Name: Esther Klever
Occupation: Saxophonist, composer, improviser, producer
Current release: Esther Klever's duo T:W:O with drummer Claudia Lippmann has just released its debut EP What If, available via Stringkiller.
[Read our Claudia Lippmann interview]
Recommendation: One of my favorite books is Mariana Leky's novel What You Can See From Here. My song recommendation: "A case of you", interpreted by James Blake (orig. Joni Mitchell)
If you enjoyed this interview with Esther Klever of T:W:O and would like to stay up to date on new releases and tour dates, visit her official homepage or her Instagram. There is also a dedicated website for T:W:O.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and infuences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I wrote my frst songs on the piano at the age of 10, as I had been taking classical lessons on this instrument for a number of years. My infuences at the time were predominantly coming from the classical period and romaticism.
I can't even describe what it was, that made me so fascinated back then. I grew up with music and so it seemed to me a natural need to play, sing and express my imagination in compositions.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Certainly one can only reproduce or even invent what the imagination can relate to. The hearing continues to develop based on the sounds to which it is exposed. Certainly you never reinvent the wheel from scratch when you make music, even if you wish to.
That's why I got enthusiastic about jazz at an early age. The possibility to play with existing melodies an structures, to vary them, or to change them completely and to let my personality blend in has always inspired me.
I think I have intuitively adapted the facets of my idols, filtered what I like and of course also imitated them in order to expand my own limits. For me it was and still is a process of growing up. Just like we cannot deny our origins and are naturally shaped by our environment, so naturally we are also shaped in music, by what we hear, practice and what we bring to the table.
How do you feel your sense of identity infuences your creativity?
Identity is a very important foundation in creativity. Where do I come from? Who am I now, but also who might I want to be one day? It gives a direction that we want to follow.
No musical development works without personal development. Identity means knowing about oneself, about one's own abilities and taste preferences.
I find the question very exciting because I believe that music is a catalyst for us to be perceived in our identity. It is a form of expression of the innermost and always a risk and opportunity at the same time. When our art is enthusiastic, we feel confrmed in our identity and that gives us a good feeling, just as failure and rejection can also lead to personal crises.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
At the very beginning of my learning process, it was very much about performance in a measurable sense. About grades, ratings and prices. That was also good and right, because it gave me the necessary pressure to do the work. On the other hand, it has also undermined my own creativity.
This aspect became less prominent after I fnished my studies at university. I'm at a point today where I don't really care if I'm playing the right thing or if it's complex enough and diffcult enough to impress others. This is no longer as important to me as the questions whether I can play what I hear inside, whether I can follow my ideas and implement them.
I think the question of what satisfes the masses has been replaced by the question of what satisfes me. This inevitably leads to the creative process flowing more easily.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your frst studio/frst instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
When I started playing the saxophone, all I needed was my instrument.
Everyone came to the sessions in the jazz club and played unplugged, of course. After I started working as a freelance artist, the first acquisitions were of course a good microphone, as well as a radio link and a mixer. I quickly grew into the pop scene and then began to learn more about sound and effects myself. After all, at home I worked with production software and a midicontroller in order to be able to record my own ideas or simply to record commissioned work from the comfort of home.
At live concerts it is often important to understand something about monitoring and mixing, so that you can work independently. Even if I was never overly interested in the technical aspects, I am glad that I received further training in this area. For me, sound is an essential means of expression and should also be tought well.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I can`t say there have.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, fle sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Exchanging ideas and working with other artists is an important element for me. Through my work I come into contact with artists with whom I have to work ad hoc on stage without having rehearsed beforehand. A joint performance should always be a dialogue among friends, where everyone can be heard and be allowed to show themselves.
In my experience, no interpersonal interaction works as naturally as in music. A few weeks ago, for example, I was invited to record a song with 4 artists who came from different countries, even continents. This international session project tries repeatedly to fnd new artists to then play a selected title with them. I like the idea that it is possible to fnd a common language over a distance of thousands of kilometers and to create something great.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fxed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
For me, work and private life often mix smoothly. Of course there are different forms of work when you are self-employed, so it is diffcult to describe a typical day.
When I have concerts in the weekends, it usually happens that I stay in bed a little longer because I don't come home until late at night and have to be ft for the evening. The most important thing is always the frst coffee and some loving attention from my 2 cats. Most of the time I already read the frst emails, answer inquiries, or take care of accounting matters. Then at some point there is breakfast and afterwards I take care of normal household chores.
From the afternoon on, I usually have to get ready for the gig . Sometimes I have 2-3 bookings a day and then it can get a bit stressful. I check my equipment and pack everything up. Then I drive to the respective event, where after the set-up and a short line check I usually stay into the night before I drive home.
During the week, my everyday professional life is more dominated by studio days, a few private students and my own work, such as producing or practicing.
As an independent artist, you always have to set your priorities anew and weigh up what needs to be done quickly and what can still wait for a few more days. When I have a lot of gigs, I tend not to get to work creatively or practice. In winter this is on top of the list.