I have enjoyed speaking with Music Within (Rob McAllister)…
about his musical project and the new album, Finding Stillness. The songwriter discusses the themes of the record and whether he has a favourite cut; how he got into music and which artists are important to him – he selects a few albums that are especially special.
McAllister gives some advice to artists coming through and recommends some musicians to look out for; what he hopes to achieve before the end of this year; if he gets time to relax away from his career – he ends the song by selecting a great track.
Hi, Rob. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, Sam. I’m doing great thanks! To be honest; it’s been a weird week for me. I was doing some travelling over the past two weeks (Iceland, Germany and Italy) and I just got back home to Toronto at the start of this week. I always find it strange after travelling to re-adjust to the normal day-to-day. Had a great time… happy to be home!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure, yeah. My name is Rob McAllister and I’m a composer, artist and multi-instrumentalist from Ontario, Canada. I release compositions under the moniker ‘Music Within’. I play the piano and guitar mainly but also dabble on trombone, trumpet and a few other instruments in a studio capacity. Actually, side-note: my parents and sister got me a used accordion a couple years back. It’s been a really fun toy to tinker with! If you ever want to buy me a gift, can’t go wrong with some quirky instrument for the studio (smiles).
How did you start ‘Music Within’? When did you get into music and follow this path?
Music has always been a huge part of my life. I began learning to play the piano when I was just a little lad. My parents weren’t musical themselves but they saw the value of having my sister and I learn an instrument. I can’t thank them enough! Growing up, I played in school bands; personal Rock bands and even an orchestra. When it came time to choosing a life path, funny enough though, I actually headed down the road to becoming an engineer (like math and science engineer, not audio engineer). After a few years, I realized that I had to make music more than a hobby or I might never be happy.
So, after a yearlong audio production program, I got hooked up with a music publishing company in Toronto called Bedtracks. I began writing music for T.V. shows, documentaries and advertisements (and still do). At some point around 2016, I realized that I had all of this music that I’d written and was proud of but had no way to share it with the world. So, initially, ‘Music Within’ was born as an avenue to share some of my work; kind of like a portfolio of albums. But, it has become more than that now. It’s another artistic outlet for me to use to write music just for music’s sake.
Finding Stillness is your new album. Are there particular themes that inspired the record?
Yeah, absolutely. Basically, it evolved into a commentary on the fast, relentless pace of the world around us today. You, know; we’re always hurrying here, rushing there; meeting deadlines, answering emails and thinking about the next hundred things that we need to get done. All the while, neglecting the here and the now. Change is happening at an unprecedented rate and things that didn’t even exist five years ago are now deemed essential. It’s loco. It also seems as if our society and culture has progressed to a point where we literally don’t wait for anything.
Finding Stillness is a quiet protest to this epidemic and features soft, dreamy; slow-moving ambient-cinematic compositions suited for deep focus, yoga; meditation, relaxation and sleep. I made it a goal to create the most beautiful, peaceful; calming music that I could. I wanted to encourage myself (and the rest of the world) to slow down! To take a moment, breathe in and out and appreciate this life.
Do you have a personal favourite track from the selection at all?
Oh, man; that’s a toughy! For me, it’s a toss-up between By the Sea and Weightless. They’re very different, but I find those are the two that when I listen back to them I kinda go: ‘Whoa, I wrote that?’. I think they’re some of my strongest compositions to date. I’ll add that my girlfriend’s favourite is Goddess of the Sea. When my vocals come in around the two-min mark, she always smiles and says I sound like a group of beautiful mermaids! (Still not sure if I appreciate her compliment or not. Haha).
What sort of music did you grow up around? Were you subjected to a wide range of sounds?
Yeah. Quite a wide range of sounds. My dad liked to listen to John Denver and Classic-Rock bands like ELO, Queen and BTO. My mom liked Elton John, The Carpenters and Soft-Rock radio. My nonno (my mom’s father) played the banjo and the mandolin and he exposed me to some traditional Italian music. Piano lessons introduced me to the world of Beethoven, Bach and Kuhlau. I skateboarded a lot growing up so my friends got me into Punk-Rock, Ska and Metal.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
Oh, man’ there’s a lot that I’m hoping to achieve by the end of 2018. I want as many people as possible to discover Finding Stillness and experience its intended effect. The exposure from Spotify editorial playlists is huge; so a big goal is to be on ten of their big playlists by the year’s end - ones like Peaceful Piano, Sleep and Ambient Chill. I want to write and release a new album too. I have some general concepts in mind but it’s basically a blank slate still.
One of the ideas I’m interested in exploring is a live-off-the-floor recording style with a small ensemble of string/brass players surrounding me at the piano. This isn’t a novel idea by any means but it would be a completely new approach for me as everything I’ve done to date has been a more studio recording approach with the layering of parts. Capturing all of the musicians performing the pieces together as it would be in a concert setting could create something very special. I’m also hoping to land a few commercials and/or TV themes.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Well. This will definitely come as a surprise but, in addition to all things Music Within and composing music for media, I also play guitar in an atmospheric metal band called Centuries of Decay. (I know; can’t get much further from Finding Stillness! But, hey; it’s all about balance, right?) Well; this August, the band had an amazing opportunity to play at a huge metal festival in Germany called Wacken Open Air. We were Canada’s representatives in a thirty-country battle of the bands. Playing on a big stage in front of a completely new audience of 2500 people (our biggest crowd by far) has to be my favourite musical memory to date. It was a serious rush!
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Man; my brain hurts - you are making me think hard here! Hmm okay. John Denver’s album Legends will always hold a special place for me because I grew up around it. Whenever my family would go camping we would always put it on around the campfire.
Colors by Between the Buried and Me was my first real introduction to progressive Metal. It definitely blew my mind how they fused so many styles into one album and really didn’t follow any rules at all.
Appeal to Reason by Rise Against also comes to mind. The lyrics are brilliant. I know every single word to that album and love to sing along and harmonize with the vocals.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I really want to say Johann Johannsson but I can’t anymore. (You are greatly missed!). Well; if I’m shooting for the stars, being a supportive act for Max Richter would be amazing. I definitely don’t deserve that yet, but give me a few years (smiles).
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Honestly; I feel like I am a new artist coming through. Haha! But, sure, I’ll try to offer a few thoughts. First off, I’d say that you should try to remember that success generally follows an exponential curve. This is going to take time. Have a realistic time frame to achieve your goals so that you don’t give up. Also (this is one that I learned this one from Grant Cardone): set goals that are ten times bigger than what you normally would. It will keep you more motivated and, if you fall short of this massive goal, you’ll still accomplish a lot!
Oh…and try not to be too hard on yourself. I'm still always guilty of comparing myself to people that are twenty years ahead of me who write beautiful film scores and amazing music and, while it can be a good kick in the butt to work hard, make sure not to compare to harshly.
Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?
As of right now, Music Within is only a studio project with no live performance part to it. I think that will change in the future but for the time being my sights are focused on composing and releasing more music.
Might you come to the U.K. and play? Do you like the music here?
I’d love to play in the U.K. Just give me a few years…
With regards to liking the music there; this might seem like a safe answer but I truly try my best to keep an open mind and like all music. Even if I’m really not feeling something, there’s usually some aspect that I can find to hold on to. For instance…I find a lot of Pop to be pretty boring and unoriginal but the production is always fantastic and there’s a ton of ear-candy tucked away in there. Also; music is all about context. So, sure, maybe I don’t care much for the same old four chords and auto-tuned vocals but the one-hundred people dancing having a great time would beg to differ that it doesn’t matter so much for the purpose it serves.
IN THIS PHOTO: Steven Price
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Honestly…I’m like the worst person to ask for new, cutting-edge music. How about, instead, I’ll offer a few artists/composers/bands that I’m listening to a lot lately. It’s a big world so maybe a few will even be ‘new’ to you. Composer Steven Price - his score for the film American Assassin blew me away. That style of Orchestral/Electronic hybrid score is definitely a major part of my musical diet. Jasha Klebe is another composer I’ll mention. I love his score for the Challenger Disaster. In Metal; one of my favourite bands is SikTh. They’re actually from England so maybe that won’t be a new one for you. Their album from 2017 called The Future in Whose Eyes? is unbelievable. The track, The Aura, around 2:45…ouuu, baby, that’s heavy!
IN THIS PHOTO: Jasha Klebe
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
A lot of my time is definitely spent around music, but I make time for other things. I play soccer (football) once a week - nothing too competitive but it’s good fun. Got a game in three hours actually. I like to ride my bike. I love to read and have been trying to get through a book every couple weeks this year. Oh…I also re-watch Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson pretty regularly. Haha. Space is so amazing and fascinating to me. I really wish they’d make a second season.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I would love you to play the piece Katrina by Steven Price. It’s really beautiful and, at the same time, it’s so very sad and full of longing.
Thanks so much!
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