (Tuomo) with his vibrant and fresh musical approach to all the aforementioned genres intertwined with his intellectually stimulating and engaging lyrical content has arrived to make you sit and listen. LISTEN being the operative word, because this young man has a lot to say – all gift wrapped in some sweet and groove filled musical packages.
A very inquisitive Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards intercepted the Helsinki native, rising star and multi-award winner at London’s King’s Cross St. Pancras Station before he departed via Euro star for Paris to continue his hectic touring schedule.

The Dood:: Hi Tuomo, great to catch up with you after you’re awesome performance at the legendary 100 Club in London last Saturday (2-4-11) for Corrina Greyson’s birthday celebration. Did you have fun and how did you get the invite for what turned out to be such an eclectic musical bill?


Corrina Greyson

Tuomo: It was a lot of fun to play with Corrina’s group, and a good after party as well! I met Corrina in Helsinki a few years back, she was there for a gig at the Funky Elephant festival with The New Mastersounds. She heard my gig and liked it enough to invite me to her event in London.


Tuomo performs at London’s World renowned 100 Club (2-4-11) Photo: Courtesy of Prema Ronningen

http://www.visionandphotography.com/category/prema-ronningen

The Dood: Cool. So what age where you and when was your first introduction to music? Did you have parents or siblings involved with music?

Tuomo: My parents aren’t musicians, but there are many musicians on my mother’s side of the family, and my dad’s always been a music fan. I have a big brother who plays guitar and as a kid I wanted to play something too. My mom suggested the piano, since she had studied it when she was young. I think I was seven then. It was always important to me.

The Dood: How many instruments are you competent on?

Tuomo: Piano and keyboards are the only things that I’ve really studied, but I always like to noodle around with different instruments. On gigs I sometimes play a little guitar. In the studio I’ve experimented, especially on the last album (My Own Private Sunday), playing also drums and bass. But I don’t really play the drums too well. We had to do a lot of editing to get proper results. It was more about finding a certain sound, than about showing off.

The Dood: You attended the esteemed Finnish Theatre Academy in Helsinki. I understand you learnt the rudiments of sound engineering here. Did this aid you as regard to getting a 360 degree understanding as to how live and studio recording works?

Tuomo: I was actually there for my civil service (the alternative to military service in Finland), working in the sound department. I did learn a lot about modern studio technology, and it certainly helped when I started making records. I studied music at the Pop/Jazz Conservatory in Helsinki.

The Dood: You didn’t waste time once you made the transition to professional musician, contributing to ten full-length albums between 2002 and 2006 in seven different line-ups! The various bands brought you numerous Jazz Emma nominations, two international Jazz contest titles the highly acclaimed Finnish Teosto Award band Finland Festivals, Young Artist of The |Year. This no doubt gave you a massive confidence boost that you had chosen the right career?


Tuomo – post interview at King’s Cross St Pancras Station, London

Tuomo: Absolutely! Looking back, it’s quite amazing how quickly I found myself in the position where I could stop playing gigs just for money, as in playing weddings and gigs with “top 40″cover bands, and could completely focus on making my own music with the bands I was in. I think I was about 21 when that happened. I’m very lucky, I never really had to struggle playing uninspiring gigs for consistently low pay. I went straight from a music student to a free artist and I’ve always made just enough money to lead the kind of life that keeps me happy.

The Dood: Two of the bands you toured with were Quintessence and Q-continuum. How did you arrive at the names for both outfits and did they differ in their musical approach?

Tuomo: The name Quintessence was made up by the singer Emma Salokoski, I think she got the idea from a Quincy Jones album. The music we made was Hip-Hop-influenced Soul – I guess Nu-Soul or Neo-Soul would be a proper genre for us, although we got bored of those terms quite early on. In the beginning it was just sample-based beats with some live elements on top, but when we started to play gigs, we knew we needed a live band. It seems that we found a quite perfect combination of musicians almost by chance and it quickly evolved into something different. We pretty much ditched the programming and started creating new grooves and sounds. Erykah Badu, D’Angelo and The Roots were huge influences. Q-continuum was our side project, with a more psychedelic funk feel. The name is a reference to Star Trek. It was just a kind of inside joke, referencing the relation to the “main band.” Quintessence. And when you’re making Psychedelic Funk, you always need some space/sci-fi reference.

The Dood: So you then started to take over as the lead singer of Quintessence and Q-Continuum, which led to the start of your solo career. What year was this and why did you decide to go solo?

Tuomo : The whole singing thing really started gradually for me, I’d been doing a little background singing and stuff like that before, but never really considered myself a singer seriously. I think an important moment was when during the recording of the first Quintessence album, we recorded a couple of bonus tracks that were basically just the rhythm section jamming and me improvising some Prince/D’Angelo style funky vocals on top. It started out as a kind of a joke really, but they turned out pretty ok, and I got a lot more confident with my singing. We enjoyed the studio jams so much, that we decided to start a side project based solely on that idea, and this was Q-Continuum. The original idea was to make instrumental music with some simple vocals here and there, but I got so inspired with song-writing, that I ended up writing lyrics for most of the tracks. This all took place between 2002 and 2006, I think. All the while I was also writing songs for Emma to sing with Quintessence, but every now and then I wrote a song, that didn’t feel right for either Quintessence or Q-continuum.

I was always considering the possibility to record a solo album, but I had to wait until I had the right concept for it. When I wrote “Don’t take it too hard” and “True friend,” I knew that I could never give those to someone else to sing, so it was time.


Tuomo – My Thing

The Dood: Your first solo album ‘My Thing’ exposed your unique style of Soul and thoughtful song-writing to a broader audience. Tracks like ‘Ballroom Girl’, ‘It’s You’ ‘My Wish,’ ‘What I’m Like’ and the infectious first single ‘Don’t Take It Too Hard’ especially being championed by DJ Guru, Giles Peterson who had it on his podcast site for quite a while. How did that make you feel?

Tuomo: It was great, of course. To me, the strangest thing about that song is that it went down really well for very different types of people. I mean Gilles is always looking for that cool sound and I thought my track would be too cheery and up-tempo for his style, but he seemed to love it. And Finnish radio stations, that usually just play rock or whatever, picked up on it as well. And in Japan it was a real hit, they even have a karaoke version of it!

The Dood:: Any stories behind how you wrote that track?

Tuomo: I think it I started with the hook. A friend of mine was feeling down at the time, out of money and always getting the short end of the stick. I felt bad for him, but at the same time I thought that if he just tried to focus on the positive things instead of letting the negative part get him down, things would start to go better for him. So that phrase “Don’t take it too hard” started playing in my head and I expanded it into a song.

The Dood: The tight and quality musicianship is evident throughout the album. Did you use the same musicians from your previous groups?

Tuomo: Yes, my partners in crime from Quintessence and Q-continuum. I did consider working with a different group, but after thinking it over I realized, that the guys I had worked with for so many years were just the right people to play the stuff I wanted to hear. It was a little strange in the beginning to switch from “one of the guys” to “bandleader”, but they were supportive and it worked really well in the end.


Tuomo – Reaches Out For You

The Dood: Your sophomore release ‘Reaches Out For You’ was an even more soulful affair. Your vocals seem to gel nicely with each track. Please explain the reason for the album title.

Tuomo: About a year after the release of “My thing,” I felt it was time to start working seriously on the next album. I had written a bunch of songs, but I knew I needed more, so I just kept on writing and suddenly I had a huge number of new songs. The funny thing was, that after years and years of listening primarily to soul music and pouring all that influence into my first album, I had turned almost completely over to singer-songwriter stuff, listening to Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell etc. and that started to show in the songs I was writing. But I still knew I wanted to make another soul album. So I had to divide the songs I had into two different piles, so to speak. The first pile was “Tuomo reaches out for you” and it contained the more uplifting, extroverted songs I had. The title comes from the song “Reach out for you”, that was originally inspired by conversations I had with people I met online, via MySpace. I really miss that part about when MySpace was cool. It was inspirational to reach out over oceans to music lovers and have conversations about politics, music and personal trials and tribulations. The song actually turned into a more personal thing in the end, but I felt that it was a connecting theme for most of the songs on the album – reaching out to someone, telling them how you feel, giving and receiving consolation when needed.

The Dood: Once again your life observations and insightful writing are highlighted on this album via tracks such as ‘Firsts;’ Sweet with Me;’ ‘Ordinary;’ the title track and the optimistic, never give up message of, ‘Head Above The Water.’ Do you think you’re growing lyrically with each album?

Tuomo: Definitely, I think that I’ve grown as a songwriter. Being a musician for years, composing is a very natural thing for me, it’s easy to think of a melody or a chord progression, work out the arrangements and so on. It’s takes a lot of time of course, but it’s just what I’ve always done, so I don’t really have to think about it too much. Lyrics, on the other hand, very rarely come out easily for me, I can get an idea for a song, but most of them never get quite finished, because I can’t find the right way to say things. But I do think I’ve gotten better at it and I’ve broadened the spectrum in that I’m not just writing basic “you and me”-stuff, but touching on bigger subjects. I always try to find a novel way of presenting a familiar thought.


Tuomo in London

The Dood: Who are your influences, both vocally and musically?


Prince

Tuomo: This is a tough one to answer, since I listen to all kinds of music, always have and I think it all influences everything I do. Vocally I’ve always been very soul-oriented though. My one big influence would be Prince, but Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green aren’t far behind. Also Sam Cooke, James Brown and D’Angelo… As a songwriter I also love Burt Bacharach, Dylan, Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright…

The Dood: You seem to be constantly touring, more recently as a solo artist. Do you enjoy it and are there any countries or continents you would still like to visit with your band?

Tuomo: Why, of course! And I wouldn’t mind revisiting all the places I’ve been so far. That’s the coolest thing about being a musician, constantly moving; meeting new people; seeing place; travelling around; spreading good vibes – Nice work if you can get it!

The Dood: In 2010 you released your most recent project, ‘My Own Private Sunday.’ It’s another eclectic collection of moods and intriguing titles. Usual question, what is the story behind how you arrived at the album title?


Tuomo – My Own Private Sunday

Tuomo: Well, this is the second pile of the two I mentioned earlier. For this album I mostly picked the more introverted, self-reflective songs I had. Once again I picked a song title for the album title. “My own private Sunday” is a song written on a Tuesday when I decided to do absolutely nothing. I had been working a lot and suddenly it occurred to me that I had a day off, so I decided to call it a Sunday and do Sunday things instead of going about my weekday business. This was inspiring enough to turn into a song. I chose this as the album title, because I find that most of my best songs were written in this kind of mood.

The Dood: Among the combined sublime and jaunty tracks are ‘Back to Day One’ and the rock guitar tinged ‘The Torturee’s Mantra.’ Can you expand on the compositions of each track and are they fun to perform live, especially the latter?

Tuomo: “Back to day one” I feel is my most Dylanesque song, but the arrangement is a bit more psychedelic. The text deals with the circle of life, creativity and the want to achieve things before you die. It’s one of the lyrics I’m more proud of, because it is rich in metaphors that can be interpreted in many ways, but still not overly complicated. The composition is very simple, but I laced the track with lots of spacey sound effects, like backwards reverbs and such, to get a more mysterious feel. “Torturee’s mantra” is a song about torture, written from the point of view of the torturee, who can withstand his trials by repeating to himself that the torturer is wrong and he is right. The arrangement is Hendrix-influenced psychedelic rock, with loads of fuzz and wah guitars and a heavy drumbeat. It is a lot of fun live, I get to stand up from behind the keyboard, play the guitar with tons of distortion – My rock star moment!

The Dood:: Overall this album has a more Pop/Soul/Rock and Blues feel to it. Would you agree? And was that intentional?

Tuomo: Sure, I wanted to focus on the songs I was writing that were clearly not so much in the Soul genre, as the previous albums were. There are funkier moments on this album, but the predominating vibe is more lyric-focused and rhythmically less complicated. I just wanted to make simple backing tracks that would support the songs. That’s also why I decided to play all the instruments myself on most tracks. I’m not a good enough drummer or bassist to do any complicated stuff, so I had no choice but to keep it simple. A very educational way of making a record, I must say.

The Dood: Will you return to recording with Quintessence or Q-continuum anytime in the future?

Tuomo: We don’t have any plans right now, but maybe someday. It would be fun, but it has to come from a mutual desire to make great music together. I think right now everyone is focusing on other projects.

The Dood: What advice would you give to up and coming youngsters who wish to follow you into the music business, given your experiences to date?

Tuomo: Find out what your own thing is, and keep doing it. Being a musician is hard work and the money doesn’t come pouring in for most people, but it’s always a lot of fun, if you’re doing it for the love of music. The worst possible thing is trying to sell out and still failing to succeed. Better just stay true.

The Dood: Sage advice. What next for Tuomo? Have you started writing your next album as yet? Will you focus on any particular genre i.e. a Jazz slant?

Tuomo: I’ve been writing songs, this time I’m thinking of making a much funkier album, but it’s all still a bit blurry, so I won’t say too much about it. Meanwhile I’ll be touring and recording with all the many projects I work with. Making music, what else?

The Dood: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to UK Vibe and we look forward to your solo tour of the UK and Europe real soon!

Tuomo: Thank you!

Michael J Edwards


Michael ‘The Dood’ Edwards and Tuomo

Essential Albums:
My Own Private Sunday (Texicalli Records Oy 2010)
Reaches Out For You (Texicalli Records Oy (2009)
My Thing (Texicalli Records Oy (2007)

Essential Single:
Don’t take it to hard (7” Vinyl, 2007)

Essential Websites:
http://www.tuomomusic.com/
http://www.myspace.com/organkane
http://twitter.com/#!/tuomo

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