Behind the piano

Behind the piano: John Michael Anderson

Today I’m introducing you to the composer and piano player John Michael Anderson. A while back I posted about the track Waltz No.1 Dance of Dawn and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the song a bit better!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am originally from Los Angeles, California. After many years of touring and living in different parts of the world, I am once again back living and composing in LA. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I am now 35 years old. I started playing piano at the age of 10, so that makes 25 years of being a student of the instrument. I do play many other instruments. For work, I am a musical director, song-writer, and producer, so playing as many instruments as possible is a huge plus. Piano and guitar would be my most studied and capable instruments, but I also play strings, saxophone, flute, bass, drums, vocals, banjo, mandolin, ukelele, and some other auxiliary instruments as well. 

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
My father was a builder so he was always tearing down and rebuilding homes. I would work with him, and one of these demolitions had an old, beautiful, abandoned piano tucked away in a room. I convinced him to bring it home. That was my ah-ha moment. I can remember vividly, the first time I struck a note. Everything changed. It was magic, and I was hooked. It was now my secret place where I could go to, and share all my secrets, desires, and turn them into sounds. Complete freedom. 

How long have you been making piano music?
Since music was mostly something I found for myself and a whole world of exploration, I started writing melodies pretty much right away. Obviously silly at first, they quickly became something more than tinkering and I have been composing ever since. 

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I grew up in a big family, and sports were taken very seriously. Though I was good at sports and still love partaking, it was the team sports and group rules that were difficult for a more introverted type like myself. From the very first notes I ever produced musically, I immersed myself completely. Here was something beyond words that I could do completely solitary. All my answers were there, in the music. That realization that I could do this myself was liberating and has remained so.  

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I am a sucker for the Romantic era of piano, so Composers like Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Debussy, etc,. I also like some jazz as well, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Chick Corea, etc,. 
as far as modern I do enjoy Nils Frahm, Philip Glass, Yann Tiersenn, Max Ricther, Peter Broderick, to name a few.  

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 has always been Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp Minor by Chopin. I knew it’s massively well known and common, but it’s one composition which, in my opinion, captures an absolutely perfect sonic representation of pure beauty.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
My answer is simply; if there are any rules set within music making, then they all need to be broken. Music is the most free form of expression and that should be guarded and never restricted. 

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
I am fortunate enough to have my own studio, so with my own music and most of my work I record from there. If i am doing sessions with other artists or production houses then of course I will record in more commercial studios, but to have my own spot is priceless.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I think sampled, or even virtual, instruments are incredibly useful in certain situations, like demos, or comps, or when you’re composing and would like to hear certain timbres for sections and how they play with each other. We’re blessed to have them, whereas composers back in time would have to essentially imagine all these different voicings. Now, I do think, and see how they have also taken away a lot of work from actual musicians. These days it is so easy to have full compositions, like a film score for example, where before you would hire a string section, now the composer can simply write it in MIDI and call it a day. It loses a bit of soul that way.

Anything else you want to share? 
I will always be in awe of the power of music. I’ve been on tour in places where the language barrier was strong, however we were able to connect through playing music together. It is the first, and greatest language. Also, I appreciate and value so much people like yourself that take the time in sharing and connecting music with people that may not have heard it otherwise. It’s important for the audience and for the artists. So I thank you! 

The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 
As a father, I enjoy this question the most! What a profound question for a 6-year old to ask. To be honest, I am still trying to find that answer. I’ve always felt music to be something much bigger than myself. It’s omnipresent, so much so that I often feel I can’t take credit for the songs that I “created”. How a painter would color a canvas, a composer does so with time. It’s tragic but beautiful. I would say it is life’s journal, so I suppose that’s where they come from: all of our past experiences.

Thank you very much for this!

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