Behind the piano: Michael Ottosson
Where are you from? And where do you live?
I come from Sweden and grew up on the countryside really. Didn’t realize it then, but it gave me so much in terms of like everything. Nowadays, after having lived in Stockholm and Gothenburg for ten years, I can’t wait to head back into the wild again.
How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I’ve been playing piano for as long as I can remember. I have some photos of me as a kid, standing up trying to reach the keys, just dressed in a diaper! So music has been there forever. I started playing the viola when I was six years old and did that for ten years. At the age of 9, I started taking piano lessons and ultimately, that was my calling.
Tell us about how you started playing music.
We had a fantastic upright piano at home and when I was a teenager, I started experimenting with electric pianos and synthesizers as well. I had classical training, both on the viola and piano, right from the start. It’s been an invaluable background for me as a musician, composer and arranger but I didn’t believe it back then. However, all those years reading music and playing in orchestras eventually payed off!
How long have you been making piano music?
I’ve always found myself sketching out ideas by the piano. I’ve composed and produced music in different styles, but it always starts by the piano. It wasn’t until very recently I realized the piano itself was enough. I could tell a story and having it all done by just a piano. I guess things happen in life where your focus shifts and I this was really such a moment.
Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
Small fragments of musical ideas have always popped up in my head, for as long as I can remember. But yeah, that first time I was able to write it down, combine it with something else and then compose a song…to be able to express something, and see/hear a reaction in yourself or someone else…that’s just fantastic!
What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I listen to a lot of Joep Beving’s work. Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and Chad Lawson also find their way into my playlists. There are so many incredibly talented new composers as well and I’m happy to see this genre grow even more!
Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
I tend just to let my fingers go and not think about what I’m playing. I’ve always been really bad at practice my weak spots. Throughout school and ever since, I find myself just ’sketching’…maybe it’s all just some therapy to make me feel better. And, that was sort of the idea behind my new album ”In time we’ll be”. Songs that comes from within without all these filters and the brain stopping it before it even has a chance to be heard. But I love experimenting in G minor, so a lot of my songs starts there.
What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
Hm, I don’t know about rules, but I can say that music has to have an origin. It has to come to life because of something. It has to reflect something and it has to be true. The listener has to feel like ’this means something’. As long as that’s in place, let’s brake all the rules there is! Let’s get inspired by each other and the way we make music and let’s never be afraid to bring out the flaws and imperfections.
How do you record your music?
I’m recording everything by myself, at home. ”In time we’ll be” was recorded on my Yamaha upright and mixed by me. In bigger projects I do all the writing at home but use studios for recording overdubs and other parts.
Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I love them! I love what they’ve become and what they can do to help us in early production. But, in the end, nothing beats the original. The way we play our instruments is way too personal and can never be captured in a sampled instrument. On my album, all the squeaky noises from the piano, my breathing, my somewhat bad sustain pedal and the hammers hitting the strings, it all just made these songs more alive and true to me.
Anything else you want to share?
Music is the way we can communicate truly in a world of so much distortion and stress. Whether you write music, or listen to it, to laugh, cry, believe, hope, love or whatever…just do it and do it with all your heart!
Thank you for this wonderful talk Michael!
For more information about Michael and his music, please check out these following links:
Instagram / Website / Spotify