Camila Meza: Following what the music has to say

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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AAJ: I find your approach to composition and music in general to be very appealing and most striking on your latest album Traces. And I don't seem to be the only one either. The album was well received in the media. Did you feel that Traces was a big step?

CM: Yes, definitely. People seem to really be starting to appreciate what I do and this record has opened some new doors, doors to more gigs all over the place, even Japan for the first time and three more following right after.

AAJ: What drove your inspiration while writing the album?

CM: During the conception of the record I was going through a lot of change in my life. On a personal level, on an academic level, on a philosophical level; everything was shifting quite a bit to be honest. By creating these songs I was, in a way, liberating myself from worries, limitations I had inflicted upon myself. So I decided I really needed to do what felt good. In general, when I'm writing, I feel I'm writing from the positive side of my everyday struggle. I point solutions out to myself and motivate myself.

AAJ: Let's get to your next project, your upcoming album entitled "Ambar." In the spring of last year you'd started a successful kickstarter campaign, seeking to help finance this new recording which sees you working on somewhat of a larger scale, featuring an ensemble carrying the name "Nectar Orchestra." What led to this Idea of pushing the boundaries of instrumentation and arranging?

CM: This project was born in more of a collaboration with Noam Wiesenberg. He's not only the bassist but also responsible for the string arrangements on Amber. We both had this curiosity to write for strings and I for my part have always loved the sound of a string quartet. The first songs I wrote while I was still working on Traces. I was writing this one tune, which Noam wanted to put a string arrangement on so we just started experimenting with that right away. You can already hear and see a performance of the finalized version on YouTube; it's called "Waltz No. 1." There were no strings attached at first, no ambition for a specific project, but it worked out so well and we had so much fun writing and experimenting with it we ended up digging out some older compositions of mine that I'd never found the right place and time for. You will be able to hear these on the forthcoming album. In 2017 we finished the last 5 songs of the record and did some concerts as well.

AAJ: How did you go about finding the right people? Seeing how Noam was responsible for the arrangements was he also the one bringing in the musicians, such as Tomoko Omura, to realize them?

CM: I was trying to go for a different sound from what Traces sounds like, taking a few steps in another direction and giving it a unique sound. Today I'd say it feels like a continuation of Traces in a way, seeing how it's still me writing. But to switch it up a little I thought about bringing in a percussionist, widening the soundscape a little. I had played with Keita Ogawa before and he's amazing so I invited him on board. Eden Ladin on piano is a close friend of mine so I immediately thought of him, too, and Tomoko Omura I play with in Fabian Almazan's ensemble as well. So Noam and I just really collaborated on the choice of musicians.

AAJ: Now as a bit of a guitar-enthusiast I am of course interested in knowing what part it plays in this new collaboration. Seeing how the arrangement is thoroughly thicker than it was on its predecessor does the guitar fall further in the background serving as an ornamenting orchestral instrument or do we still get to hear it in the center?

CM: I think when it comes to my guitar playing it is a similar approach to what you find on Traces. There are some solos, but the focus is on the song. It's very balanced I'd say but it certainly shouldn't disappoint the guitar geeks!

AAJ: let's get to the two fun questions I saved up for the end. The first being: What music did you listen to most in 2017, old and new?

CM: Sufjan Stevens—"Carrie and Lowell," I love that album. It really makes me want to record an album all by myself in my room at home. And then there's Laura Mvula. And of course Kurt Rosenwinkel's Star of Jupiter is also always on rotation (We linger on raving about him for a while, going through is entire discography...). I love how we're geeking out now (she laughs).

AAJ: If could freely choose your next collaboration, who would be your dream musician to work with?

CM: Another one of those really difficult questions. I'm not quite sure in which context, but Brad Mehldau and Esperanza Spalding are two people I'd love to work with. Also it would be a dream to work with Caetano Veloso, a Brazilian singer/guitarist.

Photo Credit: Rainer A. Rygalyk
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