"I just burn to make music"


028: Artyom Manukyan

Powerhouse on the cello. Composer, improvisor, bandleader. Let’s spend some time with one of today’s most exciting string players.

This is Play It Like It’s Music, I’m Trevor Exter. Thanks for listening.

Welcome back! On Wednesday, February 26th of 2020 music is not content, it’s connection.

I’m so glad I got a good one in today with one of my favorite cello players, and I’m biased. The guy is a rule breaker and a free spirit on the instrument, as well as a consummate musician who always plays from the heart. Artyom Manukyan is a real hero to cello players everywhere and that’s who we’re talking to today.

He’s got two great albums out, the newest one is called Alone and you can hear it in all the places.

A quick check-in, I am enjoying the weather here. It’s my first winter in LA and I gotta say, I’ll take it. Thanks. Also finishing up a couple of songs that I will be releasing to you soon. Things are sounding good here in the studio and I’m excited to get some music back out into the world.

It’s been six years since I released any proper records and they were both EP’s. But lemme tell you, it’s been a journey. I won’t talk too much about it now because I’m still finishing up the tracks and have to stay focused, but it feels like the right time.

But you know, trying to go out as a so-called “artist” can be quite daunting even after you’ve given yourself permission to do it. Some might say that’s where our troubles begin: in identifying ourselves as “artists” with all the baggage that term implies in our creative landscape.

But the workaround is to let yourself define what the word means to you. For example, in the music business, “Artist”, “Composer” and “Musician” are three distinct roles. Separate jobs. But you can be all three. I hate it though, when people dodge the distinctions and start to call us “creatives”. That’s a lazy poaching of an Ad industry term. The reality for most of us is that we have a demon inside of us that won’t let us rest until we find expression for something new, original and of our own making.

Call yourself what you want, but don’t let that part of you fall asleep for too long.

Which brings me to our guest of the hour.

I’m a cello guy, and I’d like to reassure you non-cello people that we don’t get too deep into the weeds here. Fear not!

One thing that happens though - if you really grab the cello and commit to it - is that you realize it’s just a giant doorway into music. There are so many possibilities that the instrument will offer an imaginative player and it really demands a lot of discipline from us. It definitely does not play itself, though you can get that impression when watching a truly great player.

The thing about Artyom, though - and this is why I wanted to talk to him on the show - is that he incorporates a deep knowledge of music with a capital M. He is definitely not confined to the standard view of what the cello can or should do. He’s blazing a trail through the modern instrumental landscape and all kinds of important players are taking note.

He tours with Melody Gardot as an integral band member. He gigs around LA with the coolest and most forward-thinking players on the scene, folks like Mark De Clive-Lowe, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Tim Lefebvre and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. He just went to play on the Blue Note cruise, man!

So he’s totally made it out of the cello crab-bucket, and that’s a thing we all can get behind. I’m super privileged to present my interview with the fantastic and fascinating Artyom Manukyan.

As always, if you like the show, please tell a friend and help us spread the word. Otherwise it’s just us.


OK, let’s go.

Press PLAY above to hear my interview with Artyom Manukyan

Thanks for sticking around. Thanks to Artyom for spending some time with us.

GO LISTEN TO HIS RECORDS. Nobody plays cello like this guy.

You can find him online @artyommanukyan dot com and on the socials.

Thanks for listening to Play It Like It's Music. If you liked the show, PLEASE tell a friend. Let's grow this thing:


Follow me on social media @trevorexter and talk to me on there if you have thoughts about the show.

We're all contending with a mutating professional landscape, jacked revenue streams and a lot of noise out there in the culture. But you gotta keep playing.

We don't draw any lines here between scenes or styles.

As always, thank you for listening and remember to play it like its music.

You can check out my music on bandcamp and other places. It’s all at my website, trevorexter.com. Sign the mailing list on substack to get this show sent right to you the very moment it comes out. Consider hiring me to score your piece, produce your show or back you up onstage. Music is a beautiful thing and it makes the world go around.

Big love to your ears.


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