Harmonies and Homages: Demian Dorelli’s journey through music and art – An exclusive interview

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing talented musician Demian Dorelli, who writes music inspired by artwork, with a new album available from 14th July 2023 (Pre order link for album: https://platoon.lnk.to/mywindowalbum)

In the dimly lit studio, the air is filled with the sound of melancholic melodies, intertwining with the gentle rustling of sheet music. The atmosphere is serene, almost ethereal, as the soft keystrokes of a grand piano resonate with emotion. In this hallowed space, Demian Dorelli, the multifaceted musician, immerses himself in the timeless beauty of music.

Demian Dorelli

Born and raised amidst the vibrant rhythm of Fulham (“before it became posh”) from an Italian family, Dorelli’s life has always been intricately woven with melodies. From an early age, he found solace in the harmonies that echoed through his home, courtesy of his Italian father’s vinyl collection. Lulled to sleep inside a large speaker, he was cradled by the captivating sounds of 70s rock. This early exposure ignited a lifelong passion within him, setting him on a remarkable artistic journey.

While his classical formation laid the foundation for his musical prowess, Dorelli’s boundless curiosity led him to venture into uncharted territories. Jazz music and electronic compositions became an integral part of his creative palette, enriching his compositions with new dimensions. His insatiable appetite for musical exploration compelled him to collaborate with illustrious artists such as Pacifico, Alan Clark, and Simone Pace, leaving an indelible mark on his artistic evolution.

Demian Dorelli album cover

Now, at the precipice of a new chapter in his career, Demian Dorelli embarks on a profound musical endeavour that pays homage to one of the greats who shaped his artistic identity. Engrossed in the realm of Nick Drake, the cult folk/pop singer-songwriter, Dorelli has meticulously crafted a breathtaking tribute to Drake’s iconic third and final album, “Pink Moon.”

In this audacious undertaking, Dorelli delicately unravels the intricate threads of Drake’s music, infusing it with his own unique perspective. The result is a captivating dialogue between past and present, as the piano becomes the vessel through which these two souls commune. Collaborating with esteemed producer Tim Oliver and recording at the legendary Real World Studios, founded by Peter Gabriel, Dorelli has meticulously curated eleven tracks that breathe new life into Drake’s ethereal compositions.

As the haunting melodies dance through the keys, the forthcoming album, “Nick Drake’s Pink Moon – A Journey on Piano,” transcends mere musical interpretation. It becomes a profound exploration of emotions, a testament to the timeless power of art to bridge the chasm between generations. Dorelli’s ardent dedication to his craft and his unwavering commitment to honouring Drake’s legacy imbue every note with heartfelt sincerity.

But Dorelli’s journey doesn’t end there. With his first solo piano project completed and released to critical acclaim, he now ventures further into the realm of his own compositions. The anticipation builds for his second solo album, set to grace the world with its raw emotion and introspective melodies. In this forthcoming opus, aptly titled “My Window,” Dorelli offers an intimate glimpse into his own soul, allowing his audience to partake in the kaleidoscope of emotions that permeate his musical landscape.

Demian Dorelli, the pianist and composer whose artistry knows no boundaries, beckons us to join him on this extraordinary musical odyssey. With every stroke of the keys, he unveils the depths of his soul and offers us a glimpse into a world where past and present coexist harmoniously. Prepare to be enchanted as you embark on a symphonic journey guided by the hands of a virtuoso—a journey that promises to touch your heart and awaken the dormant melodies within your own soul.

Here’s our chat!

Monica Costa: Could you please tell me about your journey as a musician and how you decided to pursue music, particularly the piano?

Demian Dorelli: In our house in Fulham, we had an uproar piano which was very bad but extremely fascinating to me as a child. I have always done music since then, but I have never turned it into a career until now. It dawned on me that if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I did not want to have any regrets. Music has always been an integral part of my life, thanks to my artistic upbringing. My father, an Italian fashion photographer, and my mother, an English ballet dancer, exposed me to a diverse range of musical sounds from an early age. I even remember being put to sleep in the back of a speaker while my dad played his favourite music, which included Pink Floyd and JJ Cale. As a child, I felt a deep connection to music, and it became a means for me to express myself. Despite spending 15 years as a yoga teacher with my father, music remained my true passion. Eventually, I made the decision to pursue it wholeheartedly. In 2021, with the encouragement of my friend Alberto Fabris, I released my first album as a tribute to my musical hero, Nick Drake. I chose the piano as my instrument of choice because it allows me to capture and convey emotions in a profound way.

Monica Costa: Your latest album, ‘My Window,’ consists of nine original compositions for solo piano. What inspired you to create this album?

Demian Dorelli: ‘My Window’ draws its inspiration from the world as seen through a window, much like how we perceive life and its beauty. The album is a collection of melodic and poetic pieces that depict different scenes and evoke various emotions. I drew inspiration from great painters such as David Hockney and Jan Vermeer, who captured the essence of their subjects through windows and light. Each track on the album represents a unique perspective and narrative, allowing listeners to experience a range of emotions and connect with the world through my music. David Hockney’s photos taken with his phone through a window including sceneries and moving grey clouds in the distance were particularly inspiring. (Demian shows me the book while on Zoom). Growing in a family of artists, I wanted to try my own take on art not in a visual painting way, but with the music. I used art to guide me while writing my music. 

Monica Costa: How did your upbringing in an artistic environment influence your musical style and creative process?

Demian Dorelli: Growing up in an artistic environment had a profound impact on both my musical style and creative process. Being exposed to various forms of art, including photography, dance, and cinema, broadened my horizons and nurtured my creativity. It allowed me to develop a unique perspective and approach to music. I believe that art is a way of expressing emotions and capturing the essence of the human experience, and this belief is reflected in my compositions. My upbringing taught me to appreciate the beauty and intricacies of different art forms, and I strive to bring that depth and emotion into my music.

Monica Costa: We read that your first album was a tribute to your musical hero, Nick Drake. How did Drake’s music influence you, and how does it manifest in your own compositions?

Demian Dorelli: Nick Drake’s music has had a profound influence on my musical journey. The whole story about him is so sad. His introspective and poetic style resonated deeply with me. His ability to convey emotions through his lyrics and melodies inspired me to explore similar themes in my own compositions. While my music does not directly resemble Drake’s style, his influence can be heard in the introspective nature of my compositions and the emphasis on conveying emotions through the piano. The tribute album allowed me to pay homage to an artist who had a significant impact on my musical development and helped shape my approach to songwriting. I took Pink Moon and just brought a feel of his original composition and a memory of his music using only my piano. 

Monica Costa: The album features tracks accompanied by original illustrations by artist Franco Matticchio. Can you tell us more about the collaboration and how the artwork complements your music?

Demian Dorelli: Collaborating with Franco Matticchio from Varese on the artwork for the album was a wonderful experience. It started with the first record. He is also a fan of Nick Drake. Franco helped me only because I promised not to do any Elton John’s covers. Each track on the album evokes a specific emotion or scene, and I wanted the artwork to visually complement the music and enhance the listener’s experience. Franco’s illustrations capture the essence of each composition, providing a visual narrative that enhances the emotional journey of the music. It adds another layer of depth to the album and creates a synergy between the auditory and visual senses. I did not even need to give him any information on the songs. He is so clever. Another friend of mine in Italy, Andrea Rabuffetti, a creative recluse, turned everything into animations. 

Monica Costa: In the description of your track “Clouds in Bloom,” you mention being inspired by David Hockney’s art. How do visual arts like Hockney’s influence your musical compositions?

Demian Dorelli: David Hockney’s art, particularly his “My Window” iPhone and iPad drawings, served as inspiration for the track “Clouds in Bloom.” Hockney’s ability to capture the simplicity and beauty of nature resonated deeply with me. His depiction of dancing clouds in the distance against the colours of spring inspired me to translate that visual experience into a melodic and poetic piece. Visual arts like Hockney’s influence my musical compositions by providing a source of inspiration and a different perspective on the world. They encourage me to think beyond the boundaries of music and incorporate other artistic elements into my compositions.

Monica Costa: Your upcoming performance will include a reinterpretation of Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ on the piano. Can you share what drew you to Drake’s music and why you decided to include it in your performance?

Demian Dorelli: Nick Drake’s music has always held a special place in my heart. His melancholic and introspective style resonates deeply with me, and I have always admired his ability to create a profound emotional connection through his music. ‘Pink Moon’ is a timeless masterpiece, and I felt compelled to reinterpret it on the piano as a tribute to Drake and his influence on my own musical journey. It allows me to pay homage to an artist I deeply admire and connect with the audience on a different level by bringing a fresh interpretation to a beloved song.

Monica Costa: As a child, you were exposed to a diverse range of musical sounds, including Pink Floyd and JJ Cale. How have these influences shaped your musical style?

Demian Dorelli: The diverse range of musical sounds I was exposed to as a child, including Pink Floyd and JJ Cale, has had a significant impact on my musical style. These artists introduced me to different genres and styles, expanding my musical palette and encouraging me to explore various sonic landscapes. Pink Floyd’s ethereal and experimental approach to rock music and JJ Cale’s laid-back and bluesy sound have influenced my compositions by instilling a sense of freedom and versatility. They have taught me to embrace different musical elements and blend them together to create my own unique style. As a child you are like a sponge. My father left me close to a loud speaker and played lots of rock music. 

Monica Costa: Your album was recorded in a studio in Salento, Italy, with windows opening onto sunlit olive groves. How did the surroundings and environment impact the creation of ‘My Window’?

Demian Dorelli

Demian Dorelli: The surroundings and environment in Salento, Italy, where ‘My Window’ was record, had a profound impact on the creation of the album. The studio’s windows opening onto sunlit olive and  groves and grape trees provided a serene and picturesque backdrop that influenced the overall mood and atmosphere of the music. The tranquillity and beauty of the surroundings seeped into my compositions, allowing me to create melodic and poetic pieces that reflect the essence of the natural world. The environment acted as a source of inspiration, fostering a deep connection between the music and the natural beauty that surrounded me. We were there in February and it was freezing. But it was absolutely beautiful. 

Monica Costa: You mentioned that playing the piano has always been about expressing and capturing emotions for you. Can you elaborate on your approach to improvisation and self-expression through the keys? Your music would be perfect as soundtrack for a movie. 

Demian Dorelli: I started from improvisation, like jazz where you don’t know what’s going to happen. The piano is where I wanted to be to express myself, not as much with lyrics. Playing the piano has always been a deeply personal and emotional experience for me. Improvisation plays a significant role in my approach to self-expression through the keys. When I sit at the piano, I allow my emotions to guide my playing, improvising melodies and harmonies that reflect my innermost feelings. It is a process of surrendering to the music and allowing it to flow freely through me. Improvisation gives me the freedom to express emotions that might be difficult to put into words and enables me to communicate with the audience on a profound level. 

Monica Costa: As a musician who appreciates rock music, do you have any rock rebels who inspire you or have had a significant impact on your musical journey? Additionally, do you have any interesting rock anecdotes you’d like to share?

Demian Dorelli: As a musician who appreciates rock music, I have been inspired by numerous rock rebels who have left a significant impact on my musical journey. 

When I was a boy, the first vinyl I bought myself was by Madness. The Scar movement was my favourite stuff at that time. II bought a record called ‘Dance Craze’ which had a black and white cover, including the Selector, Madness, the Body Snatchers and a few bands in there.They seemed to me as rebels. Madness, in baggy trousers, were talking about school. After school, I spent lots of time listening to these vinyl records and it felt naughty although they weren’t rude. I felt that if I listened to these gritty lyrics, they’ll give me some powers when I go to school. That music gave me a lot of energy. We needed that as teenagers. Rock music is vital to go through those years. Overall, rock music and its rebellious nature have played a significant role in shaping my musical journey, inspiring me to embrace individuality and explore new artistic horizons.

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