Jazz interview with jazz pianist and keyboardist Emie Rioux-Roussel. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Emie Rioux-Roussel: – I grew up on the South Shore of Montreal in Quebec and since my parents were also musicians, music has always been part of my life! (my father is also a pianist and is still active today, my mother was a singer but changed his career several years ago). So there was always music at home.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
ERR: – Finding a personal sound is difficult and takes time. I believe that it is built at the start with our various influences and little by little it turns into something more personal. For my group, I think the turning point was the 3rd album; Quantum. We realized that we all had an interest in RnB. This influence mixed with a rather lyrical melodic side allowed us to find, I believe, our identity as a group.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
ERR: – Since several years, a large part of my practice routine has been dedicated to technical piano exercises. The more solid the technique is, the more it is possible to successfully express the ideas you hear.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
ERR: – I see it as a good thing that the influences are varied. This is exactly what I find interesting about jazz these days because many other styles have influenced jazz aesthetics. I am thinking for example of classical music, pop, rock and RnB which brings a very interesting new dimension to jazz.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
ERR: – On concert days, I try to focus exclusively on the concert and keep as much energy as possible for the evening. I limit outside distractions as much as possible. I do some warm-up exercises but nothing too long and intense in order to keep all the energy necessary for the performance.
JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
ERR: – I strongly believe in the long term in my personal and professional life. I believe that knowing our collaborators in depth is felt in the music. It brings mutual understanding and consistency that would not otherwise be possible. I have been fortunate to work in the Emie R Roussel Trio with the same musicians for 9 years. They are Dominic Cloutier on drums and Nicolas Bédard on bass and double bass. I believe that working for a long time with the same team has a very positive impact on the musical evolution of a group and on the members.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
ERR: – The intellectual side in music allows us to understand and have as much knowledge as possible. These notions have to be very well integrated so that you are free to express yourself naturally. Subsequently, the soul allows us to create and to be anchored in the present moment. So I think the key is a happy mix of these two elements.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
ERR: – I’ve always tried to be as honest as possible with my music. If it pleases and touches people it’s fantastic and it is a gift! On the other hand, I believe that we must create with as much freedom as possible, without imposing to yourself too precise markers.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
ERR: – During our 4th tour in Europe in March 2018 we played at a venue called Stuk as part of the Leuven Jazz Festival. It was a Sunday evening, so we weren’t expecting a lot of people. But, when we arrived we realized that the venue was completely crowded with a crowd of 400 young people all standing and very enthusiastic! The atmosphere was boosted! It was a great time!
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
ERR: – I think they should find out the extent of everything in the repertoire and the history of it. To know what has been done in the past and also to discover the jazz of today. Besides, to understand jazz today I think it is important to know what came before. It can also be interesting to update certain standards by making arrangements.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
ERR: – Music may not be essential to life like eating or breathing, but I think life would be really gray without music. In addition, music is a means of communication, a borderless language that can be understood by all human beings. It’s something that brings us together and unites us.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
ERR: – I would like to see a different way of remunerating musicians for selling their work. With streaming, the chain that previously made it possible to remunerate an artist more fairly when selling a record has been broken. It is therefore now almost impossible to finance the production of an album with the sale of it. The accessibility and availability of the music created by streaming is great, but the redistribution to artists should be greatly improved.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
ERR: – These days I mostly listen to Petros Klampanis, GoGo Penguin, Aaron Parks, Tom Misch and Men I trust.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
ERR: – I have no specific message to pass with my music but my goal is that my music touches listeners and that it makes them travel in a pleasant and wonderful universe that makes them live a special and unique moment.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
ERR: – I wish I could have attended a Bill Evans concert. He was one of my first influences. My parents made me discover his music when I was very young and I listened to him a lot. If I was able to go back in time, I would love to see him in concert.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
ERR: – Do you feel that the role of journalists has changed in recent years considering the strong presence of the web and the disappearance of several traditional media?
JBN: – Yes, of course !!!
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
ERR: – I wish to continue being able to do what I love, to continue writing music that touches me and which, I hope, will be able to touch and reach people afterwards. If I can contribute even a little bit to the happiness of a few people, I think it’s mission accomplished!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan