A while back I Spotted Tristans song For Natalia and now it’s time to get to know the artist behind it a bit better!
Where are you from? And where do you live?
I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio. I was born and raised here although I moved around a lot- Charleston, SC, San Sebastian, Spain, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Asheville, NC, and then back to Cincinnati.
How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I’ve been playing the piano since I was 6. I’ve had brief forays into trombone, drums, and guitar. My trombone skills are gone, but I’m still pretty passable on drums and can play a little bit of acoustic guitar still.
Tell us about how you started playing music.
I’m not exactly sure where I was at this point, but when I was about five I found a piano in someone’s house where I just happened to be, and I started messing around with it. Playing the really low keys and the really high keys. That’s my earliest memory of playing piano, and from there I just started taking classical lessons.
How long have you been making piano music?
I’ve been leading and playing in bands since I was in college, back in 2001. But as far as solo piano music, and the type of music that I’m currently producing, it’s been since 2016. I released a full length album with 1631 Recordings that summer and then did a tour through the U.S. and Canada to promote it.
Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
The first songs I ever actually wrote were when I was in college in Charleston, SC and playing in a jazz fusion band called Doublestack. I wrote a few bluesy and fusion type songs on piano, and was also writing a lot of lyric based songs on acoustic guitar back then. At that point there was no plan or method, I was just writing anything and everything that popped into my head.
What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I’m not a huge fan of genres, and certainly when it comes to solo piano I think it really spans the map as far as what people are doing out there. If I had to pick one contemporary pianist right now, I’d say Tigran Hamasyan comes to mind. He might be categorized more as jazz, but I find what he does to defy genres and it is just really engaging to me. His album A Fable is pretty amazing.
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?
Not really, no. At this point I don’t even practice most of the songs I’ve written and produced. I mostly just move on to writing new music. But when I sit down at the piano I almost always just go to improvising. And that often leads me to coming up with an idea that I can then develop into a composition.
What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
I’m a big believer in knowing all the rules so then you can break them. I’m always trying to learn more about theory and compositional techniques. My goal is to have the knowledge and experience to then go beyond convention and create something that defies rules- something that people could analyze and categorize afterwards because it’s never been done before. That’s the idea anyway. But mostly I just try to make music that excites me and that I can be proud of.
How do you record your music?
For the past few years I’ve been doing everything in my home studio. I have an upright, and also I do a lot with Logic Pro and Sample libraries. I try to get samples and DAW productions to sound as real as possible. That’s my main goal. For my next album though I would like to get into a studio to record string parts and possibly some other instruments such as tuned percussion, brass, and woodwinds.
What’s your take on sampled instruments?
I like the saying “It’s not the software, it’s the user.” I went to grad school in San Francisco for Music Production and Sound Design, so I was completely immersed in that world. I kind of went in one end and came out the other, so to speak. I still use samples everyday, but I try to use them in the same way I would with real life instruments. I’m much more interested these days in writing compositions than tweaking settings. I have the utmost respect for people who really get into software and its capabilities, but for me at a point it was just overwhelming and really took away from playing an instrument and writing for humans. There was a point where I was producing so much “in the box” that I barely ever played my instrument. And that’s really the point where I decided to start writing solo piano music.
The last question is asked by my 5 year old son: Where do all your songs come from?
Thank you for this Tristan!
A while ago my buddy Anders Wiking sent me one of my songs from the debut album Först ska vi äta, sen sova och sen kommer pappa to me. He had written a vocal part for the song Väntan (Wait). That got me thinking about that record and how it doesn’t really fit together with the music I currently make. And, I didn’t really know how to make this kind of music back then.
I decided to dig up my old Logic projects for the songs to see what would happen if I did some changes with my current knowledge.
It took a day or two, but then I had a brand new record; too good not to be released. Not fireworks or anything, but it was something I was more happy with than the original version. Feel free to compare!
The main thing I did was to replace all the orchestral strings with a string quartet. And on one song I replaced it with three cellos! I also removed most of the synthesizers and all of the drum loops (most obvious on the opening track Vi åker till Kina). One song was beyond saving and didn’t fit at all (it was actually a song I made many years before the others when I was studying music production in Växjö, hence the title So Old), but instead I found another song that I, for some reason, decided not to put on the original release (Den glömda, The forgotten one).
And of course; I had Anders do a proper recording of the vocals for Väntan which can also be found on the Reworked release, as well as a separate single. I asked him to write a post about that song, so I guess that one will be posted eventually.
And as always; feel free to share and put a song you like on a playlist of yours!
Today I’m introducing you to Italian composer and pianist Roberta Di Mario. Roberta is a contemporary and new classical music pianist who loves the piano, which she called “my traveling companion for a lifetime”.
The track Leda and the Swan is taken from Robertas latest album Disarm which was released in May of 2019.
Tell us something about your track Leda and the Swan!
Leda and the Swan is inspired by the the Greek Myth. It tell us about a seduction story and the disarm about to the passion and desire. The inevitable surrender to love. I composed this ballad in F # minor about last year, after the vision of a paint. It was a great inspiration, so exiting and charming.
Thank you for this lovely little tune Roberta!
Today I’m introducing you to American composer and pianist Wes Kendall, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. Wes makes music with the group Idle Reverie. He started composing on the piano when he was 15 years old, and it’s still his favorite hobby even 15 years later.
This track is part of a short album called As we depart which was released in may of 2019. Later this year Idle Reverie will release a video and storyline for the album.
Tell us something about your track String of pearls!
String of Pearls is a tragic and yet somewhat hopeful song. It was one of those pieces that naturally flowed after playing around with the idea one night. It makes me think of a person in a cycle of depression, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel while also having this subtle feeling that it is only temporary.
Thank you for this song, and the short album Wes!
Today I’m introducing you to American composer John Corlis from Colorado Springs, now located in Los Angeles. John has a bachelor in Music in Media Composition and began scoring films and playing in different bands after moving to LA about 15 years ago. He is classically trained and but isn’t afraid to “color outside the lines”.
The track Positive Affirmation is taken from Johns latest album Healing which was released in may 2019.
Tell us something about your song Positive Affirmation!
The songs (on the album) are meant to soothe the soul, mind, and body. I believe music is powerful. Whether it’s putting on a relaxing song during a stressful time, listening to the words of a song that help us speak our truth or using music as a way to process something we are experiencing, music is a great healer. I dedicate this album to my cousin Shay who has been fighting type 1 diabetes since she was a little girl and has continued to stay strong and positive throughout the hardest of times. Despite her health, she has always helped others feel better and advocated for others’ needs. I have made a pledge to the American Diabetes Association to donate 50% of all proceeds from the album from its release date until the global awareness day on November 14. May this album bring some light and joy to your day and to others.
Thank you for the music John!
Today I’m introducing you to American composer Ben Thames currently living in the small rural community Chumuckla in Florida. Ben is a self taught pianist that have been playing for about four years at the moment.
The track Contemplation is taken from his latest EP, called Ferriday Blues which was released early may 2019.
Tell us something about your track Contemplation!
This one came together quite easily, as I find a lot of my favorite pieces usually do. I sat down at the piano late one night, with only a rough intro idea, & after about 3 hours the whole thing was written & ready to be recorded. I was struggling to come up with a title for it initially, but as I was listening to it, I found it reminding me of times of contemplation – specifically the ones where you just kind of sit around & reflect on life. So, that was the new title.
Thank you for this wonderful song, and this wonderful EP Ben!
A while back, I introduced you to Nadav Cohen and his release Fighter, which you can read more about here. Now he’s back with another great ambient single, called Release. Nadav is an Australian composer living in Melbourne.
Tell us something about your track Release!
I wrote this track with the theme of “letting go” in mind. Release is about moving on from something in your life. Whether it be a hobby, past ideology or loved one, this track is about finding composure and clarity in the change people undergo in their lives and the “release” that comes with moving forward from an overwhelming chapter both positive or negative.
This song was actually all written in one day using MIDI string libraries on my computer at home. However, I sent it over to an incredible cellist from Los Angeles, Francesco Canas. He recorded each voicing of the piece multiple times creating a total of 60 tracks of Cellos and violins. This allowed the track to breathe and feel unique.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful song with us Nadav!
These are the songs I’ve posted about so far! Have a listen, and find a new favorite! Then you can go ahead and read up on every post you might have missed!
Today I’m introducing you to classical pianist, conductor and composer Yoomi J. Kim from Canada and her song Unconditional Friend.
I ended up accumulating too many degrees (a doctorate in Piano Performance, two master’s in Piano and Conducting, and a cognate degree in Composition) and I hope all my training will be used to bring joy and peace to others around me through music.
Tell us something about your track Unconditional Friend!
I dedicated this piece (Unconditional Friend – single track) to my parents who have shown me a glimpse of God’s unconditional love here on earth. They are not perfect (as no one is perfect), but they have exemplified through their life how to cry out to God in times of trouble and how to celebrate His goodness in times of joy. Life is not easy, but I have an unconditional Friend who pours out His Love constantly regardless of my shortcomings.
Here is the Youtube version where I used my husband’s landscape photos of where we live, Victoria, BC, Canada. Near the beginning, it has a lighthouse photo (sunrise), and near the end, there is a photo of a lighthouse again – this time sunset and almost blue hour. I thought the photos depict a good way of our human cycle – if there is a beginning, there is an end. It’s a journey full of life and different colours (different circumstances). I tried to put more photos with greens with streams when the music goes up high, and when the music becomes fuller and a bit more passionate, I tried to put photos with stronger colours and vast ocean pictures. Reflecting upon this journey of life, the last photo ends with a child looking over the city from the ocean.
Thank you for sharing with us Yoomi!
For more information, check out Yoomis Spotify profile!
Today I’m introducing you to Czech pianist and composer Filip Rachůnek, living in Prague. Filip makes music using the name Fencer and has done so since 2017. He, himself, describes his music as “synthetic / chillout / new age”. With his forth album he went back to the roots and made an album with solo piano.
The album is called Nocturnal keys and was released in April 2019.
Tell us something about your track Helena’s Nocturne!
So, as the title suggests, I wrote this song for my wife Helena. She is my endless source of inspiration, which is also reflected in the song structure – it begins with a simple theme, slowly develops during the middle part and finally bursts in a twice as fast tempo to bring the main idea to the majestic end. “Helena’s Nocturne” was, just like all other songs of the album, played and recorded on my digital piano at home.
Thank you for sharing this with us Filip!