By BRUCE DENNILL
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
Thank you! I’ve been so tired of the word “influence”! It’s not so much about specificity as it is about expression and experience mapping out out the road to me being a musician. We all go through a phase where we think, “I WISH MY LIFE WAS A MUSICAL,” and for me it was about making my life exactly that. I can’t pinpoint the exact artists or moments; but if I had to give one pivotal moment that inspired me and has driven me to become the musician I am then it would be sitting at Mamma’s in Greenside – when it was around – with a Zamalek talking to my good friend, Jono. Obviously, when I was a much younger composer, and I mean in the sense of just starting out, I was hugely inspired by other people’s music and would focus a lot on it. I’d been at The Barbican listening to a performance of Max Richter’s Four Seasons and I remember sitting there thinking how much I wanted to be able to be a composer on a stage with musicians who could breathe life into something I’d created.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
It’s changed in the sense that in the beginning I was in awe of other composers and the music they were creating and I wanted to be on a similar level. As time has gone by I’ve come to be in awe of the people I’ve met instead, and so my music has become a story rather than elements of what other people are creating.
Name one composition you wish you’d written (or, if you’re not a writer, one you’d like to be know as the definitive interpreter of). What makes that piece so important?
I wish I’d written On The Nature of Daylight by Max Richter. I still don’t know the real reason why, but it’s something I’ve been able to listen on repeat for years and every time it feels like a warm, sometimes melancholy, surprise.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have your melodies, your technique or another aspect be the most memorable parts of your songs?
It’s hard to answer. I wouldn’t say my music is the most melodic, but there’s something in the repetition that I find myself focusing on. Maybe it’s because of my bad habits when it comes to listening to other music and how there are moments in pieces where I’d wish they would just come back over and over again.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (eg selling CDs from a box in your car) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
The industry has become quite difficult in some ways and incredibly easy in others. It’s easy to record the music you write and find a digital distribution platform to release it through. The difficult part comes with finding people who believe in it enough to feature you on those platforms. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had Apple Music behind each of my albums, which has meant a lot of success for me, even on a very small scale. I still have a cupboard full of albums to sell and maybe once day I’ll actually be able to sell those. I don’t perform as much as I’d like, but it’s something I hope to change after this album.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
There’s really no gap because I think I’ve had very little expectation when it’s come to releasing music. One of the hardest things is to be able to tell people why they should listen to you, so when they do, it’s humbling. So to answer your question – I don’t really notice the gap and it doesn’t matter to me because I’m managing to fill in the blanks as I go.
What is the story behind My Body Of Preludes – the genesis of the project, the people involved, and the muse behind its creation?
It’s an album of short pieces written for solo piano with a touch of strings to add a different dimension to it. It’s more a conversation between several different people and how affection is such a power thing. How any one person could listen to a piece and it would become part of their body of music and part of them. I wanted to create something simple but powerful that could become something that wasn’t just for me.