How did you first become interested in music?
Music, be it professionally or as a hobby, always ran in my family, and it was on my own at around two when I discovered my grandma’s upright piano. As my initial amusement kept growing, not that much later my family noticed I was playing simple things by ear, even though no one had taught me how to do it. Since that point, it was no question for my family that I had to continue and go to music school.
How did you know you wanted to make a career as a performer?
Originally I never imagined myself as a performer – maybe it’s due to me being an introvert in general – but over the past years I have become quite comfortable with it. I always had much more motivation to compose music, and in a way performing and arranging cover songs allowed me to become more creative.
Were you always interested in pop and film music, and did you meet any resistance to that when you were studying music?
For many years in my childhood I would have only listened to classical music, and in my teens I started to discover film music, especially that of John Williams who wrote my favourite themes for my favourite movies. My other milestone was discovering the music of Michael Jackson.
During my classical studies I would experience a mild judgement towards music other than classical, but it never changed the way I looked at things, it even made it stronger.
What are the biggest challenges in straddling the pop and classical worlds?
To keep the feel and groove of pop, while converting it into something like a ‘piano symphony’, this conversion is quite the challenge, but rewarding.
How do you keep the music fresh for yourself?
I’ve limited myself to only using sounds that can be produced with a single piano, so it gives me a great challenge, and a great opportunity to become very creative, even crazy, with the arrangements. Imagine a symphonic orchestra or a rock band that you want to interpret, but the only tool you have is a piano.
What inspired you to start composing yourself?
For me it was always composers and their works that inspired me to be the same, at the very beginning – I was around seven – I remember idolising Mozart and writing pieces hauntingly similar to his. Of course today it’s no longer about assembling similar notes, it’s rather catching the vibe or emotions behind the music.
Do you think there are lessons the classical music world could learn from pop, and vice versa?
One that can apply for all might be not falling for labelling music and building walls around genres, but to be open to new ideas. The genetics of music can only be refreshed when different things merge, and we should be able to embrace it, rather than rigidly sticking to dogmatic views that may not stand the test of time.
What music have you chosen for your upcoming Australian tour and why?
I’ll be playing the cover songs my audience already knows from YouTube, and I’ll also feature some of my original songs that will be on my upcoming album. It will be a great balance of cover songs and my original works. I am really excited and can’t wait to come back to Australia with my new show.
Peter Bence performs at Astor Theatre, Perth, on November 27, the Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane on November 30, Sydney Opera House on December 1 and Melbourne Recital Centre on December 2