An interview with pianist and composer Reis Taylor Dixon. “Awake to Dream” is his new album!

Welcome Reis and thank you for this interview. – Hello!

 

1. When did you start composing – and what or who were your early passions and influences?

I started composing in the Winter of 2013 upon graduating from a music performance course at Coventry University. After spending three years performing classical repertoire of the great composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Debussy, I was eager to start compose music that I could begin to call my own. So that winter I began working on my debut album ‘Words Unspoken’. The album was very much a personal project for me and originally there were no intentions for the album to be made public, but as it ventured into the latter stages of completion it seemed a crazy idea not to release it! At this moment in time I had no idea of what would become of my compositions, all I knew is that composing music was something that I strongly felt I needed to do, as opposed to just wanting to do it. 
My biggest influence is the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, after hearing his album Echoes: The Einaudi Collection, I was hooked! I had never heard such beautiful music before and was compelled to journey into the realms of contemporary classical music and then traditional classical. Through Einaudi’s music I found other inspirational artists such as American composers Robin Spielberg and Philip Wesley. 


2. What do you personally consider to be incisive moments in your work and/or career?

Launching my debut album Words Unspoken was quite the achievement, as it was the first time that an audience had personally come out to see me and hear my original music. This gave me such a great belief in myself. The performance that day was credited with a standing ovation and merited with The High Sheriff Award for outstanding musical contribution within my area. 

Another would be when my music reached America, with composer David Nevue inviting me to be an artist on his popular radio station ‘Whispering’s Solo Piano Radio’. This in turn led me to meeting many of my peers and artists that I have looked up to since beginning piano. Through my time in America I was also later introduced to Enlightened Piano Radio and they gave me the incredible opportunity to perform in Germany at the prestigious Berlin Philharmonie.
Meeting Ludovico Einaudi was a huge moment for me. I had previously had a couple of items signed by him after his UK shows. However this time it was arranged for me to go backstage and meet him for 5 minutes. It meant the world to be able to say thank you to him knowing full well that he received my words of gratitude.
Signing my second album Awake to Dream with the Italian label Blue Spiral Records.
All of the above are great moments of my career but the most important, most life changing moment for me happened at age 17. A year after I began playing the piano, my older brother Jason Nicholas Dixon sadly passed away aged 20. This made me realise how fragile life can be. I was compelled to work even harder towards my dreams, and share my journey through means of piano.

3. Can you tell us something about your last release “Awake to Dream”?

Awake to Dream is a double entendre, a play on words. The meaning behind the title is to represent that we should be ultimately committed and focused (Awake) in order to chase and fulfil our dreams in life. This was the original concept when I set out composing this album back in 2017, however shortly after, my personal life took a hit where my long-term relationship broke down, resulting in this album capturing feelings of heartache and solitude. Staying true to the original concept, I remained persistent and focused in order to continue moving forward and continue pursuing my dreams. 
Music from the album has already been performed in America, Germany and Norway. As well as my home here in England. I am extremely happy with the artwork as I was fortunate enough to collaborate with one of my icons in the art world ‘Mark Grieves’. 


4. How long did it take to prepare the album?

This project took me a lot longer than I originally anticipated. It was a struggle to focus from time to time due to some of the emotional attachment connected with these pieces. The main reason however as to why this album took so long to release was because I was faced with many setbacks when it came to recording the music; from corrupt studio sessions (who took my money but did not deliver on the end result) to me trying to record the album from home but not producing the sound I’d have liked. Finally in November 2019 I was presented with the opportunity to record the album live on a Steinway Model-D at The Birmingham Town Hall, which I’m extremely thankful for. The mastering was later done by ‘Cass Anawaty’ of Sonoran Mastering. 


5. What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits?

Great question! I guess in some ways all compositions originally start out as improvisations. It’s the ability to manipulate sections and become more aware of what notes you have played and build on from there. Improvisation is great if you have the ability to do so. There have been many times during performances where I have improvised piano freely only to wish that I had set up a recording to capture what had just been created to later develop them into named compositions. My own personal view is that you work towards an end goal with a composition and spend time making it your own. Where as an improvisation is a passage of music that is free to continue without the performer ever really becoming too attached to it! This is just my humble opinion.

6. The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?

Each to their own I say. Composing is a very personal and unique experience. There are many composers who work behind the scenes on film scores and television adverts and are happy to do that without ever performing live to an audience. In the same way, there are many performers who have never attempted to compose their own music and are content to only perform the music of previous composers. For me, as a musician, both performer and composer, it has always been important for me to be able to perform my own music in a live environment. It is what captivated me to begin this journey – hearing the reaction from the reaction off the audience after one of my first performances! 
I will always encourage composition to those musicians who have never tried their hand at it, as they never know what ability they may unlock. 
I think it’s important for us as composers to not be led astray when comparing yourself to another artist. As everyone stands out in their own unique way. 


7. What equipment do you use to compose your music?

I currently use my Roland RD-700GX keyboard which runs through an interface to my computer so that I can access more sounds if need be. I have also been experimenting with my BOSS RC-3 Loop Station, in which I used to create Track 01 ‘Breathe, the Year is 1991’, from my album Awake to Dream. 


8. How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience?

Definitely, the genre has been growing in numbers for some time now. It is more accessible and widely used. Contemporary classical music is used a lot for meditation and relaxation purposes and can for the main parts fall under the category of easy-listening. Contemporary piano is heavily used in film scores, you only need to watch pretty much any film ever made and you’ll most likely pick up on some contemporary compositions. There is an ever growing fan base for this music and people can find and stream it more easily in todays age of technology. 


9. Could you tell us something about your future projects? 


I am currently composing the score to a short-film which has been selected for the Birmingham Film Festival here in the UK.
Another project will see me working alongside Julian Smith – a soprano saxophonist who made the final of the ever popular TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. Together, both Julian and I will create a show of our arts combined which we will perform when live performances eventually return!
I will also be working on many more albums/EP’s within the coming years, with my plan being to travel and perform alongside many of my fellow pianists around the globe. So get in touch if you would like to do a performance together!

10. Where can our readers find more information about you?


Readers can head directly to my website http://www.ReisTaylorDixon.com or follow my social media pages which are http://www.facebook.com/reistaylordixon & http://www.instagram.com/ reistaylordixon. Readers can also head directly to Apple Music, Spotify and other major streaming platforms to download and stream my latest release!

We thank you for your time!

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‘Self-trained classical pianist and composer Reis Taylor Dixon makes his ambitions known as he takes to the stage of the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal’. Born May 1991, Reis Taylor Dixon is a pianist and composer from the heart of Birmingham, UK. Reis first laid hands on a piano at the age of 16. Originally learning by ear playing popular music, a teacher later introduced Reis to the music of Ludovico Einaudi; he had never heard such beauty before. Reis later performed Einaudi’s ‘I giorni’ in his first of many performances at the Birmingham Town Hall. The reaction from the audience that day was enough to confirm to Reis that he wanted to chase that feeling forever. Reis enrolled on a music performance course at Coventry University in 2010, this gave Reis the chance to test the capabilities of his craft. Without real preparation, Reis found himself diving head first into the great depths of performance repertoire, reciting pieces of great magnitude from Chopin’s ‘Tristesse’ to Liszt’s ‘La Campanella’. After graduating in the winter of 2013, Reis turned his attention back to composing ‘emotive classical’ music, and in February 2016 Reis launched his debut album ‘Words Unspoken’ at The Birmingham Symphony Hall. The launch was a success and his album went onto gain international attention bringing success to Reis’ early career, featuring on both the artist rosters of Whisperings Solo Piano Radio and Enlightened Piano Radio. Jumping forward to October 2018, Reis found himself following in the footsteps of many of the great artists before him as he took to the stage of the Berlin Philharmonie, performing as part of the Enlightened Piano Radio awards ceremony. Reis also performed at the Berlin Passionskirche later that month alongside Christoph Pagel. Reis Taylor Dixon is now ready to reveal his second album ‘Awake to Dream’ which has been a real test of character for him. Throughout this album we witness Reis’ heart break into a thousand pieces as his relationship spanning more than a decade is gone in the blink of an eye. This raw album captivates sheer perseverance through it all in order to continue pursuing his dreams. Reis has already teased previews of this album with performances in both Oslo, Norway and Atlanta, USA. Performing in Georgia to an audience that consisted of the likes of Robin Spielberg and Philip Wesley is a memory Reis will treasure forever. Reis is now recognised by many of his peers around the globe, he knows his goals and visualises where he wants to be in the future but admits that this is still only the beginning for him. 

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