Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I feel like it’s a combination of moments but predominantly it has always been about the need to have an outlet for expressing feelings and emotions. Growing up it seemed I wasn’t able to do that with words but music presented a unique opportunity from an early age, not so much in a virtuosic sense but more the possibility to explore sound and improvise, particularly through the old upright piano we had at home.
It’s hard to narrow down the list of music or musicians from different genres that inspired me early on, but a couple of moments really stand out.
Watching Bertrand Tavernier’s film ‘Round Midnight’ at the cinema for the first time. This gave me my first sense of the life of a musician and the creative freedom it held.
The next big moment was hearing Keith Jarrett’s album ‘The Köln Concert’, a concert that almost didn’t happen but seemed to me to be the ultimate in musical freedom and to this day would probably be my desert island disc.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Confidence and belief.
Early on that was not easy and the weight of my own expectations, more than anything, was too stifling. With a little more experience now it is starting to become clearer in terms of what one needs to do to be able to keep going, which I think is so important rather than everything having to be perfect at every moment.
One quote I really love that I think sum’s up this up better than I can, was from Sophia Loren on Desert Island Discs speaking talking about her mother’s piano playing potential and what could have been….
“It’s about having enough strength or flame inside to be able to overcome all the negative thinking, in order to join with what you want to be in your life…”
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Well, as this is my debut solo project, it has to be this one for sure. The journey to get here has been fascinating and I’ve discovered so much whilst doing it. In years to come I know I’ll look back on these moments with great fondness, and the stories will continue now as the world of live performances open up again. I can’t wait.
How would you characterise your compositional language?
There are a lot of elements that go into composition, but when I’m working on my own, I’m continuously drawn to two elements in particular.
Melody is definitely a strong part for me, especially on the piano where it is notoriously difficult to make a melodic line so expressive that it can convey emotion…. In a future life maybe I’ll also be a singer, not that it’s easier but that you have such a beautiful tool with a huge range of expressive and subtle possibilities, but for this life I’m determined to make the piano sing!
The other element is the idea of a composition telling a story. I often have a visual story in my head that’s inspiring the music and helps me to decide whether what I’m writing works or not.
What did you enjoy most about the process of making your new album ‘Nick Drake’s Pink Moon: a journey on piano’?
The way it just keeps on giving.
I’m continuously surprised that the more I work with it, the more it grows not just in number of pieces but the performance of it takes me deeper and closer every time I sit at the piano.
The experience of recording at Real World Studios near Bath over 4 days was unforgettable. They have a fabulous team there that look after you so well. With not a thing to worry about, you’re able have the time and space to get in the zone. It’s so beautiful there… and the food is out of this world too.
Which particular music do you think you perform best?
From this project there is one track I always feel the music carrying me more freely, like a surfer catching a great wave. It’s called ‘Parasite’ and is set in the London Underground on the Northern line. Maybe it’s the idea of hearing that sound of a tube arriving and the rhythm of the train on the tracks that gives it a certain flow.
In terms of performing live, I think after all we’ve been through over the last 18 months or so, live performance is going to have an extra boost of magic to it… I look forward to seeing you there.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
The one thing that has helped recently, not just on stage but with the whole music making process, is listening to podcasts with fantastically interesting people from different fields. I purposely listen to long-form interviews / podcasts of people doing things I initially think won’t be of interest. Sometimes in the place you least expect to find inspiration or similarities you discover some gems.
An example was listening to an MMA fighter, something I don’t really watch, but listening to how he dealt with the situation of having to go into battle and the preparation it takes was surprisingly useful!
Listening to a comedian discuss the challenges they faced on the way to becoming more successful at delivering what they wanted on stage. A tough journey, not as easy as you might imagine.
Hearing a neuroscientist talking about how sleep plays a huge part in our learning and problem solving process. Extremely useful for a musician or composer. How many times I’ve been stuck on a section while composing and it seemed there was no obvious solution, then you sleep on it and the next day suddenly it couldn’t be clearer.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
In a group setting I have played in some particularly lovely theatres throughout Italy, but really what I’m most excited about is the upcoming solo tour, taking audiences at different venues through this journey of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, just me and a piano. It’s going to create some beautiful moments and memories.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?
Although sometimes not looked on as being authentically connected to Classical music, the Neo-Classical or Crossover Classical genres have provided a great route for some to then become more interested in traditional Classical again.
I might be a good example to some extent. Having been inspired by the work of Einaudi, Ólafur Arnolds or Nils Frahm to name a few, I now find myself spending more time going back to exploring, playing & enjoying traditional Classical music for all it has.
So I would say it’s important for all the places we experience music, from Radio to Digital music platforms to Live venues, to keep the programmes inclusive of new music as well as the classics. You never know where you might inspire someone to look further.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
My secondary school had a renowned boys choir that I was part of and we were often used by the Royal Opera House in London. I’ll never forget the experience one time of performing on stage next to the main attraction, Dame Joan Sutherland. All dressed up in full costume, her voice right next to me on stage and a full house out front…amazing.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Firstly, to arrive at the point where I enjoy the process as much as possible. There seem to be many reasons why we often don’t, mostly self-created, but that leads to missing out on moments that you could be getting so much more out of. Highs and lows, it’s all part of the creative process, just need a reminder occasionally to enjoy the moment before it isn’t.
There is potential for something special that can only happen in a live music setting, so I would say playing Live, sharing music with a full house in beautiful venues around the world would equal a success to me.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
‘Stick with it’ is number 1. Like I said, the ups and downs are all part of the journey, it wouldn’t be worth it without them. Elizabeth Gilbert the writer said in her famous TED Talk that as a creative person your part of the job is to turn up. Whether what you create at that moment is a thing of genius or not, your job is to be there in case the genius does make an appearance.
If you use a teacher, make sure that it is someone who inspires you at some level and that supports keeping your music flame alight.
Keep going to see live music, there is nothing more inspiring even if sometimes it makes you realise what you still need to do. It’s important to have some inspirational reference points.
What is your most treasured possession?
Outside of family and friends of course, I would have to say it’s my relatively new C. Bechstein upright piano. I wasn’t intending to replace the piano I had for 20 years but one day by chance I played this one in a shop and fell in love… no, really, I came over all strange and I couldn’t think of anything else for days afterwards. My experience is that no two pianos are the same even if the same model. The more I play the more unique it seems to sound so soon I think it might be impossible to replace.
What is your present state of mind?
I would say unsettled.
It feels like a new world is evolving in so many areas, hastened maybe by the unprecedented time we’ve all had recently. Education, the Arts, Live music, freedom of movement, inclusivity, the workplace, the climate to name a few. It seems like a lot of what we’ve been used to is evolving into something new. A good thing mostly but a little unsettling to begin with as we navigate our way into the future.
Demian Dorelli’s solo piano album ‘Nick Drake’s PINK MOON, a Journey on Piano’, a collection of Nick Drake arrangements, is available now. More information
Demian Dorelli, born and raised in London, is a pianist and composer who was always surrounded by music. His classical formation didn’t stop him from approaching jazz music and electronic music, but, on the contrary, it has enriched his production. He collaborated with artists like Pacifico (for the song “Canzone Fragile” taken from his 2019 album Bastasse il Cielo), Alan Clark (Dire Straits), and Simone Pace (Blonde Redhead).