Art Culture > Music News > Andrew Shapiro Interview: Musician & McDonalds pianist Date posted: December 17, 2009

Andrew Shapiro Interview: Musician & McDonalds pianist

Is fast food the future of music distribution? A lateral interview.

Internet, and mass media have all taken their toll on the music industry – putting it this way, can you think of the last time you actually went into a store to buy a CD? No, neither can we, which is why we were intrigued to hear that musician Andrew Shapiro had seized the opportunity to reach a wider audience (and sell lots of CD’s in the process) by playing on a grand piano at McDonalds. Pragmatic, genius or defeating the object of art?

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING AT MCDONALDS?

I started playing there four years ago and play every Sunday between noon and 4pm (160 Broadway). It’s a weird yet awesome experience. I was the one to actually contact McDonalds, as I wanted to find a place where I could perform my own original compositions. I’ve played other McDonalds too – at London’s Kensington branch in April 2008 and in San Diego. Over the last four years I’ve used the experience to write solo piano music, and it’s the perfect situation for me to hone pieces whilst I’m playing.

DO YOU PERFORM OUTSIDE OF RESTAURANTS?

I’m playing in January at New York’s Kennedy Center in Washington D.C Kennedy Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. My solo piano album “Numbers, Colors and People” was released in March 2009 and I have a new album of electric keyboard (synthesizer) music in the works – as yet untitled – and is slated to be released in May 2010.

I’m actually contemplating the idea of releasing an album called “Live at McDonalds” – I’m still undecided as to whether I should keep it pure or or keep the background noise and the beeps of the french fryer – I’m discussing it with a sound engineer…

WHAT HAVE YOU GAINED FROM THE EXPERIENCE?

On an artistic level it’s interesting to see how my work varies with the surroundings. The music that I write has a lot of atmosphere, it’s ambient but also minimal – in McDonalds this works as a zoomed out ambient experience, whereas if I play it in an art gallery the effect is very different.

I’ve had so much interest in my work as a result of the venue – a Polish writer based in New York saw a feature on me in the New York Times (“Quarter Pounder With Keys” ) and invited me to Poland to play – and I’m planning a European tour next year. I was featured as the “Best Pianist in a Fast-Food Restaurant” in the “Best of New York” issue of the Village Voice.

WHAT IS A MCDONALDS AUDIENCE LIKE?

The McDonalds branch that I play is actually a block from ground Zero – it gets tons of people through the doors and its an international scene – it’s actually very exciting. I’ve made a lot of friends and received a lot of professional interest.

Andrew performs as a soloist and with his group Airbox and regularly composes for notable film and theatre projects. He studied composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Raised in Larchmont, NY, he currently lives and
composes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

HAS IT HELPED YOUR CAREER?

My friend who runs a recording studio actually said to me that I play, “at the most lowbrow venue in the United States.” And of course there’s a risk – for example my dream is to write a film score but a potential producer could obviously turn around and say, “I don’t want some random guy from McDonalds writing our music!

As long as I can play my original compositions however I don’t have any issues. I never wanted to be an artist who would only play in a certain place.

DO YOU ALSO SELL CD’S AT MCDONALDS?

I sell a lot of CDs there and it really interests me who buys them. A smart European couple might buy a CD but its often the last person who I think might buy a CD – for example one time a woman from Queens with three crazy kids who was obviously stressed came over to buy a CD – she said it was so relaxing and she needed it with the kids!

IS IT ALL- POSITIVE?

Generally yes – but I have received a few emails to the effect of what self-respecting artist would play in a McDonalds – my feeling is that I’m secure in what I do and have no issues with it.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR ALBUM NUMERS, COLOURS AND PEOPLE?

My 2009 Numbers, Colors and People album was produced by my mentor, Michael Riesman, long-time producer and musical director for Philip Glass (the album was released in two joint-concert appearances with Riesman at Le Poisson Rouge, New York’s newest home for cutting-edge music in March 2009.)

He was the one that encouraged me to take the risk and invest in a good studio and record an album. Strangely enough I met him at a concert in Paris – 11 people were there and he was one of them who approached me – I’d played to an audience of 500 people in L.A earlier in the year and although it was a great concert, I didn’t get the same intimate response – I enjoy being able to interact with an audience.

‘Quiet Kissing’ is an electic mixture of neo-’80s pop, longing ambient textures and solo piano. ‘Detectors in the Eyes’ – a track from this album is receiving a lot of radio play and is set to be re-released as a single in February.

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’m actually working with a string quartet and thinking of asking them to perform with me in McDonalds. In January I have a European tour – I get a lot of radio play in Russia and Denmark so I’m looking forward to that.

As I mentioned above I have a forthcoming album of electric keyboard (synthesizer) music. Also, since my track “Detectors in the Eyes” (from my 2006 release “Quiet Kissing”) is bowing up on the radio, it will be re-released as a single in February, probably with a B side as of yet undetermined.

I will be on a two month solo piano tour supporting “Numbers, Colors and People” in September and October of 2010. I’ll be in Ireland, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Russia, Turkey and a few other places. I’ll be playing everywhere from universities (giving artist talks) to museums, art galleries and clubs/bars.

To hear more of Andrew’s work click on www.myspace.com/andrewshapiro or download a selection of his tracks in an MP3 format by clicking on the links below – with kind permission from Andrew.

Mint Green” from “Numbers, Colors and People
(Solo piano)
www.andrewshapiro.com/qdept/shapiro-mintgreen.xcerpt.1.mp3

Gosia” from “Numbers, Colors and People
(Solo piano)
www.andrewshapiro.com/qdept/shapiro-gosia.xcerpt.mp3

 ”Detectors in the Eyes” from “Quiet Kissing” EP
(Song: synth-electronica)
www.andrewshapiro.com/shapiro-detectorsintheeyes.mp3

 

With special thanks to Andrew Shapiro

Kerry Olsen

Source & Photo Credits: Andrew Shapiro

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