Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Rachel LaFond

So, the week continues! I have previously written about Rachel LaFond here, so check that out if you havn’t. For those of you who have; let’s ask Rachel some questions!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I’m originally from Seattle, but during my career I’ve lived and travelled all over the world. I lived in New Zealand for three and a half years, and composed music for a year while backpacking in Oceania, Asia, and Europe. I am currently living in Austin, Texas and LOVING the music, the food, and the weather.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I began playing the piano as a toddler on my mother’s lap – she was a piano teacher. I am also a singer, and studied both piano and voice side-by-side at University. I’ve dabbled in some other instruments, such as flute, violin, and ukulele – I find that my long experience and comfort with the piano make picking up other instruments pretty easy to be honest! It’s a great instrument from which to branch out.

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I grew up surrounded by and steeped in music of all kinds, because my mother was a very active piano teacher. In fact, until I started teaching piano myself when I was 11, I had to compete with her for time at the piano! Weekends were my absolute favorite because I could play and enjoy the piano for hours and hours.

How long have you been making piano music?
I wrote my very first piece, Loving in the Rain, when I met my life partner David in 2013. A year later, I composed my second piece Redemption. But it wasn’t until I was backpacking around the world that I began to write music regularly and think of myself as a composer. 

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
Really the big life-impacting moment was when I first arrived in New Zealand. I came to rest in a beautiful cabin in the hills in New Zealand that happened to have a piano. It was my first time touching a piano in months, and it was the most beautiful reunion! Fortunately, the piano didn’t have much in the way of sheet music, so I ended up writing new music simply because it was the only way I was going to be able to play much. I finished one piece in that cabin: Ember Warmth – Twin Peaks. I then travelled around New Zealand and played my first three pieces everywhere I could possibly find a piano to sit at. The folks who listened and heard my story were so encouraging, and again and again I was told, “You MUST record these so you can share them more widely!” It took hearing that message a LOT before I finally believed in myself enough to call up Stebbing Recording in Auckland and schedule a recording session to “test record” those three pieces. That experience lit a fire of purpose under me! I carried on with my backpacking adventure, through Asia and Europe, and wrote the rest of my first album Wandering Soul on borrowed pianos, on the streets, anywhere I could beg or borrow a piano.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I grew up listening to David Lanz, he and my mother were friends so he had a huge impact on my early development as a composer. I also love the circular rhythms and melodies of Ludovico Einaudi – I think those two artists are probably my biggest influences.

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? 
Whatever’s new and fresh for me usually gets the most of my attention. I tend to be very driven and focused in my work, so when I play it’s usually to accomplish something, like get ready for a tour or a recording session. If a piece is “in progress”, that’s definitely the one I’ll go to first!

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
I believe there’s no way music “should” be. I think if you like it, if it makes your soul dance in some way, then it has worth. There are so many myriad ways to make music that has value to yourself or other humans – music is as varied as humans are! Unfortunately, formal musical training can often focus on the one right way to do, play, or hear something, and it took me a bit of work to break out of that mindset. 

How do you record your music?
I record my music myself in my home recording studio on my Yamaha C7 in the company of 25 home-made sound panels and bass traps! I prepare in much the same way I would if I were going to a professional studio, because of course my piano has to be tuned and prepared before each recording session. After the piano technician has visited, I get a few days with the piano in peak performance to record as much as I wish, in exactly the environment that works for me, on my own instrument. During my massive year-long project The 52, I was recording every 4-6 weeks. These days, I record every 2-3 months.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
Very high-quality sampled instruments in the hands of a meticulous producer can be quite nice! For me though, they usually can’t compare to the sound of real, acoustic instruments. More often than not, hearing sampled instruments in music puts me off, simply because I’ve had the privilege of hearing so much great live, acoustic music in my time as a musician. I have worked with the amazing Mike Bloemendal to put out some really cool music using sampled instruments, like my spooky Halloween album Well Past Midnight.

Anything else you want to share? 
Yes! Earlier this year, I completed a monumental year-long project called The 52 in which I released a single and custom artwork every Monday for a year. It was a massive undertaking, and I grew so much as a composer during the span of it. You can learn more about it and hear the music at https://rachellafond.com/the52

The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
I believe beautiful music exists inside of each and every one of us, and we have only to listen to hear it <3

Thank you very much for you participation Rachel! It only took a year after I first asked you 😉

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