A while back I introduced you to the track Walk on Water by the American artist We Dream of Eden, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!
What is your real name?
Kirk Kienzle Smith
How did you come up with your artist name?
I love the idea of Eden. The beautiful abundant garden we were given to live in, and enjoy, and take care of. I wanted to make music that sounded like what I thought Eden looked like. I wanted the music to give people a sonic landscape to have hope, to think and pray and reflect…to dream of what could be.
Where are you from? And where do you live?
Originally I’m from a small town in Massachusetts, but when I was a teenager I moved with my family to Memphis TN. So I am half Yankee and Half southern boy I guess. : )
How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I have been playing piano on and off since I was 5 years old. I have recently started playing the Bass and the Guitar but piano is my first love. I also play the computer. Meaning I use software to record compose music. I look at the computer as just another instrument.
Tell us about how you started playing music.
My Grandfather was a piano player, really amazing and I think seeing him play started it all. I remember my teacher teaching me the blues scale and I would run that scale up and down for hours. I just thought it was the coolest thing ever!
How long have you been making piano music?
I have been composing and writing ideas out since I was a kid. Even writing some “blues” tunes when I was 8 or 9 years old. I got into music production after college and that has been my main creative outlet for year. I have only recently started releasing music as an artist since last year. Its a whole different world but I am really enjoying it!
Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I remember it well. I was probably 18, in this empty room of old church with a 100 dollar yamaha keyboard making a “beat” on it. An older man was walking by and heard the music coming out of the keyboard. He stoped and asked if I had made it. I said yes, and he said “That’s great, keep at it you never know where it will take you.” I think his belief in me gave me permission to believe in myself. Its always stuck with me, and I try to be like that with my students. Because its true!
What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I think my favorites are guys like Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard. I love there approach to harmony and the openness and space they give to their music.
Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
I don’t really have a song that I play over and over… unless I’m practicing! But recently I have been trying to learn some of the main jazz standards, it really helps me develop more complex chord voicings.
What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
If a rule gets broken often enough it will eventually become a new rule. Someone will figure out what the rule breaker did and make a rule out of it. I think thats fine and probably helpful to move art forward. To me rules are not always meant to be broken they are meant to be our teachers. If you look at Jazz music for example, they really were taking classical harmony and moving it forward. Not breaking the rules so much as extending the vocabulary. To me rules are recipes. If you want a really good “carrot cake” and someone has rules to make it.. great! No need to break the rule. But…. its not illegal to try and use sweet potatoes instead of carrots. (as long as you think it tastes good) and thats the key for me .taste… no need to break a rule just for the sake of breaking a rule… Its about an artist expressing themselves with intentionality and taste. So whatever rules they need to follow or break to make that happen is great.
How do you record your music?
I have a small home studio where I do all of my work. I record, mix, and master everything right there in a little 10-14 space. It quite amazing what you can do these days!
Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I absolutely love sampled instruments I have a real piano but I also have a midi controller. This thing I love about sampled instruments is that I can have access to a thousand different textures and rooms all with leaving my house! Its amazing and the quality of the sound and feel just keeps getting better. I have recently started recording my upright for some projects. Its a little noisy and a bit out of tune, the keys click a little so it not really “idea” but for what I do sometimes thats where the magic is. I really like the imperfect tones that come from old pianos. Its not always the appropriate thing for a composition and sometimes it can cause problems later on but as a person who makes most of my music inside a computer I am rediscovering the joy of a piano vibrating in a room, even if its a little out of tune.
Anything else you want to share?
If you are reading this and you ever felt like you wanted to play the piano.. you should start. If you play the piano and always wanted to write music..you should start. If you write music and always wanted to record and release music…. you should start. It’s never too late! Don’t spend time in regret of what you haven’t done yet. Just start now, its ok to just start now. Who knows where it will take you!
The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
They come from everywhere… from a picture, from a movie, from something my son said to me, from something I read in a book, from a conversation with a friend, or just from stopping and taking a really slow breath in the silence… a song can come from there too. They’re everywhere if you are listening!
Thank you for this Kirk!