• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Stephen Weber

    A while back I posted about the track Ever so still by the composer Stephen Weber, and now its time to take a look inside the mind of the piano player and organist from America, or Canada?

    Where are you from? And where do you live? 
    I was born in Winnipeg, grew up mostly in Indiana – which I still call home – and I currently reside in Oklahoma.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I started piano lessons at age 7. I’m also an organist and have performed on some fabulous pipe organs in the United States, Europe, and Asia. I play a little guitar and sing, but not well.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.  
    My parents, both of whom were very musical, required that myself and my two brothers take piano lessons. I loved the learning process and the collaborative body/mind experience of practicing and performing. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where music was an important part of life and an appreciation for the arts was fostered.

    How long have you been making piano music? 
    Well, I’m giving up my age here, but I’ve been performing or composing piano music for 53 years now. Piano and composition were integral components of my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. My dissertation focused on piano etudes and included eight original compositions, fiendishly difficult, which I recorded on the Opus One label back in the 1990s. Many of my piano compositions are available through publishing or Sheet Music Press. I use my own works with my piano students occasionally. Piano has also been my therapy. I’ve suffered from severe tinnitus and substantial hearing loss since age 9, and the piano has provided a tremendous release from that. 

    Chopin Monument, Pere Lechaisse Cemetery, Paris

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself! 
    I was a “closet” Scott Joplin fanatic as a youngster, but my piano teacher wouldn’t let me learn the Joplin rags because she didn’t consider them “real” music. In defiance I checked them out at the local library. I loved ragtime so much that at age 13 I wrote and notated my first composition, a rag for piano. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    The piano has such a rich and diverse history, it’s hard to single out composers and artists. I can, however, relate some that were influential. I’ve always had a kindred spirit in Frederic Chopin and his music, so much so that I made pilgrimages to Paris and Warsaw to see his graves (yes, one for his body, the other for his heart). The piano music of Franz Liszt, Ludwig van Beethoven, J. S. Bach, and Claude Debussy have also been influential. I listen to quite a few contemporary composers and artists as well, many of which are quite inspiring.

    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? 
    Not really. Honestly, I don’t keep much music “in my fingers”. I’ve worked really hard on improvisation over the past couple years, culminating in the release of my latest album of 18 piano improvisations, and I’ve found just sitting down and letting emotions, images, thoughts, and ideas happen spontaneously to be very gratifying.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    I think there’s a misconception that music has rules. Those pursuing formal study in music are taught “common practice” often as rules. They’re really not; they’re just what composers and theorists have done historically. I guess one thing that seems a mandate these days is that music must be categorized, or put into a specific genre. That bugs me. I think we’re seeing some movement away from that, but the industry seems to demand that artists and their music be categorized by genre. It’s kind of shame.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc. 
    I have a full time job as a professor and administrator in higher education, so the things I do at my Digital Audio Workstation are just a hobby. I have a very modest setup, do all the creating, performing, mixing, mastering, duplication, graphics and such with a master controller keyboard, interface, mic, monitors, and computer with Logic Pro X and Finale along with various instrument libraries. Oh, and publicity/promotion; I have that part. I’ve also done collaborations with various instrumentalists and included their contributions on my albums.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments? 
    I have mixed feelings about this, of course. As a purist, there’s nothing like the action and sound of a fabulous Steinway concert grand. When I want that, I use the one at the university. But, I truly appreciate the technology that allows me to access all kinds of instruments. I sometimes write large scores for orchestra; since there’s no way I could afford to have those works recorded, using orchestra libraries allows me to at least archive the composition and get an idea what it sounds like. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I think I’ve been pretty long-winded already. I guess a parting thought is mentioning the intrinsic value of creating music. It’s hard for everyone to get heard in today’s world, but what’s ultimately important to me is what the creative process gives back to me; I discover, learn, experiment, grow, and continue to find my own voice, release, and modes of expression. It’s hard to find that elsewhere.  

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Your son has gone right to the core of something that is very mysterious to me, the creative process. Honestly, where compositions come from continues to elude me. A complex answer is one’s “essence” or spirit, the combination of the mental, emotional, and physical self. The simple answer is somewhere deep within. I can say with certainty what inspires or instigates the creative idea or process; for me it’s nature, beauty in its various guises and manifestations, images, experiences, and curiosity.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Shawn Kerr

    A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the track Fluke by the Canadian composer Shawn Kerr. And this weeks it’s time to step into the mind of Shawn!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from a small town in Canada called Parry Sound. I moved to Toronto to dive into the vibrant music scene and have been loving it. Although Parry Sound will always be my home.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    Piano is something I’ve been picking back up pretty recently. It was the first instrument I learned when I was about 7, but it never really stuck. Drumset was my first love when I was about 13, I joined some bands in highschool and played all throughout University as well. I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 18 and after going through phases of one instrument or the other, it feels like now I find joy in playing piano, guitar and drums whenever I can.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Growing up I followed most things my older brother did. Music was definitely one of them. My brother bought a drum set and I would make frequent visits to his room to smash away on them. It became a nightly habit that stuck for a while. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been writing piano music for a couple years now but my new track “Fluke” was the first piano composition I made that fit into my EP “Blue Light” I was working towards. Right now the piano seems to fit quite well sonically in everything I’m working on so it’s here to stay for the time being.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I can’t say I remember a particular moment, but it’s more of a feeling I chase after. I remember in the early days how stoked I would get when you finally get that lyric or that riff you’ve been hunting for. Most of the time it feels so out of my control. Wait for that wave to come and catch what you can when it comes your way.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    A few of my biggest inspirations I would say are Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm and Niklas Paschburg.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I love reworking some of my older songs, transposing them from guitar to piano. There’s this song I used to have called,” Waves” and I’m really enjoying the arrangement on piano.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think you should break whatever “rules” you want if those rules are holding you back from fully realizing your vision. I think “rules” in music are only useful if you know how they serve a purpose and knowing when that purpose may not be beneficial to your idea.

    How do you record your music?
    I have a small studio set up in my bedroom in Toronto. It’s pretty DIY and I love it that way. If I ever need to record drumset, I’ll rent some studio time for the space. I also only have midi keyboards in my room but for writing and recording piano, but there’s a café down the street that has a beautiful upright piano. The owner has been kind enough to let me in after hours and do some writing and recording. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Whatever can get your idea from out of your brain and into the computer fastest is extremely valuable. For writing, sampled instruments are such a practical solution for trying out ideas when you are a solo artist or you don’t have the means to have the real thing at your disposal. I do feel differently towards releasing something with heavy sampled instruments. It’s completely personal though. If you love the way your sampled strings or sampled drums sound, go for it! There’s far too many reasons people don’t release music they are working on and only having access to sampled instruments shouldn’t be one of them.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    That’s a great question! One I ask myself most of the time haha. Whenever I get back from a trip or some kind of grand experience, the juices are flowing and I’m just trying to grab whatever I can that flows out.  

    Thank you Shawn!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Matt Stewart-Evans

    I have written about multiple songs by the British composer Matt Stewart-Evans before, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from Nottingham in the UK, but I’ve been based in London for the past 15 years.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing for the last twelve years, having decided after University to teach myself and complete all the exams up to Diploma level.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I had two or three years of piano lessons as a child which taught me the basics and was hugely valuable in picking the instrument back up years later. At 15 I got my first pair of turntables and mixer and that was my main musical outlet for the next ten years, but piano slowly took up more time and become more serious once I’d set the goal of completing all the exams up to Diploma level by the time I was 30 (I was a couple of months late, but managed it!).

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been improvising since I first took the piano back up, and decided to start recording the pieces around ten years ago and putting them on Soundcloud. That early feedback was a nice encouragement to keep going.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I’ve always loved improvising and creating music of my own, but in the early days I was frustrated that my lack of technical ability meant I couldn’t make anywhere near what I was practising from real composers. I therefore made improvising and creating my own pieces my “reward” after getting through piano exam practise each day. I found that made my ‘noodling’ a lot more effective.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’ll name current top 5 as there’s way too many to mention. Nils Frahm (of course), Lambert, Chilly Gonzales, Hania Rani, Poppy Ackroyd

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I try not to get to stuck into playing one particular piece, although the latest album is fresh in the mind – ‘Glow’ is my favourite to play of the release. Greig’s Ballad in G minor has also been haunting me for a while as it’s 20 minutes long and a beast to learn.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think every individual will have their own rules and habits as part of their music-making process, and breaking those ones that are hindering creativity is all important.

    How do you record your music?
    All recorded myself in my home studio. Sadly it’s not practical at the moment to have an upright and/or grand in the studio, but it’s a future goal.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    As much as I prefer the sound and feel of real pianos, I’d be nowhere without sampled instruments. Long may they continue.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    My latest album COLOUR / SHADES is out now on 1631 Recordings and you can take a listen here.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Head, heart and fingers.

    Thank you Matt!

    For more information, please check out these links:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Charley van Veldhoven

    Some time ago I posted about the tune Vortex by the composer Charley van Veldhoven from the Netherlands. Today, I put her again in the spotlight to let all of you get to know her better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from the Netherlands. ‘Holland’. And I live in Utrecht! A very cute city in the center of the Netherlands. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    From the age of 7 I have had piano lessons but I know I started playing a bit before. From the age of around 8 I started composing and entering composing competitions for kids which was really fun! I also sing a little bit and I play the accordeon! And a little guitar, but not yet as good as I want it to be. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My parents had a big old upright from some bar with really yellow keys etc. but I remember always being drawn to it and playing on it trying things out. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since I was 8. I have a recording from a piece I made for a competition that was then performed by professional artists which sounds AMAZING! But probably mostly because they made it sound nice, haha. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I think this realisation came quite quickly as I always kind of improvised on the piano and I was always looking for ways to alter songs in a different way. So if I had a song that I had to learn for pianolessons that was in a Major key I would transform it to a minor key. Stuff like that. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I am a big fan of Hiromi Uehara and Chick Corea. I love their playing and their style! Listened to them bigtime. 

    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? 
    Not really… I often start someting new immediately. I have a couple of chords I wrote a while back that I use often because I really like them but don’t really know how to make a composition of it just yet. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All the rules and also no rules! I think whatever sounds good sounds good and a lot of it depends on how you play it. You can make even the ‘strangest’ chords sound good if you play them in the right musical way. I love to go to the most crazy places when I am improvising and I have composed a lot of atonal music in the past. However I also love pieces that might be a bit more ‘conventional’ with melodies that come from old classical music. I do think that  exploring the instrument a bit more could make very interesting music. 

    How do you record your music?
    Always myself! And usually with a little help of my friends that also work in music production. For my latest album I recorded it on 3 different pianos and eventually chose the recording I liked the most!

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think a lot of it depends on what you do with it (how you mix it) and how you use it. In lots of electronic music a  sampled instrument might even sound better. However for solo piano I do prefer when an artist has a great recording of the piano. But I also know this is not always possible for anyone. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Thank you for interviewing me, haha! And also I want to encourage pianists (especially classical pianists) to experiment with their instruments, find new sounds! You might get to crazy places with it you never thought you’d make!

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    My songs come from a very dreamy place in my mind! ❤️ I always go here when I feel emotional or sad and then I play and make new music. 

    Thank you Charley for participating in my Behind the piano series!

    For more information, please check out these following links:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Julia Andersson

    A while back I introduced you to the track Tilia Cordata by the Finish composer Julia Andersson, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in a small town in Southern Finland. Then I moved up a further bit north to study and work, to the west coast (Ostrobothnia), where I now live.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano on and off for about 16 years, since I was 9 years old. In my teens I practiced playing drums, guitar and bass as well. Eventually I got more and more interested in piano and wanted to focus all my energy on piano instead :). Oh and last year I actually started with cello lessons, which I hope to be able to continue in the future. But right now, I can’t find the time.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    It actually all started with me, as a kid, hearing someone play ”Für Elise” on the piano and I was mesmerized, haha – so I asked my parents if I could start with piano lessons. But you know, It was one thing to start going to classical piano lessons when you’re around 9 years old, where everything is quite strict, there’s many rules and there’s a definitive right or wrong way to play. It’s another thing when you actually find the spark within you to create music. Then you start improvising, playing and composing without any boundaries or rules. That was only a couple years ago for me – so maybe I would say that’s when I started playing music.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    It’s hard to say, because for a long time I had a lot of compositional ideas, but I never really recorded or wrote them down. But to put it more directly, I would say it’s been two years since I started making piano music.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Oh wow – that was actually quite an amazing and enlightening moment for me. Because for a long time I was so afraid of what people would think, or that it wouldn’t be good enough, or that no one would even bother to listen to my music. Then I realized none of that matters, and I’m just going to compose music that I like to play, because I find it meditative, and calming. It was a place for me to put all my emotions and feelings that I had bottled up. A few people came along and said they really liked what they heard, that’s when I decided to record it and thought; I want to release some of my works. Maybe others would find it soothing too.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Hania Rani is definitely a big inspiration for me. Her debut album ”Esja” is just breathtaking. Some others of my favorites include Bill Laurance, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Joep Beving and Benjamin Gustafsson.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I love playing Erik Satie’s works, his Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes. Also, there’s this one of my new songs I’m currently playing a lot over and over, it’s called Wings and I really enjoy playing it. I performed it a few times live already but haven’t gotten around to recording it just yet (but soon!).

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All of them! Write/make music that sounds good to you. Trust your own ears. Dare to think outside the box. Also, don’t get stuck in thinking you have to adapt to a certain genre; just do whatever you want!

    How do you record your music?
    Just by myself, or with help of friends and acquaintances, at school. I’ve been enrolled in two different music schools, one in Denmark and one here in Finland. So far I’ve been recording my music with the school’s equipment and their pianos. However, my dream is to one day set up my own home studio with an upright piano (and preferably a lot of synthesizers!).

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    So far I haven’t used any sampled instruments. I prefer the real deal! Especially with the piano. All the details are in the acoustics – pedals, hammers, resonating strings, maybe a little out-of-tune keys, squeaky chairs and all of that! I love it. With all that said, I know VSTIs and samples are of really good quality nowadays – they offer endless possibilities which can give a real creativity boost, for people who are into that kind of thing.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Such a good question. I have wondered that myself. Usually music comes to me when I am away from the instrument. If I’m looking at a painting, or I’m outside in nature, sitting by a lake, maybe even in my dreams when I’m sleeping. So essentially, I would say they come from the forest, the trees and the sky and everything else around me.

    Anything else you want to share?
    As we are currently going through difficult, uncertain times, I just want to say to everyone; be gentle with yourself. You are good no matter how you are managing this experience. You don’t have to feel as if you have to be as productive, or effective, and that’s okay. This will pass!

    Thank you very much for this Julia!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Umeå Bodø

    I have previously posted about songs from the composer Umeå Bodø, and now it’s about time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better.

    What’s your real name?
    Udo Peter Mike Mechels

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    Since my music is inspired by beautiful landscapes, pure nature and the sea, I chose two Scandinavian cities as an artist name. And just for fun: when you combine the first letter of Umeå and the last two of Bodø, you can form my first name. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Brussels, living in Antwerp.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing piano and clarinet when I was 8, but my main instrument has always been my voice.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    Like most kids, my parents sent me to a music school, but I was more interested in sports at the time. I really started playing the piano and singing 3 or 4 hours a day when I was 16 years old.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I wrote my first song Sunken Dreams some 3 years ago during a rehearsal of a play about suicide. I played the song to my wife (who is an actress), her fellow actor and the director. Since they burst into tears, I knew I had something there… 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Oh well, I guess I wrote my first songs and melodies when I was 16 or 17. The first time I put real emotions into a song, was when my dog and best friend died. Until now, some 25 years later, that’s still one of the things I do; putting emotions into songs.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I met Joep Beving on a tv-show and his music and his personal story inspired me to write and release piano music myself. I could easily list some popular names like Yiruma and Ólafur Arnalds, but I have to say that since I have a Soft Piano Spotify playlist, I discover a lot of talented people from all around the globe.  

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    No. I write a lot of pop music for different artists, so I always play new themes. Though I have to say that sometimes I play some boogie woogie stuff from the sixties, haha!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think that writing music is about feelings, about instincts, so there shouldn’t be any rules. Even when you try to write commercial music, you are allowed to break rules (progressions, structures, tempi,…) and invent new ones.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio?
    Both. For my next piano EP, I would love to invest in recording on different acoustic pianos.  

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    It’s common in commercial music. Don’t forget that youngsters learn to make music on their computer and that plug-ins are getting better and better. Some young talents make incredible music based on samples.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I just want to wish everybody a good health in these special times. Keep the faith, keep making music and stay safe!

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Haha, that’s the best question! Well, I have a secret room in my heart, where all kinds of tiny melodies are living. Sometimes I open that door and when a melody comes out, I will give it all my love and play with it the whole day. We make a lot of fun, we eat chocolate and cake and we drink a lot of milk so the melody can grow into a beautiful new song. 

    Thank you a lot for participating in my Behind the piano series!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Moonsoul

    A while back I introduced you to the song To Dust by the artist Moonsoul, and now it’s time to learn more about the artist!

    What’s your real name?
    Cyrus Mehta

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I was thinking of names and had a list of them, but none of them really felt right. So I waited and one night while having a shower, I heard the word Moonsoul in my head and I really liked it, so I stuck with it.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Mumbai, India, but I currently reside in Dubai, U.A.E

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the keyboard and piano for about 9 years now. As I record music in my apartment, I have shifted to using a MIDI controller (and Logic PRO) as I find it way more versatile and simpler to record music this way. I also enjoy playing the xylophone. Find it very calming.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    As a young teenager, I saw a video of Coldplay performing the song “Clocks” live for the first time and as soon as I heard the piano hook/riff, it lit something up in my head and all I wanted to do was to buy a keyboard and play that hook. It was the song that not only got me interested in the piano, but music in general. After that, I started learning how to play other songs and that was the beginning of my musical journey.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    About 3 years, but I have only just started releasing my music.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    During a not so nice phase of my life, I was playing the keyboard one night and a little piece just wrote itself and it resonated with what I was feeling at the time. I didn’t think it sounded too bad, so I made a rough recording and sent it to a couple of friends who also liked it, so that was the moment where I realized that I could write music myself.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Olafur Arnalds, Ludovico Einuaudi, Sigur Ros and Coldplay.

    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?
    Postcards from Far Away and Clocks by Coldplay. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The rule that states that there are rules to making music. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record music by myself in my apartment.  I use a MIDI controller and Logic Pro. With so many virtual instruments available now, I find it a lot easier to use those sounds and manipulate them to an extent where I feel that I am able to authentically express myself.

    Processed with VSCO with acg preset

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    No take yet. Still learning about it.

    Where do all your songs come from?
    I think all music already exists somewhere in the universe and if you put enough of your energy into learning how to play an instrument/music, then the universe rewards you by sharing it’s music with and through you.

    Thanks for this little talk Cyrus!

    For more information please check out the following links:
    Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Matt Koranda

    A while back I posted about Farewell pt I and today it’s time to get to know the person behind the track a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from South Germany and live nearby the Lake of Constance, the deep water connection between Germany, Austria and Switzerland and by the way: My zodiac sign is Aquarius. I don’t know, is it coincidence?

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started with classic piano lessons when I was 10 years old. An older woman teached me to play Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart Sonatas in an old, small dark attic room, a little spooky 😉 I love to play all instruments with keys, but I’m a monkey in playing other instruments. My most impressive event was playing a big church organ. It’s like sitting on a cloud.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    When I was a child, my parents sent me to classic recorder. But I think it is a poor expressive instrument, hm but I also remember an impressive live concert someone blowed it like a traverse flute, and wooph, it sounded incredible.

    So my early experience is that the way you play an instrument can ruin the performance or make it extraordinary beautiful. While I heavily used different synthesizers, sampler and organs in my live band projects, I found at home the grand piano the most suitable instrument for my means of expression and where I feel merged with.  

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Playing the piano was always my side issue but also my source of creativity. As band musician it took many years to focus on making pure piano music.

    I started about 4 years ago to record some first improvisations. Then I set my focus on producing pure piano music. You know only 2020 I released my piano debut album. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    That is hard to remember. You know, my head was always full of own ideas, but I mostly missed to record it. I started with about 14 years playing with other musicians in bands. Then the songs got more and more structured.

    I remember one big moment was when I played the solo acoustic piano alone at a school party. Therefore I wrote an accord chord progression that was burnt in my head and I even revived it some years ago by releasing a single just for fun. But I decided to cancel it for later purposes. So be fast, if you wanna still listen to it, haha.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Oh that changes. I think my first impressive piano player for me was Keith Jarrett playing the Cologne Concerts. You know my inspiration comes mostly from live performing musicians. Later I discovered Ludovico Einaudi (maybe because he looks like my father in profile 😉 and Max Richter as my favorites. But I think when you ask me later, I will give you another answer, haha.

    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?
    Hm, yes but that is an unreleased song yet. It was related to a computer game about a historic middle age scenario I wanted to give a main theme. But I got not enough time to finalize it.

    Sure the chord progression of “Soft Touches” I mentioned before, is also a good base for some free style improvisations I really like to play on.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    That’s a very philosophical question to discuss. I think I never made music with a set of written rules in my mind. It’s all about what feels good in music.

    When you feel angry or destructive, why not crashing all old rules and create something new? Isn’t it the meaning of art of searching for new ways? Probably you will automatically fall back to old rules when you search for harmony.

    You know my current concern in making music is the confrontation with deep emotional experiences from moments in humans life. And I think the rules for that is hard to describe.

    How do you record your music?
    I recorded the pieces of my piano music debut album at home in my small studio. The most tracks started with a piano improvisation I recorded on different digital pianos. Partially I recorded only the MIDI-signals and filled the tracks with virtual grand piano sounds and even orchestral tones.

    My big dream is to have my own Steinway grand piano at home for future recordings.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use them, but I really would wish they could be played like acoustic instruments. I think the biggest problem is not the sampling, the problem is the keyboard or let’s say the human-to-device interaction.

    Again I really would wish to have my own Steinway grand piano to lift me to a new sound dimension 😉 

    Anything else you want to share?
    First of all I want to thank you and all of your readers for giving me and all other newcomer pianists your attention. 

    Maybe my art of playing the piano is a little bit impetuous and not always perfect sounded, you know my background is live music and I don’t like to create relaxing-only music to which many other pianists tend.

    I wanna say my music comes direct from my heart&soul and when I can reach someones heart or soul, then my work is done and I am happy.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    My dear, they come all from my deep heart and because I’m an Aquarius also from the endless deep water 😊

    Thank you Matt for you participation in my Behind the piano series!

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    Behind the piano: John Hayes

    I have previously posted about the release Eight for a wish by the American composer John Hayes. And he is also mentioned in as one of the favorite piano artists by both Philip Daniel and Philip G Anderson. That would make anyone curious, right?! So now it’s time to get to know John a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Lakeville, Minnesota, just outside of Minneapolis. Now I live and work in Minneapolis. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano since I was 8 or 9 years old. I don’t remember the exact age but it has been quite some time! I play a number of different synthesizers as well.I also play the saxophone,  however, that has not made it into any recordings…yet 🙂

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My parents made me play haha! It seemed to be just a part of everyday life growing up, come home from school, homework, then the piano. Surprisingly, I was not fond of playing the piano around this  time. I would have much rather been outside playing baseball or running around with friends.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been writing my own little tunes and melodies since I was about 11 or 12, however, it wasn’t until about a year ago I released anything. I think it took a good amount of time and a certain amount of courage to finally be ready to share my music. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I don’t know if it was one specific moment. As my lessons growing up intensified and teachers became more and more strict, I became less interested in traditional training. During practice time, I would  be trying to come up with my own tunes or trying to recreate a melody I had heard from a movie I had seen the night before. I eventually dropped out of formal lessons and really spent some time away  from the piano for a couple years. It wasn’t until I picked things back up, about 7-8 years ago that I really started to enjoy the piano and realizing I could write songs for myself. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    It really changes quite frequently! Right now I have been listening to a lot Francois Couturier and Valentin Silvestrov. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Nothing specific. It is usually my own music nowadays. If I am writing, I usually start with a melody that I have been working on. Things begin to develop over time and if I am still excited about it, that is  how I usually know I am on to something.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In order to make something great, all the rules need to be broken. (I’m not taking credit for that quote, it sounds like something someone else has said before by some snooty painter haha) But really, I  think knowing the rules is the first important thing and something that gets overlooked. From there you can begin to experiment and consciously step outside them. This is usually when you find  your best work. 

    How do you record your music?
    I have my own studio, “Emerson Studio” that I record out of. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Instrument libraries can be great. Before I was able to buy my own piano that was all I used. The thing with samples and libraries though is that there are an INFINITE number of them. So many  choices can lead to decision paralysis. One day you like the sound of this library, the next day a new one comes out and you have to try that one. There is no real commitment since everything can just  be changed with one click. I like the idea of really committing to your sound and then developing it which is hard to do with a sample. Real instruments have their own personalities as well that sample  libraries just don’t have. Trying to learn how to capture those personalities in recordings or bring them to life in performances is something that I really connect with. 

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    That is a great question! It is hard to know where they come from really. Some days music just comes out of you and you feel like a genius, some days you feel like you need someone to explain to you  where middle C is. I have a quote next to my piano from Rick Rubin that reads: “Being a great artist means practicing being in touch with the information already inside you.” That really sums it up for  me. I think my songs come from when I am able to identify that I am connecting with something I am playing and being able to work with those emotions that are coming out on the piano. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I hope you are staying warm up there in Sweden! 

    Thanks John! Winter never really came to my part of Sweden this time, so I am grateful!

    For more information and updates by John, please check out these links:
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    Behind the piano: Pascal Lengagne

    A while back, I introduced you yo the track Brume by the French composer Pascal Lengagne. And now the time has come to get to know the composer behind the track a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from France and I leave in Pézenas, beautiful small city in the south of France, near Montpellier.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I am 53 years old and I’ve started playing piano at 5. I ‘ve tried to play saxophone one month, but I didn’t like the feeling of the vibration on the lips.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My first teacher said to my parents that music was not for me, because I didn’t want to go to her lessons. But she was a little bit scary for me. Now since 2003 my only job is music, composing for films, commercials and shows.

    How long have you been making piano music? And tell us something about when you figured out how to make music yourself!
    I’ve started when I was 16. It was at the cinema that I wanted to compose, I love film music, and also thanks to songs that I liked on the radio.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My first hero is Ryuichi Sakamoto, and I like Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Nils Frahm too.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I’ve played very often « Someday my prince will come » or Ryuichi Sakamoto’music, now I am improvising most of the time

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Trying to be the best, want to prove something, seek virtuosity before musicality.

    How do you record your music?
    Most of the time at home on my lovely Bechstein upright piano (1925) , sometimes in a big Studio in Paris when I compose for films

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Very useful to learn composition, we can try our ideas and ear the result easily now. Some piano library are very cool (like Noire piano, Native instruments)

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Not only from the brain, inspiration is kind of magic. We need some technique first obviously, but when we have it it’s necessary to connect to our best part (soul ?), and let it flow. But sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it still gives shit music :). But I think that we need to find some evidence in the music.

    Thank you for this wonderful interview Pascal!

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