Marc Enfroy’s debut CD, “Unbounded,” was one of 2008’s many bright spots in instrumental music. The story of Marc’s retreat into composing piano music to help himself cope with the loss of his sister is as compelling as his desire now to bring comfort to others with his music. If you have heard “Unbounded,” you’ll be interested in learning more about Marc; if not, this is a good place to start!
KP: 2008 was quite a year for your debut CD, “Unbounded.” Let’s talk about how the album came into being.
Enfroy: It all started back in the summer of 2005 when I was on vacation at a beach house and stumbled across a new age CD. I remember relaxing on the deck with that music and thinking I should start writing music as a hobby. Fast forward to February of 2006 and I lost my sister Suzanne after a six-month battle with melanoma (skin cancer). It was devastating. Suzanne had a small forgotten keyboard that my brother-in-law, Rich, gave me after her passing. My sister had taken up painting the last several years of her life and I set the keyboard underneath one of her paintings. I started pouring out my emotions on that little keyboard, the images of her final hours fresh in my mind’s eye. It was a total escape and at the same time a vehicle for working through my feelings.
I quickly outgrew Suzanne’s little keyboard, so I bought a Yamaha synthesizer and started teaching myself to compose. It was then that I decided to continue writing music until I had enough good material for an entire CD. I’d written a few songs in the past, mainly for guitar, but nothing as ambitious as an entire album. I started listening to piano and keyboard players, trying to learn whatever I could from their music. My brother Paul has a good musical ear so I’d always run my latest compositions past him for input.
The music became a way of following in my sister’s artistic footsteps. It was also a way to leave something lasting behind. Losing my sister is the closest I’ve come to facing my own mortality, so at the onset, I was driven by a selfish motivation to create something unique that would outlive me or that I’d be remembered for. I’ve moved way beyond that as the pain has lessened. Now, I’d like to give something back that helps other people, whether it’s a person that simply needs to unwind, or someone in physical pain looking for an escape, or a teacher who wants to set a certain mood in class, or a poet looking for a little inspiration. Whatever the reason, I’m glad my music helps people. Going forward, I’d like to figure out more ways to expose the music to people in helping professions like nurses, personal caregivers, teachers, charity volunteers, or hospice workers so they can share it with people they‘re caring for.
KP: I know quite a few composers who are doing something similar to that, and it’s a wonderful thing to do. What kind of artwork did your sister do?
She was a painter in acrylics and watercolors. You can see some of her artwork on my website at www.marcenfroy.com/suzanne.html
. She took up painting near the end of her life and left over 100 paintings. It was really nice that she was able to find her passion, even if it was only for a short time. She wasn’t the sort of person that called much attention to herself and I don’t think she realized how good she was as a painter.
KP: Bill Leslie’s newest album, “Blue Ridge Reunion,” is a tribute to Bill’s father, who was also a painter. Bill wrote music about some of his dad’s paintings as well as memories of his father, and then compiled a gorgeous book of his dad’s watercolors along with his recollections, poems, and essays that fit with or explain the artwork. It’s a wonderful tribute. Have you thought about doing anything like that with your sister’s artwork?
Enfroy: Possibly in the future. I wouldn’t want a tribute album to be sad or depressing and if I was to work on it right now, that’s probably how it would turn out. Maybe down the road in a few years when the feelings aren’t quite so raw.
KP: You call your musical style “Cinematic Piano.” What do you mean by that?
Enfroy: It’s an attempt at a short description of the music. It’s obviously piano music and the orchestrations add emotional elements similar to movie soundtracks. I realize there are other composers out there writing this type of music so it’s not like I’m claiming to have invented a brand new sound. It’s just a convenient way to describe what I do.
KP: What kind of music did you write before “Unbounded”?
I’d written two or three songs but nothing in the New Age genre. When I was dating my wife back in the 80’s, I wrote her a love song. I’ll spare you the details, more out of embarrassment than anything else, but let’s just say I shouldn’t be writing lyrics. I reworked it into an instrumental song and it’s now track 10, “On to Forever,” on “Unbounded.” My brother and I also wrote and recorded a couple of rock songs in the 90’s but never got too serious with it. I think those songs are floating around on a cassette tape somewhere.
KP: Are you working on album #2?
Enfroy: Yes. I’ve written a half dozen songs so far. I’m hoping to release it next summer at the latest.
KP: Will your next album be similar to “Unbounded,” or are you going to go in a different direction?
Enfroy: It will be similar minus the darkest songs. As you can imagine, I was in a pretty sad place when I started writing the music for “Unbounded,” having just lost my sister. The songs I wrote early on, “Taken Away” and “Solitary Journey,” were composed during my deepest grief. I’d like the next album to be a source of soothing inspiration. I also plan to use some real instruments on the next album for a more authentic sound. There will be some more choir effects, too, since everyone seems to love that about “Moonlit Dreams.”
KP: I really enjoy “Unbounded,” so I’m looking forward to this new music! When did you start playing the piano?
Enfroy: My grandfather owned a music store and when I was 7 or 8, he gave our family a Hammond organ that I started messing around on. It came with cassettes of prerecorded music and you had to play the lead part. We also had a piano and I’d dabble on it here and there, usually trying to figure out a favorite pop song by ear. Truth be told, I’m a lousy performer and don’t have the patience to practice so let’s just say I tend to program the piano to save time. Maybe some day I’ll work on the performance aspect of it, but for now, having a day job and a family to support, there’s little time for that.
KP: Do you play any other instruments?
Enfroy: I also play guitar - acoustic and electric. It was my main instrument when I was a kid. I took lessons for six months and then showed up for my lesson one day to find out that my teacher had up and moved to Europe on a whim. After that happened, I just kept practicing on my own. When I was 12, my brother and I started up a “barn band.” My parents took a horse barn on our property and fixed it up for us so we could play out there. I’m sure they just wanted some peace and quiet! We used to play a lot of Journey, Kiss, Aerosmith, et al, with our friends. We never ventured out to perform in front of anyone as it was more or less a way to entertain ourselves.
I don’t play the guitar too much anymore, but every few months I’ll pull it out and play a goofy song or two for my youngest son, Michael (aka Mikey). My grandfather was a country music singer back in the 30’s and 40’s and he used to sing this song called “I Love My Rooster,” which is like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” because you keep adding animals as you go along. Mikey gets a kick out of it.
KP: How old are your three boys? Are any of them interested in music?
Enfroy: Adam is 21, Alex is 17 and Michael is 5 going on 6. I know I know…let’s just say we like to space things out. When people hear our kids' ages they often wonder if they're from two marriages but they're not. Kelly and I have been married almost 23 years. As far as music, Michael is taking piano and violin lessons. It was his idea to learn those instruments so it seems like he’ll be our little musician. He's just starting to realize what he's gotten himself into with the violin so he needs encouragement to practice. He definitely has more fun with the piano.
KP: I love the cover artwork for “Unbounded.” Do you live near the ocean?
Enfroy: I wish! My brother Paul took that picture. It’s a shot of a sailboat on Lake Michigan at sunset. It’s a pretty good photo for a guy who’s not a photographer, don’t you think? As I was trying to come up with ideas for cover art, he stumbled across that photo. I knew I wanted to title the album “Unbounded” and was looking for something that tied into that theme. When I got this email from Paul, it was like, that’s it!
KP: Who or what do you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
Enfroy: Tim Janis is my favorite New Age composer hands down. His music is incredibly beautiful, moving, epic. He’s been personally supportive of my music and he’s a genuinely nice person, too, so he’s number one in my book. I also think nearly everyone writing piano music in this genre is kidding themselves if they don’t mention George Winston and Jim Brickman as influences. You can throw in a dash of Yanni and Enya too.
As influences, yes, but I personally get kind of annoyed when artists say their music is just like George Winston, David Lanz, and Jim Brickman because although they all play and compose music for the piano under the broad umbrella of new age music, I don’t think the music of the three of them is alike at all. Maybe I’m just too entrenched in the genre.
Listing them as influences is different, because influences can come from very diverse sources, but you wouldn’t believe how much material I get that says the music is “just like” those three. But I digress! Do you have any favorite composers or artists?
Enfroy: Well first, I totally agree with you. There’s a big difference between being influenced by other artists versus sounding like them. As far as my personal favorites, I like James Horner (Braveheart, Titanic, etc.), Brickman, 2002, George Skaroulis, Brian Crain, and Stanton Lanier to name a few. That’s my mellow side. I tend to like any genre as long as the music is melodic and has strong emotion. As an example, Evanescence is one of my favorite rock bands because there’s so much drama and passion in their music.
KP: What has been your most exciting musical moment so far?
Enfroy: Hearing my music played on the radio. For a long time I had imagined listening to the New Age channel on my satellite dish and hearing one of my songs. My music is played on various stations - public radio, college, cable/satellite, Internet, etc. - but for quite some time, I had never personally heard it. Thanksgiving weekend, I was ironing a shirt in my bedroom, listening to the Aura channel on TV when I heard “Moonlit Dreams” come on. It was a proud moment! My wife was downstairs and I yelled down to her to turn on the TV. She was really excited. My kids were asleep so we recorded it on the DVR and showed them later.
KP: Have you been doing concerts in addition to selling CDs?
Enfroy: No. With a day job, I don’t have the time or patience to focus on practicing so I wouldn’t be much of a performer. Do you know anyone who’d like to go out there and cover my songs? :-)
KP: I’ll see what I can do! What is your day job?
Enfroy: I work for a software company as a presales consulting director. My team supports our sales reps during the technical phase of the sales cycle.
KP: If you could manage it financially, would you choose to do music full time?
Enfroy: I really like my job and my company so I’m not sure. I suppose if I could pull it off on my own terms, I’d consider it. That would mean no performing or touring, which probably isn’t very realistic in terms of making good money in music. I just can’t envision myself as a performer. All the practice is too much work as far as I’m concerned. I’m just happy to compose a little “Cinematic Piano” music from time to time.
For more information about Marc Enfroy and to hear samples of his music, visit his website
, or check out his Artist Page
here on MainlyPiano.com