• 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!

    For more information, please check out the following links:
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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!

    For more information, please check out these following links:
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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!

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

  • Behind the piano

    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

    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!

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

    Behind the piano: Omar Raafat

    A while back I introduced you all to the track The portrait by the composer Omar Rafaar, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the song a bit better.

    What are your thoughts on artist names?
    I thought about this for a while but I wanted to use my real name at the end instead of using a generic artist name, just made more sense since the music I am writing is truly from within. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Cairo, Egypt and live in Victoria, BC in Canada. I moved around a lot when I was younger from Europe to Egypt to the US and then finally to Canada.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started out playing guitar at the age of 10 and then at around 13 I switched over to playing drums. I also starting recording and playing around with recording equipment and using a midi keyboard very early on. That allowed me to use the piano a little more and learned how to play because of my writing. I only really started to play piano 5-6 years ago but for me it is more a composing tool than an instrument I am good at. I can play a little bit of guitar, piano and drums just enough for me to be able to express myself with them. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started at a young age and was motivated by watching my father play the guitar. He would always come back from work and play and sing so I naturally followed. I became highly passionate about music and played in a lot of different bands growing up.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Piano music is a recent thing for me, I have always been putting music together and playing around and composing. I write a lot of different types of music but only recently decided I wanted to make a minimalistic album that has only real organic instruments. I also love the sound of a muted piano with the felt on it. It gives it a very intimate sound that really inspired me to write the album with it as its focus. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I started out playing around with recording software and just putting things together. I always had the difficulty of finishing pieces that I wrote and then slowly I got over that and started to really push myself to finish any track I started. I also love hearing tracks in different and new genres that challenge me and inspire me to try and write and learn to make it. That is why I love film music as it is very versatile and brings in a new challenge always. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    These days I am listening to a lot of Olafur Arnalds. His music is a huge inspiration on me and the album I just wrote. He has taught me that you don’t need to over complicate music for it to be impactful. He really knows how to connect and move an audience. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I would have to say the track “Time is Lost’ from my album. I actually don’t know a lot of peoples songs on the piano and usually just use the piano as a composing and inspirational tool. I always sit and play “Time is Lost” whenever I sit at the piano for some reason.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think people are doing a good job of breaking rules in music these days. I also think we are seeing the listeners not really caring about rules which allows a lot more innovation.  Instruments are tools and fuel inspiration even if they are not used in a conventional way. The music that stands out the most is the ones that are doing something really different.

    How do you record your music?
    I record everything at my home studio. I come from the studio background, working at different studios in my career so I have a decent setup where I can record and do everything at my own place.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I like sampled instruments for what they are. I am always impressed with them and use them when writing tv/film work. I do think they have huge limitations and we should be careful using them. They are great for sketching and coming up with ideas. The album “A Way Home” that I just finished was fuelled by me being tired of writing with virtual instruments all the time. I wanted to go the complete opposite and write an album that used zero sampled  instruments. I think it is really important to use real musicians and sampled instruments don’t have the realism and life that real players do. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I am really excited to put out my first solo album “A Way Home” on February 7th. It was inspired by the nature in the area where I live in the pacific north west.  The album is a concept album and is really meant to be heard in order as if it is one long piece. 

    And the usual question my five year old son once asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    That is a great question. For myself, I am inspired by sounds and instruments. I can pick up an instrument and just use it for some sounds that really inspire a piece of music. Different instruments will get me to write very differently and they will fuel the inspiration. Being outdoors with wide open spaces and beautiful surroundings make it easy for me to write as well. I definitely value nature and our surroundings and need to go out often. 

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

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

    Behind the piano: We dream of Eden

    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!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Piotr Wiese

    Today it’s time to get to know the polish composer Piotr Wiese a bit better!

    Where are you from and where do you live?
    I am from Poland. I used to live in the capital city – Warsaw, yet now I moved to a “field studio” in the middle of nowhere. Literally in the middle of the forest in northern Poland, I have locked myself down in an old house where I start working on a new music project.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    For 22 years now. I wish I could play other instruments. For now, I am satisfied with the knowledge of how other musicianscan play different instruments. I have orchestrated music for a great symphony orchestra when composingmaterial for my debut album “Questioning Infinity”, I recorded every single instrument line on a midi keyboard using VST’s etc.Recently, I have done the same working on a musical ‘Pinocchio’.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Thanks to my parents. They thought it would be good to get me private piano lessons in a local school when I was 8.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    For more than half of my life.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It was around my 14th birthday. At that time I inherited an old piano that my grandmother used to play. I have never met her though, as she passed away a long time before my birth. Anyway, the great and noble sound of the instrument enabled me to compose piano miniatures in a style similar toold masters such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and beloved Chopin.  Later on, I developed my own, subtle piano style deeply connected with the modern way of piano playing with the use of felt between the strings and hammers. 

    What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Daigo Hanada, Chad Lawson, Otto Totland.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    When I sit at the piano, I usually improvise something. Very often it’s in a minor or c minor – my favourite keys. Also, I have my favourite harmonic progressions (I,III,V,IV) (I, VI, IV, V) in different combinations and modes. 

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

    How do you record your music?
    Myself in my home-studio.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I hate the digital world, yet I love sampled instruments. If there would be a cataclysm and I would have to decide whether to save one or another,I would always go for an acoustic instrument. But after a year or so I would regret. 🙂 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I want to say Hi to everyone who is reading this interview. 

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

    Say ‘Hi’ to your boy! The best question. From the heart rather than from the mind, I guess.

    Thank you very much for this Piotr!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Luca Mazzillo

    A while back I posted about the track Love Waves by the Italian composer an piano player Luca Mazzillo. Today, it’s his turn to step into the light of the Behind the piano series!

    Here we go!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in Italy, in Rome, not downtown but near to the sea. Every day I drive along the seaside towards the company where I work as an electronic engineer.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    The past 8 years I have dedicating most of my spare time to the piano. Until that I played occasionally keyboards. I also play drums in the dance music revival 80-90’s band called conrispettoparlando. For a little while I also tried to play acoustic and electric guitar but at the end I gave up: too hard on my fingertips!

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I think I started when I was something like 10. My little brother received as a gift an old electric organ: it came with sheet music using numbers. Who can recognize this? 5653 5653 997 885 etc. I’ll tell you the answer later!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I wrote my first composition at school, I was 13. The middle school music teacher, even having only one hour a week, managed to transmit me the basic notions to let me create music. Around 18 I wrote a lot of songs, mostly ballads, with lyrics and music arrangements. The piano was only one of the ingredients of those (unpublished) compositions.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    8 years ago, I was sitting in a cinema, near to my future wife, watching Intouchables, a beautiful French film with an incredible soundtrack. Einaudi’s piano tracks as Una mattina and Fly entered immediately in my head. In that exact moment, I realized I could make and publish piano music. 

    What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
    No doubt at all: the artist in my genre that I prefer is Ludovico Einaudi. I’ve been influenced a lot also by George Winston, Yann Tiersen, Yiruma. And in these days, I listen to music from Roberto Cacciapaglia, Olafur Arnalds, Dardust, Alexandra Streliski.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Can I reply with 3 songs? If not, consider only the first one 🙂 Tree of Life suite (Oceano & Wildside mashup) from Roberto Cacciapaglia, Porz Goret from Yann Tiersen and I giorni from Ludovico Einaudi.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Honestly speaking, I think the only rule to follow in music (like in all arts), is producing something that is a pleasure to play and a pleasure to listen to. 

    How do you record your music?
    Luckily, in my home I have enough space for a grand piano, a digital upright piano and a digital portable piano. Nevertheless, digital piano and notebook are my favourite tools to record my music. Last EP Evolution has been performed on digital piano, and the sound is a modelled piano, an algorithm, not a sampled instrument. In previous albums I used the native sound of my digital piano: probably this sound was too perfect and “clean”. Of course, the principle reason of this home studio electronic setup, is for economic and time reasons. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I’m absolutely positive about sampled instruments! Recently I found out about a software instrument that excellently reproduces acoustic pianos. I can edit tons of parameters to personalize the sound as I prefer: tune, hammer, pedal, strings, keys noise, effects. For me the result is absolutely realistic. All the technology that can help leading to result in less time with good quality is for me always welcome!

    Anything else you want to share?
    One of the bigger problems for a pianist when playing around is finding a piano. For some years I mounted my keyboard on a stand and performed my compositions. Although the sound of digital piano is quite good and realistic, you can’t say this about the aesthetics of an electronic keyboard. So, I decided to build by myself a lite furniture that could replicate an upright piano!

    And, the question from my five-year-old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    For me is very simple: there is a precise moment when I’m inspired. Then I sit at the piano and notes flow by their selves through my fingers! The important thing is having possibility to record, in some way, this music, otherwise is lost forever: fortunately, nowadays, in our smartphone there is always a recorder handy.

    By the way, the song in numbers mentioned above is Silent Night!

    Thank you very much for this interview Luca!

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