• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Austin Fray

    Today I’m presenting you to the artist Austin Fray! I have not written about his music before, because the songs I have heard from him isn’t really a fit for the blog since it leans more towards the ambient/orchestral genre. It is indeed wonderful music, and since Austin plays the piano I of course wanted him to be a part of the Behind the piano series!

    So, here we go!

    Hello Austin!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Knoxville, Tennessee in the United States and live in Los Angeles, CA. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing piano when I was 8 years old. I play a little guitar and bass, and I grew up playing saxophone in the school concert and marching band. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started playing music mostly out of a fierce competition with my older brothers to keep up with what they were doing. Turned out that I really was genuinely obsessed with music in my own right! My whole family is musically gifted and it was always a big part of growing up. We were raised in the christian church and played music in worship services as soon as we were capable, 12 years old in my case. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I was drawn to improvisation and casual composition right away in my studies and started writing and recording my own chord progressions and melodies in middle school. My productions have grown over the years but the piano has and I imagine always will be my home base and sonic vocabulary. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    In fifth grade, I remember choosing to perform my own compositions for my music class, compared to playing written piano music. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm are quick favorites that come to mind. I’m not an avid listener of solo piano works. I typically am drawn to fuller productions. Growing up, I loved Dave Brubek and Bill Evans. On the pop side, I loved early Coldplay and Keane as they were very piano driven. 

    I’m so happy that you mention artists like Coldplay and Keane here! They make piano music as well, in their own way.

    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? 
    My favorite piece to play is Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb. Such a stunning composition! And of course, Claire de Lune, which baffles me in it’s genius as well. I took a break from my Jazz training to study these two pieces in order to get into music schools. 

    How do you record your music?
    I own an older Yamaha U3 piano that I record in my home studio. I use AKG C414s and Lauten Audio condensers to capture the upright piano from the front with the outer panels removed. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In music, I believe that putting your own art first and communicating your human experience through your music is the ultimate goal. The means of getting there are secondary. Following trends and emulating your icons and idols can be a start, but the good stuff happens when those mechanisms are transcended and your humanity seeps through the notes. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Sampled instruments are a great way to sketch your compositions or add impossible effects into your work. Samples do things people can’t do and people do things samples can’t do. It’s important to know which universe to live in for any given musical idea. Neither are bad, but trying to pass off something made for a human, given to a machine to play, doesn’t normally go over well. 

    And the questions from my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    My songs come from the inner 10 year old boy that is completely sucked into the story of ultimate goodness, selfless sacrifice, courage, or generally, heroism. Now, my songs are aiming at the same things but hitting a lense of adult experience that casts a nuance to the conversation. 

    You told me a bit of your work as a media composer in LA, how did all of that start out?
    I started working on indie and student films in high school with some friends from school. I was the sound guy and the composer. I followed this rabbit trail into college and began writing trailer music after a profound internship in Los Angeles before my sophomore year. By the end of college I had a major studio theatrical trailer placement to put on the refrigerator.

    And what happened after moving to LA and finishing college?
    After moving to LA to intern for Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions, I got a job as an assistant at Bleeding Fingers Music and then was promoted a few months later to be a staff composer. This culminated in scoring a feature film “The Parts You Lose” and scoring a roughly a dozen episodes of FOX’s The Simpsons from 2017 thru 2018, including the season premiere of season 29 “The Serfsons”.

    Tell us a bit of how all of this had an effect on you!
    I was doing all this in my early 20s and being exposed to vast amounts of stress and deadlines in a fast moving scoring company working on all kinds of media from comedy, animation, film, reality, scripted drama. This was all incredible except that my artist side was left on the sideline as I was primarily a member of a larger team. That’s why my album “Origins” is so significant to me. I had years of unwritten music that needed to come out. It’s a commentary and instrumental journal on my personal journey through the beginning of my adult life when my career at Bleeding Fingers was such a loud voice drowning out the smaller inner voice. 

    Thank you very much Austin for sharing your story with us!

    For more information on Austin, check out these following links:
    Instagram / Twitter / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Garry DW Judd

    So, it’s Thursday and time to get to know another contemporary composer. This week we’ll get to know more about the British composer Garry DW Judd which I have posted about before, here!

    Let’s get to it!

    What’s your real name?
    My real name is Garry DW Judd

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    My parents did it for me! Actually, I have written a lot of film and television music under the name Garry Judd and I wanted to present my classical music separately, so for that I use my middle initials DW.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from London originally and I now live in the Hertfordshire countryside just north of the city.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I always think of myself as a composer rather than an instrumentalist, but I have been playing the piano, guitar, bass, clarinet and various others since I was eight.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    When I was fourteen, I had the option of doing music as a more serious subject at school and onward at university…That was when I set my sights on being a composer for a living. Before then I had been in a band, but that showed me that I wasn’t suited to being a performer.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    My first major piece was Three Knobblers for Piano when I was eighteen. The concert pianist Leslie Howard played them at the Wigmore Hall in London and on BBC Radio 3.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    My music teacher gave me a score of Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro and set the record playing in the music room. It was a beautiful sunny day, with butterflies and bees buzzing in and out of the French windows. That was the moment I knew that I wanted to be a composer!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    As a composer, I tend to think of composers rather than artists. I love piano music by Grainger, Ravel, Debussy and Bartók. Of course my favourite pianist is Leslie Howard who is known as a specialist in the music of Liszt.

    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?
    I rarely play the piano, other than to experiment with my own music, so it’s more like noodling when I get a chance! I tend to compose away from the piano.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I like to experiment with form. I think that there are enough sonatas and symphonies in the world already, so I’m constantly thinking of new ways to present the music. That’s why I came up with the idea of one hundred Electric Nocturnes…A book of ten variations, with each subsequent book being a set of direct variations on each piece. So it’s a block of ten by ten which can be navigated in different ways. That’s the sort of thing I like to do.

    How do you record your music?
    I compose anywhere, although I have a ‘composing shed’ in my garden. I record the music in my home studio, which is in another, bigger shed!

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Of course, nothing beats the nuances of a live performance on a real instrument played by a real human, but I love to experiment with sampled instruments and other techniques (like granular synthesis) in my film work.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I’m occasionally asked to give advice to aspiring composers and I always say, know your music theory, be honest and don’t stop!

    And the question from my six year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    Your son’s question which is a very interesting one.
    I really don’t know where the musical ideas come from, but I’m very pleased that they do! Sometimes it can be a series of notes or harmonies…Other times it’s a feeling or mood. The hard work is in presenting those ideas in a way which is honest to yourself and also something which no one else could (or would want to) do.

    Thank you very much Garry!

    For more information, you can check out these links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Paul-Marie Barbier

    It’s Thursday, and time to introduce another great contemporary composer and piano player to you! A while back, I posted about a track by Paul-Marie Barbier (also a member of the band Caravan Palace), and today we’ll dig deeper intro the mind of Paul-Marie!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in Vannes (Brittany), near the well known “Golf du Morbihan”. I now live in Paris.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started learning piano at the age of 5 (I’m presently 38). At 12, I began studying percussions and especially vibraphone. I also play guitar and various electronic instruments.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    There was a piano at home… I had the chance to meet a very good teacher. I entered a music school (“conservatoire”) at 9 and studied harmony, composition, piano and percussions until the age of 20. Then, I came to Paris to learn  jazz theory and to focus on vibraphone.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    It’s my first solo piano album ! But not the last… I’ve already planned to release some more albums within the next months. I also compose movies soundtracks. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself !
    Well I composed my first piece when I was 7 !  I have always wanted to be free on playing my own compositions. But it needs time to be confident in yourself. I think I got ready at the birth of my first child, 8 years ago.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I do love Chilly Gonzales’s work. His career is very inspiring. The main theme of “The Leftovers” composed by Max Richter has been like a shock to me. Simplicity, pure elegance and sadness… 

    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? 
    One of my own, I must say… It’s called “If Not”. Plus “A flat 7/8” a short piece I composed ten years ago.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Tough question… I think there are no rules when you make music. (?)

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I have my own little studio with all my instruments. I recorded my first solo album with a friend, Arnaud Vial, who helped me to focus on the moment. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    It’s evil ! So convenient but not reality… I mean, for a solo piano album. As a soundtrack composer it’s just awsome.

    Thank you very much for your participation!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Wings for Louise

    It’s Thursday again, and today we get to know the French born, but Canada based composer Wings for Louse!

    What’s your real name? 
    My name is Charly Martin 

    How did you come up with your artist name? 
    I’m a big fan of the metal band Tool. They’ve got a song called « Wings for Marie » Wings for Louise is kind of a tribute to this song. I changed the name Marie for Louise to keep a French name, but also in reference to the French band « Louise attaque ». When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the fact that they named Louise but they’re only mens in the band. I found this dichotomy, very cool at an early age, even if at the age of 6 I didn’t know what was a dichotomy… 

    Where are you from? And where do you live? 
    I was born and raised in a small town in south of France near Spain, called Narbonne. It’s in the Languedoc region between Toulouse, Barcelona and Marseille.

    8 years ago I moved to Montreal in Canada to study sound design. I really loved the city and the people here, even if I was a bit confused by the different North American culture at the beginning. I discovered the Québec culture who is a very rich and fascinating culture, so I decided to embrace this culture and became a permanent resident of Canada. Now I’ve got two home. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I started playing the piano three years ago. I discovered a label from Montreal (Moderna Records) Who were releasing piano music and I remember being blown away by the intense emotions that I felt, listening to this music… 

    At this moment, I was releasing music with my previous Electronica project Echo 6, I was very inspired by artists like Sigur Ros, Jon Hopkins, Christian Löffler and I only used some simple piano chords or really simple short piano melodies in my music. After diving deeper in the Modern Classical music scene, I decided to learn the piano by myself. Two years ago I decided to start my own « Piano project » and here we are ! 

    I also played drums in a Post-Core band in France, and used to be a Guitar teacher for 6 years. I also play a bit of accordion and I really want to learn Trumpet ! 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started to « play » music when I was 12, after I seeing a friend of mine take my father’s guitar and play a song by The Offspring. The next week we started a band and played shitty Metallica covers. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started to make my own piano compositions two years ago with this project Wings for Louise.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    During my adolescence, I mainly listened to metal music, but some day I discovered the album Days to come by Bonobo and one song in particular, transmission 94 who literally blew my mind. The next day I started learning how to use a music program to create music like Bonobo. I released my very first EP « Make a Sound from silence » with my project Echo 6 in 2010.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    I discovered the genre like many people with Erased Tapes artists, (Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds) I also knew Yann Tiersen’s music before and he’s still one of my favorite artists. but now that I dived deeper into this genre, I listen a lot of Dominique Charpentier, Jean-Michel Blais, I also like the Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau. 

    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? 
    Actually yes, I like to play « Instantané » by Dominique Charpentier from his album The Cakemaker Soundtrack , this piece is very slow and emotional and there is a really nice arpeggio. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    Every rules should be broken. In music, in life, except maybe in physics… It should be broken to go forward. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc. 
    I have a home studio where I can record my piano. I like to layer real pianos sounds with sampled sounds. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments? 
    I use them a lot in my process, I produced a lot of electronic music before this project and still doing it. Sampled instruments are very useful and can bring you unexpected ideas. Even if I’m convinced that certain emotions from a violinist for example can’t be reproduced by a sampler. The piano is a very easy to sample instrument so there is a lot of really good libraries. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Yes, thank you very much for your time and for your interest in my music. And thank you to people for reading your blog ! 

    And as always, the question from my five year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    All my songs come from the world, from life who surround us. I’m just a simple converter who transform air into notes. 

    Thank you for your participation Martin!

    For more information and updates, check out these links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Domenico Quaceci

    Today It’s Thursday! Horray! And today we’ll meet the composer and piano player Domenico Quaceci!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am Italian, from Sicily, and I live in Catania.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been studying piano since I was 10 years old, but I can say that I started “playing” it even earlier by going by ear discovering its sounds, key by key. I also play other instruments like guitar, bass and drums because of my strong interest into pop music.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    As a child I started playing because of my curiousness about the piano and then my parents pushed me towards academic studies of piano and music in general.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    With the aim of escaping from the “boredom” of classical studies, I started varying the themes of Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin’s sonatas, or even exercises in pure technique. Then I moved on inventing new tunes. I can say that I have composed dozens and dozens of simple tunes, certainly not very mature to be called songs, but very funny for me anyway.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I used to play in a band and that’s where for the first time I recorded my “creations”. Together with the degree in piano and the musical studies I have faced over the years, this fact pushed me to write down my music for solo piano and start this career as a pianist and composer. Surely my musical maturation has just begun but I can finally say “I have something to say” by using my music.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    The artists who I cannot miss in their personal ranking are Ludovico Einaudi, Giovanni Allevi, Roberto Cacciapaglia, Max Ricther and also Yann Tiersen.

    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? 
    Well, there is a song that I play and play when I finish my day of studies, when I am bored because of the repertoire I study or when I want a moment of peace: yes, it is a composition of mine!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In my opinion you realize what are the rules to break only when you find yourself in front of something unusual, and you wonder if it is appropriate to insert it in the composition or not.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I am fortunate to have a piano at home, excellent acoustics and to collaborate with a label. Therefore we prefer to “set up” a recording studio in my house and record with a real instrument which, in my opinion, is definitely the best for piano solo music. Unfortunately due to Covid I have to say that I had to resort to the use of keyboards.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    As I said before, if I have the choice I prefer a real piano, but there are some great samples that do their job very well (and I know something about it). I would definitely say that the samples are fine for music that is not only piano, but also with electronic instruments.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I have already written and recorded an album that due to the covid it was published yet, so on my Socials and digital stores (spotify, youtube, apple music, etc …) you will find some single tracks that have been recorded by myself and mixed by my label’s stuff, as I really have a lot of music in my head and I don’t want it to remain locked up in my mind, for myself only!

    And the question by the 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    My songs come from images that I have in my head, these images can be like paintings or images of moments that can be associated with that song (just like a soundtrack). Sometimes I compose pieces starting from a chord or an arpeggio that I necessarily want to play on my composition and everything revolves around that gesture, that movement, those notes.

    And the question by the 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    My songs come from images that I have in my head, these images can be like paintings or images of moments that can be associated with that song (just like a soundtrack). Sometimes I compose pieces starting from a chord or an arpeggio that I necessarily want to play on my composition and everything revolves around that gesture, that movement, those notes.

    Thank you very much for this!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Rui Ribeiro

    A couple of months back I wrote about the track Falkenberger Straße by the Portuguese composer and piano player Rui Ribeiro. And since it’s Thursday; why not learn more about his history!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Lisbon, Portugal. I currently live in a little town hidden in the middle of the woods, north of Portugal.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano for around 25 years now but I started to play the organ earlier when I was 7, so I think it’s fair to say I play keyboard instruments for more than 30 years now. Besides keyboard instruments I played the drums, the trumpet, and the violin (not very well though!) 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My father was taking driving lessons when I was a kid, and the time for those lessons was after school. So he’d pick me up from school, and take me with him to those lessons (I was sitting in the back seat of the driving school car while he was learning how to drive). The driving instructor was a rude and unprofessional lady that frequently ordered my father to stop the car in front of her house so she could take some groceries in or whatever. Coincidentally, right next to her house there was a music school with a huge window. While me and my dad were waiting for the instructor in the car, I could see and listen to kids like me playing all sorts of instruments, and that just sounded and looked like a magical world to me. I was fascinated by that and my father was keen to notice it. I eventually enrolled in that school and that’s how it all started.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    This is a hard question to answer because I started to improvise music in the piano right away, even before I learned any music theory or technique at all. Even today, after all the music education I had (conservatory, college), I still sit at the piano and the first thing I play is an improvisation (that sometimes ends up growing into a piece). So I can’t really pinpoint the exact time when I started to make piano music. However, I only decided to make some of this music public as late as 2015.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Well, as I said before, it was always very natural for me to create music out of nothing, so there wasn’t really an “aha” moment for me. I remember, though, the first time I wrote a piece to offer to someone: I was in high school and was in love with a girl; because I was too shy, I thought that offering her a song showing my feelings would be better. It didn’t work very well, but I realized more clearly in that moment that I could do it!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I end up not having favourite artists in this contemporary composer/pianist genre because I like to find new ones and realize how different they can be. It’s really beautiful to witness their different personalities and ideas. I must also confess that I don’t listen that much to fellow pianist/composers of today (I should probably invest more time on that), and most of the time I listen to the classical repertoire instead.

    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. Every time I sit down by the piano I mostly start to improvise. Unless, of course, it’s a concert and then I’ll play my music!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think that rules are definitely made to be broken, but I believe they’re usually broken in different times and ways. For instance, it’s very clear that nowadays the “standard piano sound rules” in recordings are being broken: long gone are the days that all recordings sounded the same, with their Steinway Ds, decca trees, similar studio sound engineering and so on. People are now recording with different pitches, prepared pianos, felt pianos, and looking for a more unique sound identity. I think that each era has its innovations and it’s very important not to stagnate in the same processes. I don’t know what rules need to be broken, but I do know that it’s important to think freely and not to get too attached to any music rules.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I always record it and produce it myself, but studio wise It all depends on the final result I’m after. My first two solo piano albums were recorded in big studios, with top gear. The first one on a Steinway D, the second on a Yamaha S7. It sounds very standard, and it was what I was after to serve those pieces. However, my whole third album (to be released in September) was recorded in a friend’s garage, on his Yamaha U3 semi-abandoned upright piano, using unusual gear and techniques. I was looking for a different type of sound, and that worked for me. My next EP I’m already working on, is being currently recorded right here in my home studio, with the windows opened and featuring bird sounds… it all depends on the result I’m searching for.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I produced and composed mainstream for many years before dedicating myself to my own piano music, and during those times I extensively used sampled instruments for a vast number of reasons. I witnessed the unbelievable development of these virtual instruments over the past decade, and I must confess that sometimes I got lazy and instead of going to choose the right piano for a recording, set all the microphones, call in the piano tuner and so on, I would just pick a virtual sampled piano from the list I had, and went for it. It’s easy, sounds great, and it’s much faster than recording a real piano. However, there’s a very serious downside of all this: everything starts to sound the same, and a lot of the sound identity and imperfection of music making starts to disappear. That’s why I decided at some point to use sampled instruments much less than before. I do recognize, however, that these can be immensely helpful in many situations but, at least at this point, I’m happier working with real instruments.

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

    That is a very interesting question that I already made myself before (little kids always make interesting questions!)… but I still can’t answer it. There was a friend of mine, a singer and songwriter, that once said her song ideas are floating in the air, and sometimes she can grab some of them, other times she can’t. Truth is, I have no idea where my pieces come from. I could say that they come from my intellect or compositional abilities, but I feel that’s not true. The composer skill is in deed what makes the development of an idea into a full piece possible… but the initial idea itself, that little seed, it doesn’t really come from my technical skills. I have no idea where it comes from…

    Thank you very much for your participation Rui!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Andrea Sertori

    Another week has passed, and it’s time to dig deep into the minds of another contemporary composer and piano player. This week I’m has a talk with the Italian composer Andrea Sertori, so lets begin!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    From Italy and precisely in the beautiful city of Bergamo. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I’ve been playing the piano practically forever, I was about 9 years old when I took my first lessons. Later I was lucky enough to study and play synthesizers in depth. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was little, my parents used to take me to see some relatives. In a big hall there was an old piano. And I was very attracted to that austere and mysterious instrument. So I started with little toy keyboards. My father, a great lover of classical music, encouraged me to try the instrument. 

    How long have you been making piano music? 
    I’ve always played as a keyboard player in several rock bands. Then 3 years ago I started making music by myself. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I needed to concretize some ideas that I couldn’t share with my band. So the Mosaic Room experiment was born, my first solo work. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Basically I don’t think I belong to a specific kind of piano. In my productions there will be piano solo pieces but I will also continue to mix piano and electronics. Certainly when I compose solo piano pieces I am inspired by the music of the great romantic pianists. 

    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?
    There’s an intro of an old song I used to play with my band that I need to warm my fingers. It’s a piano intro similar to song Firth of Fifth of Genesis. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In my opinion there must be no rules in producing music, of course the technique is fundamental, but it must not be an end in itself but used to best express and make concrete what comes from the mind and heart. 

    How do you record your music?
    Today, in the digital age, it’s easier to do it yourself. Also for this reason many musicians can produce a lot. It’s clear that a big studio can add value in terms of quality. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    In today’s musical context, sampled instruments have become fundamental. The thing I can say is that ideas are more important, even if today a great quality is required and samples can give it without too much effort. 

    And the questions my oldest son once asked me;
    Where do all your songs come from?

    In a little drawer in my heart. 

    Thank you very much for this Andrea!

    For more information, go here:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Selsom

    It’s Thursday, and this week I have a treat for you. I had a talk with the wonderful Stian aka. Selsom. Lets jump right in!

    What’s your real name?
    My real name is Stian Kristoffersen Vedøy

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I wanted to use a Norwegian word mainly for sentimental reasons, but also to have something slightly unique and mysterious. I was looking for modern translations for the words beautiful, mysterious, strange and intriguing, but non of the Norwegian words were short, snappy or easily pronounceable enough for an English speaker. After looking through an old dictionary, I came across “Selsom”. It’s a word that didn’t make it further than my grandparents. The literal translation is “strange” or “weird”, but after asking around it is more like “mysteriously peculiar”. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born and raised on a west coast island in Norway called Karmøy. I now live in Bristol, UK.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing for 24 years. Playing, definitely not studying or practicing for 24. Haha! Yes, I do play other instruments and sing. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I was forced by my mum into learning the piano at an age of 6. In retrospect I’m eternally grateful to her for that! No regrets! I picked up the guitar as a 13 year old and started songwriting and producing music during my mid-teens. This lead to studying music production at University level, which brought me to the UK. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    To be honest, I have piano sketches reaching back to my early teenage years. It only took a world pandemic for me to pull my finger out and actually do something about it.  

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Wow… That must have been when I was 13. I bought my first CD using my own money. It was a Norwegian singer/songwriter called Thomas Dybdahl. His voice, songwriting and production style were so incredibly ahead-of-its-time in the now called indie alt folk genre. He basically wrote songs in the style of Bon Iver but more intelligently put together 6 years ahead, back in 2002. This album, That Great October Sound, just sparked something in me that has stuck and are still inspiring me. In terms of instrumental piano music, it wasn’t until I saw Icelandic Olafur Arnalds in concert in 2018, that I realised I needed to create an outlet for my Ambient / Neo Classical work.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I have quite a few. Top five in no particular order are: Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Jon Hopkins, Julien Marchal and Goldmund. There are so many more I would love to put on that list, but these are some of the ones I’ve listened to the most.

    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? 
    I tend to just play freely when I first sit down by the piano. I do weirdly always end up playing the piano part of Beth/Rest by Bon Iver. In terms of my music, I often end up playing the latest tracks that I’m about to record, which makes a lot of sense.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    To be honest, music should’t have rules. Play what makes you and the people around you feel something. If that’s what’s considered to be the clichés, or some obscure chord structure or melody. Go for it! It’s all aloud. However, not everyone is going to love everything. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I have a Yamaha U1 upright in my living room. Every time I want to record, I bring my iMac and microphones down from my home studio and create a little studio setup right next to the piano. I tend use two cigar condenser microphones on each side for stereo, and a lage diaphragm condenser in the midle. I often end up recording with the practice pedal down. It sounds really mellow and picks up the piano’s mechanism as much as the actual tones, which I really love.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I don’t mind it. Everything is aloud. Not everyone can afford a real piano yet alone a whole orchestra/band’s worth of instruments. However, I always try to get hold of a real instrument or instrumentalist for recordings, and definitely prefer the sound of a real instrument.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Most of my adult live has been dedicated to an indie alt folk project called Firewoodisland. We’ve been going for quite a few years now, and I absolutely love writing and producing music for it. I’m incredibly lucky to be writing, recording and touring together with my wife. It makes everything so much easier, and it is a beautiful part of our journey together.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    All my songs come from so many different places. But one thing that most of them have in common is that melodies often come into my head when I least expect it. On the buss, whilst sleeping, at the toilet or in the shower. Sometimes they even come while I’m sat by the piano.

    Thank you very much Stian for this wonderful interview!

    For more information about Stian, check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Sherwood Roberts

    It’s Thursday, and of course you’ll get to know one of many contemporary composers and piano players in nee classical music. And today we’ll get behind the curtains with the British composer Sherwood Roberts.

    What’s your real name?
    Piers

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    it’s my surname!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    My dad is from Sydney (Australia) and my mum from Essex (England). I currently live in the countryside west of London in a little village called Taplow.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5/6. I’m a singer, and then play the cello, guitar, harp, bass, basically anything with a string! I’m very keen on learning the oboe and drums when I can make time.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My mum says I was singing at 18 months. I remember loving the cello after hearing a busker play one in the street so I nagged my parents to get me one.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been writing piano music since I was around 13/14

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    After listening to Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve I knew I had to make music.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’m currently loving Nils Frahm, Luke Howard, Moux, Alexis Ffrench

    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?
    I always come back to playing Bonnie Raitt ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’. There’s something so heart breakingly beautiful about it I just can’t get enough of it.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I currently write whatever feels good. I’m not too concerned about the rules

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    My ep Beginnings was recorded at AIR Studios in London which was a complete treat and a steep learning curve. I’m in the process of building a studio at home which is where I’m going to record my debut Album ‘Short Stories’ later this year.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Spitfire Audio is about as good as it gets but there’s nothing like audio run through analogue gear capturing the vibrations of the piano/room and the creaking of a stool and pedals.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I curate piano playlists on Spotify. There’s so much wonderful music out there be sure to check them out, you might find your next favourite!

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Lovely question. Every song is different. I’m currently writing one about a day out I had with my nieces at the funfair. Other times Idea’s sort of flow through me. I’m constantly hearing melodies sparked by a conversation, a thought or feeling. I try my best to capture them and turn them into beautiful songs.

    Thank you very much for your participation!

    For more information and updates, check out any of these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Life as a moon

    Ok, so lets do something a little bit different for a change! a while back I introduced you to the track She waits for morning by the duo Life as a moon. So now we’re gonna go double and get to know both Paul and Anthony from the duo a bit better!

    How long have you been playing Piano and do you play other instruments as well?
    PAUL
    : I did take some piano lessons as a child but it didn’t stick and I remember being frustrated I was not learning as quickly as I had wanted. I then studied voice, guitar and theory with local teachers and grew up writing singer-songwriter styled tunes. It was later when I circled back around to piano. I tend to view most instruments as tools in service to the overall composition and I’m always willing to learn something new.
    ANTHONY: Learning and playing piano actually came pretty late to me. I spent my youth playing drums/percussion and started focusing on piano well into adulthood. I have a cello sitting in the home studio that needs more love so I am hoping to tackle that someday.

    Tell us about how you started playing music?
    PAUL
    : Anthony was a drummer so I just informed him one day that he was now in a band with me. I’d never written a song before so we enlisted our best friend also. From that point on we were all obsessed with music and songwriting.
    ANTHONY: Paul did indeed unceremoniously draft me to play drums in his band. I had been playing since I was a kid but always in school programs. We must have been in our early teenage years when we started really playing and creating in earnest.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    PAUL
    : I’m not certain I would classify our music as strictly piano music since we are also very interested in bringing other instruments into the mix. I would say it’s been the better part of ten years there has been an interest in piano/ambient music.

    Tell us something about the moment you realized you could make songs yourself?
    PAUL
    : I really believe music touches and reflects the truest part of who we are and I think there is tremendous potential for connection. I remember creating a song in our band and being kind of stunned that once you open yourself up the melodies sort of take over. The first song was terrible but it was like simultaneously being both an observer and a participant. Once the song was finished I think we played it for seven hours straight! There is something incredibly powerful in being able to drag our inner emotional world out into the daylight.
    ANTHONY: There is magic in the moments right after a new song or idea is born. We were lucky that occurred early on for us. Those moments were even more powerful as the first really creative moments were a shared experience.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    PAUL AND ANTHONY:
    We both love Luke Howard, Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm (of course) and Dustin O’Halloran.

    Is there a song you can play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
    PAUL
    : There really isn’t. I have a habit of sitting down with every intention to practice and then discover 10 minutes later that I’m working on a new idea without quite realizing that I even started. I’m kind of in love with creation.
    ANTHONY: Opus 23 by Dustin O’Halloran. I simply adore it.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    PAUL/ANTHONY: That songs in any musical genre need to confirm to predefined structures. Songs can have intention without necessarily conforming to standardized arrangements. If the music evokes a feeling or takes the listener on a journey then you have been successful, regardless of the path you’ve taken to get there. Let choices serve the music.

    How do you record your music?
    PAUL/ANTHONY:
    We’re fortunate to have a well equipped home studio with almost everything we need. It’s nice having the freedom to tinker with both the songs and the mix whenever time allows.

    What is your take on sampled instruments?
    PAUL/ANTHONY:
    We absolutely love organic (real) instruments; however, we have no issues with sampled instruments. Ease of use and the ability to jump right into a project without having to mic everything up is great. They are really valuable for sketching out ideas and for creating interesting textures or effects. Having said that, we find there really is not a good substitute for string players when it comes time to record. Samples can work but it’s just not a matter of having a real instrument-its the musician playing it. Those small inconsistencies in timing and tone are what breathe life into recordings.

    Bonus question from my son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    PAUL/ANTHONY: That’s a fantastic question. We think they come from the parts of ourselves that are mostly hidden in daily life. Maybe they are the closest representation of who we really are. 

    Thank you Paul and Anthony for your participation!

    And for more information, check out these links:
    Instagram / Spotify