In the early 90s I discovered a young singer songwriter called Iain Archer. For a few years Iain played at everything that I had anything to do with. He went through a few band members but one remained the same - Robert Sinclair.
Robert is not a talented pianist. He is way beyond talented. He has a natural genius and that was on display night after night as he added grace note flourishes to anything Iain did. There were instrumentals when the two of them achieved musical trickery that was an amazing spectacle as well as sound.
When Iain took off to Novello Awards and Grammy nominations for his work with Snow Patrol, Jake Bugg, James Bay and most recently Sammy Brue, Robert remained at home in Bangor, still dazzling on the piano wherever he got a chance to play.
Now, almost 30 years on and Robert Sinclair has made his every own record. Emotions is a solo piano project that shows all the skills of his genius and adds a sensitivity to the different emotions we humans go through. For those of you who love instrumental music this is a winner.
I got a chance to ask Robert about how the album came about, how you name an instrumental piece of music and what he hoped for the new album.
So it has taken a long time to make an album. Why now?
Recording an album was a problem. I'm used to playing a lot of different styles so it would be very hard to pigeon-hole me to a certain genre. I’m not tied to jazz, blues, pop, classical, reggae, soul, pop, I just play the lot. When I was a child I just stuck a record on and played along.
And another problem was the idea of just showing off on an album filled me with dread! It’s not like me to show off - I make mistakes! I needed a purpose for an album for the benefit of others. That’s when it all came about doing Emotions. Something people can listen to and use to reflect on days or times in their life when they are going through something. Music can do that, sometimes just better than words or anything else.
Tell me about where the record began? Did you set out to make an album or did the songs creep up on you and suddenly you had a record?
It’s honestly a collection of music I’ve came up with in the same way as the album’s purpose. It’s been the music I played on my own journey in life over the years. Or sometimes I’ve just been moved by something – Goodbye for example was the music I thought would be perfect for when Dr. Who had to say goodbye to Rose on the beach. I found that quite emotional. I thought – wouldn’t it be good to have a piece to use when you have to say Goodbye to somebody in some way?
I’ve always wanted to have my music used in film and television too. Maybe some day…?
How do you give instrumentals titles? I mean were you in Paris at midnight?
Midnight in Paris was recorded previously years ago and is a bit out of place but people liked it so I just stuck it on the album. I’ve never been to Paris at midnight so no lol! It’s just a thought as I wrote it in the early nineties - a place where you could still sit at a table in the street and drink coffee at midnight and watch the rest of the world pass by. The other titles were a lot easier and gives a much clearer link to where I was in life when I first played it.
Emotions is the title. When you are writing, is it about putting down the emotions you feel right there at that moment? Would you carry an emotion with you for a while and then eventually write a piece or do you sit down and say “how am I feeling now"?
Definitely the best time to play the piano I found is when I’m feeling emotional about something and, with the exception of Goodbye and Hope, I just press record and start playing. It’s just what comes out.
Hope was written out as I went – that was when my marriage started to fall apart but no matter what would happen, I always had hope. As a Christian, hope is something I hold on to a lot. All the other tracks are just sit and play. I actually do this a lot but don’t always record it so who knows what I’ve lost! I recorded In Love and When I think of you after being with my girlfriend on different occasions. I listened to When I Think Of You the day after I recorded it in the car and I actually thought, did I play this?? Was that me? I wouldn’t have been able to play it ever again if I didn’t record it…! I actually had to write it all out for the studio to make sure I got it right lol!
Is the music about your own catharsis or joy or whatever emotion or do you think of an audience listening?
This album is a green light for me because it’s for other people. I find that a lot easier and acceptable. My music does comfort me and is a channel for me every day and, unless they are just being very kind, people seem to enjoy my music too. I love playing for people – it’s a very powerful God-given gift. I play at weddings and I remember once at a rehearsal, it was all going well, all great, no problems. They were just about to walk down the aisle and then I started playing the piano and after about 4 steps, the flower girl started crying and started off others. Music is powerful indeed! (I was very professional by the way and didn't cry too!)
What are your hopes for the album?
This is quite an ambition – I currently have 2 aims in life – to live long enough to see my boys married and be a grandad and to have my music heard all over the world or most of it anyway. Again, I’d love my music to be used in a film or even a TV series.
The album took about 5 hours to record and 7 months to actually get it on sale! But now it’s finally online, I hope I can sell as many tracks/albums as possible. But for other people to use. To help them. A life tool. It’s purpose.
It’s all a learning curve this album stuff... The second one will be easier… 6 months lol?