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!

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