Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Matthew Paull

Today we’ll go Behind the piano and meet the composer of the track Muriwai, Matt Paull!

Let’s go!

How did you come up with your artist name?
As it happens, in every other aspect of my life people call me ‘Matt’, so when it came to choosing a name to release piano music under,  I thought I’d do something a bit different and release it under my full name.

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I’m from Taupo, in New Zealand, but I’ve been living in Berlin since 2016.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I come from a family of music teachers, so I started playing Piano when I was 8 years old, then I added Drums, Guitar, Trombone, Vocals and a few other instruments to the roster throughout the years.

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I started with regular Classical Piano lessons, working my way up through the graded exam system, before studying Jazz Piano at the University of Auckland.

How long have you been making piano music?
I’ve been on and off experimenting with writing music since I was a teenager, but after a long break from that, in 2020 it suddenly became more interesting to me, and I began writing pieces that I felt I’d actually like to share with people.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
It was during 2020 that I wrote and released my first full-length piano piece, ‘Dreamboat’, and it was the reaction to that from friends and colleagues in the music industry that made me think I might actually be not too bad at this.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
In the age of Playlists I find you end up listening to so many different artists that it’s harder to pick out favourites, but I would say some stand-out favourites of mine include Nils Frahm, Tom Ashbrook, Akira Kosemura, and from the wider pianist/composer sphere; Bill Evans, Joe Hisaishi and Brad Mehldau.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
I wouldn’t say over and over again, but sometimes I tend to warm up on something like ‘Ambre’ by Nils Frahm, it’s a beautiful piece of music where the harmonic shape is so fluid that in the middle of playing it you tend to forget what the original key sounded like, things like this get my head in the right space for writing.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
If anyone ever tells you you need to record piano music a certain way to be successful, walk away. I’ve had success with recordings on pianos where I had to take my shoes off and stuff my socks under the sustain pedal to reduce the pedal noise, or softened the hammer sound with pillow cases and cardigans. I’ve even recorded piano using the voice-memo feature on an iPhone. That ended up on someone’s album and it sounded fantastic.  

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
If anyone ever tells you you need to record piano music a certain way to be successful, walk away. I’ve had success with recordings on pianos where I had to take my shoes off and stuff my socks under the sustain pedal to reduce the pedal noise, or softened the hammer sound with pillow cases and cardigans. I’ve even recorded piano using the voice-memo feature on an iPhone. That ended up on someone’s album and it sounded fantastic.  

How do you record your music?
I usually record it all myself, I just need to find places with a piano I like. My first song ‘Dreamboat’ was recorded on a good friends piano in a small studio in Berlin, my next two releases were recorded in my hometown at a local performance venue, shout-out to the Great Lake Center in Taupo.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
Other than being a pianist, I also work as a producer, so in that world sampled instruments are of course a way of life. When it comes to the piano genre, I think there is some fantastic software out there like Keyscape, Noire etc, but for recordings I prefer to use the real thing, although the software does come in handy for writing and making demos.  

Anything else you want to share?
Thank you Johan for the questions, and thank you to anyone out there who has taken the time to listen to my music, it means the world to me.

The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?

Great question! Usually when it comes to chords, I can come up with chord progressions I like quite quickly, when it comes to melodies I have to let that happen a bit more naturally, a lot of the time I’ll think of melodies when I’m not at the piano, so I’ll sing it into my phone so I won’t forget it.  

Thank you very much for your participation, Matt!

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