Who or what inspired you to take up piano and pursue a career in music?
My late mother encouraged both myself and my two older sisters to take piano lessons, and I duly obliged at the age of seven, only to give up after six months citing problems with theory of music as the reason! However, after a short break my uncle suggested I both join the local church choir and perhaps give the instrument another go, which I did.
After that I never looked back, and that then heralded the beginning of a long musical journey which has been both fascinating and hugely enjoyable.
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Along with my mother it would be my second piano teacher Harry Williams, a wonderful church organist to whom I would listen unnoticed at the back of the church before my weekly lesson and marvel at his expertise with the instrument. He encouraged me to tackle more demanding pieces on the piano and also to have lessons on the same organ that he played so magnificently. As a result I was introduced to the organ music of J.S.Bach, who then became and still remains my favourite composer of all.
In more recent years an American pianist called David Nevue. Through YouTube, I chanced upon him performing his own compositions at house concerts and that in turn provided the catalyst for me to embark on the musical venture that I am currently pursuing.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Recording my own compositions in a recording studio and performing them live unquestionably. It is perfectly natural not only to doubt the quality of your own compositions, but also whether you can hold your nerve sufficiently to be able to record them in a studio environment. Fortunately I had a very patient recording engineer who steered me through the recording of my first album, and on completion of the sessions then encouraged me to release the material as a collection on various digital platforms.
Having played in bands over the years the next hurdle to overcome was that of performing the music to a captive audience. A successful debut charity concert in Nottingham showcasing my original material provided the impetus to go out and seek more recitals and become more accustomed to performing in public as a solo artist.
What performance/recordings are you most proud of?
The two albums I have recorded thus far. I didn’t think I had it in me to write enough suitable material for one album let alone record it so I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to do two separate recordings. The majority of the music for the first album was written over a two year period following a “spike” in creative activity.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
In my current sequence of concerts where I play material predominantly from the second album, I play a trilogy of pieces which segue perfectly in a tonal context but vary in terms of style and tempo. In order to create atmosphere during recital I think it is incumbent on the artist to be able to do this with certain pieces as I think it all adds atmosphere to enhance the concert experience.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I am currently in the middle of a short tour to promote the new release, so my programme predominantly contains material from the new album along with a few selected pieces from the first. I have included a few “covers” in selected previous concerts, but my preference is for original material.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The benefit of this genre of music is that you are able to perform in some wonderful venues with superb acoustic qualities. I performed a recent recital at Worcester Cathedral in truly majestic surroundings which was a real treat, along with a performance last year at Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire which was equally uplifting. So my favourite concert venues would have to be churches and cathedrals, although I have also performed in small theatre locations. My concert debut at the Djanogly Recital Hall in Nottingham is one that will also live long in the memory.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I particularly enjoy playing a piece off my first album entitled “Timeless”, which is different because it is the only composition of mine written in an irregular time signature and has an almost mesmeric effect on me when ever I play it. People that are familiar with the work liken it to being on a train and just gazing out the window as the world rushes by!
Another piece I tend to close my concerts with is a piece called “Wedding Day”, which is a joyous uplifting tune that falls really nicely under the fingers and hopefully sends the audience home in a positive frame of mind!
Who are your favourite musicians?
Yann Tiersen for me is an absolute master in the field of ambient neo-classical solo piano music. I recently purchased his latest collection of solo piano recordings, an album based on specific locations around the island off the coast of Brittany where he lives which contains simple melodies but delivered with devastating effect. A major talent with a very individual style.
Philip Glass is another musician I admire who likewise has a very individual style. I particularly like his collection of twenty piano etudes played by Japanese pianist Maki Namekawa.
J.S Bach as mentioned previously, particularly his organ works.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Hearing the middle movement of the famous Piano Concerto No.2 in F Major by Shostakovich live for the first time at a concert in Nottingham many years ago. The piece is a work of breathtaking beauty, where the single note spine-tingling piano entry just sets the scene for a quite extraordinary piece of music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Make sure you have something else in your life which compliments your musical activities and doesn’t detract from them. Also have a second instrument, as that in itself gives you a different musical perspective and makes you more “rounded” as a musician.
Be prepared to take risks and put yourself outside your “comfort zone”.