What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
I started playing around on the piano when I was about three or so, and things progressed from there. I was trained classically and performed quite a bit as a child, then spent my 20s and 30s doing various musical jobs. (composing music for theater and TV, church musician, collaborative pianist, musical director, piano teacher, performer, etc) My “career” as a musician has had various interruptions, fits and starts, but I think I’ve settled pretty comfortably into the pianist/composer box at this point.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Right, so my latest is an eclectic album called “La Vie en Couleurs”, or “The Colors of Life”. It’s got quite a range of styles-several classical pieces, three improvisations, and the rest are original compositions. Several were inspired by my two week trip to Palestine in April. (I was music directing a group of 30 kids in Ramallah) My friend and fellow pianist Greg Maroney plays the shruti box (an eastern-style drone) on one number, and a doumbek (middle eastern drum) on another track. It’s a really cool mix of styles and something that I think all ages can enjoy!
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
I have so many musical influences I’m not even sure where to start, honestly…Classical of course, particularly Mozart, but modern stuff as well. A lot of French composers. (Messiaen is really cool!) Renaissance choral music, Beatles, musical theater, IDK. I tend to be a fan of the music of whatever region I happen to be in. During my semester in Budapest I’d sit outside and listen to the gypsy musicians. When I was touring through the south, driving through the middle of nowhere Alabama, I was grooving to gospel music. When I lived in Iceland I listened to their pop music (Bubbi Morthens, Megas, Toddmobile). In the middle east I really got into the sounds of the oud and the various calls to prayer that you’d hear throughout the day. And it all gets stored away in the memory bank.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
Eclectic. I think because I have so many diverse influences, my sound tends to reflect that. I don’t seem to be capable of staying in one musical “box” for very long. I get bored easily perhaps. I like ragtime a lot too-I forgot to mention that, and it seems to creep into almost everything I do.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Alfred Brendel playing the Mozart Piano Concerti. I could listen to that forever. Perhaps, the later Mozart Symphonies or anything by Beethoven. Or the Chopin Piano Concerto Number 1 in E minor. There’s lots of pop music that I like (Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift are great for road trips), but it would drive me crazy hearing their music repeatedly. I think I would spend the majority of my time just enjoying the silence on a desert island, quite honestly.
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Live playing by far. I like the spontaneity and adrenaline rush that comes with having a live audience. Recording can be a strange experience. Whatever one does in the spur of the moment suddenly becomes the “definitive” version. That being said, it is a lot of fun to edit tracks and play around with different effects in the studio.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
I was accompanying a choir that was touring through Europe several years ago, and had the opportunity to play in some absolutely amazing places, one of them being the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The main organ was under repair (or so they claimed) so I got stuck playing the second string organ in another part of the church and following the conductor on a video monitor. It went well enough, until she got swept away in the music and in her exuberance managed to move out of camera range so I could no longer see her. Normally that wouldn’t have been a big deal, but with the sound delay in a huge cathedral like that I couldn’t rely on what I was hearing to follow anymore and finally I had to stop playing completely. It was an absolute train wreck…. Playing for mass at the Vatican went great though-there was a little monk about four feet tall that told me when to play and what stops to pull out.
Oh, and here’s one more…I do this thing on facebook sometimes where I’ll post a video of a new song and ask for feedback. Last fall I had written a slow, pretty little piano ballad, and was asking people for possible titles. I got all sorts of awful suggestions which I never used, like “Lover’s Last Kiss” or “Passion in the Rain”, but then one guy suggested “Squirrel’s Last Crossing” as a joke. I found that absolutely hilarious, and decided to write a song with that title, which turned into my next single, which my 10 year old son drew the cover for.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
My favorite track is called “Streets of Ramallah” on my new CD. I wrote it while I was staying in Palestine, so it’s got a very middle eastern flair to it. And Greg of course does a stellar job on the doumbek! I also like “Andalusia” quite a bit. I didn’t write it, but it’s a great piece and it just shimmers when played on a Steinway.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
Sure, I’ve got some music directing jobs coming up and a solo performance here in New Hampshire in August. I’ll be touring the West Coast in the November, which I’m really excited about! Other than that, I’m hoping to record an album of Americana next, and hopefully tour internationally.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Where do you get your ideas for new music? What inspires you?
Everything gives me ideas. It could be something obvious like a bird call or a dog barking, or maybe a phrase that someone uses in casual conversation. Once I took pictures of book titles at a used book store and wrote a song for each title. I wrote the melody for “Pharaoh’s Horse” by pulling notes out of a hat and harmonizing them. I’ve never had trouble coming up with songs. The trick is to not start with a completely blank canvas. I find that if I have parameters I can come up with music almost instantaneously.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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