Amidst a quiet, average work week, who doesn’t like to shake things up with some new music? That’s the idea today and you’re in for a serious treat. I recently sat down with a talented singer-songwriter friend of mine, Maria Linares, for a little Q&A session and we talked about her story as a musician, her music and what it means to develop your musical craft.
** Please note that there is now a special “companion post”
to this, with a review of Maria’s music, over at “Computers, Music & More” **
Here’s a little background on Maria before we dive into the conversation:
Maria Linares is a New York City based film composer, singer and songwriter. She has written songs for Telemundo TV series and has composed and produced music for short films, television, jingles and multimedia projects.
Maria started studying music at age of five in Bogotá, Colombia and graduated with a Bachelor in Music from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá. In 2005, Maria worked as an intern at Sonido Comercial Publicitario and later on, became a staff Composer and Producer. In 2008, Maria relocated to New York City to attend the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University, where she studied songwriting with Phil Galdston and Alex Forbes and film scoring with Deniz Hughes and Mark Suozzo; as part of the Master in Music: Scoring for Film and Multimedia Program, which she completed in May of 2010.
Maria is currently working as a freelance composer and songwriter for films and television projects in Colombia and New York, and is also furthering her development as a solo artist. One of her most recent freelance projects includes two demo songs for the popular children’s television network, Nickelodeon.
Now that you’re up to speed on who Maria is, have a listen to one of her newest songs available for streaming, titled: “Answers.” The Q&A starts after clicking the link below.
Q: How long have you been composing? Composing professionally?
Maria: I have been composing since I was around 14 years old. I can recall that my first composition was changing the end to one of the piano pieces that I was studying in my piano lesson. I didn’t really take it seriously until I started college in 2001, where my major was composition and production. I have been composing professionally since before graduating, in 2006.
Q: How long have you been singing for?
Maria: I have been singing since before I can remember. I started to take music lessons since I was four or five years old and we were singing most of the time. (“We” meaning my sister and I!)
Q: How do you define your artistic style?
Maria: If we are talking about my own songs and “personal projects” as I call them… I would say something between indie and pop. (If that makes any sense) If we are talking about my scores, I would say there is some minimalism, classical influence and also electronic and pop background. I like to mix them all.
Q: Who are some of your key influences?
Maria: My influences… There are so many!! From classical music, (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy) to Radiohead, Zero7, Chet Baker, Air, Oasis, Kings of Convenience, Juan Luis Guerra, Gustavo, Cerati, Death Cab for Cutie, Arcade Fire, Mum, Fiona Apple, Garbage. Just to name some….
Q: So you market yourself as a film composer but having done work for television shows, voiceovers, commercials as well… what drew you primarily to scoring for film over everything else a songwriter can do with music?
Maria: I love being able to connect a script, an image or an idea through music. I am very sensitive to art and images and it’s amazing to create a musical idea that links the content of the picture. I strongly believe in collaboration and the outcome of a joint creative process.
Q: It’s not uncommon at all for songwriters to be singers as well –some of the greatest and most memorable American musicians of earlier and more current eras like, Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Jewel and Billy Joel, just to name a few, could command their own material. Do you always compose with the mindset and objective that you can perform it if you want to?
Maria: Well, of course that everything you write comes through you and your voice at first, but, no, not always. As I mentioned before, there are two different types of music I write. I write my “personal projects” based on my ideas and moods, on what I capture around me, a story I hear about or an image.
When I write songs for television and for other artists, It’s a whole process to be able to write the song and “visualize” it somehow from someone else’s point of view. In those cases, the objective is to connect through music, to an idea or concept –especially If there is a script for a production or if the artist already has an idea of what this song should be about.
Q: As someone who has worked to slowly learn a few different languages, I can grasp learning to understand and converse with people, but making both comprehensible and smoothly appealing music seems almost surreal when you’re working with a language that’s not your first! What’s was/is the most difficult aspect of your songwriting in English? I imagine that even after becoming proficient in vocabulary and rhyme scheme it must have been hard to choose how you wanted to say things to your listeners. Did anything special suddenly click for you that made you realize, “Hey, I can do this now and it really feels like the music is coming from me naturally, I’m really speaking my true emotions without feeling like it’s just about grammar and a dictionary?”
Maria: The most difficult thing abut writing in English has been to take it to the next level and not get frustrated because everything you write just sounds so basic and shallow. I have been writing in English seriously for about three years and trust me, I have songs from that time that I wouldn’t play for anyone! It’s been a hard process and you have to shift the way you express yourself somehow. One of my songwriting professors (Phil Galdston) gave me a great piece of advice: he recommended I read short stories and books in English and that has helped, but it’s a long road and I am not even halfway there yet!
Q: Like me, you attended NYU and gained a solid graduate education experience. Since some of what you do is for yourself and fun, while the rest is for work, where do you feel formal training and study fits into making someone a “great musician?”
Maria: I believe that formal training gives you structure and allows you to meet fellow musicians with whom you can build long lasting friendships and working relationships. In the case of NYU, I had the chance to meet amazing professors that have been writing scores and songs for Feature Films and amazing artists. It also keeps you updated to what is going on. However, just having formal training is not enough. It´s necessary to go out there and meet the bands, listen to what people are writing outside of your comfort zone, and keep writing music and practicing, all the time.
I was lucky I had the chance to receive formal training since I was really young and the academic background has been really valuable to me and my musical process. But you have to keep studying all the time and keep meeting creative people. That’s where good things come from.
Q: What are your next goals for your musical and career development?
Maria: My next goals while I keep writing songs and scores for television, are to start writing them for film. Also, to finish a couple of short films I am working on and start producing my first album.
Q: And do you ever think we’ll find you on (dare I say it!) …iTunes?
Maria: Yes! I have a plan to record my first album this year! So, it will be soon!
You can listen to more of Maria Linares’s music and get in touch with her through her pages on these social media outlets: