Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Austin Fray

Today I’m presenting you to the artist Austin Fray! I have not written about his music before, because the songs I have heard from him isn’t really a fit for the blog since it leans more towards the ambient/orchestral genre. It is indeed wonderful music, and since Austin plays the piano I of course wanted him to be a part of the Behind the piano series!

So, here we go!

Hello Austin!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am from Knoxville, Tennessee in the United States and live in Los Angeles, CA. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I started playing piano when I was 8 years old. I play a little guitar and bass, and I grew up playing saxophone in the school concert and marching band. 

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I started playing music mostly out of a fierce competition with my older brothers to keep up with what they were doing. Turned out that I really was genuinely obsessed with music in my own right! My whole family is musically gifted and it was always a big part of growing up. We were raised in the christian church and played music in worship services as soon as we were capable, 12 years old in my case. 

How long have you been making piano music?
I was drawn to improvisation and casual composition right away in my studies and started writing and recording my own chord progressions and melodies in middle school. My productions have grown over the years but the piano has and I imagine always will be my home base and sonic vocabulary. 

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
In fifth grade, I remember choosing to perform my own compositions for my music class, compared to playing written piano music. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm are quick favorites that come to mind. I’m not an avid listener of solo piano works. I typically am drawn to fuller productions. Growing up, I loved Dave Brubek and Bill Evans. On the pop side, I loved early Coldplay and Keane as they were very piano driven. 

I’m so happy that you mention artists like Coldplay and Keane here! They make piano music as well, in their own way.

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? 
My favorite piece to play is Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb. Such a stunning composition! And of course, Claire de Lune, which baffles me in it’s genius as well. I took a break from my Jazz training to study these two pieces in order to get into music schools. 

How do you record your music?
I own an older Yamaha U3 piano that I record in my home studio. I use AKG C414s and Lauten Audio condensers to capture the upright piano from the front with the outer panels removed. 

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
In music, I believe that putting your own art first and communicating your human experience through your music is the ultimate goal. The means of getting there are secondary. Following trends and emulating your icons and idols can be a start, but the good stuff happens when those mechanisms are transcended and your humanity seeps through the notes. 

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
Sampled instruments are a great way to sketch your compositions or add impossible effects into your work. Samples do things people can’t do and people do things samples can’t do. It’s important to know which universe to live in for any given musical idea. Neither are bad, but trying to pass off something made for a human, given to a machine to play, doesn’t normally go over well. 

And the questions from my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
My songs come from the inner 10 year old boy that is completely sucked into the story of ultimate goodness, selfless sacrifice, courage, or generally, heroism. Now, my songs are aiming at the same things but hitting a lense of adult experience that casts a nuance to the conversation. 

You told me a bit of your work as a media composer in LA, how did all of that start out?
I started working on indie and student films in high school with some friends from school. I was the sound guy and the composer. I followed this rabbit trail into college and began writing trailer music after a profound internship in Los Angeles before my sophomore year. By the end of college I had a major studio theatrical trailer placement to put on the refrigerator.

And what happened after moving to LA and finishing college?
After moving to LA to intern for Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions, I got a job as an assistant at Bleeding Fingers Music and then was promoted a few months later to be a staff composer. This culminated in scoring a feature film “The Parts You Lose” and scoring a roughly a dozen episodes of FOX’s The Simpsons from 2017 thru 2018, including the season premiere of season 29 “The Serfsons”.

Tell us a bit of how all of this had an effect on you!
I was doing all this in my early 20s and being exposed to vast amounts of stress and deadlines in a fast moving scoring company working on all kinds of media from comedy, animation, film, reality, scripted drama. This was all incredible except that my artist side was left on the sideline as I was primarily a member of a larger team. That’s why my album “Origins” is so significant to me. I had years of unwritten music that needed to come out. It’s a commentary and instrumental journal on my personal journey through the beginning of my adult life when my career at Bleeding Fingers was such a loud voice drowning out the smaller inner voice. 

Thank you very much Austin for sharing your story with us!

For more information on Austin, check out these following links:
Instagram / Twitter / Spotify

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