We are delighted to announce that Nightwish are now official World Land Trust Ambassadors, joining fellow high-profile supporters like conservationist Lee Durrell, zoologist Mark Carwardine, and Emmy-nominated composer and singer-songwriter Sarah Class.
Our relationship with Nightwish began in 2019, when we first talked about collaborating and lead singer Floor auctioned a personal portrait from artist Lucas van de Wakker to raise money for WLT. The Nightwish-WLT partnership became official in 2020, when their generous donation allowed WLT partner Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) to establish a new protected area in Mexico’s Sierra Gorda region.
This area, now officially known as the Nightwish Reserve, protects an important tract of temperate cloud forest home to threatened tree species like the Mexican White Cedar. The weasel-like Tayra is found here, as well as three wild cat species (Puma, Jaguar and Ocelot) and the Crested Guan (a Near Threatened bird). GESG hopes the Big-footed Salamander will one day become the reserve’s flagship species; this amphibian, once classified as Possibly Extinct, was rediscovered nearby in 2017.
Nightwish announced their support for WLT and GESG with the music video for Ad Astra, the final track on their latest album, HUMAN. :||: NATURE. Described by Nightwish as a “love letter to planet Earth”, the album follows on from Endless Forms Most Beautiful, the band’s eighth release, which drew inspiration from evolution, science, and the works of Charles Darwin.
Two years on from the release of HUMAN. :||: NATURE. and the creation of the Nightwish Reserve, WLT CEO Catherine Barnard met up with band members Tuomas Holopainen, Troy Donockley and Floor Jansen on the UK leg of their ongoing world tour. In the following conversation with Catherine, our new Ambassadors speak about why they support WLT, the influence of nature on their work, and how music can inspire us to protect the natural world.
Why did you choose to support WLT?
Tuomas: We found you initially through the work of [WLT Patron] David Attenborough. There’s a video of him talking about WLT, and immediately I felt that this is our thing – this is something we want to get into.
Troy: We talked about it with the whole band and we were absolutely unanimous.
Tuomas: There was also something special about this – I’ve been involved with charitable organisations for years and haven’t made my support public, but somehow this felt completely different.
Floor: We want to raise awareness. We don’t need a medal for this – the reason we communicate our support is to inspire others and show that there are ways to make a difference. What I really like about WLT is the different approach: we’re not just going to “save the elephants”, we’re going to save their entire habitat, and also try to make sure the people living there are part of the project.
Tuomas: We also see the results immediately, in a concrete way. We can see where the money goes and how it’s used to save habitats.
Troy: Exactly. One of the major attractions about WLT is that it actually gets things done. Everything seems beautifully transparent to us. It really motivated us to get involved.
How does your music play a role in making people care about the environment?
Tuomas: Everybody is talking about saving the planet, but it’s really important to remind people why it is worth saving: the beauty and the love, and everything on this Planet Earth. When you think about it, us as artists, musicians, singers, we have the tools to bring that message, and especially with our last two albums, people have heard it. When they listen to a song like The Greatest Show on Earth, hopefully they will start to think that this is a pretty awesome place where we live, and what a privilege it is to be alive as a human being. Realise the beauty and do your part in making the world a better place, because there is hope for the future. Things are not as bad as they may seem, and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
How did your fans respond to The Greatest Show on Earth, a 24-minute track on Endless Forms Most Beautiful?
Troy: I think they’d be disappointed if we didn’t address the theme at the scale that it needs. You couldn’t go from 3.7 billion years to the end of the solar system in three minutes, you really couldn’t. It’s a big subject but I think we managed to encapsulate it in those 24 minutes.
Floor: For some people that was perhaps a whole new experience, while for others it was right up their alley. We’ve met so many people working in the natural world or the scientific world, who have had their minds blown by the lyrics, and how things came together. For others that perhaps are not as familiar with all this, it’s an opportunity for them to open their minds: they feel like a new world has opened, a new awareness, a love for the things we see every day and the wonders of the real world – not the fake world that we are trying to create all the time, whether that is in a fantasy or digital. We get reactions from all ages and nationalities. It has definitely inspired.
Troy: It’s extraordinary the cultural barriers that have been crossed with this music. We get the most wonderful life-enhancing messages from fans telling us about the effect that the work has had on them. This is a huge privilege for us, because we aren’t preaching, we’re telling it like it is, the way we see it. In that respect, we’ve introduced the sciences to an audience that may not have been interested before.
Tuomas: This happens all the time. Whenever we have signing sessions there are often young people there with copies of books like The Origin of Species that they want us to sign. We had Richard Dawkins appear on stage with us in 2015, and we told him we’ve probably signed more copies of his books than he has!
How did you approach talking about science in your music?
Tuomas: I truly think that if everyone understood the core of evolution, how it works, the world would become a much better place, because it’s such a beautiful process. This is what we’re trying to convey. Imagine that we all had a mother, who had a mother, who had a mother… all the way back through an unbroken chain of billions of years. For us to exist, that’s the only way it can possibly be. So just let that thought sink in and you will smile.
What role does nature play in your songwriting and composing?
Tuomas: It’s hard for me to think of an artist that doesn’t get inspired by nature. It’s the most inspiring thing there is.
Floor: It’s not like you go for a walk in the woods, take a deep breath, and a melody comes to you. It’s everywhere all the time. If you are open to it, it soaks back into you. We are part of nature after all, even when we put ourselves in concrete cities and deprive ourselves of the joys of the wilderness. Nature is still there, it finds its way, even in cities where there will be a tiny seed that manages to grow. If you open yourself to it, it is a constant source of inspiration and also happiness, which feeds into the creativity.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your supporters that may inspire them to leave a legacy for the Earth?
Tuomas: Education is everything.
Troy: Absolutely. Read, read and read. Read as much as you possibly can. Get outside as much as you can. Turn off your screens, look at the night sky, wander around in a forest, just do all the lovely things that can take you out of the darkness that a lot of people live in, battered by social conditioning. There’s so much beauty in the world, so much power, so much to be grateful for.
Floor: The pandemic maybe brought new perspectives and slowed people down, forcing them to live at a slower tempo, which actually gives you more time to become creative again. Boredom can lead to creativity because there is new space in your head. Nature provides that too – to slow down in nature is a great way to reset yourself. Get outside, slow down and allow things to be, and refocus on the things that actually matter.
Nightwish are currently on tour in mainland Europe.
Their latest album, HUMAN. :||: NATURE., is out now.