• Spotted!,  Stories

    Spotted: Merrill Crissey with Sleepy Songs – Gymnopedie

    Today it’s time to introduce you to the next track from my collaboration EP called “with”. This one is made together with the amazing American piano player, composer and friend Merrill Crissey.

    What I think is the most interesting thing with working on this song is that it was actually a “finished” song that I never found a place for on any of my early releases. While Merrill though that I added the strings after I got his piano parts, it was actually the other way around; everything was already there, I just choose to hide it to see what he would add to just my piano track! When I got the pianos and “un muted” the already existing tracks – magic happened!

    Well, Merrill, tell us something about the track Gymnopedie from your point of view!
    Gymnopedie is not my first collaboration, but it’s the first I’ve ever released. Johan Eckman started by laying down the chord progression. I liked it, but I found it quite challenging to write with for two reasons. the tempo was quite slow and there was a major seventh chord which made harmonies a bit tricky. I experimented with some very busy melodies trying to breath some life into it, but nothing seemed to gel. Finally, I went with the idea of stacking another chord over the original chords and making the melody simple. This gives it complexity in the harmonies but simplicity in the  melody. The tune and the harmonies conjured up memories of Erik Satie which helped us decide on the title. Later, Johan put in some nice strings and a beat to give it a more polished sound and keep it interesting. 

    For more information about Merrill and his music, please go to any of these pages:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Merrill Crissey – Evening at the Parks

    Today I’m introducing you to composer and piano player Merrill Crissey from Florida, USA. I have written about both Merrill and his music many times before, which can be found here.

    The track Evening at the Parks is taken from the EP Japonica, which was released on the 10th of January of 2020.

    Tell us something about your track Evening at the Parks!
    Evening at the Parks is from my new EP entitled Japonica. This album is all about the seven years I lived in Japan. The name of the album comes from the idea of a western person in Japan— Japonica being a Latin way of expressing things related to Japan. Each of the pieces on the album expresses either an experience I had or an aspect of Japan that made an impression on me. The music on this album is, for the most part, not overtly “Japanese” sounding. I mostly stick to Occidental harmonies and instrumentation. The song Evening at the Parks is a reference to a specific place in Osaka, Japan. When I met my wife I was living in the heart of downtown. There was a recent development of shops near the station called Namba Parks. This became a regular place for us to go on dates and take walks. Those were such precious times for us, and the music is meant to convey a sense of quietness and warmth.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful song with us Merrill!

    Check out these following links for more information!
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Merrill Crissey – Arashiyama

    New music from Merrill Crissey who need no introduction no more!

    The song Arashiyama is released as a single but will also be featured on the upcoming EP Japonica.

    Tell us something about your song Arashiyama!
    One of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto, Japan is Arashiyama. It means “storm mountain” in Japanese, but whenever I’ve gone there it has always been a placid and idyllic place. One of the most beautiful and intriguing parts of the area is the famous bamboo forest. I decided to write a piece about this place for my upcoming EP Japonica.
    For this piece of music I included solo violin in addition to piano. The original intent of this piece was to be very minimalistic as you can hear in the opening chords. But I find that the music I am drawn to the most is usually melodic, so the song quickly turned into a thematic piece with a clear melody. 

    This is my first piece using solo violin, and it was exciting for me to hear it played on the real instrument after I had mocked it up with plug-ins. There’s no substitute for the real thing. This experience has me looking forward to writing more for string ensembles. 

    Thank you Merrill!

    Check out these following links for more information!
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Merrill Crissey – Sunrise on a New World

    Today I’m introducing you to the latest track by Merrill Crissey which is called Sunrise on a New World. I have introduced you to both Merrill and his music before, which you can find here.

    Merrill is a composer and a pianist from Orlando, Florida in America. If you would like to know more, just click the link above or the links below!

    The track Sunrise on a New World is released as a single, but will also be featured on the upcoming EP Japonica.

    This album is all about the seven years I lived in Japan and the country itself. The EP releases in January of 2020 with one more single coming before that in November. 

    Tell us something about your track Sunrise on a New World!
    Sunrise on a New World is about the feelings I had when I first arrived in Japan. That time of my life was really exciting and yet somewhat lonely. I was suddenly far away from everything I had ever known and so there is a bit of a melancholic melody mixed with a contrasting sense of excitement. That first year in Japan was really exciting because every day was like a new adventure.

    Thanks again Merrill for sharing your music with us!

    Please check out these links for more information about Merrill!
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Merrill Crissey – Summerfield

    Today I’m introducing the latest single by Merrill Crissey, which you all have met before, both here and here. Merrill is a piano player and composer based out of Orlando in the United States. If you want to know it all, just click the links above!

    This single was released on Friday to celebrate Piano Day!

    Tell us something about your track Summerfield!
    This song is rather personal for me. My grandmother lived in a rural area in Florida called Summerfield. As a child we would spend holidays and many Saturdays out in the country. I would play with my brother and sister out in the field. I recall jumping on haystacks, feeding the cows, and wondering at the enormous oak trees. My grandmother grew a large garden most years and was an excellent cook. In the summer we would sometimes take turns as kids staying with her for a week or so. I remember eating so much during those weeks and playing outdoors enjoying the simplicity of country life. This song is really just a nostalgic expression of my memories of those days and that place. My grandmother passed away a few years ago, but she would have been one hundred years old this month.

    The track is intentionally somewhat melancholy and has a quasi-country feel to it. It was one of those pieces that I can hardly remember making. It seemed to just happen, and most of it fell into place rather quickly. Thanks so much for listening.

    Thanks Merrill for continuing to deliver wonderful music for the blog!

    Please check out these links for more information about Merrill!
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Merrill Crissey – Bach Reimagined

    A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to the artist, Merrill Crissey, from Orlando, Florida. Today, it’s time to introduce you to his latest release; Bach Reimagined!

    Tell us something about Bach Reimagined!
    I wrote and rewrote the B Flat prelude several times before I felt good about it. One of the hardest but most necessary things to do when you’re creating is to scrap something you have spent hours on because it’s just not working. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, but this piece just took so many iterations to land in a place I felt comfortable with. These pieces were fun to make and I hope people enjoy them. I would also encourage people to listen to the original pieces they are based on. I reimagined Bach, but there’s no improving on him.

    The last couple of singles I’ve released are recompositions of keyboard works by J.S. Bach. They are taken from his Well-tempered Clavier Book 1. There are 24 preludes and fugues in the book—one for each major and minor key. The first one I chose was the Prelude in C Major which most everyone is familiar with. I used the same compositional techniques Bach used, in this case arpeggiated chords, but I wanted to give it modern sensibilities. The same is true of my second single Prelude in B Flat. The idea is to tell a different musical story but with a similar musical language.

    Thank you Merrill! For someone like me, who hasn’t listened so much to “real classical music” this is a very good introduction. I will now start listening to Bach, and of course these wonderful “reimaginations”!

    Please check out Merrill’s links below to learn more about him and his music:
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Merrill Crissey

    Every now and then you start talking to someone and it doesn’t seem to be and end to the conversation. Merrill (or Chip) wrote to me a while back when he had just started to release music, and we started talking. Still going! See you in Orlando, someday, maybe!

    What is your real name?
    Merrill Crissey, but I actually go by the nickname Chip since I share a name with my Dad.

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    I started piano lessons when I was ten and started taking snare drum lessons which I eventually quit. Paradiddles are hard.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started picking out songs when I was pretty young but didn’t really start writing piano pieces until college. I studied classical piano and some composition at university. But mostly I wanted to write for ensembles and orchestra. It wasn’t until last year that I started writing for piano again.

    Tell me something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I don’t recall the exact moment, but I had a moment once when I was writing my first orchestral piece entitled Svensk Sommar (I had spent a month in Sweden that year). I realized the magic of composing. A part of the piece I was working on just suddenly came together and I fell in love with composing.

    Have you made music in other genres before?
    Like many, I listen to a lot of different types of music. Everything from choral to indie rock to orchestral. I’ve written pop rock songs, but they weren’t very good and I’m not a lyricist. Most of my stuff is instrumental falling into the classical, cinematic, or neoclassical genres. I scored a short film where it was mostly a jazz trio. My Dad played sax on it. Jazz is one of those genres I love, but don’t feel very at home playing. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    For a project at work we were trying to find some cool aesthetics for an album we were designing. We ran across the Erased Tapes label and that is where I first heard of Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. I guess they have sort of pioneered the latest iteration of pop piano classical. At first I felt like the felt soft piano thing was strange. I mean I was classically trained so I was used to bright pianos that almost sounded like bells chiming. Now here’s this group of musicians making music with the practice pedal on. But slowly it started growing on me and now I love both. I don’t know what it is with the Scandinavians, but they are killing it in this genre. Half of the stuff I’ve grown to love in the last year is either from Iceland or Sweden. But of course there are folks all over the place that are doing amazing things. Thomas Enhco of France is one of my current favorites. He does it all—classical, jazz, contemporary. He’s the kind of pianist I wish I could be.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
    J.S. Bach is probably my favorite composer and his music feels so good in the fingers. Recently, I learned of the amazing pianist Vikingur Olafsson. He recorded a Bach organ Sonata movement transcribed for piano that I’ve been trying to learn. It’s such a beautiful and yet fairly unknown piece.

    What song inspires you the most when you’re making music?
    That’s so tough to answer because everything belongs to a context. I tend to write melancholic music if I let myself, but I try to push myself to break out of the natural 72 bpm mode I’m naturally inclined towards. 

    Can you name just ONE song/composition?
    Another hard question because there is just so much that moves me. Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma variations ranks pretty high on my list of favorites, but there really are too many to say. 

    Tell me something about your latest release. 
    I released a couple of singles called Bach Reimagined. I took a couple of his preludes from the WTC book 1 and recomposed them. I tried to use a similar compositional device but make the music my own. In other words, I used similar rhythmical or even harmonic motifs but made them go in a different direction. I’m not trying to improve on the master. I like to think that I am telling the same story but in my own words.

    What’s happening next? New releases etc. 
    A lot really. I’m working on some piano pieces for an album that is partly related to my life in Japan. I lived there for most of the 2000’s and I want to write something that expresses my feelings about that time of my life. I’m also working up some pieces for string that I hope to get recorded. Ideally, I would love to branch out and be writing orchestral as well as piano music someday. 

    Anything else you want to share?
    Just that I’m grateful to any and all of you who listen to or share my music. I hope it adds some joy to your life. Thanks for letting me talk about music with you. I’ve really enjoyed the little online community of composers I’ve been introduced to in the last year.

    Thank you for your answers Merrill!

    Please check out the social media below for more information about Merrill and his music. 

    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

    And also, of course, on Spotify!

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Cormac Parle

    A while back I had a chat with Cormac Parle about his track A magic spell and today it’s time to learn more about Cormac and hit music!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Ireland, and I live on a crossroads in the Irish countryside surrounded by farmland

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano since I was 6, so 41 years now. I also did clarinet and double bass lessons when I was school – my clarinet has been in the attic for 15 years, but I play bass in bands. Can also knock a tune out of a guitar or ukulele, but that’s hardly remarkable.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My family is fairly musical – my Dad is very into traditional Irish music, he plays fiddle and when I was a kid he played accordion and banjo for a while. He’d be the first to admit that he’s not a very accomplished musician, but he sure enjoys himself when playing. His dad in turn was fairly well-known locally as a singer, and used to appear on the national radio occasionally. 

    So I was surrounded by music as a child, though I suspect I probably started lessons simply because I had a school friend whose mother taught piano. In secondary school music became more and more an integral part of my life – lessons in 3 instruments, playing in a youth orchestra in my home town, playing bass in a rock band

    How long have you been making piano music?
    For most of my adult life I’ve had a piano piece or two in-progress inside my head, though most of them never got finished. Hard to say when I really started – when I was maybe 8 or 9 I remember my piano teacher being irritated that I was wasting my time playing variations on tunes from the TV rather than practising my scales. I also have memories from my teens of composing wistful pieces for girls I liked. It didn’t, alas, turn out to be a successful way of getting their attention

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I think I always made songs for myself without thinking about it. I remember singing a song about holidays inspired by a line from The Famous Five (an English series of kids books) to all my friends when I couldn’t have been more than 8. 

    I do remember the moment I decided to get a bit more serious about composition though – sitting on my parents’ couch listening to the Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms which I had gotten for my 13th birthday. The music was making my hair stand on end, and I thought “this is what I want to do” 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’ve a real soft spot for Yann Tiersen, and I love some of Keith Jarrett’s improv stuff (particularly the Köln concert). Over the last while I’ve been listening a lot to Michele Nobler and Juan María Solare, and I’ve had Merrill Crissey’s track  “Summerfield” on repeat since the beginning of summer.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by apiano? Your own or someone else’s?
    Someone else’s! My default piano tunes are Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca and Maple Leaf Rag

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    It’s kind of an unspoken rule, but most composers/acts are pretty consistent stylistically, and typically I’m not. I just follow my nose and see where it leads, with no real plan at all. Sometimes I try to be more consistent, and come up with a few things in a row that make sense together, but then I get excited about some new idea I’ve had and that goes straight out the window

    How do you record your music?
    I had access to a big studio with a Baldwin grand for a while, so I’ve done some stuff there. Mostly I record at home though, just because it’s easier

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I love them! I’ve done tonnes of home recording and sampled instruments sound better than my home recordings three out of four times. I don’t care how a sound is made, I care about the impact the music has on me

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    My songs are adventures inside my own head

    Thank you very much for sharing this with us Cormac!

    For more information and updates, check out the following links:
    Twitter / Spotify