Welcome to Vancouver, Thibault! We are looking forward to your performance on March 13th at the beautiful Pyatt Hall. In the meantime, we have come up with a few questions to give our audience a chance to meet you at a more personal level.
Hi! Thank you, and I'd like to say that I'm very excited to play in Vancouver for the first time.
How did you pick guitar? Was it your parents' choice or your own?
All my family entourage is into music, and my father is a “crazy addict” guitar player. He just lives with his guitar, playing all day long. I was so strongly immersed in this musical atmosphere that when I turned 5, I thought that all the kids in the world played music, that playing guitar was like learning how to walk and talk...and therefore, that all this was very natural.
What was your practicing like as a child? What was your main motivating force to learn and play?
I was practicing a lot as a child, but I started working really hard from the age of 13. From that age on, I did a lot of guitar competitions and enjoyed this kind of life very much. I was traveling all over the world to compete with the best players of multiple countries. I learned a lot, and this sport/music life was very exciting and motivating to me. So my life as a teenager was only music, trying to improve every little detail, as a top level athlete would do.
What are your brightest memories from the Conservatories where you studied?
I started to play with my father and then I studied at the Bordeaux Conservatory, my hometown, before moving to Paris to enter the prestigious Paris Superior Conservatory. This school is just amazing, but I was very young compared to most of the students there and already very much into the guitar competition life, always abroad. Also, because of my initial success in those competitions, I started getting many concert engagements. So I have to say that I was not the most studious pupil of the school and didn't take the best advantage of the opportunities it provided. Every subject we studied was interesting to me in a way, but I always just wanted to be with my guitar and play. My teachers were very understanding of my lifestyle and supported me a lot.
As an adult learner, how did you shape your identity as a musician?
When I turned 20, I had won 13 first prizes in major international guitar competitions. It is still a record to break. Because of this success, I started getting multiple tour engagements and decided to stop doing competitions. Competition and music are not the best couple, but as young classical guitar players we have to enter this world to make a career. I was lucky to have enjoyed it very much, but musically it is not the most blossoming thing. After stopping competitions at 20 years old, I developed a lot of my personality, working passionately. Until this day, this remains the way I work: always searching, experiencing, and trying - with love.
Do you have a structured practice routine now? How do you prepare your concert pieces?
I'm have been on tour since I was 10. I'm traveling non-stop playing concerts, and this endless journey has taken me to more than 1000 stages in 120 countries. This nomadic life, full of discoveries and encounters, has really influenced my playing and my personality. While I am on tour, it is difficult to have a specific practice routine. You prepare things in your head, you plan, you arrange ideas, etc. I also ask my team for several small breaks a year to spend practicing in a calm atmosphere in order to give birth to mental and philosophical preparations. Usually, I go to inspiring places where I like to surf: Morocco, Spain, South of France...to spend time with the guitar and the surfboard.
Enthusiastic guitar students often dream of becoming concert artists. We know that this title involves a fair deal of planning, organizing, communicating with multiple people, and dealing with high levels of stress. Do you enjoy touring the world performing? How do you deal with stress?
I am very conscious of the great luck I have had to be able to live this life. I must say that I am quite a strong person: I don't sleep much, I'm never sick, jet-lags don't affect me at all, and I can rest in planes, trains, cars... One could say that I'm made for this life. Of course, sometimes it becomes a little too much and I might have a rare down moment. But then I remember the luck I have had so far and that I'm living the life I dreamed of as a child, and the power comes right back!
After continuously practicing and performing a concert program, every musician has experienced the feeling of a piece gone "stale". Giving a concert night after night, week after week - what do you do to keep your music fresh?
I always select pieces that allow for freedom of expression in performance. Then I practice those pieces in a way that gives me different musical options to employ on stage. Also, every piece I play in concert has to be so well-prepared that when I perform, I can forget all about the practicing I did. This way, on each concert night it feels like every single piece I play is being composed and improvised in real time, influenced by the audience, the acoustics of the hall, my feeling on that day, etc.
What kinds of music, in your opinion, are hardest to perform on the guitar?
Every single piece, even the easiest one, can be difficult to play if you want to create something, to make it magical.
Do you have a favourite style of music?
I like many different styles and eras. For example, my last album is about the music of Albéniz and the previous one is about the music of Scarlatti. Also, I consider classical guitar to be a young instrument in the classical music world and as a player of this young instrument, I think it is a priority to develop it by collaborating with makers, composers, etc... So I enjoy very much playing recently composed pieces.
What are your feelings about art, besides the art of music?
I like very much all kind of arts. And as I have this great chance to travel all over the world, it is interesting and inspiring to learn about all the different cultures, to be one day in Rio, the next day in Vienna, then in Beijing... to see and sometimes meet great artists, but also just to experience the daily art of living in every city I go to.
As a highly creative being, do you get creative in all aspects of your life? E.g. do you enjoy cooking as a creative process?
I must admit that I don't even know how to boil water to cook pasta... So even if I'm French, I'm not creative at all in cooking... But I do love to eat! My passion is surfing, and this sport can be very artistic: you feel like a dancer sometimes, waiting for the perfect wave, in a union with nature, with the unique power and energy of the ocean...It's really something that I love. And as years go by, I increasingly enjoy being surrounded by nature. When I was younger, I was a city guy, and now I'm very happy in the countryside. The landscapes and the peaceful atmosphere appeal to me more and more.
Are you a person who loves risks of various sorts?
Yes... Very much!
You must have listened to a lot of guitar concerts (on those few days of your life when you were not on stage yourself) . Could you talk about the difference of experiences between performing and listening?
I think a composer needs the power to create a work of art that goes through the years, and a performer needs the power to create magic in an instant. These are actually two different ways of making music, and they are tightly connected with and depend on each other. As a listener, I like to be taken by the enchantment of the performer, I need to have the feeling of living a unique instant that makes me forget about everything. When a concert is good, this is what happens, I think. When I manage to create this magical instant, during a concert, I feel the audience and myself together taken somewhere by some notes…
What is your take on faith in oneself and self-doubt? How to foster a strong positive in one's own personal and professional potential in our busy world of sometimes aggressive competition? How to keep oneself inspired when the conditions around aren't always rosy?
I think the best way to maintain faith is to always follow your heart and philosophy. This way you are never disappointed. If you do anything expecting something back, you take a risk...of being disappointed. If people like you and follow you for the things you love to do, you can only be happy; but if people like you for something which is not quite you - this kind of success has a strange taste... So being yourself, working to improve your ideas and share them is the best way to be happy and fulfilled...I think. Also, we need a bit of luck. So be prepared for the lucky opportunities!