Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Andy Feldman

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I grew up in New Jersey, not far too far from the beach. I still live in NJ, but a bit further north now.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I was always interested in the piano as a kid and eventually gravitated towards other instruments as well. In addition to piano and other keyboards, I can also play trumpet, guitar, drums, and some other assorted instruments.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
My family always had a piano in the house when I was growing up. As a young kid, I would always sit at the bench and hit random notes to make sounds. My parents eventually started to teach me simple tunes and by the age of 5, I was taking lessons.

How long have you been making piano music?
I always had an interest in jazz, blues, and improvisation so I always was fooling around on the piano and making things up. I don’t know when exactly I started thinking of those creations as songs though. I always initially took my popular style music more seriously than my instrumental music until I was in college and started posting to SoundCloud. I found my piano music was getting more attention, so I also began to pay more attention to it. Eventually I took what were essentially improvisations and made them into more well formed pieces that became my first EP, and some of the songs on my more recent releases.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
It was very gradual process. My piano teacher always encouraged me to start recording various ideas I had, or to use recordings to make backing tracks to try to improvise over. I had a few friends who were interested in recording technology as well, and started using those tools to get an idea out of my head so that I could move on to the next one without the fear of forgetting it. Like I said, I originally focused on writing pop songs, and didn’t think too much of my instrumental music, but I always had a love of improvising and was constantly playing whatever came to mind.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I never gravitated towards the classical genres much so I didn’t have much exposure to this “piano genre” in the traditional sense. I take a lot of inspiration from soundtrack music, jazz, and even pop. Nobuo Uematsu was probably a very early inspiration for my piano music – I always loved the soundtracks to the Final Fantasy video games and learned many of those songs on piano. More recently, the soundtrack to the movie “Her” which was written by Arcade Fire, was an album that really stood out to me. It’s beautiful and simple. Lots of great use of space and some interesting tones. In highschool, I had a phase where I listened to The Doors constantly, and Ray Manzarek was a big influence. I loved hearing someone use the piano and other keyboards as a lead instrument. I guess I was always jealous of guitars having all of the fun stuff in most popular music. In the jazz world, Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, and Gene Harris were guys I listened to a ton.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
Usually I play whatever my latest “song” is. I often start by improvising something, and then playing that over and over, over the span of weeks or more, eventually refining it into a more structured piece.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
All rules need to be broken, but you have to understand the rules first to understand why you are breaking them and be able to do it tastefully and with purpose.

How do you record your music?
I record a lot of music myself at home. I have a mini studio and an assortment of instruments. But I’ve also gone to various studios locally or in NYC to record for myself or for others.

What’s your take on sampled instruments?
Samples instruments are great. Just like anything else, they are tools – when used appropriately and purposefully, they can 100% be the right instrument for the job. The piano is a particularly hard instrument to sample, but again it depends on the context. A sampled piano in a pop song may cut through the mix nicely, whereas a sampled piano in a solo piano piece might sound a bit unrealistic. But there are some truly amazing VSTs out there these days!

Anything else you want to share?
You can check out my music anywhere music is available. I also play in a funk/jam band based in Asbury Park, NJ, called Secret Sound. We’ve played with acts like Umphrey’s McGee, Dark Star Orchestra, and The Black Crowes. You can also check us out anywhere you routinely get your music!

And, of course, the question my five year old son one asked me:
Where do all your songs come from? 

It’s hard to say where the songs come from. Some are thoughtfully crafted, others come from the space that exists somewhere between thinking really hard about something and not paying any attention at all.

Thank you for these answers Andy! It’s been great talking to you!

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