Name: Jonas Colstrup
Recent release: Jonas Colstrup's new single "Rain From a Blue Sky" is out via 7K! It is taken from his upcoming full-length At The Crest, slated for release on November 18th 2022.
Recommendations: I would recommend Arcadiana: VI. O Albion by Thomas Adès in the Calder Quartet version. It’s an amazingly written piece brilliantly performed and recorded.
"Living Torch I" by Kali Malone. Another sublime piece and recording to me in its subtilty and simple beauty.
If you enjoyed this interview with Jonas Colstrup and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Music was always playing in my childhood home with my mom being a music teacher and a violinist and my dad strumming on his old guitar now and then, or my sister practising the saxophone. A daily cacophony of multiple genres – classical music, jazz, blues, spirituals and Danish folk songs …
I have a memory of playing with my toys on the living room floor when my dad walked in to introduce a song, he just did new lyrics for a school musical where he was teaching. I was immediately sold and started at music school as a guitar student shortly after.
I also remember when I first tried writing something. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old and was playing around with a kids-size guitar in the piano room. I can’t remember what I was doing but I do remember the feeling of massive disappointment when realizing that everything had already been done. This of course based on the very few chords I could play and as innocent and impatient as it gets!
I later found out that writing was always my approach to music rather than practising and performing the music of others. I didn’t fully realize this until I was in my 20s studying guitar at the rhythmic music conservatory in Copenhagen. I had a tendinitis break forcing me to listen to music in a different way only to realize that the guitar was just a tool and music was so much more than I had imagined. This was when I started writing more seriously.
There are many influences and heroes but the music of Bill Frisell and Radiohead always seems to come back to me though my interests and sensitivities keep broadening.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colors. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I geek out on a lot of different stuff but mainly I tend to focus on the intentions behind the music.
The simplest most lo-fi things and well as the most complicated impressively produced music can get to me as long as I feel the heart and ambition behind it. Maybe this is why I find myself mostly drawn to music and arts that have a certain rawness to them. Genre is secondary which makes my playlist quite confusing for other people!
I tend to obsess a bit when I find a new piece of music. I’ll hear it over and over to try and understand and internalize it.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
It may sound strange, but I feel like I’m just getting started though it’s been my life and livelihood for most of my now 43 years of age. Music never seems to end for me!
The upcoming album is definitely a breakthrough for me creatively. Not only in doing a project on this scale but more so finding my way and tonal pallet in the setting of a full orchestra + with all the endless possibilities available. It has taken a lot of detours and trial and error to get to the current state.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I am deeply interested in music and the arts from around the world and find myself in a global mix every day but my sensibilities and aesthetics are unavoidably tied to my Scandinavian upbringing and life. This is something I am very aware of and constantly work to challenge or redefine.
I’m always looking for new music as it inspires me to approach things with a fresh set of ears. The unexpected gifts seem more joyful than the obvious.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I highly appreciate music and art with the qualities of being immediately emotionally engaging.
Some things require a little time and effort to understand and get into like the organ works of Olivier Messiaen which took me years to understand - but when cracked only become more impressive and magical.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Originality and innovation seem secondary to authenticity in my world. That said I am continuously looking for new sounds and fresh ideas as to how things could be done. Ideally, I would like to bridge the known with the unknown. Whether it ends up being original with a timeless character is not for me to say.
I find imperfections more interesting than their polished counterpart and have tried to keep some of the natural rawness in the recordings in the upcoming album.
Over the course of your development, what has been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I started out as a guitarist but play the piano more or less every day as part of the writing process.
It may sound weird - or perhaps totally familiar - but I feel as if the computer is also an instrument. It is very much part of the writing process but at the same time, I need to “get out” of the computer when being creative as I want my imagination to run freely and not be dictated by software or interface design.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
My routine is very simple. I like to get up early and get to the studio as quickly as possible. When I get to the studio, I routinely start the day with a cup of coffee. Sometimes I don’t even drink it but just have it on my desk as the most important thing is the trigger function it serves for my work concentration.
I like to get to the studio every day – although these days I’m trying to have the weekends off to recharge. I do the majority of the writing in the morning as this is when I am the most focused and creative before the phone starts to ring.
After lunch, I tend to work on the ideas the morning birthed and do admin stuff depending on what I have going on. Evenings are usually good for recordings when the city quiets down.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
The first single “Rain from a Blue Sky” of the upcoming album At the Crest was a very long writing process. I think I started the piece five or six years ago and it was initially a more simple string quartet piece that then evolved over time to its current form with a full orchestra, church organ and choir. It’s like a kind of passacaglia where one line or idea is continuously repeated adding variations and pathos as the piece progress.
The basic and very simple core structure of the progression was what took so long to figure out. When to pause, when to do a variation, how to work with layers and how to start it off etc. I remember spending a whole week in an apartment in New York trying to figure out the opening to find a natural progression into the piece.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I really enjoy working both privately and in collaborations and have done and do both extensively. Working in a collaborative form can be really fruitful creatively with the right people and something I enjoy when working on a film project where looming deadlines and production circumstances are at play.
The upcoming solo album was something I had to do alone to try and find my own way.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I think music and the arts, in general, is hugely important for how we experience life. Society tends to put measurements on everything and we are taught to look for value or solutions to fix problems.
This is great but in my experience only half of being human, maybe less. Music and the arts (and for some religions) can address some of the bigger questions and unfamiliar emotions we face individually as well as collectively.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions have music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Personally, music is my world. I deal with the ups and downs through what I am listening to and in my writing. In a way, this album is also me trying to process a loss.
I greatly appreciate all art forms but music has a way of cutting through to me like no other. I don’t see myself as a very religious person but music definitely has a way of making me feel transcendence.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I love science but science and music are two different areas for me. Both can serve as trying to understand and describe the word but with very different aims and approaches.
Science, as I understand it, is focused on trying to technically understand the physical side of life whereas music ties to the emotional and spiritual aspects.
The two undoubtedly intertwine on a more philosophical level where what we think we know about the world is constantly changing, questioning what we really know.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
It’s all connected to me. Music is my love but I also feel a similar joy and elevation in doing other types of creative work.
It all feeds into each other with music being my drug of choice.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I think part of the beauty of music is that it can’t really be explained. We all feel it but there’s no way of measuring or explaining the emotional impact. It’s of a more intuitive nature.
As said I don’t see myself as a very religious person but I do believe in the divine as something we all carry within. Music seems to tap into that and to me more closely so than language can describe.