Find Your Inner Geek - September 2, 2019
FYIG chats with pianist/composer Tim Nast
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I started playing the piano at age 6 and, by the time I was 16, I was composing and performing publicly. After high school, I attended university (Uvic and UBC) but ultimately left university to launch a professional music career that found me performing across Canada and Germany – sometimes to standing room only. Through my 20s I composed hundreds of songs and recorded 6 albums.
I come from a large family of 10 siblings. My parents were quite religious but, for me, I never adopted their religion. Instead, I found great comfort in the spiritual aspects of life. Existing on this planet has always fascinated me and is something I cherish deeply. With such a big family, we never had much money so we learned to live life in simple ways – being in nature, ideas, conversation, sports, art, and music.
I’m from Vancouver Island but, in my adult life, I had a thirst for discovery so I left the Island and lived in a few Canadian cities, including Vancouver and Toronto. I currently live in Ottawa. Despite living away from Vancouver Island, I visit the Island regularly and always feel my roots are on the west coast. There are certain beaches on the Island which I visited regularly growing up. To this day, I feel very connected to these specific locations and, when I visit them, I feel that I am home.
How integral was growing up on the west coast of Vancouver Island to your career?
Growing up on the west coast of Vancouver Island was very instrumental to my music. On the west coast of the Island, you are away from the civilized world and surrounded by the majesty and power of nature. This experience deeply affected my music and all forms of my artistic expression – setting the pace and tone of all I compose and create, as well as how I live my life. The west coast also has a spiritual side to it – the pull of the tide and the massive trees, the dolphins and seals swimming nearby, and the eagles up above. This is all very real when you are there because it surrounds you. Add to this the wind and the waves, the sand, and rocky beaches, the moon up above and you come away feeling deeply connected to nature and all of life. My simple upbringing has removed any need for fame or money and, in its place, has emphasized the importance of living one’s life with passion and purpose. I carry this with me every day and incorporate this quiet sense of being into my music and composition.
You left that music world when you became a father to join the corporate world. How hard was it to step away?
My need to step away from my music career to become a father was incredibly painful. On one side, I was excited to become a father and care for my children, but I was also stunned and incredibly sad that it meant my days would be spent toiling in the corporate world rather than composing and sharing my music. I learned that we don’t always know (and often don’t control) how our lives will go. It felt that, as much as I wanted my life to head in a certain direction, I was now heading in the opposite direction. And no matter how much I protested and tried to change this, in the end, I could only accept it and move forward.
I know one of my main roles in life was to raise my children. This became extremely clear when I ended up becoming a single dad. And all we can do is live each day and pursue a light heart, knowing we are in the right place, doing what we can to stay positive and move forward. And if things are supposed to work out, it will happen in its own time.
I never thought I would be in the corporate world for 26 years! I thought maybe 4 or 5 years, but life moves quickly and the years passed. But I will also share that my time as a father in the corporate world was full of great things as well – the time I spent raising my children was special and a wonderful gift. And the corporate world taught me everything I need to know about becoming a successful music entrepreneur. And, eventually, everything turned out because here I am – now fully focused on my music career – composing, recording, performing and sharing my music with the world.
Were you concerned that you might never make your way back to creating music?
Even though I had a very busy life with my children and a full-time corporate career, for many years I made a point of getting up at 5am to compose and create so, despite my busy life, I also had my creative time. This was a commitment I made to myself and, by doing so, I was able to stay connected to my music, my art and also myself. But, having said that, I was deeply concerned that I might never make it back to creating music full time. I thought about this almost every day. Sometimes this was a heavy load to carry while other times, I tried to look at the broader picture and know I was helping to raise my children as best I could.
Through this time, I learned to accept that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want, and it’s important to focus on the path in front of us and move forward with a light heart. This wasn’t easy to do. But I didn’t want to live a resentful life so I worked hard to accept things as they were. But this is also why I rose at 5am to continue pushing artistically, to continue creating for the love of art and creation. It was kinda funny as well – by day I wore a suit and presented to executives in boardrooms across North America but, by night, I was a dad and an artist, quietly composing and pushing my art forward.
Like everyone, my life has been full of ups and downs, but I worked hard to accept my path and embrace it, rather than push it away. I know this inner strength was instrumental in allowing my path to circle back and bring me to where I am now – pursuing my music full time.
Your upcoming album, “Here” arrives October 4th. What can audiences expect from this set of songs?
My new album is a solo piano album that celebrates our existence. The theme of this album is something that’s been building in me for a while – a quiet acknowledgment that we exist in this amazing place, and we exist right now. We are all so busy with our lives and, as a previously single dad, I can absolutely vouch for how busy people are. But it’s important to pause and take in the magic of our existence. So many generations have come before us and right now this is our time.
The album cover design has an original oil painting of an ancient cave wall with my hand on it. This is to replicate the ancient cave paintings in Spain and France and other places – paintings that were created thousands of years ago. These ancient cave paintings have always fascinated me and the hands that were painted on the walls, for me they are shouting, “We are here!”. Their hands on the cave walls are proof they existed. This is something I wanted to do as well – acknowledge and celebrate that I am here…that we all are here.
The album includes 12 original songs. While the songs are instrumental, they are full of lyrics, and these lyrics are your thoughts as you listen to the songs. Each song offers its own theme, which follows the overall theme of the album – a celebration of our existence. Each is introspective and offers up an idea or a visual, that allows the listener to consider as they listen. An example of this is the first song, “The Space Between Us” which is a song about the space that exists between us and all other individuals. No matter how close we are to others, our partners or children or friends, there is a space that exists between us and them. This is an uncomfortable thought but it is also very powerful to acknowledge and accept. Another example is the song “Tomorrow” – a song about the days and years ahead and what we will achieve during the time we have remaining. The 12 songs offer beautiful melodies and the whole album quietly moves forward to the final note.
You have an upcoming Ontario tour. What’s the audience experience like when they see you live?
My upcoming Ontario tour across the Ottawa Valley will be very special. It is the first in many years and an opportunity to, at long last, share my music with others. There are 12 concert performances, each in small venues, which are perfect to share my solo piano music with the audience. We will all be close. We will be away from the hubbub of cities and free to share a beautiful evening together.
I will be performing the songs from the album which, combined, present the theme of being aware of our time and place on this earth. It will be an evening of being in the moment, and quietly sharing that moment with each other. Before playing each song, I will introduce the theme of the song which will invite the audience to reflect along those lines as I play. And once the song is done, we’ll come together again as I introduce the next one, as we move through the album and the evening.
The end of the performance will also be special. I have a gift for improvisation which means I am able to just sit at the piano and play. It’s a lot like diving into the ocean and going for a swim. You never know what you will find. All my songs are composed this way. At the end of each concert, I will improvise for the audience which, because we have spent the evening together, is an opportunity for us to compose something together. My improvs last anywhere from 5 – 15 minutes and I never have any idea of what I will play. The result will be me feeding off the audience as I dive into the piano and the melody. This will be the end of the show. But once I’m done, I’ll upload the improv to my website and let the audience have it for free. This is my way of thanking them for sharing the evening with me.
What’s next for your career beyond the upcoming album? Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with?
I have many plans for my music career which, I believe, is because I am no longer in my 20s and time is short. It’s important for me to push forward and achieve a few things.
This upcoming Fall tour is an opportunity to launch and share my new album with others. After that, I have another tour already booked for Spring 2020 which will take me to Montreal, Toronto, and across the GTA and Ontario. Following this Spring 2020 tour, I will head back to the west coast for a Fall 2020 tour where I will perform in Vancouver, Victoria and across Vancouver Island. I plan to launch my next album during this Fall 2020 west coast tour.
I am a prolific composer and plan to release a new album every year. In addition to this, I can see myself releasing singles throughout the year as well. I have composed many songs over the years so I have a vast library of material to polish and send out to the world. This is in addition to the constant flow of new songs I continue to compose. I will try to share as much of my music as possible over the years ahead.
For touring, I intend to perform regularly across Canada and, in a couple of years, I am hoping to head back to Europe and perform there as well. I loved performing in Germany in my 20s and found the people very receptive to my music. Performing across Europe is something I am hoping to do regularly for many years to come.
What advice would you have for aspiring pianists?
Be true to yourself and your music. Focus on what you love and learn from others who are
similar. Ignore everything else. Be clear on who you are and who you want to become. Be
honest with yourself and your music. Believe in yourself and know your musical expression is valid. Let the music live and breathe, outside of yourself, and inside every vein of your being. If you do all of this, you will find your muse and your audience, and the world will be a better place because of it. And practice, practice, practice.
What’s your life like outside of music?
Outside of music, I am fairly active. I’m a runner which means I am lacing up my shoes and heading out for an early morning run many days of the week. I used to run marathons and half-marathons but now am content to run 30k or so each week. Running clears my mind and keeps me balanced. I am also an avid nature lover and try to head out for hikes in nearby parks and forests when I can. I find time in nature keeps me inspired and helps to fuel my music composition. I love the winter season as well and, since I live in Ottawa, I am often skating the canal or skiing nearby trails. I find the Ottawa winter to be exhilarating – the crisp cold, sun, and snow. It’s very different from the west (wet) coast winter. But then again, the wet winters of the west coast are also good in an introspective way. When I am not outside doing an activity, I love a good book and a quiet café.
Let the readers know where to find you online.
Everyone can find me online at my website – www.timnast.com. This is the main portal to me – where you can find updates on my latest songs and albums, my tours and performances, videos, and other activities. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube – with my handle @timcnast