Will and his piano.
1. Hi Will, how has your day been and where you’re answering these questions?
Hi Markku, I’m doing just great! Summer has come around here in Nashville and everyone’s catching some rays while the weather’s nice.
2. Can you tell a bit about your background?
I’m a “Music City” native, having grown up just outside of Nashville and always being around a lot of music and art. I started playing piano at age 7 after watching my dad play hymns on the upright, started composing at 10 or 11, and studied Composition for my undergraduate degree. I knew I wanted to be a composer from a young age.
3. Do you remember how you got interested in music in the first place?
My parents say I was singing before I ever spoke, so I think it’s always been a latent interest for me! But, I became especially connected to music when I started playing video games with long and exciting soundtracks–like the Final Fantasy series, and all of Nintendo’s franchises. They really ‘turned on’ my ears, and I played them over and over on an mp3 player even when I wasn’t playing the games. I tried to learn them on the piano by ear, and often by using fan-made sheet music on squaresound.com.
4. How long have you played the piano? Can you play any other instruments?
I’ve played the piano since I was 7 years old. I play a lot of different instruments, including drums, bass guitar, trumpet, and a lot of silly things that I keep around my house, like ocarina, recorder, toy piano, pocket drummers, aux percussion instruments…
5. When and how did you end up composing music?
I started composing when I was 10, by improvising a little bit off of Ode to Joy. It was like an instant realization that I had created something new, even though it was highly derivative. From there, I just explored the piano, harmony, and sheet music for many years until I went to college to formally study composition. As a jazz musician, composing feels like a loose term for a lot of different approaches to creating music, and I like to try a wide variety of these approaches. I make most of my living playing jazz and classical piano right now (Nashville has lots of work), but I still consider myself a composer because I write music every day–I’m still struggling with figuring out how to find the right platform/business outlet for my pieces, but in the meantime, I’m making music I love with people I love, so I have no complaints!
6. Do you have any formal training in some institute?
Yes, I studied Music Composition at Belmont University’s School of Music.
7. You have a channel in Twitch. Can you tell something about that.
I find streaming very exciting, because there’s no guidelines or standards yet for format. Sure, there’s people doing the gaming thing, which I love, but look at guys like The_Etcetera_Kid, who’s coded a whole program that combines audience interactivity with spontaneous composing and performance. It’s totally one-of-a-kind, and I really think these kinds of new formats are going to expand the streaming community and idea as a whole. I’ve mostly just done “requests streams”, where I take requests in order and play them by ear to the best of my ability on piano, or maybe a few other instruments. It’s a fun time for me and the audience, although I’ll admit it’s quite mentally taxing performing so much new music, on the fly, without a break as people wait for their request to enter the queue! I’m actually working on a more balanced format so there’s more room for creativity and exploring a smaller number of pieces each stream.
8. Is music your full time profession? What kind of projects you have going on?
Yes, I am a pianist based in Nashville, playing in many different combo and big band jazz ensembles, writing and producing music, and accompanying classical vocal students at Belmont University–among many other things. Being a freelance musician requires you to say “yes” to a lot of things, and to say “no” to some things that may be fun but there simply isn’t time or energy for.
9. Do you record instruments or do any of the engineering side of things yourself like mixing?
Yes, I arrange and record instrumental parts, but I prefer to let an outside mix engineer handle mixing. I can do it in a pinch, but the music side is so much more fun to me.
10. If you do, what kind of software and hardware gear you use?
My DAWs are Logic X and REAPER (for OS X and Windows, respectively), and my hardware is quite extensive–the main audio computer is an i5 iMac with 32 GB RAM, and my main interface is a MOTU 1248 Thunderbolt. My monitors are KRK Rokit 6’s. Most of my studio investment has gone into microphones, instruments and room treatment, as I am primarily a tracking engineer.
11. What are your plans for the future in the music business?
I rarely think too far into the future, business-wise–I’m prone to near-sightedness as I’m bouncing between gigs so frequently–but I really have a hunch that streaming is going to light up the music business. It just makes sense. You can enjoy a musician perform live, from the comfort of your home. Once the format and infrastructure has been ironed out, I think there’ll be a sort of YouTube for streaming musicians and performing artists. I’m not sure how to get plugged into that, but I feel like streaming and trying out the current technologies on my own is a good start.
12. Any advice for upcoming composers?
Hm, I guess something I used to struggle with a lot was: thinking everything I composed had to be heard/used for something. It’s just not true–just like a stunning instrumental performer has spent thousands of hours honing his craft in a practice room, a composer has to spend his alone time exploring music. That means writing the music that’s in your head, not writing the “coolest” or “best” music. Once you’ve really built a connection to your inner voice, you’ll find yourself writing things that you really love, and it’ll come naturally and quickly. You have to enjoy music for its own sake, not for someone else’s approval. That’s the only way to keep feeding your passion over a long period of time.