Hovig Nassanian, pianist & composer

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

I come from a musical family so you can say the inspiration started from birth maybe. But I can also pinpoint specific events in my life that gave me the music/performance ‘bug’. 

When I was around 8 years old, my mother wanted to take me to a children’s choir concert. I remember putting up a fuss and wanting to stay home to watch the cartoons on TV instead. She managed to persuade me to go. I was mesmerised by the performance, the music, the buzz of the theatre hall…the whole package. We got a cassette of the songs of the choir and my younger sister and I put on our version of the concert in our home…using tennis rackets as pretend guitars!

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

During my early days of composing, I was influenced by sacred music and traditional SATB choirs. Later on in my twenties, I fell in love with musicals, especially Claude-Michel Schönberg’s works. More recently, my inspiration comes from the people and stories that the music is about.

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

I was born in Lebanon and grew up with the civil war from the mid 1970’s to 1990. Looking back now, I am very grateful for my parents encouraging and supporting me to learn the piano and be involved in music, but at the same time, I am frustrated that the opportunities were so limited and disrupted because of the war. 

Another ongoing challenge is the mixed blessing of ‘playing by ear’. From a young age, it conditioned me not to rely on music theory and sight-reading so much. Once you develop that habit, it is a hard one to break out of. I ‘hear’ much more music in my head than I can adequately express or transcribe!

How do you work? What methods do you use and how do ideas come to you?

Don’t laugh, but my best ideas come when I am showering…or on a long car drive by myself or when I am walking our dog. It almost always starts like that – when I am pretty much on autopilot and not near any screen or entertainment or distraction.

After a period of time, if I can still remember a particular idea, I take it as a good sign, and move to the piano to develop it more. So, I rarely sit down on the piano to compose from scratch. The idea or inspiration must first start in my head – and also preferably, my heart – before I can start the work of refining and polishing it on the piano.

How would you characterise your compositional language/musical style?

My music has to have a story behind it. Or at the very least, an anecdote or idea worth exploring. Other than that, I like having at least one unexpected or unusual element in any piece I compose – something to make it stand out from the routine or norm. Of course, this is very subjective, but essentially, I am always trying to find something that will make me want to play and listen to that piece again. If others enjoy it too, that’s a bonus!

Of which works are you most proud?

Hmmm…this is a tricky question. The original musicals I’ve written with good friends certainly stand out, especially the 2007 production of Esther at the historic Curium Amphitheatre in Cyprus. That was a dream come true!

My recently released piano album, Tributes, is also a project I am proud of because each piece in it is about someone or something special in my life. It was the most intimate and emotional music I have produced to date.

You can read about it and listen to the tracks here: https://necessarykuriosity.com/tributes

Here is the link for the album on all major music services: https://ditto.fm/tributes

From my song releases, Worth Waiting For is the most special one because I wrote the tune back in 2005 for my wife, Anna, at the time of our wedding. But only recently, did I write the lyrics to go with it, and surprised her by collaborating with our good Swedish friend and artist, Johan Drejare, to release it as a single and music video. It was selected as a semi-finalist at the International Songwriting Competition 2021.

You can watch it here – https://youtu.be/qCxMimUK_hU

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

At the end of each music journey to be able to say to myself: ‘That was the best I could have done…and it was good!’

What advice would you give to young or aspiring composers?

Find a good life partner to share your journey with. Doing it alone, with all the setbacks, rejections and frustrations, would be no fun!

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

Don’t feel qualified to answer this question, as I barely tiptoe in the periphery of the music industry realm. But maybe there should be more attention and opportunities given to new and emerging composers to showcase their works, without needing PR agencies or having to knock on so many doors to be heard.

What is your most treasured possession?

Possessions is not the right term for them, but my wife, Anna, and son, Hovan, are my most valuable treasures.

Hovig Nassanian’s new album Tributes is available now

Hovig Nassanian grew up in a musical family and started playing the piano from the age of 4. He composed his first piece in his early teens, and since then has continued to write various songs, compositions and arrangements. He has written 4 musicals in collaboration with colleagues and produced over a dozen established and original productions.

His first piano solo album (Peaceful, January 2021) has already featured on multiple playlists and featured in various media reviews and interviews. It has been aired on the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporations CyBC Radio 4 and is on the playlists various online radio stations. His second piano album, Peaceful Christmas, was released December 2021, and the most recent album, Tributes, released on 11 February 2023.

In addition to the piano albums, Hovig has released a number of songs and music videos with collaborating artists in recent years He also has a podcast, Drop A Note, in which he talks about his compositions, the stories behind them and memorable and funny anecdotes from his life.

Hovig is an Armenian, born in Lebanon but established in Cyprus most of his adult life. He is married to Anna from Sweden and together they have a son, who is also a young pianist and who won first place in the pan-Cyprian Avantgarde piano competition in October 2022.