Editor’s Note: REUEL is an international crossover classical/pop virtuoso pianist. Out of Las Vegas, REUEL regularly performs for performance arts centers and has performed his crossover piano show “Reuel Live” at Aria, Wynn, Fashion Show Mall, The Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, Four Seasons, and many other popular venues on the Las Vegas strip. He’s also performed in South America, Asia, French Polynesia, and Canada. Reuel will be traveling to Turkey to perform as part of the Turkcell Platinum Istanbul Night Flight along with Grammy-winner Yo-Yo Ma, film score composer Joachim Horsley. Recentley, Reuel released a reimagination of “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. This reimagination blends his classical training to develop a unique piano/pop aesthetic. In this interview with Madness To Creation, Reuel discusses how he creates his piano arrangements, “Viva La Vida”, upcoming performance with Yo-Yo Ma, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Fans can find Reuel at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Take us into the reimagination of “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, what about that song by Coldplay inspires you?
Reuel: I grew up listening to Coldplay and their lead singer and keyboardist Chris Martin is a fantastic musician and songwriter. I remember the first time I heard Viva la Vida while driving and the overall cavalier sound and revolutionary lyrics combined with synthesized strings and drums really left me speechless. From then on I would always perform solo improvised versions of the song at my shows. However, this changed last year when I decided to create a 1980’s neon themed music video combined with a reimagined instrumental piano arrangement of Viva la Vida.
Madness To Creation: When you approach the piano, what is magical about that instrument, what are some of your favorite keys to play when you make your incredible arrangements?
Reuel: That’s an interesting question regarding favorite Key Signatures. When I was first learning to improvise around 13 years old, I would push myself to transpose melodies into different keys instead of playing in the easy C Major or a minor key signatures. Transposing melodies early on in my training really increased my understanding of improvising and writing fluently in any key. Currently my favorite keys are f# minor and C# Major but every key signature has a unique sound and writing using modal scales is what I mostly do these days. In answer to your other question, when I approach the piano I feel like I am looking at the world’s most intricate instrument and for me the keyboard visually represents a puzzle of sounds I can combine in an endless series of possibilities.
Madness To Creation: You’ve performed all over in Las Vegas, how surreal is it that Covid-19 shut down Las Vegas? What’s your favorite memories of Las Vegas?
Reuel: I have many favorite memories of Las Vegas and I will hopefully return there for more performances in the near future. Recently I was struck by the surreal images of the Strip and casinos silent and lifeless unlike anyone could have imagined. It really is sad to know that many musicians who make a full time living performing on the Strip are now without work. Even though I perform frequently in Vegas I mostly travel for my shows and so I wasn’t tied in with their regular performance or gig scene. My favorite memories of Las Vegas will always be waking up every morning and seeing the beautiful Red Rock Canyon with the sunrise hitting the red cliffs and just feeling blessed and inspired to be living in such a vibrant entertainment spot in the world.
Madness To Creation: How are you coping with the Covid-19 pandemic? We cover mental health awareness so what are some things that help you get through these difficult times?
Reuel: Mentally, Covid was initially annoying and even depressing for me to cope with but it was not a surprise at all so I have learned to adapt quickly. I was very fortunate to finish a run of 15 international shows by the end of February 2020 right before Covid struck the United States in early March. I had been studying the movement of the virus internationally since October of last year so I was not surprised and I began preparing back in November for this situation since I was very sure it would cripple the entertainment community. Witnessing my predictions about the virus come true was not fun and I tried to warn people I knew in the artist and music community to save money and prepare. Since it was not a surprise I quickly adapted to living at home 24/7 in March with no shows on the horizon and a lot of free time to just recalculate certain aspects of my life.
Overall this situation is now one of the positive turning points in my life and because of the many days I have had thinking about my life plans, I am now making changes that I would’ve never made before Covid. I also am learning to create music from a more centered and less chaotic “busy” perspective and this is definitely helping the new compositions mature and be in line with my intentions as a composer and performer.
Madness To Creation: You’re going to be performing with the legendary Yo-Yo Ma, what are some things that the audience can expect and what do you anticipate your rehearsals with Yo-Yo Ma will be like?
Reuel: I will actually be performing in a concert series alongside Yo-Yo Ma and other amazing performers. We each will be performing our separate shows at the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey on different days of the series. For my show, I will be writing custom arrangements for piano, violin, and cello and I will be bringing a wonderful violinist and cellist with me from Austin, TX and they will both accompany my piano performance as a trio. I have some surprise arrangements I am composing for the trio similar to Viva la Vida and I will be writing original modern trio music as well for the show.
Madness To Creation: You’ve performed all over the world, how do you feel your music has impacted the world?
Reuel: Performing worldwide has made a huge impact on me as a person. This in turn hopefully reflects in my music and performances and I have been most struck by the fact that everyone all over the world is very similar. We are all so divided by religion, politics, societal norms, and yet when I meet individual people around the world we are all just human beings with the same love, passion, desire, needs, joy, humor, and good inside each of us. Music has been a way for me to explore the world and share songs with people from everywhere and I can’t wait to begin touring and traveling again.
Madness To Creation: When it’s all said and done what do you want your legacy to be?
Reuel: I am much more focused on living a balanced happy life as a human being instead of leaving any legacy. If people remember me at all I hope they simply feel inspired by the music I write. And most importantly, I hope my videos and songs can help upcoming generations learn an instrument and fall in love with music. I definitely felt inspired by other pianists when I was beginning my music journey and that inspiration often times kept me focused on my goals.
Madness To Creation: What is the most unlikely song that you want to do an reimagination of? Who are a few artists that you admire the most?
Reuel: Currently I am arranging a few famous Turkish songs for my upcoming performance in Istanbul so that is something I never thought I would be doing. However arranging Turkish music is exciting since I get to step into the modal scales and chord changes they typically compose in and I have been studying the connections between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music theory and how all of that translates into Western style composing.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add that we haven’t covered?
Reuel: I would like to end with a statement for anyone reading this. Now that we are slowly emerging from this difficult moment in time, don’t be afraid to start living your life again even if you do so cautiously at first. Don’t let fear permanently cripple you and remember that this one life is meant to be enjoyed. Work on your dreams, spend time with friends and family, plan to travel again, and just keep moving and don’t let this short moment during Covid ruin the adventurous and limitless outlook on the rest of your life.
Madness To Creation: Thank you for your time to interview with me for Madness To Creation!
Reuel: Thank you for the interview. I appreciate your time and I hope your readers enjoy the new Viva la Vida arrangement and music video!
And there you have it! Check out his arrangement entitled “Polarized” below as well!
* Photo Credit: Tim Salaz