In October 2008, I received an email from a fledgling artist from Sweden who was requesting some feedback on how to proceed with his music. He had attached a sample of one of his pieces, and it was stunning. His name was Christian Lindquist, and he explained to me that he had started a project where he was creating music “usually before breakfast or late evening” on his piano. He said, “I sit down, press record and let my heart do the talking. If it is below my musical ‘threshold’ or lacks nerve I start over.” He also told me that the music is not altered afterwards and that “The goal for me is to understand myself, what triggers me, and is piano my preferred instrument? I have always been more into guitar. I will stop doing this when my craving for expression fades out.”
In an age where so much music is manufactured, such an honest and fearless approach to music creation intrigued me. In July 2008, Lindquist sent me his new Solo Piano Diary for review, and it was breathtaking. It was also one of my top favorite albums for 2008. In December 2010, Christian sent me Solo Piano Diary II, which was equally incredible and a favorite for 2010. This seemed like the perfect time to get to know more about Christian Lindquist and to introduce him to any of you who have not yet heard his music. Amazingly, you can download his recordings for free from his website, so do your ears (and your soul) a favor and check him out!
Click the album covers to read Kathy's reviews.
KP: Hi Christian! What is the weather like in Sweden today?
CL: It’s around 0 degrees celsius and mixed rain/snow.
KP: That’s a bit on the chilly side! I understand you live on an island. Are there other families there, too, or just yours?
CL: The archipelago consists of ten islands and the municipal has 10,000 habitants.
KP: You have released two CDs to date, Solo Piano Diary and Solo Piano Diary 2. What gave you the idea to compose in a diary format?
CL: I play piano very often without structure or thinking “now I want to play this piece.” I just play and work on some small melodies in that moment. Most of the time I do not remember those compositions - just fragments - and to be honest, I do not consider them to be compositions. Just small melodies or chord progressions powered by NOW. 90% of what I play is lost details the day after. If I want to play my pieces in a concert, I have to listen to the recordings and practice to play them like that.
KP: When did you start recording your musical thoughts?
CL: In 2007, I hooked up a laptop to my Yamaha CLP electronic piano. I did straight recording with a USB soundcard and Steinberg’s Wavelab.
KP: The sound quality is really excellent. There are very few recordings where I honestly like the sound of an electronic piano, but yours sounds really good! At what point did you decide to create a CD collection of the “best of” those diary entries?
CL: Initially I had a blog where I took photos and then posted them together with musical clips from my piano sessions. Photography is fun and I bought my first camera 2007. I had never before used or even thought of using a camera. Now I do it often. Pictures are the conservation of moments, just as my musical pieces are.
KP: Do you often listen to your diary entries as you go along and pick out the best of each group or do you listen to everything all at once and then pick your favorites?
CL: After a while, I look at the bunch of recordings, go through the ones posted on Facebook or other pages and see if they have what it takes to be included in an album. Then I collect them all and do a quick check. I do not spend too much time choosing - maybe two or three days of listening while walking my dogs. This process is probably short because I lack patience and if I wait longer, I will mess up my files. Order and meticulous folder structures are not my best friends.
KP: A true artist! When did you start playing the piano?
CL: I started to play piano as a mandatory thing when I was 8 or 9. In Sweden, all the children play from the same horrible books, Learn How To Play Piano, Volumes Green, Red and Yellow. I would like to name that bunch of books as “the best way to NOT learn to play and enjoy piano.” They still use them today. My life as a young boy from the age of 10 was all about classical guitar. That is the only instrument that I have enjoyed and practiced on. I just recently cut my right hand nails after 30 years of daily polishing. Playing classical guitar and jazz/rock electric guitar is extremely fun - especially live. I had a few years where I earned my living from the guitar. I miss them.
KP: What did you do as a guitarist? Session work? Bands?
CL: Sessions work and temporary band “hop in.”
KP: Did you take classical piano lessons as a child/adolescent?
CL: My problem is that I never really learned to play by score/sheet. In classical guitar you should always learn by heart. You go through the scores in a limited time and then put them away. So I did the same on the piano and I thought it was much more fun to play my own thing or to play modern pop songs. My teachers were good, but they were probably not spoiled with my kind of musical approach so they did not force me to learn the important stuff. Imagine if I could have had a really tough teacher who had forced me to learn technique and to play classical piano! Frankly I have never ever done my homework or visited a piano lesson where I had practiced enough on a week’s piano piece. It’s a shame. I have a lousy technique and really depend on my strong left hand. (I am a left handed Aquarius.)
KP: When did you start composing?
CL: I’ve always tried to create my own stuff, but still we should not call it composing. It’s more improvisation. Since 1998 I have used that from time to time. There was a period when I created PR/background music for Volvo Cars’ interactive media and sometimes the need for a piano piece forced me to sit down and create it. So I have not considered myself to be a composing pianist before 2007 and the release of my first Solo Piano Diary.
KP: Do you play other instruments, too?
CL: Guitar in all forms.
KP: I really like your quotation, “ I play because I need it. It calms the ocean.” Where did that come from?
CL: I crave space. I go nuts if I don’t have time to be “only me and my five personalitiesJ”. Peace is a rare thing and when I create music and just play, my spirit calms down. Music has that effect. That is probably why my email account is full of messages explaining the impact of my music in some people’s lives. We share the same need for inner calm.
KP: I also find your music extraordinary. It is so personal yet the emotions are clear and communicate so well. I’m really glad you contacted me before you released your first album. I had the feeling when I wrote that first review that you really didn’t believe your music was as powerful and exceptional as I said it was. I’m really glad that other people are also letting you know how your pieces affect them!
CL: Probably as my friend and pianist Ralph Zurmühle said to me when we first met in Barcelona, “When you start doing what your heart tells you, then doors open and you will affect people’s souls.”
It’s not easy to acknowledge the output when the process is a bit undefined. It would probably be easier if I planned and made serious efforts of studio work. Solo Piano Diary is not. I make a lot of musical and technical errors but they are still kept in the recordings because “Carpe Diem” is higher priority.
KP: There are many different ways to create music, and yours is every bit as valid as anyone else’s.
You offer both of your albums for free downloads on the internet. Why free? It’s a wonderful thing to do - I’m just wondering why.
CL: Selling music in 2011 is not easy and requires a full set of energized actions. In Sweden, the CD media is on the way to dying. There are very few record shops left. In fact, the biggest music reseller is the petrol shops because car stereos are super old. Now some of them come with “aux” inputs and USB connections. The music that sells is only hit-music and compilations. Utterly boring. So why bother?
KP: That is very definitely the trend here, too, although I haven’t seen CDs being sold in many gas (petrol) stations.
CL: The infrastructure in Sweden is top notch and all the households who want it can have broadband internet and stream music from Spotify (a streaming service with extremely good quality started by Swedes). It’s also important to understand that people don’t spend or support music with money if they don’t need to. I have over 2000 followers on Facebook and with the release of my album, I sold four downloads. YES. On the other hand I have thousands of downloads of my album from my website. I had the donation option and 1 of 200 people donated 10 euros. No blame to anyone - that is just how it works, and I’d rather let the music be widely spread and have the option of building a platform of “brand recognition” for the future. I am part of Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, and it is fantastic that they can sell music and some of the artists even perform their music live. Imagine the fantastic feeling of being able to play concerts and do it for a living! For me, it is not time, yet.
KP: I really think that will happen for you! Who and what are some of your musical influences?
CL: Keith Jarrett is the ultimate improviser. I found his music and made compilations. Actually, I cut his improvisations in an audio editor and removed the crazy stuff, keeping the most fantastic beautiful piano playing on this planet. That homebrew private compilation CD and MP3s have been my companions for many years.
David Foster’s piece “Saje” from his 1985 album Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire started it all. He is a king of parallel sixth progressions and I was 16 and saw a chance of making an impression on the ladies. I have probably tried to play everything he has produced, from his Airplay album to Josh Groban. His masterpiece is Symphony Sessions.
I like Bach on piano. Murray Perahia playing Bach is probably the only music I can fall asleep to.
KP: Who are some of your favorite performers?
CL: Vladimir Ashkenazy performing Rachmaninov; John Williams playing Agustin Barrios Mangore on guitar; Lars Jansson (Swedish jazz pianist) no matter what he plays; Robben Ford on blues guitar.
KP: How old are your children? Are either of them interested in music?
CL: My daughter Evelina is 15, and my son Simon is 10. Evelina enjoys dancing and Simon has just started to play drums.
KP: What is your day job?
CL: Marketing Communications Director at Berg Propulsion – one of the leading manufacturers of Controllable Pitch Propellers for vessels.
KP: Have you done any recording for television or films?
CL: I have done a lot of music for interactive media. No regular movies. Some TV shows. There was a project where I also produced and acted in a Swedish children’s TV show!
KP: That sounds like fun! When you aren’t working or composing, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing?
CL: I spend too much time being a nerd next to a computer. Walking and training my dogs (retrievers). Photography. Taste a good wine. Meeting friends. Go snowmobiling at my winter house. Driving my boat early summer mornings.
KP: What’s up next for you?
CL: Work: I head a my company’s campaign together with PUMA in the next Volvo Ocean Race (around the world sailing race). It’s a huge project and will steal a lot of my efforts.
Music: I will create music with more instruments than just a piano. Soft instrumental. Plan to release that autumn 2011. The next Solo Piano Diary will come in 2012.
KP: If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?
CL: 1. Live off my music production. 2. My son enjoying playing an instrument. 3. That I had the endurance of changing my habits to include a more healthy body.
KP: Do you perform live very often?
CL: No, one or two sets per year.
KP: We’ll hope to see you in a Whisperings Concert before too long!
CL: You never know what lies around the corner, “curiosity killed the cat!” J or better “While we are postponing, life speeds by”.
Many thanks to Christian Lindquist for taking the time to be interviewed. You can learn more about Christian and his music at his website
and his Artist Page
here on MainlyPiano.com.
All photos courtesy of Christian Lindquist.