Interview/Video: Maria Chiara Argirò + Jamie Leeming

Interview/Music: Maria Chiara Argirò + Jamie Leeming.

Regular visitors to the site will be familiar with the name of pianist and composer Maria Chiara Argirò.  

The name of Jamie Leeming may not jump out at you so quickly. Still, you’ve no doubt heard his guitar skills without actually knowing it, because Leeming has lent his talent to Twistedsoul favourite Alfa Mist.

Bringing together a fresh take on the classic piano/guitar sound the duo have unveiled their debut single ‘Retrograde’, a cinematic and introspective cover of James Blake’s 2013 track. Their delectably poignant and vivid reinterpretation is genuinely something special.

Just as beautiful as the flowers that adorned the single’s cover art is the alluring visual by Robin Stewart, Ivy Drajna and Luke Ducker which you can watch below.

Retrograde by Maria Chiara Argirò + Jamie Leeming

With the record out today, Maria and Jamie tell us more about their collaborative project. 

Hi, how are you both doing during this crazy time? 

MCA: Surviving, reflecting, re-thinking, writing new music.

JL: Similar – writing lots of new music, taking the opportunity to have a break from a hectic schedule!

You’re both involved in other projects; how did you come together as a duo, and how does this project liberate you creatively?

MCA: We decided to have a one-off jam, and we started playing with no musical direction, just following our ears and feelings…it was one of the most memorable jams for me, we stopped after an hour and a half straight of playing, and I asked myself “what just happened?” That was really special and the start of our collaboration. Piano and guitar in a duo is not an easy match, but I do think we found a balance and a deep connection between these two harmonic instruments.

JL: We originally met while studying music at uni a few years ago, and we would often cross paths at gigs or playing in different projects together. I remember that first duo jam immediately had a sound and a vibe, we locked in straight away, and it felt very easy and intuitive. One of the great things for me is knowing that in a duo setting, the impact of every note, chord or space is greatly magnified, and I love the sense of gravity that brings to the music. 

I love the James Blake cover. What inspired you to do your particular take on this modern classic? 

MCA: We both love James Blake, in particular his songwriting choices/directions, his soulful harmony and melodies. 

JL: James Blake is a huge inspiration for both of us. Traditionally, jazz artists have always reinterpreted the music of their time, so it was a very natural choice.

Tell us a little bit about the album on the way? 

MCA: I see this album as a first “impression” of what we are as a duo, like an impressionist painting of what we have worked on since our jam over the years and our mutual music influences and taste. We are already planning the next one, which will have a different direction. I think having a duo opens so many possibilities in terms of direction and the sound, and I am looking forward to following as many of these as possible.

JL: For me, the album has a very broad range of textures and emotions, ranging from dynamic sections where there’s movement, pace and excitement, to moments that are reflective and more vulnerable. We have always looked to explore the full range of possibilities open to us as a duo, and it feels like there’s so many paths we could take in the future.

What’s influenced the style and sound of your music? Has anything you’ve listened to of late, fed into the album?  

MCA: I think all the bands we play in have influenced our direction. This album is a collection of original compositions and the James Blake cover with a strong jazz/cinematic core.

JL: The album feels like a very balanced presentation of our individual voices, and I can hear a little bit of all the artists we both draw influence from – Radiohead, Aaron Parks, Nils Frahm and Bon Iver to name a few.

Finally, we’ve been asking our interviewees this in the current climate, so any advice for self-isolation in the light of the global pandemic?

JL: I’ve been using this as a chance to spend more time doing things I enjoy – reading, walking, meditating, listening to records, discovering new music, catching up with friends. I’ve recently been applying a very structured approach to writing new music, and am really pleased with the results. It’s also given me a chance to reflect on my identity as a guitar player, and the ways I would like to progress as a musician.

MCA: As busy musicians, we are always running from one place to another without time to stop, so for some of us now might be a good time to pause and think about our careers. We are both very productive in this moment, writing music for different projects and our duo; there is definitely more time available to write, produce, learn new things and improve, not only on our instruments but as human beings. It’s not an easy time to be a creative, but we are hoping to come back stronger as a community.

 Retrograde (James Blake cover) is out now via Cavalo Records. Buy from Bandcamp.

CF Smith

Write for Music Is My Sanctuary & Stereofox.

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