Could you briefly describe your compositional process?
It really depends on the project. All my training is classical, so I’ve always started at the piano with a pencil and paper, improvising and jotting down ideas to develop later. I’ve only been recording and working within a DAW for a little over three years now, so I’ve really enjoyed exploring new methods of composing since then. It’s refreshing sometimes to start with an interesting sound or texture and see what it can inspire.
Who have been your greatest influences in regard to creativity?
My composition teacher in college, Luigi Zaninelli, was a huge influence in showing me that composition is an empirical process. Inspiration doesn’t just fall from the sky while you’re on your morning stroll (usually). You have to get to work and try different things - decide what you like and what you don’t through trial and error. He would always say to me, “the answer to every ‘What if?’ is maybe.”
What are your greatest artistic challenges and how do you overcome them?
I’m very fortunate in that music is also my day job. I’m a full time church organist/director, so I continue to be very active in the classical world.
I’m thankful that I get to play wonderful music every day, but it can also keep me from wanting to go up to my studio when I’ve already been staring at a piano or piece of music all day. Those are the days when I really enjoy experimenting with a synth or doing some sound design work, because it feels so different to the world I’m usually in.
Your new album ‘What Dreams May Come’ (released on Friday, 27th October, 2017), is described as a “conceptual album in a singles culture.” What are the pros and cons (for artists) of an increase of people listening to single tracks rather than full albums?
I've always loved multi movement works in which there are themes that tie the whole thing together. I remember practicing Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in high school and being amazed at how he would bring back themes in new, inventive ways. I started thinking about ways I could do that, not only with melodies, but with elements of sound design and atmospheric textures. I also never want the listener to have to read a novel's worth of album notes to get something emotionally from my music, so I wanted each track to stand firmly on its own two feet.
The benefit to singles is that there are more opportunities for artists to be heard more frequently. The drawback is that fewer people are experiencing records as they are most often intended - as stories with a beginning and end. Hopefully, "What Dreams May Come" succeeds in allowing listeners to pick and choose tracks if they want, but really feel as if they've been taken on a journey if they listen start to finish.
Could you talk about the recording process (time, location, equipment, etc.)?
The recording process is an ever evolving one for me. I've discovered how inspiring working with hardware can be, so I'm gradually working my way out of the box and making my own samples. This record uses a lot of ambient noises and sound design from household objects that I've recorded and processed in all manner of ways. I restored a 1975 Rhodes Mark I last winter, so that's all over the album. I use a Deepmind 12 for most of the evolving pads, and an MS-20 for a lot of noisy effects and more aggressive textures. I recorded the string trio in my attic (which also happens to be my studio).
Of course, the very first and last thing you hear on the album is me crumpling up a plastic grocery bag, then time-stretching it and running it through delays and reverbs. For my next album, I plan to only use items from the grocery store.
What do you love most about what you do? What do you dislike about it?
I love the process of creating - the moment I discover something that genuinely excites me. I don't care what anyone else thinks in that moment, and it's a really pure thing. I also love the sense of community within our genre. So many talented people are all supporting each other and are really happy for each other when someone does something awesome. It's really refreshing to see.
I dislike being stuck in a small space for hours while plugging notes into Sibelius for string players.
Are there any other creative pursuits you’d like to explore outside of music?
I could see myself getting into photography a bit more if I would ever set aside some time for it.
Do you have favourite quotes or a motto that you live by?
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
This may come as a surprise, but I love the Emerson essays - “Self Reliance” is a favourite. Also, Thoreau’s “Walden.”
On a more modern note, I'm currently reading “The Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday (recommended to me by pianist and composer Chad Lawson). It's a great one that any creative person should definitely check out.