The Finnish Invasion

By Laura Youngs

I am interviewing Jartse Tuominen tomorrow”, I say to my friend as we sit at the bar chatting over margaritas.. I am not surprised to see the blank look preceding her response of “Who?” The Finnish guitar wizard is not a household name to the general public in San Antonio, his home of 18 years, but that could be changing soon with the release of his latest CD ‘Untold Stories”. Jartse (pronounced Jart-see) recently returned from a European tour with his trio, the Jartse Tuominen Group where his 5th solo recording has reached the top of the charts. It was chosen “Album of the Day” on the actual release date by German Music News, spent two weeks at #1 in the Netherlands, and is on “Top albums of the year 2016” in Germany, to name just a few of its accolades.

Growing up in Tampere, Finland the tall, green-eyed Finn got his first guitar at the age of four and amazingly is self-taught. “When I was a kid we only had guitar teachers for classical music and it wasn’t my thing” he tells me. His band Outburst in the 80’s was one of the first Finnish bands to a worldwide fan base. Recognized as one of the top guitarists in the Netherlands for his rock/fusion/jazz style of playing, he did not go unnoticed by some of the industry’s top musicians and has performed and toured with the likes of Joe Sitriani, Jackson Browne, the Doobie Brothers , Augie Meyers and many more.

The journey to San Antonio was precipitated by a chance meeting with local drummer Urban Urbano who was on tour in Finland. The next year the talented guitarist came to Texas for a gig and made the trip to the Alamo City to visit his new friend. “For some reason when I came here for the first time it felt like coming home” he opines. And home it has become. Leaving behind the land of ice and snow where his mother and two siblings still reside, he appears to thrive in our humid weather and finds it amusing when locals complain that it is “too hot”. This handsome artist with the heavy European accent is unmarried, to the relief of his multitude of female admirers, but does share his home with his rescue dog, Mesa. His constant companion, Jartse named her after his favorite amplifier, the Mesa /Boogie. He has gone so far as to pen a song about her on his latest cd named appropriately “Mesa”. Man’s best friend even plays a supporting role in the music video of “Time to Go”, a song from Untold Stories which has been distributed worldwide.

“Finnish guitarist Jartse Tuominen is definitely “the next thing” – the ultimate star in the guitar cosmos!” comments German Music News, DE. (3/14/16) and his musical talents go well beyond just being an electrifying guitarist. He is currently signed with German label SledgeHammer MIG but produces, writes, arranges, engineers and mixes all of his music himself in his home studio. Five solo cd’s of his own, the multi-talented Tuominen has worked on over 100 cd’s as a musician, composer or producer. He has also made music for commercials, television shows and films and two of his soundtracks have reached gold record status. In 2005 Jartse founded the GTR-tour in an effort to gather together the finest guitarists and musicians in Finland. It has been hugely successful with the annual tours and festivals consistently being sold out and is looking to expand in to Germany soon.

As a musician myself I would call him a purist when it comes to his instrumentation. There are endorsement deals with Mesa/Boogie amps and Gibson Guitars, the latter who has asked him to design a guitar for their line, but unlike so many guitar players of the “more is better” ilk, Jartse does not have a huge pedal board to distort his sound. “Well, a wahwah pedal every now and then”, he says. “A good amp and a good guitar. That’s all you need!” Considered a “musicians musician” his shows are filled with his peers and aspiring musicians hoping to discover how to mimic his style and sound. But it is distinctively his own and ever evolving. “I strive to have different layers on songs – melodies and different time signatures under melodies. That makes songs interesting. It is cool when you are able to find new things from songs after listening several times”. He is not deterred by the fact that the mainstream bands tend to get more press and attention than instrumental groups. I ask him why he thinks certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music. He responds, “ I always thought that a good melody doesn’t need lyrics. Actually many times bad words can ruin a good song. For me it’s more important to get the feeling from a good melody, and of course the feeling you get from inspirational and talented players when they make instruments talk and have discussions with each other.”

If it sounds like our European transplant is all work and no play and there is an element of truth to that. A grueling touring schedule leaves little time to relax and his last vacation was in 1997! The brief periods between tours are spent practicing but he also enjoys day trips to the coast with Mesa and friends. The nightclub scene is not for him but he enjoys checking out the local music scene now and then and drinking his favorite Texas beer Shiner Bock. He had a recent gig at the legendary Sam’s Burger Joint and will have another show there in the fall. In the meantime he will be leaving soon for a summer tour in Europe in 15 different countries. Upon returning he will do a tour of our East Coast and then the West Coast but the self-proclaimed “Fin-Tex” always looks forward to returning home to San Antonio. We are looking forward to it!

*For more information on Jartse Tuominen visit www.jartse.com