Till Brönner:
“We Don’t Talk About Inspiration Enough”

Till Brönner: “We Don’t Talk About Inspiration Enough”


Text: Artemis Günebakanlı

A constant figure on the world’s foremost stages with a career that spans 18 albums, German trumpet player Till Brönner performed at Uniq Hall, on the 18th of October. The performance was focused on his 2016 album “The Good Life”. We met with Brönner after the concert and talked about The Good Life and the changing times.

You started playing the trumpet as a kid. How did you decide on that instrument at such a young age?

I was surrounded by a lot of classical music at the time and my father used to listen to a radio show every Sunday morning, when the family had breakfast. That was a jazz show. I think I heard Louis Armstrong and his trumpet for the first time. Even though I was playing classical trumpet, I immediately felt that this kind of music, jazz, was going to change my life. And it did to the better.

You lived and recorded in different cities. Do the cities that you live in, the places that you go to have an influence on the recordings?

Yes, they have a very important influence on the recordings. Jazz has the ability, the power to connect people and mentalities and overcome any language barrier around the world, which is something that music in general is capable of. But jazz especially has a form of communication and spontaneity that very few other music styles have. When I travel the world, I always have something with me that gives me some sort of solution on how to talk to people even though I don’t speak their language. To see that you’re always welcome in such a positive way is something that I take back to Germany especially right now, because we talk about nothing other than refugees at the moment. Many other countries within Europe are immigrant countries, Germany is not. As musicians, we have the job to tell people and make them understand that if you have the right people in the country, it’s an inspiration. We don’t talk about inspiration enough.

You have released numerous albums, collaborated with many musicians, you play in many parts of the world. What do you do on a regular day when you’re not on tour?

The thing with musicians on a certain level is, the music part is actually the last thing they do during the day which is unfortunate sometimes because we have to practice. I have to admit that there’s a lot of time that goes into making phone calls, doing e-mails, checking on things that have to be working the correct way while you’re gone. Sometimes it’s very difficult to find time for yourself. I do it very early in the morning or very late at night. I also have a family in Berlin. It’s challenging but the music always makes up for it and pays off.

There have been many big changes in the music industry throughout your career. Have these changes affected your work, your way of sharing the music? 

Yes, drastically in fact. I’m very fortunate to be an artist that started releasing albums in the 90’s. In the 90’s, things were completely different. You had an article in a local or nationwide newspaper and the next day there would be a run on the record. People would go to the stores and buy the record because of one portrait in a newspaper. The same thing for TV, once you appeared the next day there was an immediate reaction. Not anymore. People seem to be overfed with information, the possibilities and options are so wide that you have to make noise. Now you have to do a lot more; you have to do interviews, before you grab your instrument and start playing, you have to do a whole lot of things. And you still don’t get a guarantee that things are moving well.

It’s very difficult to tell a young artist that’s very talented today, what to do. Of course I have to tell them “You should have a YouTube channel, you should have your social media, you should have enough clicks until a record company has the feeling that you might be interesting to sign with them”. You have to prove all over that you’re capable of being a star, otherwise you can practice at home.

I was about to ask, what advice would you give to a young musician who is about to release his/her first record?

It’s really a combination of two sides of the medal. One thing is, you should be very sincere and true to what you really are. Don’t try to fake something just because you could. Try to be yourself as much as you can. It also is a recipe to success nowadays, more than in the past to really be as much as you can of yourself. If you think you have a story to tell that nobody will understand because it’s so special, so personal, so absurd, don’t be afraid. If you want to tell the story, there’s going to be a whole lot of people out there saying “I know exactly what you talk about. That’s the same thing that happened to me.” That’s one thing. The other thing is you have to study how the business works today and take lessons with people, talk to all the musicians and people outside of the jazz circle. Because when you are inside the jazz circle, there’s a danger of being blocked by so many other musicians that try to pull you down. You have to be very courageous to do your own thing, if you want to make a difference you have to do different things.

Now we’re in the age of streaming services, people no longer go to the local record store for advice or buy a music magazine to read reviews. You just log in and you have an endless stream of music. How do you think this is affecting the possibility of discovering new music?

The thing with Spotify and the streamers is, their big point is that with all the algorithms and the technical aspects, they get to feature artists to people that would never come across your way. I get airplay in Indonesia just because I’m on a playlist there. But the problem is I’m still not getting a fair share of it. Not me necessarily but everyone. I think it’s very important to keep working as artists to get creative people in the business a fair share, because they’re first. Nothing can be streamed that was not in someone’s brain before. Nothing can be streamed until someone that has detailed education goes into the studio and records something. That doesn’t seem to be paid nowadays and that’s a big problem right now. I think it’s hopefully going to be a long discussion with a very fair end.

How did you decide which songs would be on “The Good Life”?

The thing with The Good Life was, I wanted to go to L.A. and record with the best musicians I could get a hold of for this kind of music. And it was very obvious who to call. It was John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton who delivered an impeccable sound for this kind of style. Then we got Larry Goldings and Anthony Wilson and the whole record ended up being a dream. The music throughout the whole album says something about me. We did a lot of standards from the American songbook but I can tell you exactly why I picked every song. I wanted to do an album that just swings. The stuff that I heard when I actually decided to pick the trumpet back in the day.

In your album with Dieter Ilg, you visited songs by Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, How do you see the relationship between jazz and pop music?

Historically, there’s always jazz in pop music but not necessarily the other way around. If you want to have a good outlook on the future, then I think you have to develop a certain view and a certain sense of music that can be more long lasting. That includes pop music as well. When I listen to music I always ask myself, is this going to be played next year? Or maybe after six weeks? That’s the main question, if it stays alive. Hip hop is a very good example. Hip hop was starting in the 70’s and the 80’s, it’s still very hip and original. Hip hop has its roots in jazz music. Somehow it has real substance.

When you’re recording, how do you know that a song has come to its final form?

There’s never a final form. I think the only thing you can find is decisions. It’s like in the movie business where people say you have to kill your babies. You have such a good idea and you have to get rid of it. You have to get rid of it because the audience doesn’t know about this idea. So how can you miss something that you’re not aware of? I think you have to be courageous enough to throw out music that happened during that moment and be happy with it. Not try to change it all the time.

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