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Daily Inspiration: Meet Tristan de Liège

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tristan de Liège. 

Hi Tristan, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’ve been making music since I was maybe 11 or 12 or so, my parents had one of those old Yamaha keyboards with every instrument on it, and you could make little songs. So, I would record little loops by adding random instruments. I was also learning piano at the time, though I switched from that to guitar and then to bass. In high school, I was in various bands, and at some point, I became more interested in electronic music and production and how much power there is in that. I heard artists like Four Tet and Bonobo and Amon Tobin, and I was amazed at the power of what they were doing through sampling and production: one person with a laptop could create a full range of sound. So, I got into that more, and then from there it was a lot of trial and error and exploring. In my first few albums, I was taking tiny loops of scattered keyboard or guitar bits and sort of fitting them like puzzle pieces into tracks. Over time I became increasingly interested in adding live session musicians to my music to bring it to life a bit more, starting with strings and then eventually woodwinds (some of which I played), drums, kora, brasswind, etc. When I moved to LA in 2015, it was actually to work on a Ph.D. in philosophy, but I’d been taking music more and more seriously at this point to where it’s occupied a pretty serious place in my life. 

Since then, I’ve really appreciated the musical community here – from jazz to classical to ambient it’s really thriving and inspiring. And when you have people bringing music into new spaces and challenging how we encounter it, like Leaving Records and Floating and so on, you really have something special happening in LA. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In general terms, I feel really grateful for everything I’ve been able to do, and really have no complains. I remember there was an interview with Quantic once where he talked about how the reason he worked extra hard was because it was such a gift to be able to make music to begin with and make that one’s career. I really like that mindset, and I’ve always focused on growth and just staying dedicated and true to my purpose and potential. 

I wouldn’t say I had any struggles that were out of the ordinary — lots of disappointments and some mistakes –, but in general, it’s a long and slow path sometimes to making one’s music a sustainable and flourishing career. I would say that the important thing is, know what you’re doing and why – live and work with purpose and surround yourself with people and art that inspire you to be the best version of yourself. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I compose and produce music. You could say my specialization is electronic music, in the sense that most of my music has a lot of electronic music production components, synths, samplers, and so on, though in general, I’m always trying to mix and challenge genres. For example, I’m really inspired by jazz, soul, and classical, and try to draw from those genres whenever I can. 

Mostly, I make music for myself and in collaboration with different musicians, such as violinist Gregory Allison or the producer Benjamin Hill (Cuervo Cuervo), with whom I collaborate in a side project called Thoma. 

I think you could say I’m known for having a large volume of work in different genres and collaborating with a wide range of individuals. I’m sort of a serial collaborator. 

I think arguably what sets me apart from others is my consistency in finishing new work and in challenging my own skillset by branching into new genres and new collaborations. It doesn’t always work out, but I always learn something from those challenges. That’s also what I’m most proud of is my ability to carry ideas from conception to finish. 

What matters most to you?
I would say purpose. What I mean by that is having a vision for what I’m doing musically and why and how everything I do is integrated in that way. This isn’t to say that I have some set answer to that question, but rather it’s a framework that I’m always reconfiguring and refining in my approach. For instance, I want my albums to take people on a journey. That’s what I think an album should do, is take one through a range of emotional experiences and have an arc that creates the same emotional impact that a good narrative does. So, when you listen to an album, it’s like you went on an adventure or experienced your whole life in a condensed version. And then being true to that goal means thinking about how do the songs fit into that overall picture? And how do the different instruments, different arrangements, different rhythms convey different parts of that story? 

The other sense in which purpose is always applicable is to be really intentional with what one says yes and no to. It can be hard when you’re starting out to not say yes to every single opportunity, and in some ways, at the start, that can be helpful, but it’s very important to be able to say no to things and focus on the things that really matter and really help you grow and flourish as an artist. 

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Image Credits

Christian Sorensen Hansen

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