The Forge Meets Eliza McCarthy

As a soloist, McCarthy has performed at such leading venues as the Barbican, Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, King’s Place, The Roundhouse, St. Martin in the Fields, Kettle’s Yard and Steinway Hall. On 3rd June she visits us as part of the cutting edge monthly contemporary music series Wednesday at The Forge.

Give our readers an idea of what you’ll be doing at The Forge and why it is a special performance for you.

I have recently been working with the brilliant composer Mica Levi who has been writing a set of piano pieces for me. I performed three of them at Café OTO in February but I’m really excited to be premiering a few new ones at The Forge. I’ll also be performing John Adams’ Phrygian Gates, which is one of my favorite pieces to play (it’s also an extremely effective upper body workout). I first performed it for Adams about seven years ago which was an incredible experience and one that propelled my decision to focus seriously on performing contemporary music.

We love our cocktails! What’s in your perfect cocktail?

Give me a margarita and I’m yours. Don’t skimp on the salt though or you’ll be drinking alone.

Who or what has been the greatest influence on your music?

It’s difficult not to be inspired living in a city which is so diverse and culturally rich. I am lucky to be surrounded by friends who are pursuing so many different artistic paths. I’m always inspired when I hear them play or see them perform and motivated to work hard.

My first inspiration, however, came from my parents. Neither of them are musicians but from as early as I can remember they’d cart my brother and me to a gig every week and there was music playing in the house constantly; anything from Talking Heads, Claude Bolling and Prince to Monteverdi, Copland and Stravinsky. What I’m inspired by most is their capacity to listen – with such openness, curiosity and non-judgment and I try to embody those qualities when I approach my work.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

I probably ask myself this question on a weekly basis. It’s my favorite fantasy and it changes – often. Most often though I’m a dancer in Pina Bausch’s Tanztheatre Wuppertal but recently I fancied myself an organic vegetable farmer. Now that the sun’s coming out I’d rather be spending my days outside than practicing in my studio. There’s something very appealing about a regular routine and the satisfaction of when a task is done it’s done.

In real life though, I am training to teach Mindfulness Meditation specializing in performance anxiety and depression. I have practiced meditation on and off for 15 years so this is a new career path that naturally goes alongside my life and work as a musician.

 If you met your 15-year-old self, what would you tell them?

Wipe that black lipstick off your face and put that cigarette out or you’re grounded till college.

What do you like best about the instrument you play?

I love playing an instrument that is so versatile. I can go from shaking the walls with sound to barely coaxing a whisper. I love experimenting with all of the different sound qualities and textures the piano is capable of.

When I first heard John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, a whole new world was open to me and I became interested in how to make noise by manipulating the inside of the piano. I remember grabbing my parents’ toolbox and holing myself up with my piano for hours like a mad scientist in my lair. I tried every way I could imagine to make noise on the strings, soundboard, the metal frame and wooden case. I find that the more I experiment with extended techniques the more informed I am when I come to play in the traditional way.

What was the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Cultivate beginners mind


Keep the change.

Eliza McCarthy performs at The Forge on Wednesday 3 June.

Click here for more info and to book tickets.