Behind the piano: Natalia Johansson

Behind the piano: Natalia Johansson

I have recently written about the first two tracks (ever) by Swedish composer Natalia Johansson, and I thinks it’s about time we got to know the person behind the name a bit better.

Where are you from? And where do you live? 
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When I was four me and my family moved to Sweden. I’m now living in a small town named Bollebygd, a few miles outside of Gothenburg.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
I began when I was three years old, and when I was nine I lost interest, unfortunately. At the age of 23 I picked it up again. I don’t play any other instruments, I wish I did though. Cello is another favorite instrument that I wish I had learned. I would like to buy one someday but I don’t think my neighbours would be so thrilled about that. Maybe an electric cello? 

Tell us about how you started playing music.
It all began with a piano that my family had at our house, I just started picking out melodies by ear and so it went on. At an early age I was highly interested in music, especially film music so I think it just came natural to play the piano.

How long have you been playing piano music? 
I’ve played regularly since i was 23, so it’s been approximately 11 years now. 

Tell us something about that moment when you realized when you could make songs yourself! 
11 years ago I was learning new songs (covers) on the piano and there was this song that was really hard to learn, and I have a bit (or maybe a lot) of bad patience so I just found myself improvising something completely else instead. I used to say that I accidentally composed my first song because of that, because it was never intentional. This may sound like a cliché but when i realized I had composed a song I immediately felt that “this is what I’m supposed to do, I’m a composer!”

What are your favorite artists in the piano genre? 
The first artist that inspired me to start playing piano again was Yann Tiersen, and a short while later I also discovered the beautiful works by Olafur Arnalds. Other favorites that I’ve discovered along the way are Fabrizio Paterlini, Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran and my latest discover is Joep Beving. 

Is there any song that you can play over and over again? Your own or someone else’s?
I’t would be one of my upcoming releases called “La Morte”. It’s a tune that is really special to me because it is the first piece that was composed as a direct result of a particular tragic event. 

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
First I would need to declare that I don’t know much about rules in the piano genre because I haven’t been trained in music theory or piano techniques. But I think that you should not be discouraged by that, just go and do your thing since music is a very personal experience.  I guess I have broken a number of ”rules” but it’s not something that I think of, I think more in terms of expressing a certain feeling and making other people feel that too.

How do you record your music? 
At the time I have a little studio in my home, and a digital piano that I record with through Logic Pro X and a piano plugin. I would love to have a real piano though and that’s what I’m aiming for to have in the future.

What’s your take on sampled instruments? 
There are really good samples out there, and since I don’t have a real piano I use them a lot. I have also composed a number of pieces for piano and strings and used samples for them as well. However I still don’t think it’s the same as using the real thing so I will try to make live recordings instead for my future releases. I think it’s really hard to get the same warmth and presence with a sampled piano as you get on a live recording with a real piano. 

The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 
That was a really tough but great question! I think it comes from a deep and hidden space within me, that only gets in the light when I sit in front of the piano. It’s an intimate space full of thoughts, questions and answers regarding everything about life, but at the same time the calmest place in the world to be in. That’s what I think at least!

Thank you for sharing all of this with us!

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