Jazz interview with jazz pianist Esteban Herrera. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Esteban Herrera: – I am originally from Mexico City. I was born there in 1979. I lived there till I was 10 years old. Then, I lived in Toluca, Estado de Mexico till I was 20. I studied there a technical career in jazz music at the Conservatory and a Bachelor in Communication Sciences. After that, I lived 1 year in Madrid, Spain, then 3 years in Cancun, Mexico. Then, I lived 10 years in Mexico City and studied at the Superior School of Music. Then, I lived 1 year in Berlin, Germany and finally I live in Calgary, Canada since 2017.
I use to toy play with little instruments like a melodica and a harmonica when I was really young, around 3 years old. When I was 10 years old, my mother gave me a little keyboard and I never stop playing since then. I can say that I have been a musician all my life.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
EH: – I have always tried to play with my style and sound since the beginning of my career. It was an unconscious decision at first, but totally conscious after a few years. I never agreed to transcribe other musicians’ solos, not even legends. I’ve always thought that the only thing we can do to be really creative is to trust in our uniqueness. It’s not about who is more virtuoso or even better musician, it’s about who has a natural, organic and personal sound.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
EH: – I study piano (music) around 3 hours daily. My routine consists in playing scales and Hannon exercises for 2 hours and applied scales, sight reading and arpeggios for 1 hour. After that, I spend many hours working on my music projects as next albums, repertoire for my live performance projects, arrangement and production in general.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
EH: – You can never avoid to be influenced by your context, as we are part of a society. I think that the only way to be uninfluenced would be being alienated of any human contact. Even though, it all depends about how much do you want to have a unique sound, which has everything to do with a deep philosophy. The first thing is that you cannot choose your sound, you can just find it. You need to be brave and patient, because your sound is something never heard before, so there’s no proof of success, and find it can take a while. Don’t worry about it and enjoy all music you like.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
EH: – To play music is just to exiting to me and I am always looking forward to perform live. Once I am playing, nothing else exists any more. I easily get into the music and the rest of the world disappears.
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JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
EH: – For me is like this: I think as much as possible while studying and analyzing music, but when playing, I always look for stop thinking and just feel. It’s all about true expression. It’s the connection with the soul and the universe.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
EH: – Not at all. In fact, I think the opposite. At least in artistic terms, art in music has nothing to do with the audience. When some audience is looking for art, they will never hope to be consider. The artist is deeply selfish, and it’s precisely that experience and decision that make art possible. The art lover audience knows that they have nothing to do with the creation and production of art. There’re two kinds of audience: the active and the passive. The active one takes the art and process it, think, go deep. The passive one is looking for entertainment.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
EH: – I remember my 10th birthday. My mother gave me my first small keyboard (Casio Electone). I really didn’t understand why. She saw the music in me before myself. I asked her why. She told me “You’ll see… You are going to like it”. I didn’t open it till next day, but when I finally did, oh my god! I born again. The whole world had new more vibrant colors. The air was different. It was magic!
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
EH: – Well, just traditional jazz is kind of old. There’s a really amazing jazz strain called Contemporary Jazz that is experimenting with new fusions all around the globe. As an artist, I just try to be creative and find my own sound. By doing that I’m putting on the table a fresh option. That’s the only thing we as artists can do.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
EH: – I think that the most basic activity of any life form is to survive. The human race is the only known living form that can choose to go beyond, after satisfying our surviving, of course. I think that the evolution that is happening to us right now is precisely in the field of the mind and spirit. The next step for humanity is to develop our reach in artistic expression. I have no idea about what’s next after this life and I would never defend any idea about it. The only thing I do know is that there are energies happening right now, right here; good and bad. We can project amazing energy during our lives and being an art creator is my best option. Everything is about feelings, emotions, desires and dreams. It’s the now and the here.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
EH: – If everyone were musicians, we would deeply know each other. The best way to know a person is to perform with him or her.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
EH: – Not too much. I love the silence that allows me to listen the music happening inside me. Other than that, I’m in a place where I enjoy listening whatever happens around me.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
EH: – No message, just feelings.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go?
EH: – I would go to my childhood to tell my young me to be less afraid and to enjoy a bit more everything.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
EH: – Your top 10 musician list of all times.
JBN: – John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea, Charles Mingus, Dave Holland, Chet Baker, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Michael Bracker, Billy Cobham …
JBN: – So, putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
EH: – The music is my best life teacher. It has always the answer. Thanks so much for this interview. Great questions. All the best!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan