Where are you from?
I was born and raised in a small rural village in the north-west of England. There wasn’t really much to do around here as a kid, so we usually passed the time by exploring the moorlands surrounding us, or in my case playing music. It was a great upbringing. When I was 23 I moved to Australia with my girlfriend for a year to work before coming back home.
How long have you been playing piano, and do you play other instruments?
I’ve played the piano for around 18 years now. The first instrument I learned to play was the trumpet but I wasn’t very good at it (I never really gave it much of a chance). I was also classically trained as a singer for 12 years but never felt as comfortable as I did at the piano.
Tell us about how you started playing music.
My family aren’t musically orientated at all so growing up I was sort of left to my own devices musically. My dad always had Elton John records and the sort hanging around that I grew up listening to but nobody played an instrument. I was headhunted at school to be a Cathedral chorister when I was around 7 and it was there that my passion kickstarted. The first piece I learned to play on the piano was “Walking in the Air”. I couldn’t read music so well at that point so I had to study and learn it by ear. Looking back now, I’m so grateful for this time in my life because it taught me about the fundamentals of music – it should always be fun and you should always challenge yourself. I was given a scholarship to do my piano studies, working my way up the grades. I was never a fan of the graded system because I never enjoyed any of the pieces. I wanted to be creative and write my own music. The was one piece I liked playing though, “The Buccaneer” by Malcolm Arnold.
How long have you been making piano music?
I’ve been making solely piano music on and off for about 10 years. I write predominantly music for film and tv so I’m usually working with all kinds of different instruments and an array of sample libraries. All of my music starts at the piano though.
Tell us something about that moment you realised you could make songs yourself!
To be honest, from the first moment I could play a full song at the piano I realised that I could and wanted to write my own music. I used to try and write some choral music when I was younger, experimenting with some unusual harmonies. It was now just about gaining the musical tools needed to do this indefinitely. I’ve spent my life doing so, from studying recording and production at University to accumulating recording gear and software. We’re all learning about ourselves every day and it’s important to always move forward.
What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
Although he doesn’t fall into the traditional “piano genre” category, I really really love the work of composer Thomas Newman. The way he uses delicate harmony in his music is just beyond beautiful and the little intricate piano moments you do hear in his music are just alluring. So inspirational! Of course, there’s modern piano artists who I love like Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Jon Hopkins, the list goes on! But composers like Brahms and Debussy have left a pretty much infinite legacy that inspires me every day. Did I mention Rachmaninoff?
Is there a song you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
I actually have a piece coming out in the next couple of months that’s based on an idea I always have to play. It’s somewhat my ‘piano tester’ piece – when you sit down at a different piano for the first time and want to hear how it sounds in comparison. I think we all have ‘that’ musical piece. I’ve had it in the back of my mind for about 8 years now but never really knew what to do with it, until now.
What rules in making music need to be broken?
I think that if you do personally have any rules in writing music then you need to get rid of them. For me personally, I keep my music linear and refrain from a generic structure. Obviously there are rules when it comes to production that should be adhered to, like not boosting certain frequencies that will ruin your mix, but generally music should be a freeform of expression where anything and everything goes.
How do you record your music?
I record all of my music in a studio within my house. I’ve spent the best part of 7 years accumulating lots of gear and software that enables me to do the job I need to. It’s a small box room where I can just lock myself away in for hours (sometimes days) on end and get lost in the creative process. I try to do what I can with what I have but if I’m in need of something I’ll usually try and source a musician elsewhere, send it off to somebody I know or problem solve till I find a solution. It’s all part of the creative process.
What’s your take on sampled instruments?
Sampled instruments are great! Obviously you want to try and be as organic as possible when it comes to writing but for someone like myself, I don’t personally have the budget to hire out a full orchestra and book them into a studio and so sample libraries help me with that. It’s a skill in itself making these sorts of libraries sound realistic and it’s also a lot of fun.
Anything else you want to share?
I just want to thank you for letting me be a part of this blog. If anyone would like to listen to my music I’d love for you to give me a follow on Spotify and Facebook and I’ll return the favour back. It’s always nice to network and share music with like-minded people. I also have a website and blog where I have some useful information for artists at all different stages of their journey (stuff like helping with writer’s block, learning the basics of music etc.). I also have some free music up there for film makers too so it’s a hub of information and resources!
And the questions from my oldest son:
Where do all your songs come from?
I think all of my songs come from a moment in my life that evoked a certain feeling or emotion, whether that’s past or present. Each song is some form of nostalgic way to revert myself back to a moment, even if I don’t consciously know it!
Thank you very much for this Barry!