Matthew Mayer

Composer and pianist

Author

About

Nelly and Gabriel Award Winning Pianist Matthew Mayer’s career has taken him from small town South Dakota, to the red carpet of Hollywood. His performances began with Mayer doing one-man shows in the waiting room of a chiropractic clinic in Canistota (town of 700 where Mayer grew up), to sharing the stage with Grammy Nominated and Well Known Artists from around the world.

Mayer also received a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award for his latest Children’s Piano album, Art, along with a Silver Medal Outstanding Achievement acknowledgement by the Global Music Awards.

Among his many well known compositions, his original piano song Beyond was ranked by Spain’s Reviews New Age Company as one of the Top 50 Piano Songs written of All Time. The same song was noticed by The International Accoustic Music Awards, recognizing it as a Top 10 Instrumental Composition of that year’s field.

Mayer recently released his 11th album, Ardor, and it’s being met with rave reviews.

Matthew Mayer was twelve years old when he walked out the front door of his house, in Canistota, South Dakota, and skipped across the street, to knock on the door of Mr. Cooper. Art was Matthew’s first piano teacher….and he changed Mayer’s life.

“If there was one thing Art taught me, it was this….to play the notes on your soul, and not just the ones on the page…” – Matthew Mayer

Mayer would eventually go on to self publish his very first solo piano album “Crossing the Bridge” in the spring of 1999…at the age of 20. Fast forward to today, and Mayer’s music can be heard around the globe on Pandora, Apple Itunes, Amazon, and Spotify to name a few.

Mayer is also the Owner/Founder of the immensely popular Solo Piano Platform, SoloPiano.com, where he features artists from around the world, and helps get Solo Piano artists’ music to new ears. In 2015 he created his first podcast episode from his Podcast titled “Going Solo” which he interviews artists, including Grammy Nominated musicians, and people chasing their creative dreams.

In 2017, Mayer was chosen as a Jury member for Italy’s Blue Spiral Records for its first ever Minimal Piano Competition, which gave piano players from around the world the opportunity for their own composition to be a part of a compilation project produced and distributed by Blue Spiral Records.

Matthew Mayer currently resides in Omaha, NE.

https://matthewmayer.bandcamp.com/

Videos

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

Thank you for the interview! It’s a pleasure to speak with you!

Personally, I feel like music has been my “guide” so to speak, ever since starting lessons at 12-years old. It would be a friend in my Jr. High years, after going through several years being the “overweight kid”…. Music was there for me when my parents divorced in high school, having a healthy outlet - a channel that led to writing a 14 instrument band composition my Senior Year. It helped me form valuable relationships in college, including meeting my mentor Doc Farber. It was music that propelled the opportunity to start a course at USD called “The Business of Music”….it was music that led to being a music teacher at St. Agnes grade school, and forming the support of key people in the school system. It was music that led to getting a job at Leif Ericson Day Camp (thanks, Pat!), which then turned into more support and that network grew. It was music as the reason I sat waiting in a church hall (for an hour) to talk to the Pastor to see if he needed a piano player, only to be introduced to the music director ‘Kathy,’ who became my wife, and we have 3 children later. Not to mention all of the other amazing artists and people at shows that I’ve gotten to know through the years. So if I think about what music means to me personally, it has been my guide, and in a real way defined who I am today.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

This is a very interesting question. If I ponder what “fantasy” is - to me, fantasy is a medium of sorts…to help make a “connection.” For some, I think fantasy helps make sense of life overall. I think we are captured by certain movies, because the “fantasy” or fictional characters can help connect us with something in our lives, or help us see something in ourselves in some intimate way…music can be the same way. Yes, it can take you into a “fantasy” world, but I don’t think it’s all that. I think it’s more of “connection”….a mechanism so to speak to connect with what makes sense for you, to touch something deeper, or ‘help you understand’ certain times, journeys, or moments in your life. Then if you dig deeper into that, you might find a truth, in which the fantasy again was a medium to get to that point. Music is a connection, though to many it may just be a way of going to a “fantasy” and that is fine, but learn more about the compositions, the meanings, the stories behind that creation, and it can steer you in a direction of certainty that you might be crave, or that revelation to you makes sense.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Another great question:). I think we are all more than our “labeled profession”. When I’m not playing music, my profession is in the world of Human Resources, which I enjoy a lot. Human Behavior (what drives people), and being able to get on a more personal level in the work force is fun for me. I think that is because in music I want to connect, and I want to connect in business as well, and that kind of work enables me to do that on a more personal level at times. I am also passionate about Marketing (social media) and the digital world as the music business continues to evolve. I Founded SoloPiano.com in 2000, and provide marketing services for other piano artists as well. However, because I’ve always had this “Creative Being” inside me, I can’t picture a different life. Truly.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

I am not worried about the future. In fact, I think classical music will get even more popular. It’s not always easy to see this though. There is always ‘disruption’ in any industry, but nothing can disrupt a true ‘emotional connection.’ And THAT (I feel) is the challenge for not only classical musicians but for any solo / acoustic musician or band. I’ll explain. To start, I do not consider myself an advanced classical musician - I did take formal university level classical piano training, as well as had other teachers - so I hold the exquisitely trained classical musician in very high regard. That being said…..you can be THE BEST technical player in the world…..but if you don’t connect the listener or audience with your creation, or at the least, bring them “in” to the creation….then what will separate you, or why will an audience (one that is becoming more used to immediate satisfaction), be patient enough to sit for an hour and listen to you? This goes back to your statement on “Audience getting old”…however the fact is “there is an audience that will always be out there”…but can you connect with “that new” audience? This is where you will also see “Crossover Artists”, and they are on to something. You also have to Start with where that audience is, do they listen on Apple Music?, are they listening on Spotify, Pandora? Then be where they are.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I hope the core ‘role’ of music will never change….sure it can be used in all sorts of ways, and there will always be creative ways in which it is used. But - I “hope” the role of music will always be to add value to the life of the listener. There’s a reason why music exists - and has since the beginning of time. The magic about it, certain wavelengths, vibrations, tones, can cause an emotional reaction as deep as the human spirit - can inspire a life to take a new direction, can help unravel the unspoken I think there is another question to ask here about roles…and that is …. What will be the role of the “end user” in the 21st century and how will that transform how music is delivered?….(yep, a whole new conversation there:)

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

I think the musician today needs (more than ever) to be an entrepreneur. The creative process (of writing music, finding inspiration, experimenting with instruments, sounds, voice etc) is one thing….and then it’s how do you use the resources you have available to produce the highest quality product possible….THEN, how do you use the resources you have to help promote your music, and set up concerts that make sense, and forge the right relationships in the industry, and the list goes on and on. If I think specifically of “creativity” and the role it plays for me - I have to not be afraid to let the creative muse out, to let it tell my story, to let go, and have faith in the creative process, and not get overwhelmed if something is not turning out the way I planned. Let it take its course. Let yourself go through feelings.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

The person who comes to mind when asked this question is my dear friend Matej Mestrovic. I would encourage you to look him up on social media and see what he does. (Google Matej Mestrovic and start with his Wikipedia page:)…Allow me to expand on him a bit, and in doing that I think this will allow a perspective to an answer for this question. Matej is from Croatia, and one of the most talented Classical piano artists and composers I have ever met. (Along with Turkey’s Hakan Ali Toker, and Croatia’s Matija Dedic.). I had the extreme pleasure of opening for this trio of talent last year in a 4-City Croatia tour… and was humbled from the start. But spending a week with Matej, traveling the country, learning from him, was a a true honor as not only a musician but as an entrepreneuer. I have an entire podcast episode dedicated to this specific question. (Search Going Solo Podcast by Matthew Mayer on iTunes;). It’s episode 7 titled “I am Matej Mestrovic”.) In short, Matej is ahead of the curve on this. You will see his posts, a lot of them not even being about the piano, but you see his silly faces, and his silly personality. You see his positivity, and just a sincere “joy”. People ‘connect’ with that. He is allowing the mass audience to “Get to know him on a more personal level”. He uses that to help “draw the people into his shows….” And then…when they get to one of his shows they say “WOW - That was COOL!”. He is a very serious composer when it comes to his art, but has the ability to “connect” to a mass crowd and is humble enough to be himself. He doesn’t carry himself as a “Look at me and what I can do!”…No. I think what he is saying to his fans is more like…….“Hi friend, would love for you to come to my next show - I’ve worked hard to provide a fun and moving musical experience for you!….and afterwards, let’s go grab a beer:)”. Now that approach isn’t for everyone. In fact, other musicians might look at that and “not agree” or put their nose up at it and say something to the affect that he is not being ‘serious enough’… But not me…I admire it greatly. He is being his true self. If your true self is all serious, and monotone and prescriptive…that’s fine, and you will attract the audience that connects with that. Nothing wrong with that - but that is the tone you are setting. But if I want to connect with a younger person…..or even beyond that….the person who wouldn’t typically listen to piano, I need to open myself up, think of them first while also staying true to me. This in itself is a performance, and a huge vulnerability. In fact, when I do my live FB or Twitter Videos, I have had (very few) artists reach out to me with “sarcasm” as well as other people “making fun of it”. That’s fine with me - in fact, that’s a sign that I am doing the right things to meet my audience, as I am being true to me, and what I do resonates with the people who have supported me for year, and I want to attract new fans in a fashion that they truly know who I am. I can’t be anyone else in my marketing plan….if I tried that, I cheat myself, but even more importantly, I cheat my audience. Without my audience or that support, I simply don’t exist. Keeping that reality in check is key. There is NO way I could (or would) advertise myself as some “hugely talented piano player”. The true fact (that I’ve always known) is that there are a TON of better (especially technical players) than me…..truly. However, my confidence comes in the fact that I truly feel I I am vulnerable, I play with what I have, and I “attempt” to portray a feeling even if I’m playing one note… I know that is what I am trying to do, and if someone is going to take the time to come listen to me (or listen to my music on Spotify or Pandora), I truly give them “me”. I truly give them my all. Anything short of that, then I’m not doing my job.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

Two that stick out to me in this interview are 1) Dreams (from my Crossing the Bridge Album), and 2) Beyond (From Beyond). I will speak to Beyond. I wrote the song Beyond when I moved to Hollywood after graduating from the University of South Dakota. I was working at NBC’s Access Hollywood television show at the time (made and delivered lots of coffee - if you need a coffee guy, I’m your man!), and met a lot of movie stars and a part of an entire different world than where I grew up in Canistota South Dakota. During my 2 years, I was alone a lot after work. I had a small studio apartment in Burbank, and wrote ALOT in that studio apartment during that time. The melody of Beyond came to me then….it came out as I was going “beyond” all of my comfort zones…going from being well known at USD, to starting over, and being more of a number, meeting unbelievable people, and having amazing experiences, then to come home alone at night. It was exciting, it was tough, it was thrilling, it was lonely, it was victory, and at times depressing….all in one. It was a period of searching deep within myself and pushing myself - that was the source - and the song Beyond was born. So the creative “process” for me at that time was ‘writing’ about what I was feeling…about what I was going through. About a small town kid in Hollywood.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

I would first encourage young people to research the artists they like. And then dig deeper into some of them. Truth is, many musicians out there do have classical training of some sort, and then read their stories, how they started. Secondly, research some of the lives and back stories of Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and the sacrifices they made (like many entrepreneurs do starting out today), how some of them started the notion of musical contracts and how there are many classical piano players today that show how cool it really is. (Google another friend of mine “Hakan Ali Toker”…ever see a classical pianist play the accordion while strapped to a parachute in mid-air?) Third - If you have a desire at all to play an instrument - Go for it and play it! And, Im especially talking to you younger boys out there! Music is COOL! Really, really COOL, and all your friends that stop taking lessons and make fun of you as you are playing piano or violin - ignore them, and keep letting your creativity soar. Even if you don’t end up playing the rest of your life, that creativity will transfer over to other disciplines in your life.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

Of course. However, I don’t use the “audience” as my sole guide to writing a song. After having an album completed, I will think about the audience as to which of these songs connect more with an audience in a live performance, vs the ones that might actually connect better on a recording.

What projects do you have coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I am releasing my 12th piano album “Beautiful You” on August 31st. In keeping with the marketing realm;) I Would LOVE for you pre-order on Amazon and Apple Music before then;)….even better, go to www.matthewmayer.bandcamp.com and when you order, please leave a note that you came from this interview, and would love to chat more with you and hear your thoughts! As for experimenting…I experiment all the time…in the simplest of terms, that’s what this life is - A big experiment. So get out there - let yourself go a bit, and in the words of one of my all time favorites Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society….“Seize the Day, Make your Life Extraordinary”.

Thank you, sincerely for the opportunity to interview with you!