Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Julia Andersson

A while back I introduced you to the track Tilia Cordata by the Finish composer Julia Andersson, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I grew up in a small town in Southern Finland. Then I moved up a further bit north to study and work, to the west coast (Ostrobothnia), where I now live.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I’ve been playing the piano on and off for about 16 years, since I was 9 years old. In my teens I practiced playing drums, guitar and bass as well. Eventually I got more and more interested in piano and wanted to focus all my energy on piano instead :). Oh and last year I actually started with cello lessons, which I hope to be able to continue in the future. But right now, I can’t find the time.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
It actually all started with me, as a kid, hearing someone play ”Für Elise” on the piano and I was mesmerized, haha – so I asked my parents if I could start with piano lessons. But you know, It was one thing to start going to classical piano lessons when you’re around 9 years old, where everything is quite strict, there’s many rules and there’s a definitive right or wrong way to play. It’s another thing when you actually find the spark within you to create music. Then you start improvising, playing and composing without any boundaries or rules. That was only a couple years ago for me – so maybe I would say that’s when I started playing music.

How long have you been making piano music?
It’s hard to say, because for a long time I had a lot of compositional ideas, but I never really recorded or wrote them down. But to put it more directly, I would say it’s been two years since I started making piano music.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
Oh wow – that was actually quite an amazing and enlightening moment for me. Because for a long time I was so afraid of what people would think, or that it wouldn’t be good enough, or that no one would even bother to listen to my music. Then I realized none of that matters, and I’m just going to compose music that I like to play, because I find it meditative, and calming. It was a place for me to put all my emotions and feelings that I had bottled up. A few people came along and said they really liked what they heard, that’s when I decided to record it and thought; I want to release some of my works. Maybe others would find it soothing too.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
Hania Rani is definitely a big inspiration for me. Her debut album ”Esja” is just breathtaking. Some others of my favorites include Bill Laurance, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Joep Beving and Benjamin Gustafsson.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
I love playing Erik Satie’s works, his Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes. Also, there’s this one of my new songs I’m currently playing a lot over and over, it’s called Wings and I really enjoy playing it. I performed it a few times live already but haven’t gotten around to recording it just yet (but soon!).

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
All of them! Write/make music that sounds good to you. Trust your own ears. Dare to think outside the box. Also, don’t get stuck in thinking you have to adapt to a certain genre; just do whatever you want!

How do you record your music?
Just by myself, or with help of friends and acquaintances, at school. I’ve been enrolled in two different music schools, one in Denmark and one here in Finland. So far I’ve been recording my music with the school’s equipment and their pianos. However, my dream is to one day set up my own home studio with an upright piano (and preferably a lot of synthesizers!).

What’s your take on sampled instruments?
So far I haven’t used any sampled instruments. I prefer the real deal! Especially with the piano. All the details are in the acoustics – pedals, hammers, resonating strings, maybe a little out-of-tune keys, squeaky chairs and all of that! I love it. With all that said, I know VSTIs and samples are of really good quality nowadays – they offer endless possibilities which can give a real creativity boost, for people who are into that kind of thing.

The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 

Such a good question. I have wondered that myself. Usually music comes to me when I am away from the instrument. If I’m looking at a painting, or I’m outside in nature, sitting by a lake, maybe even in my dreams when I’m sleeping. So essentially, I would say they come from the forest, the trees and the sky and everything else around me.

Anything else you want to share?
As we are currently going through difficult, uncertain times, I just want to say to everyone; be gentle with yourself. You are good no matter how you are managing this experience. You don’t have to feel as if you have to be as productive, or effective, and that’s okay. This will pass!

Thank you very much for this Julia!

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