• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Jacob Trautner

    It’s Thursday and of course time for another Behind the piano post. This week we’ll get to know the Danish composer Jacob Trautner a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born at Hvidovere Hospital near Copenhagen in 1970. A couple of years later we moved to Kolding and then Horsens where I grew up. Right now, I live with my wife and two kids, in a small town in Jutland called Skanderborg. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    We had a grand piano at home, and so I started playing when I was around six years old. Later, I also played drums and the trumpet, but it was never that serious.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    The first memory I have with music is an image of me standing at the piano, listening to my father play. He liked Beethoven, and later it also became one of my favourite composers. With no distractions like smartphones and computers, the piano quickly became my ideal place to hang out.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I started making music early. Still, back then, I didn’t think of it as anything special. It was just me having fun jamming on the piano, experimenting with different sounds and moods. I was a shy kid, and the piano was a calm place to try out emotions that were too complicated in “real” life. I can’t remember making my first song, but I remember having fun recording long jams on tape to my friends. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My first “piano” artist idol was the french keyboardguru Jean Michel Jarre. Later I came to like great pianists like Keith Jarret, Chick Corea and Michel Camilio.

    In the last ten years, I’ve been increasingly more and more fascinated with a more minimalistic expression like Jan Johansson’s “Jazz på Svenska”. I haven’t listened to that many pianists in the last couple of years. As I’m easily affected by other people, I needed a break to strengthen the connection to my own musical expression.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I haven’t played it for a while, but if I have to choose one song, it would be “Memories of tomorrow” by Keith Jarret. It’s a beautiful song, and I really love its melancholy nature.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    When I was younger, I thought that I had to break my boundaries to get to somewhere new. Now, I think a lot more about accepting and trying to be more who I am instead of who I want to be. So I don’t think of it as breaking the rules, but more as resistance against a limiting self-image. 

    How do you record your music?
    During the process of composing the music for the album, I often used virtual instruments for smoother workflow and editing. I used a lot of time tweaking a mix of virtual piano sounds, and I ended up with a really lovely sound, both intimate and warm. So despite the fact, that I love playing acoustic instruments, I realised that the sounds I was using in my private recording sessions, had actually also shaped the compositions. The sound became an essential part of the expression, so I decided to keep it. Also, using virtual instruments gave me much more time to record, reflect, and edit the overall appearance of the album.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use sampled instruments on the album. Still, if it’s a replacement of real instruments, they can certainly have their limitations. In my experience, it takes a lot of work to make sample libraries function musically. Each library is different, and you have to play or program them just as differently. Often an overuse of samples causes the music to be too clean, dull and “dead”. It’s like people using too much botox, you lack the expression. On the other hand, if you modify or create your own samples, it can deeply personalize your sound in a significant way.

    And, the question from my five year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Now that’s a difficult one. I think that if I manage to be honest, the songs ideally is a reflection of who I am at the deepest level. So in that way, the songs appear from my childhood experiences.

    Thank you very much for sharing Jacob!

    For more information, check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Borrtex

    A while back I introduced you to Borrtex and his song (and album) thōughts. I knew from reading Borrtex story about the song that this Behind the piano post had to happen! So today, it’s time to get to know the person behind Borrtex better!

    What’s your real name? 
    My real name is Daniel Bordovsky.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    When I was 10 years old, I used to play computer games with my friends. And I was the only one who didn’t have a nickname. So, one of my friends took my last name and did some changes, in order to ‘make it sound cool!’ haha! And somehow that’s how Borrtex happened. I liked it, and started using it everywhere even later on. I would say it’s quite original and has an actual connection to my real name…

    Where are you from? And where do you live? 
    I’m from Havirov, Czech republic – a small town in central Europe. I grew up here, attended music classes and studies high school. Now, I spend most of my time in our capital city of Prague, and make travel trips to Los Angeles and New York on a regular basis.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since the age of six, but I didn’t really enjoy it back then. I had a lot of friends all around my house, so pretty much all I wanted, was to go outside and play with them all the time, haha! But even the idea of playing from sheet music seemed kind of boring to me. I couldn’t get much creative and had to do what I was told to do. However my teacher was amazing, and she was always super patient with me. I believe, she is actually one of the reasons, why I eventually found a way to fall in love with the instrument. She wasn’t angry when I didn’t do the homework. She was always positive, with a smile on her face. I visited her last year to express my gratitude.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    When I finished my music classes after seven years of studies on Music School of Leos Janacek, in my hometown, I wouldn’t touch the piano for around five years. I started being more interested in movies and TV. When I was 18, I got a job as a cinematographer for a documentary project about Warner Bros. Studios, taking place in Hollywood. That was a crucial point in my life. We were doing interviews with world-wide known film composers such are James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer and others… This experience inspired me to maybe start thinking about music again. And when I came back home from LA, I just thought I would give it a chance. And since then, I remember not doing anything, than music!

    How long have you been making piano music? 
    I started producing instrumental / piano music in April, 2017, when I came back from LA. It’s been little over two years now.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    The first song I tried to make. I remember this quite vividly. I started working on it in the evening, and I was so caught in the process, that I continued working on it the next morning, and I literally forgot to go to school, as it was Monday. That was the moment, I knew I want to keep doing it, and keep expressing my thoughts and ideas through music.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    Currently Nils Frahm. I stumbled upon his work earlier this month, and he is a genius. I fell in love with his work immediately. The way he manages to combine piano with electronic elements and it still sounds so well-arranged! Also, I’m a big fan of a film score composer Rob Simonsen, who really inspires me with his minimalistic approach and beautiful melodies.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? 
    Not really. I usually play my most recent songs, or I just play whatever, and that’s usually how my new tracks get born. Improvisation is probably my favorite thing to do. Just kind of ‘transcribing’ my present feelings and emotions into music.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    I would say it depends on your personality. For me, I find it difficult to break the rules. I’m not good at it. I’m not a music inventor. I like working with known instruments and my best work comes usually when I don’t experminet at all. But we live in a time, when anybody can make music. And there is a lot of talented people who try to combine all different kinds of genres, and I think that is pretty amazing and that’s actually how our musical culture develops constantly on a daily basis.

    How do you record your music?
    All my work is recorded in my own studio. I tried getting in touch with some major record labels, but I found it ineffective, and the deals aren’t really that friendly. I prefer doing everything on my own, whether it’s album recording, marketing or public relations…

    Whats your take on sampled instruments? 
    They are a great tool to use, when writing new ideas. I would say I use sampled instruments quite often, when I want to layer the tracks, in order to make the sound more intense and spacious. It’s usually sampled strings that I use for this purpose.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us Daniel!

    For more information about Borrtex, check out these links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Richard Hellgren

    A while back, I presented to you the song Surfacing by Swedish composer and piano player Richard Hellgren, so now its time to go under the hood and get to know him a bit better!

    Where are you from, and where do you live?
    I am from sweden and I live on a relatively small island in the baltic sea called Gotland. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing piano for very long. For more than thirty years. I also play the violin.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My mother played the piano and we had an acoustic piano where I grew up. I remember that I as a child was very fascinated by the piano and all the sounds you get out of it. Later my parents sent me to piano lessons. At about the age of 13 i got really hooked on playing the piano and started to practice a lot. I was at that time very much into playing and trying to master pieces of the classical repertoire. in my late teens my goal was to become a concert pianist. At that time I also studied piano at a pre conservatory level in England. However I was practicing too much and in the wrong way ( I later found out). My wrists were strained and I had to stop playing. I sort of gave up on that career. Instead I focused on a different career and became an Architect. I always wanted to do something creative and I thought that could be a good alternative. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have always thought that making music is something magical that I always wanted to do. But I think it is the last three years that I really started to make music. I think it has been parallel with me finding my way back to the piano. Reevaluating my relation to the piano. Not trying to be a pianist with technical virtuosity. But finding my own authentic voice and expressing it on the piano. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    For very long I have had a feeling that i had something to express in music. But earlier I seldom got very much external validation. People didn’t seem to understand my music. I think that led my to doubt myself and my music making. A turning point for me was when i started to do some meditation tracks for a mediation app  called Insight timer.  I got so much good feedback from people and started to actually believe that there are actually people I can reach with my music and that my music actually can have meaning for other people. That in turn gave me more confidence and I started to do more music. Eventually I found the modern classical community and found a genre that suited me and my style very well.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I think Luke Howard and Ólafur Arnalds are two of my main infuences. I also like Johann Johannson. There is something with that music coming from Iceland.  Also living on an island perhaps there is something in the music I can relate to.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    When I am in a creative mood my head is so filled with my own new music that I rarely have place for much else music. But with that said I had a period when I listened a lot to Luke Howards album Open heart stories. It resonated very much with me. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think we are stuffing everything in our modern culture. I think of an old interior in the nineteenth century where there where things everywhere.  There is a term:  horror vacui  (horror of empty space) for that interior mind set. I think it is similar in our modern world. We seem to try be perpetually entertained, with social media internet. And there is rarely time for silence and stillness. I think there is a need for music that is not always engaging the mind. A music that perhaps is experienced as a bit boring for someone seeking to be stimulated by novelty and excitement. But a music that for someone else can be a vehicle for stillness and emotional healing. 

    How do you record your music?
    For me I was searching quite a lot for the perfect instrument and studio to record in. I had an idea of recording on an expensive grand piano and I evaluated different studio options. A friend of mine that is also an accomplished music producer one day showed me his studio. I asked him for advice and it turned out that he himself preferred cheaper upright pianos because he thought they had more character.  That made me rethink what an ideal recording instrument should be. I actually had an upright piano in my house. An old Malmsjö from 1911. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was the perfect instrument for me. It is funny sometimes that solutions sometimes can be right in front of your eyes but you just don’t see them.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    My first recordings were made on a sampled instrument. Those recordings are definitely cleaner. But I prefer listening to a real instrument.  But with that said I am still moved by great music whether sampled och acoustic. 

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    I think everyone has a creative seed inside of them. Tendering it with soil, water, space and sunlight will make it grow to a tree. For some people the fruit of that tree will be songs to share to the world.

    Thank you for this Richard!

    For more information, please check out an of these following links:
    Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Music Within

    Today it’s time to get to know more about the person behind great compositions as A moment of symmetry and Julichka’s Theme. Let’s go!

    What’s your real name? 
    Rob McAllister

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I look at it more as a project name rather than my artist name. With the name, I was trying to find something that communicated a sense of depth and passion and curiosity. I was pretty pumped when I discovered that Music Within was unclaimed by any musician or composer and I just went with it!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from a city called Welland in Ontario, Canada. I now live in Toronto, Canada.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    Wow, well after being asked to count it out it looks like I’ve been playing the piano on and off for about 20 years now! I also play guitar and trombone regularly, and a few other instruments in a studio / production capacity.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was about six years old my parents started me in piano lessons. (Big thank you to them!) My sister was already a few years ahead of me, so I was eager to catch up.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Approximately 7 years.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    My first experience writing music rather than just playing someone else’s music was actually in a band setting. When I was about 14 I played trombone in a ska/punk band. It was a lot of fun writing the horn parts and definitely opened my mind up to the reality that I could create my own music.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    It’s difficult to say ‘favorite’ artists but here are a few that I like a lot: Angus MacRae, Joep Beving, Jasha Klebe, Bruno Sanfilippo, and Rob Simonsen. I also recently discovered an album called Waves by AVA which I’m really enjoying!

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Waltz in D-flat major by Frederic Chopin (popularly known in English as the “Minute Waltz”)

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    Hmm, tough question. How about the rule of music needing to fit into a “genre bin?” I’d say it’s a good one to try to consciously break. “Weird and strange” can become “unique and ground-breaking” if given the chance. 

    How do you record your music?
    I record most of my music myself at my “project studio.” When I have parts for live strings I send it to a few musician friends who can record the parts from their own studios. For a few of the tracks on my upcoming album, the piano was tracked in a Toronto studio called Soleil Sound.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without sampled instruments. When I was first starting to compose music and discovered that I could play all of these amazing, realistic sounds with my keyboard it was like opening Pandora’s box! And I still use them regularly today. So to speak down on them would be total hypocrisy. All of that said, now that I’m a bit more experienced and I’ve trained my ‘production ears’, without a doubt live instruments with live players always sound better, enhance the composition and evoke a more emotional response. How’s that for tiptoeing the line?

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

    Great question! I think they come from all around us. You can get inspired by a cloud in the sky, a ray of light, something you read, a film you watch, a sad experience, and of course other people’s music. You sit down and have fun experimenting. You chip away at the nothingness with your own personal experiences and your unique strengths.

    Thank you very much Rob!

    For more information, please go to the following place to find more!
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: The Aquaerials

    I have up until now had the chance to feature two tunes by The Aquaerials, and now it’s about time to get to know the man behind the mask a bit better.

    What’s your real name?
    My name is Mark Swanson.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from a town called Muskegon, Michigan. I currently live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    An Aquaerial is sort of a made up hybrid creature. Like a bird and a fish combined. I came up with it years ago. It was never really meant to be a band name, and looking back now, it’s a pretty terrible name.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano very casually for about 15 years. I’ve only been more seriously playing music for the last 5 years. I also play guitar, but I definitely spend most of my time at the piano.

    Tell us about how you started playing music!
    I took a few guitar lessons when I was 7 or 8 years old, but it never really stuck for me. I also played trumpet for a few years in school. But aside from that, I started pretty late in life. When I was 24, I moved into an apartment by myself. I had wanted to learn an instrument again for years, and once I had a place to myself where I could be as noisy as I wanted, I bought a guitar. I became obsessed with learning how to play music and writing my own songs. The songs I wrote were horrible, but I ended up recording some of them on piano 10 years later. They’re slightly less horrible now.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I began releasing music on Soundcloud about 5 years ago. I had actually sold off all my instruments while my wife and I were saving our money to buy a house. I sold several guitars, a drum kit, bass guitar, etc. The only thing I wasn’t able to sell off was my keyboard. I had bought it for $300, but the most anyone offered me was $100, so I decided to hold onto it. Once I got the itch to start playing music again, the only instrument I had left was that keyboard. So I dusted it off and that’s basically how this entire project started.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I started writing songs within a few months of buying a guitar back in 2004, but it wasn’t until about 10 years later that felt like I was able to write music worth sharing with other people.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I honestly don’t listen to a lot of piano music. I’ve always been more into punk, indie and folk music. I’ve only started to discover more piano music in the last few years. I like a lot of the modern players like Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Max Richter and Eluvium. I’ve also discovered a ton of lesser known, yet equally talented players through your site and the playlists my music has been featured on. Some of my favorites at the moment are Andrea Carri, Andy Feldman, Anna Yarbrough and yourself.

    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. After I record a song, I basically stop playing it altogether. I don’t perform my music live, so I like to work on new songs rather than play old ones. When I sit down at the piano, I’m usually playing whatever song I’m trying to work out at that moment or just improvising until I stumble upon the next one.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    It’s not necessarily a rule, but the “genres” thing needs to be broken. It seems like most people decide the genre they want to be in and then try to write music that fits into it. I really have no idea what genre my music is, because it isn’t just one. It’s kind of been lumped in with the modern piano music, but my music only loosely fits that description. It contains elements of pop, rock, classical, folk and electronic music, but it isn’t any one of those things.

    How do you record your music?
    I do it all from my house. I’ve put out 13 albums and EPs over the past 5 years. The first 9 were all recorded using that old Casio keyboard I mentioned earlier and GarageBand on my Mac. Since then, I’ve upgraded to a nicer digital piano and Logic Pro X.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think they’re amazing. I run my piano through a sampled Steinway Grand Piano in Logic, so my music sounds the same whether I record it on a $3,000 digital piano or a $300 keyboard. I also use a of strings, brass and synths in my music. These samples allow my piano to become a violin, trumpet, drum kit, bass guitar… probably even a kazoo if I wanted it to. I haven’t tried that yet, though.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I just released 3 new EPs between September and October. Empty Orchestra is a collection of atmospheric piano pieces. Dead Sea Symphony is a genre-bender of dark country, rock and poetry. Learning to Fly is a collaborative Post-rock record with my friend Mike Harrison from The Anthropophobia Project.

    And, as always, the questions one of my sons once asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Your son’s question is the only one I can’t answer. I honestly don’t know where they come from and it makes me afraid that every piece of music I create will be my last.

    Thank you so much for you participation Mark! I’m happy you find new music through the site!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Cormac Parle

    A while back I had a chat with Cormac Parle about his track A magic spell and today it’s time to learn more about Cormac and hit music!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Ireland, and I live on a crossroads in the Irish countryside surrounded by farmland

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano since I was 6, so 41 years now. I also did clarinet and double bass lessons when I was school – my clarinet has been in the attic for 15 years, but I play bass in bands. Can also knock a tune out of a guitar or ukulele, but that’s hardly remarkable.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My family is fairly musical – my Dad is very into traditional Irish music, he plays fiddle and when I was a kid he played accordion and banjo for a while. He’d be the first to admit that he’s not a very accomplished musician, but he sure enjoys himself when playing. His dad in turn was fairly well-known locally as a singer, and used to appear on the national radio occasionally. 

    So I was surrounded by music as a child, though I suspect I probably started lessons simply because I had a school friend whose mother taught piano. In secondary school music became more and more an integral part of my life – lessons in 3 instruments, playing in a youth orchestra in my home town, playing bass in a rock band

    How long have you been making piano music?
    For most of my adult life I’ve had a piano piece or two in-progress inside my head, though most of them never got finished. Hard to say when I really started – when I was maybe 8 or 9 I remember my piano teacher being irritated that I was wasting my time playing variations on tunes from the TV rather than practising my scales. I also have memories from my teens of composing wistful pieces for girls I liked. It didn’t, alas, turn out to be a successful way of getting their attention

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I think I always made songs for myself without thinking about it. I remember singing a song about holidays inspired by a line from The Famous Five (an English series of kids books) to all my friends when I couldn’t have been more than 8. 

    I do remember the moment I decided to get a bit more serious about composition though – sitting on my parents’ couch listening to the Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms which I had gotten for my 13th birthday. The music was making my hair stand on end, and I thought “this is what I want to do” 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’ve a real soft spot for Yann Tiersen, and I love some of Keith Jarrett’s improv stuff (particularly the Köln concert). Over the last while I’ve been listening a lot to Michele Nobler and Juan María Solare, and I’ve had Merrill Crissey’s track  “Summerfield” on repeat since the beginning of summer.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by apiano? Your own or someone else’s?
    Someone else’s! My default piano tunes are Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca and Maple Leaf Rag

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    It’s kind of an unspoken rule, but most composers/acts are pretty consistent stylistically, and typically I’m not. I just follow my nose and see where it leads, with no real plan at all. Sometimes I try to be more consistent, and come up with a few things in a row that make sense together, but then I get excited about some new idea I’ve had and that goes straight out the window

    How do you record your music?
    I had access to a big studio with a Baldwin grand for a while, so I’ve done some stuff there. Mostly I record at home though, just because it’s easier

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I love them! I’ve done tonnes of home recording and sampled instruments sound better than my home recordings three out of four times. I don’t care how a sound is made, I care about the impact the music has on me

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    My songs are adventures inside my own head

    Thank you very much for sharing this with us Cormac!

    For more information and updates, check out the following links:
    Twitter / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Gianluca Piacenza

    A while back, I introduced you to the song Sometimes by Gianluca Piacenza. Today it’s time to learn more about Gianluca!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Italy, and I live in Piacenza, a small city just 70km away from Milano.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing the piano when I was 4 or 5 years old, I also played a little bit of electric guitar in my teenage years but I have always been captured by electronic music and synthesizers, samplers and drum machines!

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I think I’ve always been playing something! When I was maybe 3 years old I received as a gift a little toy snare drum with two sticks and began hitting it! Then I had a little “Bontempi” keyboard and a Casio mini-synth. Then my family rented an upright piano, a beautiful Petrof which I have now in my studio and then I started taking formal piano lessons.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Being academically trained in both piano and composition, I only started writing piano music when I was a student at the local conservatory, but at that time I was more of an contemporary-experimental composer. Than I understood that my emotions need a minimal and simple language to transfer to the listeners, and my modern-classical piano journey began.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    When I was a student I had the fortune to have one of the first prosumer Tascam 4 track tape recorders: I could layer piano and synths, drum machines, vocals together and then I started experimenting and adding more gear. Then listening to the results I said to myself: good, you must improve but maybe you could become a composer and a producer! I have so much raw material, piano tracks, songs, orchestral compositions in my hard drives, but I try only to release what in my opinion add something unique and special or has a really deep connection with my soul.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I have so many, but probably I must say Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I don’t have a specific song I play when I sit at the piano, but I always start improvising something and get in touch with the instrument (especially if its a piano I never played before): I explore the timbre, melodic capability, dynamic and then try to make it sing….

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In my opinion there are simply no rules: as we speak of art, everything become subjective and everyone could potentially have something to say. The problem is that only a minimal fraction of what an artist produce today is really a masterpiece (this is the reason why classical composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin etc. will always stay in another league).

    How do you record your music?
    I’ve always been interested in recording gear and now I’m very proud of my “Red Couch Studio”, a perfect space for my music in which I have an treated piano room for clean recordings (and a beautiful Yamaha grand) but also a control room with my upright Petrof and a bunch of analog synths and effects. So I learned to record myself properly but at the same time I always like exploring new techniques.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use them and I like them very much, it’s fantastic to see what awesome tools we have now as modern composers… But I firmly believe that a real instrument and a real performance are on another level of depth and emotion.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Being an indie artist could be very demanding and demotivating at times: I’m trying to develop a real audience for my music, and I really think indie artists are the most interesting these days and I’m always discovering new unexpected talents… Sad thing is that almost nobody else know them… So if you like an artist, please support him and above all spread the word with all your friends!

    And as always, the question my 5-year old son once asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    The inspiration for my music come from everywhere: it could be an emotion, a travel, a book or a picture, a natural sound… But at the end of the day I hope all my songs come from my heart and my soul and are a path to know me as a real person also.

    Thank you very much Gianluca!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Thomas Hewitt Jones

    I have previously written and forced you to listen to the fantastic music by British composer Thomas Hewitt Jones. And now it’s time to dig a bit deeper into out knowledge about this man!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Dulwich, London and my family came from Gloucestershire. Many of my relations are still there and it feels like home, in some kind of way. I currently live in Bickley, near Bromley.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano and cello from when I was about 4 years old. I also play the organ and keyboards in general – and odd instruments which lie around my studio. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Many of my family are musicians, and so I grew up around it. There was also science in the family, but music won me over!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been writing as long as I remember, and from a young age found myself interested in writing down and structuring my own music, as well as enjoying performing and communicating it to others. Without sounding overly pretentious, the ability of music to communicate that which words cannot is a lifetime’s fascination for me.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I was given an old tape recorder with a microphone. I initially used it to record pretend ‘radio programmes’ as a kid, but quickly became interested in recording music which I had written. My school also had a printer and binding machine, so I started printing my own schoolboy music as well!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love listening to all kinds of performers and pianists. The ones which really speak to me make whichever music they are playing incredibly fresh and appealing, as if it has just been written.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Playing Bach at the keyboard is something I do to relax, and I absolutely love it. His music is contrapuntal as well as just vertical, and so it is a feast for ears, eyes and brain.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Music would be boring if everyone wrote in diatonic harmony all the time. That said, our musical ancestors have evolved music to the point it is at, and so to compose music today without at least being aware of the basic rules of harmony and counterpoint is not only disrespectful but limiting. This is why I believe we need to deliberately break the rules in our own ways to achieve an individual style, rather than totally disregard them. In the 1960s and 1970s musical composition went as far as it can ever go away from any sense of order, and I personally feel that human emotion can now be expressed in all kinds of creative ways through music without totally throwing out what came before.

    How do you record your music?
    I usually record large orchestras in central London in studios designed for the task, and smaller projects and overdubs at my home studio. I do sometimes mix myself, but tend to get mastering done elsewhere as a separate pair of ears (of a mastering engineer you trust) can help a record.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use them, but usually write away from the computer first and record as many live instruments as the budget allows, because writing music straight into a sequencer to make samples sound good can be extremely limiting.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Every human on this earth should have access to music as it helps us communicate – cavemen knew this! It has an untold number of benefits to people’s lives, despite governments’ unwillingness to allocate enough funding for a proper musical education which should be a birthright. 

     I would add that writing music is an obsessive, tiring, wonderful, addictive, intense, fulfilling occupation.

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

    God knows…I don’t think any creative really knows!

    Thank you very much for this interview Thomas!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Luke Duffy

    A while back, we listened to Luke Duffys tune Telltale signs together. Now it’s time to have a deeper conversation with Luke to learn more about the artist behind the song!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m originally from Dublin, Ireland, but have been living in Iceland for the last three years. Met a lovely Icelandic girl when I was in Dublin and I followed her to the icey North.

    Oh, Iceland! Have you learned the language yet?
    Yes, well, I’ve learned it enough to get by. I teach music in a school here and I use it everyday!

    Did your move to Iceland have an effect on your music making? I mean; many of the great ones comes from there.
    It did have an effect I suppose. I was already listening to a lot of Icelandic composers: Johann Johannson, Soley, Olafur Arnalds; so it was a soundworld I enjoyed. Although I don’t go out of my way to write programme music based on landscape or places, on some level everything is an influence and the natural beauty here is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing piano, or at least learning to play piano since I was around 5 years old. I can get away with a few chords on guitar and I was always an avid singer, but piano is my passion. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Well, I, like many children, was put into piano classes from a young age. It’s a bit of a gamble I suppose because I’ve seen young students who end up resenting their instrument because their parents forced them into it, but thankfully I was one of the fortunate ones who grew to love it. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    My interest in writing for piano didn’t come until I was half-way through my undergrad degree in Music Education. There was an option to try out composition and thanks to some encouraging teachers I ended up realising I had quite a liking for it. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It’s hard to pinpoint a particular moment, but the first year or so when I began exploring my own voice on the piano was a really interesting one. When you have spent a long time learning to play pieces from other composers, you’re really sponging up all of that influence. Although it sounds like the ultimate freedom, it can be a daunting task to sit at the piano and think about coming up with something ‘worthy’ of being written down or played. Getting past those insecurities is something I think every composer has to come to terms with. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Hmmm, that’s a tough one. The issue of putting music into these little genre boxes is a conversation in itself, but in terms of composers that use a lot of piano, there’s a long list. I’m a fan of Dustin O’Halloran; his own early piano releases are really beautiful and melodic. Craig Armstrong in a similar way has some very chorale-like pieces which I listen to now and again. They both walk that line between melodically-driven and more ambient soundscapes. My list of classical influences would be an essay in itself but to be honest. Iceland has a whole bunch of inspiring composers, both for piano and otherwise, so it’s a good creative atmosphere to be in. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Whatever I’m working on at the moment takes precedence, I can find it hard to juggle multiple things so often I’ll keep ironing out the same piece until I’m satisfied. But besides that, I’ll play through a lot of standard repertoire that I have picked up over the years if I need a relaxing evening: Schumann, Grieg, Mendelssohn, the Romantics. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I’d have to get back to you on this one. I would like to think it’s less about breaking rules necessarily, but at the same time when you take things to the extreme end of the bell curve you can learn a lot about your own music making. 

    How do you record your music?
    If it’s piano music, then I am happy recording myself. Otherwise you kind of have figure out your own way. Recording music for larger ensembles is not a cheap endeavour if you’re undertaking it alone, so I’d rather write music knowing it can be heard rather than writing for a massive orchestra without it having been commissioned.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think they are a great tool to composers. I use sampled piano software called Pianoteq quite a bit, and although not perfect, I think it’s fun to have something that you can manipulate a lot easier than if you’re recording acoustically. That said, there’s no replacing the real thing. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Well just a definite thank you to you and other small independent bloggers for doing what you guys do. It’s a lot of work and often a lot of thankless work. 

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

    I’ll have to ask them one by one, they must be floating in through one of these open windows. 

    Thank you very much for this Luke!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Jacob LaValle

    A couple of months ago we all listened to Jacob LaValle and his tune Night walk. Today it’s time to get to know Jacob a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in Nashville, TN in the US, but I grew up in the state of Florida. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano since age 7, and am 31 now, so many more years on the piano than off. It often feels like an extension of my self. I do also play the guitar and drums some, but not on a professional level.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I started playing music as a 2nd grader taking piano lessons, but I was always the student who never practiced what I was supposed to. My mom used to make me stay at the piano for 30 minutes every day, but we had a digital piano so I would wear headphones when practicing. I rarely practiced as I was supposed to, but would just messed around with the keys instead, basically trying to play songs I knew and liked. This is largely how I learned to write.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    A moment I realized I could make my own songs was one day when I was at that same keyboard, I think I was around 12 years old, and my first little two hand composition just kind of came out. Although I’ve never recorded it or written it down, I can still remember it to this day.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’m really enjoying all the exploration that is going on taking from the influences of both classical and popular genres. Some of my favorites doing this today are Nils Frahm, Dustin O’Halloran, Joep Beving, Alexandra Streliski among others. I think it’s an exciting time for piano music, there’s a lot of tasteful things being done that reach the modern listener in a deep but relatable way. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Usually when I sit down at the piano, I will usually have a few chords that I’ve been playing around with recently, which I’ll start with and just kind of see where the inspiration flows. It acts as a kind of springboard into playing and composing, but those chords are constantly being changed out for other ones. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Great question! I think any rules which stand in the way of the communication of a certain sought after feeling are the ones that need to be broken. I know that is a pretty philosophically approached answer, but I think it’s also how innovation in music happens. When the set of current rules, or toolbox, is lacking in it’s ability to communicate a feeling effectively, new things will begin to be created out of necessity.

    How do you record your music?
    I record my own music in my home studio on my Yamaha U3. It is acoustically treated and is able to produce the sound I desire for a softer upright tone. When I want a grand piano sound though, there are some great studios in Nashville that I like to rely on.  

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think they are tools, just like anything else. They can be used well or they can be used poorly. That being said, there is an emotional component that I believe cannot be fully reproduced by samples, as you have the full dynamic between a human being, their instrument, and the music they’re playing coming together for full resonance of all those emotional subtleties that make music, music. It’s hard to top real musicians for emotional expression.

    And, as always the question my five year old son once asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Great question from your son! Well my belief is that we are all created in the image of God. So that makes us like him in certain ways, like creativity. I believe the songs I make are just small recreations of what God has already made. Small reflections of the beauties in his original design. That’s part of what makes it so much fun to create, I know I’m just a very small participant in these beauties that are much grander than myself. 

    Thank you Jacob for your answers! Now we know you a little better; as planned!

    For more information, check out these following sites:
    Instagram / Website / Spotify