Many thanks to Louis Landon for taking the time for this interview! For more info about Louis and his music, be sure to visit his website and his Artist Page here on MainlyPiano.com.
Pianist/composer Louis Landon has the distinction of being the first artist to perform a house concert here in Florence, OR. That was in October 2008 and he has played here almost every year since then. I have reviewed most of his 31 solo piano albums since his 2005 release, unwind, and he has been one of my favorite artists for a very long time. We did our first interview in 2008 and another one in 2013 (both are still active and available at the links), so it’s definitely time for an update since much has changed. Enjoy!
KP: Louis! I can’t believe it’s been 7 1/2 years since our last interview (7/2013)!
LL: Hard to believe. Happy to do another interview. Thanks for having me back.
KP: You’re so welcome! We couldn’t have a concert here in 2020, so this is a good way to catch up! How are things in Sedona, AZ?
LL: Sedona is beautiful. Our lives here are amazing. Unfortunately, at this time, Arizona has the highest per capita Covid cases in the world. We take it seriously. I canceled all tours and have turned down any live performances locally. We have a Jeep and love to explore the desert around us. It’s incredibly beautiful and inspiring.
KP: Being in natural beauty really helps with maintaining some form of sanity! I feel the same way about being six miles from the ocean!
You have been incredibly prolific the past several years, and released four albums in 2020 and three in both 2019 and 2018. How do you keep new music flowing at such an amazing speed?
LL: I am so grateful for what has happened to me creatively. I can literally write a piece of music whenever I sit down at the piano. This creativity began about four or five years ago. Before that there were times when months would go by and I wasn’t inspired or happy with what I was writing. It is pretty much effortless now. It flows. It’s like channeling melodies from above. I think it also has to do with being fully present at the piano and opening my heart with gratitude.
KP: That’s amazing – AND you’re creating some of your best music! Do you expect to release four albums in 2021, too?
LL: I have my first album this year, Provocative Piano, coming out on January 29th. I just finished recording another album, which will come out sometime in April or May. I’ll probably do one more. So, maybe only three this year. I could easily do more, but each release requires a lot of work and my attitude these days is, “less work, more play”.
KP: I like that attitude!
Several of your albums have been mostly improvisations. Is that still true or are you doing more composing?
LL: Other than the four Healing Hearts albums, which were done as part of Healing Piano of Sedona sessions from 2014 – 2018, I only put out two others that were improvised, one in concert, Solo Piano Gratitude and Southwest Solo Piano, inspired by our travels in the Southwest. The seven albums from 2019 and 2020 and the two coming out this year, were all composed. So I would say, more composing, less improvisation.
KP: Hmmm. I knew the Healing Hearts albums were all improv, but I guess I assumed more of the others were improv as well. How do you go about “learning” the music you have improvised?
LL: I have had a lot of my improvised pieces transcribed so that I can actually read and memorize my improvisations. With other improvised pieces, I know the basic framework of the piece, and then I kind of paraphrase myself, if you will. It captures the spirit of the piece but is not note for note the way it would be if I memorized the sheet music.
KP: Interesting! Are you still doing the service where people lie under your piano and you improvise music about them and their lives?
LL: I started Healing Piano of Sedona when I moved to Sedona in 2013. I did over a hundred sessions with people going under the piano from 2013 to 2018. After 2018, I intentionally slowed that business down to spend more time recording and performing. My last session was supposed to happen in March of this year and I cancelled it due to Covid. I took it as a sign and closed the business. It was very rewarding for me to help people in their soul journeys. It also helped me open my heart and be able to improvise music based on what I received emotionally from my clients.
KP: I know you and Christine spend a lot of time hiking in the Sedona area and elsewhere. Is that where the inspiration for a lot of your music comes from?
LL: Yes, we love to hike and go off roading in our Jeep into the wilderness. We have found some incredibly beautiful places and it is absolutely inspiring. From my piano, I also get to look out of our three big windows at the red rocks. Also inspiring. That being said, a lot of my music comes from my emotional state at the time I am composing. In other words, going within and being receptive to how I feel.
LL: Moving to Sedona was definitely the best move I ever made. Not only is it a beautiful place, but I met Christine here, and she wasn’t moving to New York. I finally got love right after being on the planet 60 plus years. Better late than never, right? So, the effect is that I’ve never been happier. Loving and being loved is priceless. We have such a joyous life together. I believe that has had a tremendous effect on my music and my state of mind. I am proof that one does not have to be a suffering artist to be creative. I have had plenty of suffering in my life, and that didn’t work as well for me in the creative department.
KP: You two are so good together and I’m so happy for you! It was kind of an interesting coincidence because you had done a few concerts here in Florence, OR before you met Christine. It turned out that her mother lived here, too, so that made playing here more convenient!
When did you start calling yourself “The Pianist For Peace”?
LL: When I recorded my first solo piano album in 2005 (unwind), I was not in a good place. The studio was my sanctuary and the only place in my life where I felt at peace. In men’s work that I had done, I was encouraged to declare a mission. Why am I here? What good can I do while I’m on the planet? I realized that if I attained inner peace, my world would be peaceful. So, I decided that I would create music that would be peaceful for me, and hopefully for other people, too. My mission has changed since then. My current mission is to create a more compassionate world by writing, recording and performing music that inspires love, peace, joy and gratitude.
KP: I love that! Let’s talk a bit about your recent albums. Panama Piano was about a two-week trip you and Christine took last year. Did you take musical notes on your phone as you were traveling or did you wait until you got home?
LL: Ah, Panama Piano! I think it’s now one of my favorite albums. We had the most amazing trip right before the Covid lockdown in March. If anyone wants to really get a feel for our trip, check out “Panama: A Dream Road Trip Through the Country and an Album”.As it turns out, we now consider it our honeymoon because we got married after the Covid lockdown and we felt like we had the honeymoon before our virtual wedding. The music was absolutely inspired by the trip. I did not take notes. I waited until I got home to record the music. I tried something new. I would think about the different places and experiences and then improvise a piece of music based on that feeling. Instead of using the improv as is, I would use the improv as a springboard to compose a piece of music. So, even though the original idea for each piece came from an improv, all the pieces on the album were composed.
KP: That’s a very effective method because the album is great!
Your most-recent release is Feel Good Piano, which came out just a couple of months ago. What inspired or motivated you to do that album?
LL: Well, today the Capital building was stormed by Trump supporters who believe he should have another four years as President. I have a song on the upcoming Provocative Piano album called “Prayer for America”. I released the single ahead of the album on December 4th. Today I posted it on Facebook and wrote “I feel like I’m watching the fall of Rome in real time here in the United States. This country, that I live in and that I love, is coming apart politically, socially and environmentally. This song is a prayer for us to find our way out of the present situation and create a beautiful democracy that works for all people so that we can live healthy, happy lives”. Between the inability of the United States to contain and effectively deal with the pandemic and the political situation, many people are feeling helpless, hopeless and afraid. I thought that some positive music, like Feel Good Piano, could help people feel better during these very challenging times.
KP: I’m sure that music will help a lot! It’s a really great album, too!
I think it’s been at least 12 years since I asked you some of these questions, so let’s see if anything has changed. What and who have been the biggest influences on your music?
LL: Sometimes I tell people that I’m a recovering jazzer. 😉 I was really into playing, studying, listening and practicing jazz. In those days, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, Bud Powell, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Alan Pasqua were my piano heroes. I also studied with Charlie Banacos in Boston and Bill McConnell, a Latin Jazz pianist who lived near where I lived when I was in New York. When I got into recording and writing my own solo piano music, I really didn’t listen to any other pianists. Because “New Age” music was a whole new world for me, I had to find my own way.
KP: What has been your most exciting musical moment or experience so far?
LL: Spoiler: Long story coming. I was touring with Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1988 and one of the performance cities was New Orleans. After the show, the whole company went out to Preservation Hall to hear some traditional New Orleans jazz. As we were walking in, I asked the woman taking tickets, if I could sit in with the band. She said, “Oh no, they generally don’t let people sit in with the band. But, if you can get me an autograph from Mr. Baryshnikov, I will ask them.” I went to Misha and told him they might let me sit in if he will give the woman taking tickets an autograph. He signed a program that someone had and I gave it the woman. We all took our seats and we were listening and I’m hearing “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Bye-bye Blackbird” and I’m thinking to myself, “I got this.” In the middle of the set, they actually called me up. I sat down at a big old upright piano and they counted off a tune at a ridiculously fast tempo with very unusual chord changes. They were testing me to see if I could play. I listened as it went around a few times and just when I figured out the chord changes, they gave me a solo. By this time, I was sweating. But I played a solo, and of course the company thought it was the greatest thing and applauded. As I was leaving the bandstand, I got a few approving nods from the guys in the band. That made my night, day, year, lifetime.
KP: What a great story! Do you have any favorites of your many pieces?
LL: At this point, I’ve written over five hundred pieces of music. My favorites change as I come up with new material. My favorite improv is “Icicles” from my Peaceful Christmas album.
One of the best pieces that captures a particular story is “Walking the Plains” which depicts a person’s journey across El Camino de Santiago in Spain. “Siren” from my Solo Piano for Love Peace & Mermaids album. “Space Traveler” and “Enchanted Forest” have fun videos. If you want to hear all of my favorites, you can go to my playlist on Spotify, The Complete Solo Piano Music of Louis Landon, over 29 hours of solo piano music. 😉
KP: Those are some of my favorites, too. I also love playing “Siren” and “Icicles”!
If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?
LL: Wish #1 That all wars cease and that humans learn to live harmoniously.
Wish #2 That all humans become more compassionate and understanding.
Wish #3 That all humans become aware that we are all in this together on spaceship earth and that we need to get along to survive as a species.