Stephen Wallack releases his debut album Chapters3:52, 6th June 2019
Stephen Wallack’s Chapters features new age pieces inspired by important moments in the pianist’s life. From ‘Weddings’, composed for his wife’s walk down the aisle, to ‘Dad’, written in response to the recent death of this father, Wallack’s music captures the emotions he felt at these impactful times. IP interviewed him to find out more
Your pieces are inspired by emotional moments in your life. How do you translate these moments into music?
There isn’t a specific method or way that I try to capture these moments; it’s very fluid and emotional for me when I play. The music just seems to happen naturally depending on what I’m trying to convey or how I’m feeling at the time. The creative process has always been mysterious to me, so I don’t really understand how I do it.
When do you know you’ve hit upon an idea that captures the mood you’re trying to convey?
As soon as I hear a melody or combine certain notes, the song begins to come alive for me. I’ll usually get a chill or a wave of emotion when it connects with my thoughts. It’s like hearing people sing in perfect harmony: when voices are so perfectly in tune, it almost takes your breath away.
Which of the pieces on Chapters mean most to you and why?
The pieces that are closest to me are probably ‘Cooper’s Song’, ‘Dad’ and ‘Archer’. All were written for important people in my life who passed away. Losing people you love is a very powerful moment and I don’t think we’re capable of truly dealing with losses like that. Music provides a form of therapy for me, a perfect outlet to express my feelings.
How do you relate music and images in your mind’s eye? What pictures do you imagine when playing your piece ‘The Traveler’?
Strangely enough, every time I play I see things in black and white, almost like an old movie. I love the power of music in film, and for me my songs are a very visual journey of my personal experiences. ‘The Traveler’ is one of my favourites because it was inspired by my travels when I was younger, but interestingly the images I create when I play that song are reminiscent of classic movies like Casablanca or Gone with the Wind. There’s a love story flowing through the traveller as he deals with life alone. There’s always something pulling him back to where he needs to be, but the journey is the electricity that makes him appreciate all he has.
Are you ever concerned that giving pieces titles might limit their appeal? Or does providing clear images aid communication?
I try not to get too specific or detailed in my titles for that very reason. I don’t really like talking about the stories behind my songs. Music is such a powerful force that can take you anywhere you want, or sometimes to places you try to avoid. I want people to create their own stories when hearing my music, but I don’t mind if my titles give their scripts a little foundation to begin those first steps.
As a child you never enjoyed performing live. Has recording helped you to overcome this aversion? Is there anything live music offers that recording can’t?
I think live music is a totally unique experience. Recording has certainly helped me overcome my fears of performing solo live – as did my experiences playing in bands as a kid. Being able to connect with an audience in real time is an experience that is second to none. The music comes alive in a completely different way to the studio or at home. The energy in those moments is very powerful, and that connection is an emotional journey of its own.
Why did you choose a Steinway S to record Chapters rather than a full-size concert model? What qualities of the Model S do you particularly admire?
The Model S is a very comfortable piano with great depth of sound. The concert Steinways are obviously second to none, but in the studio they can be overwhelming. I like to connect with my instrument, and for me the Steinway S is a more accessible and emotional instrument.
Please tell us about any new projects you have in the pipeline.
I’ve almost finished my second album which I will likely release at the beginning of next year – a prospect I’m really excited about. I’m also working on some band concepts with a few friends that might just make a recording debut someday!
Chapters is available as a CD or digital download and may be streamed on all major streaming platforms. www.stephenwallackmusic.com