Written by: Heather Nolan
The rise of D.I.Y. culture as an alternative to music industry structures has been less and less associated solely with Punk in recent years, and this has never been more evident as when speaking with classical pianist, Laura Madonna Murray. Laura’s debut album will launch on June 25, and you’ll find that she has her own ideas about how to promote her album, as unique as the background that has led to these philosophies.
Rock Island: Prior to this release, I had only ever seen you with your folk due, Uptown Folk. I know you’re a talented songwriter, as well as a pianist. Tell me what led to the decision to make your first solo record a classical collection?
Laura Madonna Murray: I grew up playing classical music; that was all I ever knew until 4 years ago… when a friend said, “If you can play Chopin, you can play a three chord song.”
The opportunity I had to do this album was amazing. As part of my Master’s thesis I was awarded 12 studio hours with an engineer. My supervisor served as my music producer, which I am very grateful for. I look back now that I know more about the music industry, and how would I have ever financed that?
I love the pieces and I love the detail of classical music. So that’s why I’m trying to take classical music out of the concert hall.
RI: Tell me about the title of the album, “Solo/So High”?
LMM: I guess it just references my sense of humor, my wit! So many pianists will use “whoever solo”. Like Bill Brennan Solo. Great album. Great pianist. I realized solo sounds pretty depressing. So I figured a play on words, “So low, so high.”
RI: What is it like to be releasing a classical album in an industry that is very much built to promote popular music?
LMM: It’s challenging. I feel very limited. So for me it’s a stepping stone. It’s a reminder of my merit, when often we can have these negative voices in our heads. It’s a reminder that MusicNL wanted to invest in this and that I am going to use this to further invest in myself.
RI: What decision process went into the songs that you chose?
LMM: A long one. Sometimes classical music can be taken out of context. So I want to kind of take the fear out of it. We live in a very disposable culture. These pieces have stood the test of time.
RI: You’ve done a lot of travelling for various yoga training over the last few years, what kind of influence has that had over your music?
LMM: A huge influence. My best original song is all about flying first class. It was a topic given to me for a songwriting challenge. It went really well, I did a little bit of a yoga chant at the end. It was a great song. It’s all about the last verse – I thought I was going to die on a bus in Borneo. I was all by myself, no one around to help.
RI: Tell me more about this title: The Travelling Piano Playing Yogi?
LMM: When I left in 2013 for about 5 months a fitness group I taught asked me to write a blog. I came up with the title The Dancing Travelling Piano Playing Yogi, because I used to really enjoy belly dancing in my free time. I thought in a world, in a city, where there’s so much talent, how do you set yourself apart? It basically says who I am in a short sentence.
RI: So what are your plans now? Will we see a tour for "Solo/So High"?
LMM: Leaving means a lot of sad goodbyes. The places where you feel loved and appreciated are really hard to leave. But I’m a big believer in change, being on my comfortable path. I felt like I was running around a hamster wheel for at least the last year. But hopefully Australia! I can spend up to a year there, working and travelling. Ideally I would record the next album there.
Laura has some Atlantic Canadian dates lined up before she crosses the world, so make sure you look out for her album release in St. John’s on June 25 at the S.P.A.C.E. from 2-4 pm, on the Argentina Ferry, and at Halifax Jazz Festival in July.