Hristo Vitchev may well be the best kept secret in music today. An artist of deep passion and uncompromising originality, it is my pleasure to share some of Vitchev's thoughts with you concerning his latest and arguably best release Heartmony and on the music business in general.
B.B. - Tell us about Heartmony. Your previous releases are inspired harmonic and lyrical magic but with Heartmony it is something that is from another emotional level, you have gone past playing from the heart or writing from your soul. Heartmony is though you are literally channeling emotions from a far deeper place that few people ever reach. For me it was an almost cathartic experience of hearing real instrumental emotion captured and then released. Can you touch on this?
H.V. - "First and foremost, I want to thank you Brent and all of the readers for taking the time and having the interest to find out a little more about my work and music! “Heartmony” is the 4th record I have released and definitely the one that took a slightly different path of creation. With my previous three albums, the creative process was to a degree very similar. It all started with a stimulation from a place, an emotion, a story, or a painting, etc… Then with the time spent conceptualizing and reflecting on such feelings the emotions grew stronger and stronger until they found their way into notes on paper, and later sounds on tape. I would try to capture a melody first and then work on a supporting harmonic structure or vice versa. Of course, as any craftsmen, we musicians also can revisit and polish our initial expressions or works. So after the rough draft was finalized I will go and re-work certain passages and re-arrange things using the musical concepts I have studied in order to refine the material and make it ready for a release. However, this last stage in a way is divorced from the initial spontaneous feeling of the stimulation that lead to such expression and even though it makes the work more refined/sophisticated it also can sometimes take it into a different direction (away from the main source).
With “Heartmony” my intention was quite different. I have always been fascinated with harmony (the simultaneous combination of sounds) and the almost sacred effects that it can have on us. From day one that I picked up the guitar I was really amazed by the different relationships that notes could create when they were sounded together. Comparing this to my human experience, it was similar to how I lived through emotions; love, sadness, passion, joy, etc. It is not one identifiable feeling but a combination of hundreds in not thousands of feelings and emotions that I can feel at the same time when I’m in such a state. And so I wanted to capture this magic in sounds. Hence the name of the record – the Harmony of the heart – “HEARTMONY.”
I decided this time around to let the relationship of the notes of chords dictate the vibe, feeling, and evolution of each song. I will literally sit on the piano and start by finding a chord that really made my inner muse resonate. Then in an almost trance like manner, I will sound the chord over and over until my heart told me the chord should move to this next type of emotion/sound. No concept of style, presentation, etc. The music will simply become what it wants to be. This is how all the eleven songs evolved. The melodies of the songs simply became the highest notes of the particular voicings I was playing. In a way my brain was now removed from the song-writing process and my heart was making all the decisions. Once there was no other emotions left to express, I will simply finish the tune. On this record, there was no editing or arrangement done afterwards, it is simply left as it was composed. True, spontaneous, and direct. Then I reviewed the material and tried to figure out where can I insert the improvisational/jazz elements. Solos, interludes, etc. Not all songs called for that, and so there are a few tracks on the CD that don’t have any soloing in the classic jazz sense, and that is great – they don’t need to – the feeling was captured in a complete way without calling for anything else."
B.B. - The cover art is your work as well. Incredible oil paintings so which creation happens first? What influences your visual art and do you see that as a direct reflection of the music that is released with it?
H.V. - "Since very little I always had a fascination with drawing and painting, but I never took it seriously enough and never had any training on it. I simply paint once in a while as a hobby and as another outlet (other than music) to let some energy out. By no means have I considered myself a visual artist, but I sure enjoy it tremendously and have tons of fun doing it! When I first started recording my music I made it a point to also paint the covers of all my CDs because I thought that will be the most truthful and direct visual representation of the music presented on them. I will say that a lot of times when I get inspired to start a new project I will think of the story or idea behind the concept and then just for fun try to paint something that I feel captures these feelings for me. Most of the time, it ends up being the cover for the record. It is really bizarre. I’m the biggest fan of impressionism; both in music and visual art. I love presenting to the listener or viewer something that they can interpret and make their own, instead of telling them directly what it is that they have to hear and see. I find a very innocent and pure beauty in such interpretation."
B.B. - Tell us about your book Between the Voicings: A New Approach to Chord Building for Guitarists" and what effect you think this has on developing an individual voice as no one sounds like you and you dont sound like anyone else - how does this effect your music?
H.V. - "In my upbringing as a guitarist and musician I spent a lot of times studying with piano players and also studying harmony on the piano. I also joke with friends that if I have to start all over again, I will most likely be a pianist and have a piano trio. I guess because of my love for harmony and chords the piano is a natural and logical choice of an instrument. You have ten fingers and quite a larger range than the guitar in terms of tone colors, whereas on the guitar you only have four fingers and quite a shorter tonal range. Because of my fascination with the piano, I spent a lot of time studying how pianist thing about harmony and some of the key concepts they use to capture extended and altered harmonies which I love so much. Then I took the time to figure out the most logical and comprehensive way in which some of these concepts can be adapted to the guitar as well as how such concepts could evolve differently on my instrument because of its construction. It was quite some fun putting together all the material for the book and I do believe it really changed the way I approach the instrument. I will definitely say that it gave me a broader harmonic approach."