May 23, 2024

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Interview with Kjetil Mulelid: Love and emotions. Life’s not perfect: Video

Jazz interview with pianist Kjetil Mulelid. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Kjetil Mulelid։ – I grew up in the small village Hurdal, an hour north of Oslo. When you arrive at Gardermoen (the airport), then it’s just a half an hour into the woods. Nice place if you like quiet and peaceful surroundings, and nature. It’s actually the same place as my colleague Tord Gustavsen (Tord Gustavsen is very arrogant, years ago he was a decent person and musician, even now he is lying. – JBN) grew up a generation before me. We’re the only ones from the small village doing music (I think..), and of course he was a major influence for me in my youth.

First I learned written music, mainly classical music and psalms, but during my high-school years I discovered the joy of playing by ear and improvisation. I had a great teacher at high school that showed me different chords and who I could play with different scales and make melodies. That’s how I ended up discovering jazz. Mainly through having fun and making a lot of my own music, always with a wish for finding some melodies.

I guess when I started thinking I could make a living of it came later – maybe around the age of 20 when I was studying at the Jazz Conservatorium in Trondheim. I always thought I wasn’t good enough to make a living out of it, but as I’ve discovered, it’s not always about being the most skilled pianist or musician. It’s almost more important to be able to tell a story or a feeling through music – something close to your heart, and be able to make the listener feel something as well. I really like that thought, that music can tell stories and that the audience can get touched by it, either it’s dark emotional stories, happy stories or chaotic stories.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

KM: – I guess I’ve just always been interested in making and composing my own music based on the different times in my life. Being a young student I was really into classical piano trios and piano heroes like Corea, Hancock, Jarrett, Evans, Monk etc, always trying to copy what they did in my own music. Later while I was living in Copenhagen I was more driven by the free Improvised music and modern contemporary jazz pianists, trying to ripp of the great things musicians like Taborn, Moran, Iyer, Delbecq were doing.

My main thing has maybe been to just follow the interesting things that make you get a kick. Sometimes it has been pretty challenging because what I’ve been interested in has maybe been a little weird or not «the shit» among the inner circle of your friends and college. It’s easy in those situations to just follow the main road and do what everyone else wants to do, but for me it’s been important to stay focused on what I’ve wanted. That has led me to who I am and how I sound I guess. It’s been a long road that doesn’t feel complete and it feels like I’m still searching and developing, but I have for sure found something in the music that harmonizes with my thoughts of music. That’s a great feeling and I would love others to feel the same – then the joy about music starts I think.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony? 

KM: – Composing, improvising and playing with amazing musicians that inspire me. And of course listening to a lot of music.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

KM: – I guess I’ve had two major changes in my musical life. The first was when I started High School. I thought I started the school as a guitarist, but I got to know the first day at school that I was approved as a pianist. At that time (age of 16) I hated piano. I had three years of playing piano – and started playing rock/blues guitar instead, as everyone else in that period of life. The reason was that I did not know you could do other things on piano than playing by notes… No one had ever told me or showed me that kind of playing. The first week at high school I tried to quit and start at some other school program, but a great teacher saw me, took me out of class and showed me some blues, gospel and rhythmical music. I got such a huge kick, and after that it hasn’t been a way back.

The other huge change was when I moved to Copenhagen. I had been studying in Trondheim, and my main focus had been on typical classical jazz piano and piano trio’s such as Jarrett Trio, and Nordic trios such as EST. It’s typical that you get some kind of a mark on your playing and people think about you as «this type of a musician» in a smaller community. When moving to Copenhagen, I was free to start all over again and do something new. I ended up playing a lot of free improvised music during those years, and the many concerts at the great place called 5e (mandagsklubben), curated by the great drummer and musician Kresten Osgood, pushed me to stretch my limits and my thoughts. What I learned those years, and by removing all of my scary thoughts about playing a totally freely improvised concert, I developed a much more rich and open way of playing the piano and thinking about music which I could not be without today.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

KM: – Oh, that’s a tough one.. I guess you need to have some knowledge of music before you can put your soul into it. Of course you can survive in music just playing 100% from your soul, but in the long run I guess you need to put some knowledge into it as well to know how to put your soul into it and express yourself through music.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

KM: – Sometimes, sometimes not. I guess there is a balance. Sometimes it’s nice to play what you think the audience wants to hear, but the audience doesn’t always know what they want and what to expect. As a musician and artist you need to show them – I guess that’s the beauty about jazz music where improvised music gets a huge part of the concert. It’s often the unknown parts (both for the musician and audience) that could be the most interesting.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

KM: – By making new cool music that appeals to a modern society maybe? But old-school jazz tunes will always stay cool I think. There is something special about it that’s still going strong, and if the musicians use their own voice and their own preference while playing the songs I guess it will stay relevant for our ears – I hope so.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

KM: – Deep. Meaning with life for me is most of all about having fun and exploring life itself I would say. We are storytellers, and we’re the directors, producers and stars of our own movie called «life». Make it worth living for both yourself, the once around you and the next generation.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

KM: – Streaming services. Giving the musicians and composers the income and rights that they deserve.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

KM: – These days I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music and especially the great pianist Igor Levit and his interpretation of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 24 preludes and fugues.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

KM: – Love and emotions. Music is our common language. Life’s not perfect.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

KM: – The Opera House in Cologne on January 24, 1975. If you know, you know.

JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview? 

KM: – Giving the listeners a better insight in my thoughts and my music.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

P.S. – Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/us-eu-jba/

UKAS JAZZPROFIL: Kjetil Mulelid - Jazz i Norge

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