Impressive musicianship often gets taken for granted, especially when it comes to session musicians and touring musicians.
If you go to watch one of your favorite recording artists live or on television, there’s an assumption that the people they’ll be performing with are going to be top-notch, and they are.
Many of these performers have been training their whole lives to get to this level, and as a result, it’s very easy for an outsider to be only remotely impressed by their skills.
Of course the guitarist playing with Gaga is going to be great. Of course the drummer for Miley Cyrus will really know what they’re doing.
But this assumption of skill and mastery also makes it easy to gloss over all the hard work required both to get to this level and to stay at this level for a long period of time.
But it’s important to acknowledge all that hard work, and to do that, we’re going to take a look into the career of a professional pianist and Music Director who is at the top of his game thanks to hard work.
Pianist and Music Director Vincent Lanty
Vincent Lanty was born in Paris and, more or less, has been playing piano his entire life. This led to his involvement of many other aspects of music recording and performance, but the piano came before everything else.
Lanty is also a prolific songwriter, composer, and producer.
He has gone on to work and perform with some of the most successful and well-known recording artists of the modern-day, including Céline Dion, One Direction, Robin Thicke, Carly Rae Jepsen, Rita Ora, and Alessia Cara.
Based on his now-vast reputation, we had one obvious question at the start of our conversation with Lanty: did he ever feel intimidated by the idea of working with these ultra-successful artists?
“I have to admit that at first, I do feel intimidated sometimes, depending on the artist, but you have to get over it pretty quickly because there’s no room for intimidation.”
As we’ll soon see, professionalism always comes first for Lanty, even when the idea of working with a specific artist is extremely exciting.
On being discovered
But let’s back up a bit to the days when Lanty was a simple pianist working in Paris, a young man who hadn’t yet been discovered by the mainstream music industry.
As Lanty told us, he was playing piano in a bar in Paris, enjoying the experience of being a professional musician in one of the world’s most significant music centers.
The man who would later become his manager happened to be in the audience, and he was so impressed by Lanty’s playing that, just a few weeks later, he hired Lanty to play on a major television show called Star Academy.
“While I was performing that night, Rihanna’s manager was watching the show because Rihanna was going to perform a few weeks later on that same show. He liked my playing and asked me if I was down to join the music crew for Rihanna. I said yes, and this is how I started playing with the big names in the industry.”
This was the start of what would become a major part of Lanty’s career, and it was definitely the gateway to working with many of the artists we mentioned earlier.
Both his manager and Rihanna’s manager recognized that Lanty was already an incredibly skilled player, and that’s what got his foot in the door.
The benefits of touring
Suddenly, Lanty was thrown into the world of high-level touring, and for him, it was a thrill, not just for the experience but for the opportunities it presented him to improve his work even further.
“I’ve always wanted to tour. Going on tours also allows you to expand your play. Since I’m both a pianist and a Musical Director, I can see what about my live arrangements are working great and what could be enhanced.”
The touring life is demanding for musicians and crew members, and depending on the tour, it could take up most of the calendar year.
But even when it comes to taking time away from more typical music work, Lanty still takes advantage of downtime to work on other things.
“Maybe I’m missing working in the studio on new songs and productions, but it makes the wait even better when you finally get back to it after a few months on the roads. And also, on the tour bus, you can have your own setup: a laptop, an audio interface, a midi keyboard, and some headphones and you’re good to go!”
The convenience of modern recording and mixing technology means that successful musicians like Lanty can make progress on multiple projects at once, all in between performing hi-octane shows.
Working with a hero
Remember when we mentioned that Lanty rarely feels intimidated when working with big-name artists?
Well, according to him, one of the most challenging instances was when he got the call to tour with Céline Dion, who had been one of his favorite artists since childhood.
That said, working with a hero wasn’t cause for panic but rather a source of inspiration to always be on top of things and do the best work possible for a musical icon.
“If I had to pick one, I would say touring with Céline Dion was the most special. I grew up listening to her on my walkman. Back in the day, I couldn’t even picture myself playing the piano on stage, and even less so by her side! That was a really amazing experience to get to work with such an amazing artist.”
Again, it all comes back to the professionalism and consistency that is required of high-level musicians and performers.
The standards are always set very high, and while minor mistakes do happen, there’s always a strong drive to make the next show or the next recording session one of the best ever.
It’s definitely not a career for everyone, but for those who don’t mind holding themselves to very high standards of excellence, that level of challenge quickly becomes just another part of the job.
A range of genres and skills
Here’s an interesting question for professional musicians. If there are any aspiring musicians reading this right now, we’re sure that you’ll be particularly curious to see what Lanty had to say on the topic: is it better to learn how to play many different genres of music or stick to one or two specialties?
This question has clear parallels in other artistic mediums as well. Certain actors, for example, want to be able to take on many different roles while others end up playing different versions of the same role for their whole careers.
Likewise, visual artists risk criticism if their style never develops or evolves, and yet they also risk criticism if they change their style drastically and alienate their existing audience.
Lanty recognizes the risks of playing music in many different genres on the professional level, but, in the end, he sees that kind of versatility as only a good thing.
“Learning how to play different genres of music is a great thing. It means that you can play anything that a Musical Director might ask of you. At the same time, people might try to put you in a box. It’s possible to be labeled ‘pop’ and only get a call when a pop project goes on tour.”
Unfortunately, this is one area where it’s never really possible to predict how things will end up. The music industry is large and unruly, and there’s no straight path to success.
However, given Lanty’s perspective, we can say that it’s never really a bad idea to expand your own repertoire as a musician, even if it’s only to challenge yourself and your own musical abilities.
Keeping the crown
There’s no doubt that Lanty has reached the highest level of popular music performance, but, as he explained to us, that doesn’t mean that he’s able to sit back and enjoy that success.
It takes a lot to get to his level, but it also takes a lot to stay there and continue to impress artists and audiences alike.
“It gets very competitive when performing with such big names. No one is irreplaceable so you have to make sure you’re always at the top of your game. You have to stay humble, flexible, and master your instrument.”
There will always be many other skilled musicians and performers out there, meaning anyone who currently has a great gig has to be aware that there will always be others waiting to take your spot.
It’s not a constant source of stress, just a reminder that there’s no room for relaxation and stagnation.
Musicians like Lanty are always getting better. It’s just part of the job, but it’s also the kind of constant improvement that they crave, and that’s why these musicians are the best of the best.