Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Jacob LaValle

A couple of months ago we all listened to Jacob LaValle and his tune Night walk. Today it’s time to get to know Jacob a bit better!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I live in Nashville, TN in the US, but I grew up in the state of Florida. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I have been playing the piano since age 7, and am 31 now, so many more years on the piano than off. It often feels like an extension of my self. I do also play the guitar and drums some, but not on a professional level.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
I started playing music as a 2nd grader taking piano lessons, but I was always the student who never practiced what I was supposed to. My mom used to make me stay at the piano for 30 minutes every day, but we had a digital piano so I would wear headphones when practicing. I rarely practiced as I was supposed to, but would just messed around with the keys instead, basically trying to play songs I knew and liked. This is largely how I learned to write.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
A moment I realized I could make my own songs was one day when I was at that same keyboard, I think I was around 12 years old, and my first little two hand composition just kind of came out. Although I’ve never recorded it or written it down, I can still remember it to this day.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I’m really enjoying all the exploration that is going on taking from the influences of both classical and popular genres. Some of my favorites doing this today are Nils Frahm, Dustin O’Halloran, Joep Beving, Alexandra Streliski among others. I think it’s an exciting time for piano music, there’s a lot of tasteful things being done that reach the modern listener in a deep but relatable way. 

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
Usually when I sit down at the piano, I will usually have a few chords that I’ve been playing around with recently, which I’ll start with and just kind of see where the inspiration flows. It acts as a kind of springboard into playing and composing, but those chords are constantly being changed out for other ones. 

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
Great question! I think any rules which stand in the way of the communication of a certain sought after feeling are the ones that need to be broken. I know that is a pretty philosophically approached answer, but I think it’s also how innovation in music happens. When the set of current rules, or toolbox, is lacking in it’s ability to communicate a feeling effectively, new things will begin to be created out of necessity.

How do you record your music?
I record my own music in my home studio on my Yamaha U3. It is acoustically treated and is able to produce the sound I desire for a softer upright tone. When I want a grand piano sound though, there are some great studios in Nashville that I like to rely on.  

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I think they are tools, just like anything else. They can be used well or they can be used poorly. That being said, there is an emotional component that I believe cannot be fully reproduced by samples, as you have the full dynamic between a human being, their instrument, and the music they’re playing coming together for full resonance of all those emotional subtleties that make music, music. It’s hard to top real musicians for emotional expression.

And, as always the question my five year old son once asked me:
Where do all your songs come from? 

Great question from your son! Well my belief is that we are all created in the image of God. So that makes us like him in certain ways, like creativity. I believe the songs I make are just small recreations of what God has already made. Small reflections of the beauties in his original design. That’s part of what makes it so much fun to create, I know I’m just a very small participant in these beauties that are much grander than myself. 

Thank you Jacob for your answers! Now we know you a little better; as planned!

For more information, check out these following sites:
Instagram / Website / Spotify

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