When did you discover your love for your craft and what made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in it?
When I was quite young, my father bought a Zimmerman baby grand as an anniversary gift for my mother, as it was a dream of hers to learn how to play the piano, Sadly, after a fall and injury to her left arm, my mother lost her ability to play the instrument, and our living room piano sat untouched for several years. I was about 11 when I first started to pick out a few songs from the radio on the piano.
In a few months, I began writing my first solo piano pieces and recorded them on tapes for holidays and mother’s Day. Many of these early songs from my high school and college years were featured on my first album, Nocturnes. Since then, I’ve continued to write solo piano music at different benchmarks in my life.
The most recent album, May, was recorded shortly after my mother passed away. For this album, I returned to my childhood baby grand piano and recorded in our living room one last time before we sold the house.
To what or whom do you accredit your sense of style?
I grew up listening to a lot of solo piano musicians like George Winston, Yann Tiersen, and Oscar Pederson. Over time, jazz, minimalism, and neo-classical influences started to shift and challenge my newer compositions. The new album, May, ranges broadly in genres while still hopefully maintaining the original tone and spirit of my earlier work.
On your current project, how did you come up with the concept?
I wrote the album during a darker time in my life. My father was very ill, and I spent the bulk of my non-hospital visiting days at home reading Haruki Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and playing the piano. The novel, which is truly an epic read, started to seep into my subconscious in strange ways.
My dreams became strange and vivid, and the new songs carried contradictions between lightness and darkness. When I finally recorded the album properly post-pandemic, I found our childhood piano further adding to this dichotomy in the music.
Zimmerman pianos are famously bright instruments and coupled with the darker origins of the music, I felt Murakami’s character May Kasahara, a young woman of constant optimism and exuberance, shining through the music. In the end, the album felt far more hopeful and soothing in its new form, despite the heavy circumstances surrounding its inception and recording.
What are some of your greatest challenges, and what is your greatest attribute when it comes to your work ethic?
During this album, one of the great challenges was recording on the old Zimmerman baby grand itself. When I inherited the piano, I found it was terribly out of tune. The key caps were falling off, the legs creaked, and the strings rang out during heavier playing.
The instrument was also extremely loud and difficult to control dynamically, prompting one of the men I hired to service the piano to advise me to “dump this old thing and get a suitable instrument.” Still, I grew up with the Zimmerman and its mid-range had power and beauty, unlike any piano I’d ever played.
It was because of this, that I adapted each song to fall within this optimal range, and I recorded each hand separately to better control the wonky dynamics. This required an enormous amount of time and patience, but the result is an album that plays with stereophonic sound in a way I don’t think I’d be able to achieve nor afford in a studio.
Are you the best at what you do in your opinion?
I learned long ago that I’d never be a prodigious technical piano player. The bar on classical music is very high, but my repeated (and sometimes a little obsessive) editing and practicing of these original songs help offset the gaps I have in natural proficiency.
It’s been a difficult process to let go of these insecurities, but I’ve started to care far more about the way the songs impact the listener than how they reflect on me as their creator. Piano music is often so concentrated on showing off the skill of the pianist, we often forget about the beauty and the transformative qualities of music itself. This, I believe, presents opportunities and newer boundaries to be pushed in the genre.
What are your plans for the near future?
I believe my next album will not be a solo piano album. I’m currently writing more of an indie rock/folk album and hope to have that released sometime in the next year. That said, I still write solo piano music and play piano every day. The next full solo piano work will feature longer compositions and delve deeper into experimental classical and jazz music.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank, any shoutouts?
My parents are a huge part of why my piano music exists, not just because they brought a beautiful piano into my life, but because of the many ways, they encouraged me as an artist over the years. Though I’ve lost them both in the process of recording this most recent work, I hope their spirit lives on in the music.
How can fans find you?
My albums are available on all streaming services. I also recorded several music videos on YouTube for this. I’m really proud of those videos, mostly because they feature some of my favorite artists, dancers, and comedians. You can check them out on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6_tVXE4XIcvhygYby1Y1Mg
What suggestions do you have for other artists like yourself?
Freedom is knowing how to love and challenge your work without the fear of outside influences. Once you have that in your life, every new accomplishment is a bonus.