Behind the piano: Nathan Madsen

Behind the piano: Nathan Madsen

Today we go Behind the piano to meed the American composer and piano player Nathan Madsen!

Where are you from? And where do you live? 
I grew up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area but now live in Austin, TX. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
I started playing the piano at a very young age but for the first few years I was just improvising. This was in kindergarten. I couldn’t read music but I recognized how to make certain sounds on the keyboard that I enjoyed. My grandfather, a professor of music at a local seminary, recognized my natural ability and got me into piano lessons. I kept up piano for a number of years then dropped out to start saxophone in middle school. I also play some ukulele, guitar, trombone, flute and clarinet. Singing in choirs and quartets is also something I’ve done. But I would say my two main instruments are piano and saxophone. 

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
It started at a young age just making things up and then grew from there. I come from a very musical family, with several college professors or professional musicians on my mother’s side. Being in choir, ensembles and discussing music was something we would do often. 

How long have you been making piano music?
For about 30 years. 

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
My mother has a story of me playing one of the Beethoven sonatas and she heard me do something that wasn’t in the piece. “It sounds better this way” was my response when she asked about it. I don’t know if I ever “realized” I could make music, I’ve just always done it. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I’m a huge Windham Hill fan. I grew up listening to my dad’s copy of “The First Ten Years” collection over and over. I really like George Winston, Michele McLaughlin, David Nevue and so many others. 

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
Oddly enough, no. I tend to play something new just about every time. Or just improvise. I do play a lot of out the Real Book since I spent years being in jazz ensembles and combos. 

What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
I’m a big fan of knowing the rules then letting go of that structure and doing what feels right. What sounds good. We often forget that music theory came afterwards. Composers and musicians did what they felt sounded good and worked for their own time and after that, academics came along and placed labels on those common practices. So while it’s certainly useful to know and study music theory, following your heart and soul is usually the best call. After all, we’re making music to touch and impact others.  

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
I run my own studio out of my home and have a full rig. I perform, record and produce everything I do. 

What’s your take on sampled instruments?
They’re a valuable tool that can be highly effective when used well. Especially with regards to my orchestral or large(r) ensemble work, sampled instruments are vital to pulling that sort of thing off. Most of my clients don’t have the time or budget to hire a full orchestra every time they want music. Virtual instruments help make that happen for them. 

Anything else you want to share? 
I really appreciate all of the support and listens from everyone! It means so much!

Thank you very much Nathan!

For more information, check out Nathans website!