“Michelle Qureshi is a composer, multi‐instrumentalist, and classically trained guitarist. Michelle’s music has been described as enchanting and healing, as mysterious and mesmerizing, drawn with delicate, soulful sounds. Currently, she has released six albums: Of Light, Illumination, Flow, Meditations, Suite Beats and Margalla Hills.” – http://www.michellequreshi.com
Luke: You are a classically trained guitarist. Where did you train and what was your favorite classical guitar piece to learn?
Michelle: Before training as a classical guitarist, I was drawn to this instrument in my teenage years and quickly taught myself many styles of guitar playing. I had acoustic guitars, electric guitar, mandolins, pedal steel guitars, and 12-strings guitars. My formal studies however didn’t begin until I enrolled in a music conservatory during my college years. From there I received a solid foundation in Western Classical music, and graduated with a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance. Besides acquiring a different set of skills on my instrument, I also became intrigued with music from many different time periods and parts of the world. This curiosity about various music traditions may be heard in my playing and composing. My favorite music to learn that was actually composed for the guitar was the music of Uruguayan guitarist and composer Abel Carlevaro and Paraguayan guitarist and composer Augustin Barrios. But I always loved working on anything by J.S. Bach transcribed for guitar!
Luke: Your new album Margalla Hills works as a soundtrack for meditation or yoga. What has drawn you to writing this type of music?
Michelle: Well prior to this release, a few albums were specific to this genre, using elements of guitar within a somewhat new age, neo-classical framework. My first album, Of Light, from 2012, can be described as peaceful music for relaxation and meditation. It combines enchanting melodies with deep, soulful harmonies to create a wonderful tranquility. In 2013 I released Illumination, an album of mesmerizing, beautiful, and sensual music created from plucked strings and highly imaginative sounds. Flow, from 2014, contains hypnotic beats and guitars, with South Asian flavors interspersed with chanted mantras. Meditations is a world fusion album released in 2014 that is a blissful musical journey with guitars, flutes, singing bowls, didgeridoos, synthesizers and percussion. Also from 2014 was Suite Beats, a unique collection of undulating music that fuses genres of rock, world, chillout, and EDM. So although guitar has provided texture and atmosphere throughout all these albums, it is the focus in Margalla Hills.
Here is a video playlist of some guitar improvs by Michelle Qureshi. Many of the improvs feature her Stonebridge G22CR-C:
Luke: Most of the clips you post on twitter and instagram are improvisational. Tell us about the recording process when it comes to improvisations. Are the songs on your new album improvisations?
Michelle: I love that aspect of music that is based on creating in the moment. To balance the detailed and demanding work of composing, recording and producing my music, of which I am the sole executer of, I thoroughly enjoy taking breaks from this kind of work by creating the improvisations you see on Instagram and YouTube. Often times it starts with any simple progression, captured with a loop pedal, and then I improvise more and more layers until I’m ready for the “live” layer, which I record to video on my iPhone. It’s an exercise that really clears my mind. As I was getting to know the Furch guitar, I set up to record some solo improvisations in different tunings. The opening piece on Margalla Hills, Windflowers, came from this session-just a simple thought, expressed sweetly, with brevity. Other times in my composing/recording process improvisation has a role when I’m looking to capture a feeling or mood that requires spontaneity by its definition. I guess what I’m saying is there’s a place for both in music, the carefully chosen, well rehearsed notes and the spontaneous ones that just flow from your fingertips!
Luke: I think it’s awesome that you perform at venues like yoga studios, which aren’t designed for commercial music. What is the most unconventional venue you’ve ever performed at?
Michelle: I wish I had a wacky tale of playing at some crazy venue. I do play anywhere my music takes me, though! Maybe I’ve just suppressed things, but at the moment I don’t have a story. I remember one gig when I was in music school with a dear friend who played flute. She was pretty near nine months pregnant and still gigging with me. We arrived to play at a private party, apparently out of view of the hostess. When we were on our way out she thanked us for the beautiful flute and piano music.
Luke: You were borrowing a Furch from your cousin before getting your very own G22CR-C. What was it about Furch guitars that inspired you to get one of your own?
Michelle: My cousin continues to be generous with his guitars, but after two years, I was the one thinking he should be getting it back. His Furch is beautiful instrument with a strong, focused tone. I really hadn’t had a good steel string since I was a teenager; I think I recall having a Martin D-28. The memory is foggy though, because I was always trading and swapping instruments back then. Anyway, the coincidental meeting between Furch and Stonebridge happened when I met Henry Nam, where we were both performing at the Serendipity Festival in Indiana this past summer. Our paths crossed but we both kept missing the opportunity to play together. Finally at one point he told me I should really check out his Stonebridge guitar, and I told him about my Furch. That’s when he told me of the alliance between them! It was all quite serendipitous! We keep in touch and his connection to Stonebridge guided me to applying for the Artist Collaboration program. I very happy to own this G-22CR-C. Steel strings dictate such a different approach than nylon string guitars, and I love the sound it reveals to me. I am hopeful that the opportunity to experience a nylon string Stonebridge will arise in the very near future!
Luke: Thank you Michelle. Please visit http://www.michellequreshi.com for more information.