Giancarlo Erra, pianist & composer

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I always had some sort of keyboard at home during the eighties, mostly cheap Casios or similar, but I was always listening to music and trying to play it. Then as a teenager I developed an interest in rock and so I started playing electric guitar and singing, but I always used the piano to write. So much so that over the years I then shifted my attention mainly on piano and analog synthesizers/electronics as main elements of expression.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

As a child Beatles, Brian Eno, Schulze, Pink Floyd, Philip Glass and soundtracks were probably my main influences. Later on I started following more contemporary artists like Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Clint Mansell etc. I think today there’s a strong movement that joins minimalism with sound beauty through a mix of acoustic and electronic, and that’s definitely what I also found as a proper mix of all my influences.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

I think challenging myself was the biggest challenge! Many artists claim to change from album to album but actually they’re just following their most recent music listening and are not really different. Only recently have I managed to really challenge myself, and I found the only way was to take myself out of my comfort zone, writing and performing with new and unknown instruments and synthesizers, writing outside the studio, and constantly trying to not do what I would “usually do”. I think I still have lots to learn about that, but it has definitely been the greatest challenge so far.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Probably not very original, but as an artist I’m always proud of my latest album…because if I weren’t then it would not be out! In my case also because the latest one is my first one as a solo artist, developing the minimalist/chamber/electronic side of my music – definitely the recording I’m most proud of. As for performance, I think it will be the first one for this solo album as I’m preparing something quite unusual to play this music alone on stage while borrowing techniques and instruments from the electronic and DJ-ing worlds and using them as a musician.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Definitely the ones I’m more attached to emotionally. As we know sometimes we need to perform some tracks because they balance the setlist or the audience loves them, but they are not necessarily the ones we are most attached to. Usually I write inspired by my own life and feelings rather than the world around me or others’ stories, so I’m quite attached to all my music. But some of it can almost make me burst into tears when I’m on stage, and that is the music I feel I can play the best.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I usually concentrate on my latest work and then I try to mix in older material that I think can blend in and add more variety. I can spend hours or days around a setlist or tracklist.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I usually like more intimate venues where I can see and somehow interact with people. Being used to rock stages, I do enjoy that direct interplay with the audience, as I think in the end my show and music in general is really complete only when the audience reacts to it and interacts with me.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Brian Eno, Schulze, Philip Glass, Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Clint Mansell, just to name a few!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I don’t really know – for me performing is always a sort of dream. I’m lost in myself and the music, so I would say that generally speaking my favourite moment is always the one when I can ‘feel’ the audience in front of me while I’m playing the music.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

That’s a complex question! Personally I think success is when you receive messages from you fans telling you how your music maybe changed their life or helped them through very difficult moments, that kind of emotional deep connection with someone you’ve never even met and that is possible only with music. Also for me as a composer and musician success is when inspiration does its magic again and I end up with a new piece of music in front of me and that managed to move me deeply; that’s definitely the most rewarding thing.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Considering all the messages and suggestions I receive for listening to new music, I think my own message to aspiring musicians is to understand that world of music has changed, and nowadays a musician must have a lot of skills that are well beyond the actual music: management, promotion, online presence, technology. Until you arrive at a point where others do that for you, you need to work on and with those skills for years and build your own audience and following, until you become interesting and with enough numbers for a bigger audience and label. This initial stage can last quite a few years; music is just a smaller part of the job, and I still find too many aspiring musicians think we’re still in the 70s. Today with streaming services and social media and the decline of physical sales, the panorama has changed drastically, but the plus is that once you get these skills you don’t need any third party to start your career!

Giancarlo Erra’s debut solo album ‘Ends’ is released on 12 April. More information

 

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