The talented and world-renown Slovenian classical guitarist, Mak Grgić, joins Paul Cardall on All Heart to chat about their musical upbringings, their view on perfectionism in the classical music realm and Grgić’s dabblings in contemporary instrumental music during the pandemic.
Despite growing up in very different parts of the world, Cardall and Grgić draw similarities throughout the podcast on their careers with classical music. Most recently, the two have come together for Grgić’s newly released Christmas EP, Silent Night, which was produced by Cardall. Grgić is also the first artist that Cardall has signed to his label, All Heart Records.
Although Grgić is from the small country of Slovenia, he has been able to attain notoriety around the world, and before 2020 had the pleasure of playing around 100 shows a year in concert halls everywhere. Even so, Grgić explains that his love for guitar and music took longer to cultivate than most musicians.
“I didn’t have that sensation of goose-bumpiness for quite a long time, but I do remember when that happened for the first time. I was already in the musical high school, at that point still kind of doing music just because, and then I was listening to a pianist, very famous pianist, Evgeny Kissin playing the Rachmaninoff second Piano Concerto. And there’s this part in the second movement that is just so beautiful, so large, so full of life and color and everything. And I remember feeling this sort of chills going through my entire body,” he says.
“That was like an aha moment for me. And from then on, I sort of always kept chasing that feeling. You know, that beautiful…a high, beautiful chills. That magic, so to speak.”
Before this, he was very much enthralled by the world of science and math, but from this moment, things clicked into place for Grgić. He was able to take his technical mind, ambition and emotional connection with music and create the magic he was feeling. Whether it was the John Williams CD his father played or Bach, Grgić found that music struck a chord inside of him.
Even so, the world of classical music is a laborious and high-pressure one in which perfection is revered above all, and it took Grgić seeing the passionate musical mistakes experienced during a show with Sergio and Odair Assad, the legendary Brazilian guitar duo, to understand that an emotional connection with music can transcend a perfectly polished performance.
“That was an aha moment as well for me because it was like, well, if music is a language, and when we speak, we often mispronounce some words, it’s normal, it’s pretty human, but we’re still carrying out the message. Why can this be the same with music? Why do we need to strive towards being this glossy, almost robotic perfectionist where we can certainly allow ourselves to be more human? So these days, the concept of making a mistake is certainly less present in my mind, and I think it makes it for a healthier performer.”
The lessons he’s been able to learn about himself and as a musician haven’t stopped there as this year has been a huge year of growth for him amidst the pandemic, seeing as it’s stopped his ability to tour indefinitely.
“When things become difficult, I think the character, then, of a person shows, you know? Are you flexible? Are you a fighter? What do you believe in? What do you love? What do you strive for?” he asks introspectively.
“Even though at the beginning, in the first few months, it was very challenging and difficult, emotionally, just to accept that things may be different, it has also been one of the most beautiful periods of my life. Because, I mean, ultimately, it gave me the momentum and time to start to compose my own music. To become the interpreter of what I feel. And that is, that is one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
In this way, Grgić has been able to unlock a new skill in his musical toolbelt which is taking an emotional experience and turning it into a tangible piece of music. The work he has created over his ample quarantined time is quickly becoming an actual contemporary instrumental album, an exciting yet drastic shift from his repertoire thus far.
As always, Cardall ends on a reflective note by asking his guests what they want their legacy to be centuries from now. Grgić responds with a simple plea for positivity and happiness.
“Be it associated with music or just with anything that is potentially left behind by me, I would want people to have a little smile on their faces when they think about that. It can be music, it can be something else, but if there’s a positive association and a feel good moment that maybe brightens their day for just a second.”
Stream Grgić’s Christmas EP with Paul Cardall below.