Behind the piano: Slowburner

Behind the piano: Slowburner

I recently spotted a song by Slowburner called Sunday joy, and I was interested to get to know more about the artist behind the name.

What’s your real name? 
My real name is Élvio Rodrigues.

How did you come up with your artist name?
That was actually a long process. More than I would like to admit. Maybe “process” is not the right term. I wasn’t doing anything in particular to come up with a name. I think I was more like waiting for a name to come to me. I think not having a good name for the project, delayed its creation. Which might sound a bit strange. Now, the way I see it, ‘Slowburner’ is almost like a synonym to ‘Élvio Rodrigues’. At the end of the day, I could’ve probably named it ‘Élvio Rodrigues’. But then again, I think ‘Slowburner’ has a nice ring to it.

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I was actually born in Venezuela, but I grew up in Madeira island, Portugal. I moved to Lisbon to study when I was 18 and I’ve been here ever since.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I think I’ve been playing the piano for 4 years now. I used to play guitar and bass mainly. But I’ve always wanted to play drums. Actually, it all started with me wanting to play drums. So it’s funny that that’s one of the instruments I haven’t found a way to incorporate in my life. I’ll need to find a way to get my hands on a drum kit eventually.

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I had a few friends that owned a guitar, and I think I tried to play it a few times. I probably sucked at it, but I guess what happened internally was far more important than what happened on the outside. I was hooked. I then bought a guitar, learned a few songs and then started creating my own music, and simply never stopped creating.

How long have you been making piano music?
I think I’ve been making piano music as long as I started playing piano. That would be around 4 years ago. Although before starting to play an 88 digital piano, I had a couple of years while I still played the guitar but was also experimenting composing piano songs with an electronic small piano. Then my interest progressed to something closer to the real piano. My approach with instruments is to right away create music with it, without caring too much if technically the approach is the correct one or not.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I think pretty early on I realized I could make songs myself. I think at the time I didn’t really care much about what It was or what it meant. I just enjoyed creating stuff and that’s just what I did. It was a way of expressing myself. And it still is. One of the moments I recall that got me closer to actually being able to make songs myself, was when I started experimenting with more than one guitar at the “same time”. I used to record one guitar to my mobile phone (I’m not even talking about voice memos, this was a service that you could call to and record something), and then experiment playing a different part while listening to the first part. I think that allowed me to explore composing more complex stuff. Or at least not as simple as just playing chords.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
Obviously Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm are the first names that pop-up on my mind. Both are the ones that I’ve known for the longest time. But there are “newer” artists that I enjoy a lot as well like, Greg Haines, Lambert, Sergio Diaz de Rojas, Tim Linghaus, etc.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
To be honest, no. In general, when I sit at the piano, it’s because I’m going to practice my own stuff, and in that case I just play what I know I need to practice, otherwise it’s just me letting myself go and start messing around with new ideas.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
All of them? Well, although I’m a bit anti-rules in terms of music making, it wouldn’t be totally true for me to say that I don’t follow any rules, because if I didn’t, my music would need to sound completely different, right? I can’t really say that I don’t follow rules, since I don’t have anything unorthodox to show. That being said, I think what I meant is that I don’t follow rules consciously. And when I feel I’m starting to do something the same way over and over, I’ll change it up.

How do you record your music?
I record my music myself at home in the living room. I’m not even sure if I should call it a home studio.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
Overall, I prefer to play with “real” instruments, but the funny part is that on most Slowburner songs I’m actually using sampled instruments. So, my take on this is, if playing a sampled instrument is the difference between someone being able to record something and put it out into the world vs not being able to do it at all, then go for it and use sampled instruments. If the circumstances in my life were a bit different right now, I would probably try to move away from sampled instruments. But that’s not where I’m at right now. And although I’ve battled a lot with myself because of this, I’m  currently in a mindset on which I just want to create honest music with what I have at hand. Maybe things change in the future and I’ll be able to use more “real” instruments. Only time will tell.

Anything else you want to share?
Thank you to everyone who read this far. Well, maybe this: ’Sunday mornings are for piano’ was released on June 7th 2019. Go listen to that and follow me on all the social networks if you want to be notified about what I’m currently working on.

The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
This is a great question. I like to think that my songs come all from the heart. But truth is that some come from a specific idea that starts forming in my head. And others really come from nowhere at all. You just sit at the piano, and all of a sudden something happens. Maybe it’s magic. But in that case, where does magic come from? If you guys figure it out, just let me know 🙂

Thank you very much Élvio!

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