Behind the piano: Marc-André Pépin

Behind the piano: Marc-André Pépin

Today it’s time to get Behind the piano with the composer and piano player Marc-André Pépin!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I was born in a small village (Saint-Benjamin) located in the French-speaking province of Québec in Canada. I am now living in Québec city.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I am playing piano since I am 8 years old, it is more than fifty years ago.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
I was very attracted by music early in my life and since my older sister was learning the piano I asked my parents for piano lessons. I started with a person who was teaching piano and at the same time was the church organist in our small town.

How long have you been making piano music? Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I learned the piano in a classical manner, I mean, I learned how to read music and I studied music from classical composers (Bach, Mozart, …), practicing scales and technique. But at the same time, I spent a lot of my practice time trying to play by ears songs heard on the radio. At the same time, I started to compose short melodies but I was only when I was a teenager that I started to compose more seriously and to write my compositions. At that time, I was mostly imitating pieces from the great classical composers.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I have always listened to a lot of classical music. I like very much piano music but also orchestral music and I think that I am influenced a lot by orchestral music in the way I write music. On the classical piano side, I like the music from Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov. On the jazz side, I like Keith Jarrett, George Gershwin, Michel Legrand.

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?
This happens to me often when I just finished composing a new piece. I might repeat it over and over not only to learn it but because I like it so much. So practicing for me is not a big struggle.

What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
For me, there are no specific rules that has to be broken but any rule could be broken if it makes the music more interesting. I know that the word « interesting » is very subjective and it is the privilege (or responsibility) of the composer to decide what is interesting and what is not. At the same time it is a risk because the audience sometimes might not agree. As a composer, I have to live with this risk.

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
Most of the time, I record my music at my home studio. I hire a sound engineer and a producer. I like to have advices from outsiders on the sound recording and on choosing the best interpretation. Exceptionally, my fourth album « Tempus Fugit » was recorded in a very comfortable and modern studio. It was a great experience but more expensive.

The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
Children are really good at asking adult hard questions. I cannot tell where they come from. They seem to come from nowhere and without any reasons, sometimes, a melody simply start playing in my head. Most of the time though, music comes when I sit at the piano and start to improvise. Then, when I find a good idea, I develop it and complete the song.

Thank you Marc-André!

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