Billy Andrews (The Dark Tenor): It doesn’t cost anything to explore your creativity.
|The trumpets and trombones belch with desperate urgency. The bass and cello deliver a distressing and emotional undertone dripping with agony and grief. The flutes and violins hint at a lightness, an unfounded hope. Trembling with feverish despair, impatient angst, and interrupted calm, Mozart’s Requiem is a contradiction between soothing and melancholic, terrible and soft-spoken. Is this not the nature of a rock star? Sonophilia Pioneer Billy Andrews, also known as The Dark Tenor, believes so.
Billy is a Gold-status singer who has held hits in Germany’s Top 10 Charts and sold over 200,000 albums. Rather than take mainstream hit songs and turn them into beautiful instrumental pieces, like The Piano Guys, Lindsey Stirling, and David Garrett have done, Billy took the reverse route. He composes his original melodies and lyrics and transcribes them to the backdrop of classical works by world-famous and timeless composers. His signature sound and style have breathed new life into classical music.
“Classical music is so cool,” Billy expressed to Sonophilia. “Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were the rockers, punkers, and poppers of their own time. These were the cool dudes that would spend all their money on things that would be considered rock and roll these days and to create music! These guys were cool and crazy, let’s put it that way. The world deserves to see a different side of this genre.”
Having grown up with musical parents and sung in professional choirs and operas worldwide, such as Semperoper Dresden, Billy began to notice how stale and outdated the classical music genre had begun to feel. It seemed to have lost all will to thrill, to electrify people’s nerves. Mozart’s Requiem, for instance, talks about the day of wrath; it doesn’t invite pristine, unadulterated tranquility. Quite the contrary!
The classical crossover genre is already well-established, but by harnessing his inner Mozart, Billy stirs in his audience all the emotions Mozart originally wanted without a full-on opera tenor voice. With his passion for Green Day, Bon Jovi, the Foo Fighters, Metallica, and Nirvana, Billy found parallels between classical music and punk rock or heavy metal. The Dark Tenor had to experiment with his sound to find a balance that would appeal to a mass audience nowadays.
“Mozart wanted to make people feel like they’re falling apart when the Lacrimosa starts in his Requiem or the Dies Irae starts. He wanted them to be excited and wanted them to be afraid of what’s happening… I’ll try and transport that feeling onto my audience, using
|contemporary music instruments to make people relive what Mozart maybe wanted them to feel.”
Challenging our expectations, being bold and daring is what good music is all about. So is good storytelling. The Dark Tenor aims to engage his audience, to spark their curiosity, to put on a good show. His chosen visuals give his shows and videos a cinematic boost and his performances an extra dose of drama.
“My goal is not to stay in a small niche,” he said. “My goal is to get as many people as I can to understand that classical music is cool. I had to adapt my style to reach more people and to communicate my mission. I started tending more into a pop kind of area, started collaborating with songwriters… [who] would have worked with Justin Bieber or the Backstreet Boys.”
The creative thread in Billy’s music twists itself to find new corners of integration with classical music and pop. He considers his music to be a mission in edutainment, using “entertainment to educate people on a specific style of music.” It communicates in such a way that creativity can’t help but spread its influence.
“Creativity is not only composing and inventing something new – songwriters are inventors. I think creativity is also solving mathematical problems… finding solutions to problems that you’re given every day. The creative process around making this music and building this mission is something that has always made me think outside of the box… creativity is as basic as one plus one.”
As a Sonophilia Pioneer, Billy will make a special appearance on the panel for the Creativity Matters book launch at the Frankfurt Book Fair Digital Edition on October 15. He believes with an almost religious conviction in the power of play, that everyone is born to be creative and participate in the most fundamental act of playing, of failing, of rebelling. As we enter adulthood, we often forget how to do this as we strive to fit into the structure that society has placed on our perceptions of happiness, success, and security.
“The vibe of Sonophilia is so connected to what I already do anyway. It has the DNA of wanting to tell people that life is good and that your life can be even more exciting if you accept that you’re creative [and] learn more about it, develop that part of your brain or heart or soul or the very part of your existence… It doesn’t cost you anything to explore your own creativity.”