Regular readers will know that for several years I have been sharing my recordings on the SoundCloud website, as well as enjoying the music that others share there. One musician whose tracks have regularly impressed me is young Belgian composer Koen Janssen.
Like many whose music I admire on SoundCloud, Koen does not come from a traditional background in music education – following piano lessons as a child he has largely taught himself, and his musical adventures have included stints as a DJ and playing in bands.
Having returned to more classical roots, his first EP of epic soundtrack and piano music is now available on iTunes. I was delighted to have a chance to discuss his musical journey with him …
As you read on, enjoy listening to this example of Koen’s music, ’Touch’:
Andrew: What part did music play in your childhood, and when did you start playing?
Koen: My passion for music started at an early age. When I was 7 years I was already conducting my own imaginary orchestra with a pencil. From then on I already knew that music would play a big part in my life. I started music school and got my first Buffet piano a while later as a gift from my parents. Fast forward 25 years and that same piano has a prominent place in my living room.
How far did you pursue your music training?
I followed general music training in my hometown for 4 years. In the second year you needed to choose an instrument, and without any hesitation I chose the piano.
At the age of 13 I quit because there wasn’t a good connection with the piano teacher. Also the theory and the exercises he wanted me to learn/do weren’t my thing. Since I had my own piano at home I started experimenting and playing with feelings and emotions. From then on everything I did was self-taught and for me it is very important that you can hear those elements in my music. It must come naturally with lots of emotion.
As an adult, what career have you pursued, and how does your musical life fit alongside your work?
My job and my music don’t have anything in common. I’m an educator and work with children of all ages. I do this part-time so this gives me the time to really focus on my music. I’ve only recently changed my focus, career wise, to my music. Over the last year I’ve reached more people through SoundCloud and other music groups on social media, which resulted in opportunities that give me the chance to make a living out of my passion.
Who are your musical influences?
I’m a fan of different kinds of musical genres. But one of my biggest influence is Daft Punk. A band from France who makes electronic music. I saw them live here in Belgium and it was the best musical experience in my life. Another big influence is composer Carl Orff. I went to a concert where an orchestra performed his ‘Carmina Burana’. The hymn ‘O Fortuna’ still gives me the chills when I hear it!
How would you personally define your own composing style?
It’s a mixture from original piano music, mostly accompanied with orchestral elements. Most of the time the piano has got the leading role. But sometimes I compose cinematic/orchestral pieces with lots of tension and drama that can result in an epic track.
How have you gone about growing an audience online? Can you share some strategies that worked? And maybe some that didn’t work so well…?
Growing an audience takes time. Something that worked really well to grow my audience has been doing collaborations with other musicians. I met lots of great artists by joining music groups on social media. I collaborated with some very kind and talented people including Dirk Maassen, Oliver Sadie, Fivos Valachis, etc. By doing this, and sharing my music with a new audience, I’ve got more exposure.
It’s also important you’ve got your own music style. People come back to listen because you trigger some kind of emotion with them. I’ve tried to find that element in my music and I notice people are still coming back to listen to my music.
What are your musical plans for 2017?
There’s a lot going on. The big news is my 5 most played tracks just got released. You can buy the songs on iTunes and other online stores. At the moment I’m doing a collaboration with Achazia. She’s a great vocalist from Norway. We already collaborated on a track called “Clocks”.
I got plans to do a project with an artist from the Czech Republic who’s very talented in creating animations, comics and games.
There are other big projects planned this year but I’ll keep that as a surprise…
What is your view on live music, and will you be touring to promote your new recordings?
I’m more a composer and creator then a performer. So when we are talking about me playing my music live, that isn’t in the books yet. Although I am working on a live project, but it’s still in the works.
Thank you for talking to us – and good luck with all your coming plans!