Alexi Musnitsky QnA with Foghorn Media
Foghorn Media: What inspired you to become a pianist? Who were your early influences?
Alexi Musnitsky: I chose piano at an early age, four years old. After seeing my sister play, I wanted to try and I just stuck to it. I was raised with classical piano, but I was never one to adhere to the rigors of “solfege.” I was lucky that my teachers let me explore my own way to express the music and they were pleased with the results. I am also a fairly quiet person, as some people say “still waters run deep.” I don’t express my feelings or emotions in words. But I do have experiences, good and bad, happy and hurtful. These feelings come out in my playing. This is why I switched from playing others’ music such as classical and began composing my own pieces. To me this is not songwriting, but a form of communication – a way for me to express the feelings I have and to let out some of the memories I keep inside.
FM: Tell us a little about how you write, how do the songs come? What gets you going creatively?
AM: This is a difficult question for me to answer because I do not have a method or process. There is no plan or template nor do I set aside any specific time to “sit and write.” Rather, I focus on my feelings. For example, a good friend was feeling a bit lost and going through something I went through myself. So, one rainy Paris morning I remembered my feelings at the time and sat down and played.
FM: Your bio mentions working with a French/Belgian project called Daybreak and then with Will Ackerman. Tell us about that.
AM: I was contacted by Will Ackerman and asked to go to his studio, Imaginary Road Studios, to record. This is a story I think other aspiring artists should hear because there is a real “dream come true” aspect to it. I simply started to compose at home on an upright piano with a digital system, an analog to digital converter, and a Mac with Garage Band. My father likened the style to his favorite Windham Hill artists. I posted some of the music on Soundcloud so my friends could hear it. Somehow the music caught peoples’ attention and this gave me the courage to write an e-mail to Will Ackerman. Will answered and, to me, that is the most amazing part. A cold call to world champion of my music style and he answers. It took the financial help of friends and family, crowd funding, borrowed money, frequent flyer mileage, and my Aunt and cousin in the US to get me to Vermont and the Imaginary Road Studios. I entered a studio with Platinum records on the wall and Grammy awards on the shelf and I sat down with Will Ackerman, Tom Eaton and Eugene Friesen and played.
FM: What is the first record you bought and why?
AM: My sister is 3 years older so I followed some her music, such as David Bowe. I had my own Classical piano training so I listened to Glenn Gould play Bach inventions and went to see Lang Lang and Krystian Zimmerman. And I am a big fan of ColdPlay.
FM: What current Australian acts inspire you? International acts?
AM: Well, I am still a fan of ColdPlay. However, since releasing ‘Zia’, I have gotten to know Fiona Joy from Australia – she won this year’s ZMR award for best piano solo album. When I listen to Ludovico Einaudi’s music, I sometimes think “I wish I wrote that.”
FM: Tell us a little about your music and what a crowd can expect at a live show?
AM: The crowd would not be what you would expect. When I was a young child I had played at some hotel resorts in Spain and even the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam. As you could imagine, it was an older crowd and they seemed to appreciate the music from such a young person. But then I performed for a charity at a Paris university to a young crowd where other artists were definitely not my music style. The result was amazing. The place went silent and remained focused throughout my playing – and then wanted more.
FM: Favorite film? Book? Place?
AM: My favorite film is “The Green Mile,” Favorite place to be is on the ocean in a sailboat. I am certified as a French national sailing instructor and every summer I teach sailing on the Brittany Coast.
FM: Favorite food or drink and is there a story associated with that?
AM: Growing up in France really helped because I eat almost every kind of food. Right now I am thinking of Lasagna… Favorite drink comes from my American side and is Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda.
FM: You are backstage with Andrew Lloyd Weber – what do you say?
AM: I would really like to write music to be used in film (or stage). I think that emotions being portrayed through imagery and music is special. I remember seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and I went home and started playing that night.
FM: What are your future plans for 2016/2017?
AM: I honestly did not know what to expect from releasing an album nor anticipated the reaction of people listening to it. I can say that the positive feedback has been a huge motivator and I am now composing new music and planning to play concerts.