How to write a song using a piano

A few years ago, the BBC launched its Radio 4 Music podcast, where it introduced its first new talent this week: Nick Lowe.

A few weeks later, he appeared on the programme to record an album. 

Now the 44-year-old, who was born in Liverpool but lives in London, has released his debut album and a solo album, which is now available to buy. 

“I’ve been thinking about the piano a lot lately, and when I started working with Nick I was trying to get a bit of control,” says Lowe, who has played in many pop, jazz, country, rock and reggae bands.

“But the piano has always been a little bit of an elusive instrument, a bit like the drum, it’s got its own flavour and sound and feel.

So I’ve always wanted to try to write something with it, but I haven’t really got the confidence in it.

I’m just kind of in a rush.” 

“It’s about making music with your fingers, you know?” he adds. 

Lowe’s new album is the culmination of a year-long journey that began when he met fellow musician Nick Lowe in the late 1980s at a music festival.

They fell in love, but as time passed the relationship became more and more distant. 

The pair moved back in with his mother, who worked in the publishing industry and who had recently lost her job.

“Nick’s always had a real soft spot for the piano and I always felt like that was the instrument that I had always wanted, but had never been able to find a place for it,” Lowe says.

“I’d been going to various studios and it just seemed like it just wouldn’t be right for me.” 

He moved to London in the early 1990s and soon fell in with producer Mark Williams, who played a role in bringing him back into the music industry.

Lowe says he got hooked on the piano because it’s the instrument he felt closest to when he was younger, and that he was able to connect with his emotions, which was something he’d never been taught to do.

“It was one of those things that I’ve learnt over the years, I just sort of found it at that point in my life and I thought, ‘I’ve got to write songs using this instrument, so I’m going to write one for it’,” he says. 

His first album was written with an old guitar from his mother’s studio.

“That was the first time I’d ever played a guitar, so that was pretty new to me, but it worked pretty well.

I played a couple of tunes on it, which are some of the best tunes I’ve ever written.

I was able, in the end, to write two songs that were very much inspired by the piano, and they’re really great tunes, but they’re not about the instrument itself.

They’re about my relationship with it.”

Lowe says he wanted to write his songs with an instrument he was familiar with, so he used a piano for the album.

He started with an acoustic piano, which he had found at a local auction, but gradually worked his way up to a double-bass. 

He also began writing songs with his voice, something he had never done before. 

One song, “I Love the Piano”, has a strong piano-inspired vibe to it, and the other two, “Slightly Lonely” and “The Last Time”, are very much rooted in jazz and blues. 

While Lowe is keen to emphasise that the music he’s making is his own, he has an undeniable affinity with the instrument.

“The instrument was definitely a part of my upbringing and I was a bit nervous about writing music with it,” he says, “so when I got the chance to work with Nick it just felt really right.” 

Lowes’ new album, titled I Love the piano is due out on July 25. 

Listen to Lowe’s new song, ‘The Last One’ below: Read more about Nick Lowe’s career: