Q&A with Lisa Hilton on her new release, More Than Another Day – OUT DECEMBER 4TH
Lisa Hilton/piano, Luques Curtis/bass, Rudy Royston/drums
Q: I’m sure it was disappointing to cancel shows from your tour last spring. What was it like for you to instead be composing during a pandemic?
Lisa Hilton: Well, I was curious about that too – I’ve never/we’ve never, been through an experience like this, so I really wasn’t sure what I would, or could create during a world crises. But in 2019 I had read the extensive biography on pianist/composer, Fryderyk Chopin by Alan Walker. Chopin continued to compose during the gruesome 1932 cholera outbreak in Paris, France, so knowing that inspired me to continue composing. I think this year has made me realize that creativity is how I process life experiences, so volatile times can be productive – I know that sounds weird – but turmoil can stimulate creativity for artists. When you read the biographies of jazz musicians, it does seem that difficult experiences might have fostered creativity in others – names like Monk, Cannonball and Jaco come to mind.
Q: Interesting idea. So the lock down didn’t affect your productivity other than touring?
A: I think being at the piano was a great way for the music to pour out actually. Growing up, my family lived a relatively quiet and academic oriented life, so as a kid I used to fill long hours in a myriad of creative ways. I think that quiet can be a plus for creativity for many artists.
Q: Did you have a theme or concept you were composing towards based on what was happening in the U. S. and around the world?
A: I understand that many musicians prefer to work from a concept or assignment approach, but for me, music surfaces from my subconscious, not from my conscious mind, as a response to what is happening collectively. I let the music emerge: I don’t know what I will create and I don’t try and force a direction or try and control it. Later, I can tell what the concept is though.
Q: Which is…
A: I think we should acknowledge this unique time, but also boldly walk towards our future, taking along our past experiences and history, but let’s also look for what is coming around the corner – what’s next after this day, this year? And whatever happens, don’t forget to notice the beauty or goodness in life and not just remember the harshness of this time.
Q: Was that the idea you were showing on the cover with the vintage luggage and the roses – bringing the past with you along with the “beautiful” roses?
Q: Tell us more about composing from your subconscious mind please.
A: When I sit at the piano the music starts to take form – almost as if it’s inside of me just waiting for the opportunity to be heard. When I compose I do not know what key or time signature I am in, or even what note I am playing. I just allow the tune to evolve and then quickly try and translate it into music notation on the computer after I have a direction I like. I don’t ever compose to say someone else’s book or poetry or a historical incident, or give myself assignments to write in certain keys, for example. I just allow the music to emerge unobstructed, and then later on, of course I will analyze and work with it. Initially though, I’m more of a passenger or observer letting the music unfold where it may. Sometimes it’s a melody, or maybe a cool riff, other times it’s a well-formed tune.
Q: Does that happen quickly? How long does it take to finish a song?
A: Initially it is pretty quick, but finishing can take months! I’m always looking for so many things: balance, expression, communication and good compositional form. But I also want music that’s fun to play, and that my bandmates and I can enjoy improvising on. The bedrock of a jazz musician is exploration – we constantly want to explore what can be done with music harmonically, rhythmically, and with improvisation, while connecting with our shared world.
Q: Do you have a favorite tune on this album?
A: That’s a hard question! The band liked Blues & Beauty a lot – I love Retro Road Trip best.