Aymeric Le Martelot, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Pursuing a career in music was never really a conscious desire. Things came together through various encounters, with few restrictions in terms of musical styles, but guided by simple curiosity and the desire to learn. The rest has occurred more or less naturally, by chance, I suppose.

Who or what have been the most significant influences on your musical life and career?

As a child, I was highly sensitive to all forms of music. But the first real emotional revelations were the discovery of ‘rock opera’ ‘Tommy by The Who and Glenn Gould’s interpretation of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier – two pieces of music which may seem diametrically opposed, but which both had a profound impact on me at a young age. 

My other most significant influences include J.S. Bach, Debussy, Bartók, Stravinsky, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Steve Reich, Robert Wyatt and Captain Beefheart. This maybe gives an insight into my ‘exploded view’ of aesthetics in general. 

What have been the greatest artistic challenges of your career so far? 

In 2022, I was invited by the Lorient Interceltic Festival (an international, annual Celtic festival in Brittany, France) as pianist and arranger in its major new commission ‘Celtic Odyssée’ – dedicated to music across eight Celtic nations, including Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Galicia, Scotland, Asturias and the Isle of Man. 

Arranging the music, and accompanying world-class specialists from each genre (including Scottish singer Karen Matheson (Capercaillie), Breton piper and artistic director Ronan le Bars, Irish violinist Donal O’Connor (Ulaid and First Light) and Asturian piper Jose Manuel Tejedor) was a challenging and enriching journey, with various musical nuances to consider.

Other projects keeping me busy include the composition of a 40 minute suite mixing all kinds of influences, from classical, rock and Tango, through to Irish and Breton, as well as my role as artistic director, arranger and piano player for the forthcoming solo album by renowned Celtic guitarist and songwriter, Nicolas Quemener (best known for his work in groups including Skeduz, Arcady and Kornog), which is due for release later this year.

Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?

The recording that is closest to my heart is the duo album ‘Disul’, which I made with Breton traditional singer Yves Jego (best known for his work in fest-noz group Arvest). The album is unique in that it is focussed on ‘gwerz’ – traditional Breton songs which could be considered the equivalent of the blues in the United States.

Recorded in only a few days, the urgent and at times imperfect nature of the recordings imbues these traditional songs with a spirit of asceticism which to me seems appropriate.

What do you do offstage that provides inspiration on stage?

Reading the works of philosophers – such as Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Emil Cioran and Michel Montaigne – helps me to detach from the ego, which to me seems to be absolutely essential. “The artist” (a term which is in my eyes, only attributable to a select handful of individuals) must disappear behind what he produces, I think.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

For me, success is to say that, in the end, we can say that we are happy with what we have achieved or produced. However, it can also be synonymous with great financial profitability, let’s not be hypocritical!

What advice would you give to young or aspiring musicians?

Difficult question. I tend to avoid giving advice, due to the lack of objectivity. That said, my message to aspiring musicians would be: ‘Have fun as intensely as possible, keep lightness at the heart of what you do, and never take the opinion of others too seriously’.

What’s the one thing we’re not talking about in the music industry which you really feel we should be?

The answer lies in the question. Quite simply, remove everything pertaining to “industry” and perhaps music will finally regain its true sense and meaning. Music has become more about entertainment than deep artistic values – even if these remain held by musicians themselves. But I am aware that my answer is over simplistic. I do not have the solution, and I’m not sure who does.

What is your present state of mind?

At present, I am hopeful that I will one day bring my contradictions together with serenity.

Trained in classical music and then self-taught in jazz, Breton pianist Aymeric Le Martelot took his first steps on stage in various blues-rock bands and then in French chanson, before discovering Breton music and joining the group Arvest.

Since then, he has integrated his influences in collaborations with several artists and groups in both concerts and recordings, notably with Ronan Le Bars Group, Nicolas Quemener, and for Celtic Odyssée, special creation for the Festival Interceltique de Lorient 2022 and 2023, with Dónal O’Connor (fiddle), Karan Casey (voice), Pierrick Tardivel (double bass), Ronan le Bars (pipes and artistic direction) and many more.