18 Oct Featured Artist | Christopher Neel | Selfish (I’m Gonna Be)
Christopher Neel is a classically trained composer and performer from Minneapolis MN. He has a BA in music composition and currently works as a professional freelance composer/songwriter in the twin cities.
When I come across something that I really like, I’ll listen to it over and over on repeat, do a full analysis on it, and then as a learning exercise I’ll attempt to reverse engineer it.
Can you tell us a bit about your musical background? Have you ever had any formal training?
When I was younger my parents took me to see the Chicago Symphony perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 and it changed my life forever. From the moment those small hammers struck the strings of the piano, unleashing a celestial G Major chord that seemed to reverberate infinitely throughout orchestra hall, I was captivated and desperately needed to learn how to compose music. I got my hands on every score I could find and did an analysis on all of my favorite compositions in order to learn how the great composers went about crafting melodies, motivic development, creating harmonies, voicing chords etc.
Your lyric writing is concise in a way that translates very well to pop. Do you find yourself doing a lot of editing and re-writes to fine-tune your songs?
I always write the music in one shot and rarely ever find myself re-writing or fine-tuning melodies and harmonies. Lyrics on the other hand are constantly being tweaked because of how difficult it is for me to write them. Each time I’m working on lyrics for a song I find myself constantly looking them over and thinking to myself: “wow this is a complete dumpster fire” and then start over. Eventually everything finally starts to fall into place and hopefully makes for a meaningful and relatable story for the audience.
When starting to write a new song do you usually begin with lyrics, melody, or chords first? Is it the same with every song you write?
Every song always starts with the melody for me, and ironically the melody will usually just pop in my head when I’m doing something completely unrelated to music. I’ll be making dinner or watching tv and then suddenly a melody just floats in and I have to drop everything I’m doing and write it down before I forget it.
When searching to find your voice as an artist, do you make an intentional choice to write within a specific genre(s) of music, or did you just let it happen naturally without thinking too much about genre?
Finding my voice as an artist has always been a process of listening to as much music from as many genres as possible and then when I come across something that I really like, I’ll listen to it over and over on repeat, do a full analysis on it, and then as a learning exercise I’ll attempt to reverse engineer it. Ultimately what ended up happening is that I learned all of the tricks of the trade from my favorite songwriters and composers by dissecting their music, and it all ended up coming together to create my own voice as a songwriter/composer.
What’s the meaning of creating songs for you? What’s your intention to make it into a work?
Taking a break from composing contemporary classical music to work as a songwriter revives the recreational aspect of music for me. It gives me the opportunity to focus on rhythm and melody without the complex structures required of classical compositions. Songwriting enables me to reach out and tell a story in a concise format that will ideally resonate with listeners.