Inspiration comes in many ways and forms. Sometimes all it takes it’s a little spark to ignite a passion or career. For Gregoire Bonnin, his discovery of a discarded child’s keyboard when he was a boy proved to be the revelation of a love for music.
Since that fateful moment, Bonnin developed a keen interest in music and piano. Starting out at 10 years old, he honed his talents, eventually becoming a professional pianist in training at a Conservatory, where he focused on classical, jazz, and contemporary music.
Originally hailing from France, he now resides in his Singapore and his time here has resulted in his first solo piano EP. Flashback, marks the debut EP for the French contemporary classical pianist. It represents another milestone for Bonin’s musical career, one that was more than a decade in the making.
The EP was played and recorded in Singapore by Gregoire Bonnin and Lion Studio just this year. It proved to be an apt collaboration between the artist and the recording studio as they provided him with one of the grand pianos played by renowned French pianist Richard Clayderman himself in 1990.
Local music history buffs will also remember Lion Studio as one of the places where some of Singapore’s National Day songs were recorded. Now it helps present another significant moment for music with the release of Bonnin’s debut EP. We speak to the classical pianist and composer about producing Flashback and his goals in music.
Flashback is a culmination of an 11-year musical journey. Why did you choose this solo effort now?
This musical journey has been quite challenging and full of uncertainties. I spent 11 years writing music, but always thought that my piano pieces would not interest mass audiences. At first I was hesitant to record my first EP as I had assumed that my passion project would be something I would keep to only myself and my close circle.
I decided that 2021 was the year to take this step and pursue recording and releasing my first EP. I was turning 30 and finally felt ready to share my work with the rest of the world. The pandemic period was crucial to my completion of the EP as I had more time to work and write new pieces.
Flashback was also my love letter to my grandparents in France, who loved classical music and had exposed me to the genre at a young age. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed in February 2021 and did not manage to see my EP come to life. This will be a constant reminder for me in the future not to hold back and to pursue my dreams when I can.
What served as the inspiration for this debut EP?
There are two inspirations for Flashback. The first one is a series of pieces written by Chopin during the 19th Century, where each piece is independent and in general quite short. This collection of pieces is called the 24 preludes op.28. The structure of Flashback is heavily influenced by Chopin’s collection of pieces as it alternates one major piece with one Interlude, and some free-structured short pieces which allow transition into the other pieces. To be more precise, it’s an intermission.
My second inspiration for Flashback was a new emerging genre – Contemporary Classical, which is a mix of classical music and contemporary music. The genre gave me the inspiration to be versatile with my pieces, with some being minimalist and some more dramatic. Being able to mix classical with more contemporary music such as movie or jazz music is very interesting. There’s always a hint or a soft touch of jazz in my music.
How did you end up recording this in Singapore with Lion Studio?
I first met David Tan, who’s the owner of Lion Studio in May 2021, he was also a passionate musician and gave me invaluable advice during our first few conversations. From tips on how to promote my music to starting a social media presence, I could tell that he was a gem in the industry. Soon after, I convinced myself that Lion Studio was the place I wanted to record my first EP at.
How long did the whole process take to see this project through?
I would say the most tedious part of the process was over since I had 11 years of writing behind me. It was a smooth five months in Singapore searching for the right studio partner and fine tuning the pieces before I received the final recordings.
What are your hopes for this debut EP?
My hope is for Flashback to touch the hearts (and ears!) of audiences in Singapore and around the world and introduce them to the genre of Classical Contemporary. With Singaporeans being stuck at home amidst the pandemic and much of our daily lives being moved home-based, I hope that this album helps to bring some enjoyment about their day – be it at the dining table or during work.
Finally, I would love to continue producing Classical Contemporary music for the world. Being an independent artist, I hope to have the opportunity to work with recording labels and tap on their extensive experiences and network to help take my musical journey to the next level.
How did it feel seeing Flashback being completed and finally being put out?
Satisfied, relieved, and gratified of all this work done! It’s really a great feeling to finally share something you’ve put so much time, passion, and effort into. So, only positive feelings and energy.
Beyond this EP, what have you planned for your next step in music?
My dream as a kid was to work in the music industry. I would like to think that Flashback is the first step to me realizing this dream. My next EP is currently in the works, and I am also looking to explore partnerships with other composers in the community and piano brands. I hope that with these strategic partnerships, we’ll be able to introduce the genre of Classical Contemporary to the masses. As I grow as a composer and musician, I look forward to one day being able to perform on a stage for music lovers and have my music in movie soundtracks.
Listen to Flashback here.
(Images courtesy of Gregoire Bonnin)