'Learning is much easier when you know what interests you'

He started playing piano at the age of four, but Swedish jazz pianist and composer Joel Lyssarides feels his musical journey began much earlier.  The winner of prestigious 2014 Jan Wallander Prize was in the city recently for Jazz Utsav which featured artistes from USA, Poland, Sweden and India. The 23-year-old spoke with Metrolife about his musical journey and inspiration.

Excerpts:
What inspired you to get into music?

I began taking piano lessons at the age of four, but I would say my musical journey began even earlier. There was music around at home from the day I was born. My parents are true music lovers and they both play instruments. One of the first things my first teacher taught me was a simple boogie-woogie pattern on a piano. Many people start with classical music but I actually didn’t, that came much later.

Why did you choose piano?

My mother played the piano when I grew up and she was the one who introduced me to the instrument and to take piano lessons. Since we had a piano in our house it became a natural choice of a first instrument. I used to sit next to her and improvise on simple blues scale when she played the chords. I’ve always liked the feeling of  playing the keys, the fact that it’s also a percussive instrument and the incredible range it has — it’s an orchestra!

Is music a lonely journey, especially for a pianist who usually performs solo?

Both yes and no. It’s true that I spend most of my days alone either practising or composing. It has become a lifestyle which I’ve learnt to enjoy over the years. At the same time, it’s also a social art form where you get to spend a lot of time making music with other people and performing in front of audiences. So that makes a good balance since I think I need a little bit of both.

Where do you get inspiration for your compositions?

I get inspiration from all sorts of things such as movies, literature, hanging out with friends and, of course, also by listening to and discovering new music. When I feel I lack inspiration, I like to take a bus out to my father’s cottage that is situated in the Swedish
archipelago and just hang out there for a few days. It’s quite place on an island with very little distraction.

How would you sum up your India visit and the jazz scene here?

I was here once with my family some years ago for vacation. But this is my first time as a performer. I loved coming back, and it was a different experience. I was actually very happily surprised to discover the jazz scene here. Jazz is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of India, but listening to and meeting some truly great musicians here was definitely an eye-opener. It seems like jazz is beginning to really happen here and I can’t wait to see how it will evolve. India has a deep tradition of classical music and I’m sure those influences would fit perfectly in a jazz context and make some really interesting new sounds.

Do you consider yourself a child prodigy?

I’m not a big fan of the whole child prodigy idea. A wise man from Sweden named Ulf Linde once said that true artistry is born when lack of talent is compensated by hard work. I believe that’s my case. I don’t think I was born with a certain talent; I just happened to fall in love with music at a very early age and then worked really hard to make a career out of it.

What helps you to balance the weight of fame with sanity?

I think different people deal with these things differently and I think it has a lot to do with your background. My father has inspired me to the idea that you don’t own your talent, it’s just something you get to borrow for a lifetime. When you’re dead, that talent will be gone anyhow. I know for sure that I wouldn’t have become the musician I am today without being lucky enough to have parents who actually could afford giving me piano lessons at an early age. It’s not something you should take for granted. The fact that life is a like a big lottery, and I just happened to be born in a family where music was around and had parents who could help me realising my dreams makes me humble.

What advice would you give to young musicians?

Learning is so much easier when you know what interests you. Also, if you have some kind of an idea about what you’re striving for, it helps. Music has to come from a deep passion, nobody should ever be forced to become a musician — it must |be a person’s choice. And finally, in the end, you got to make that choice by yourself.

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