Interview: composer and concert pianist Faranak Shahroozi
Faranak Shahroozi is an Iranian-American composer, performer and pianist known for her lyrical, romantic and captivating melodies. With the help of producer Preston Glass, Shahroozi collaborated with stars such as Lenny Williams of soul / funk group Tower of Power, Syreeta Wright (wife of Stevie Wonder) and the support of legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi on the debut album. by Faranak, titled La Musica De La Vigna, was produced. Her song “Helplessly Falling” was featured in the Down ‘n Dirty film with Gary Busey. Since 2012. She has also performed for business and music professionals such as Jeff Shell / Stephen B. Burke, the [former] CEO of NBC; Johnson & Johnson; PETA; the winemaker Robert Mondavi; saxophonist Boney James; and Tony! Toni! Your! Faranak is currently working with several music supervisors to obtain licenses for his songs in film and television. His song “Remembering the ’80s” is featured in Johnathan Moch’s film, Play the fold, released in theaters this summer. In this interview, she talks about her career and her exciting projects.
Jason: Can you tell us how you grew up?
Faranak Shahroozi: I grew up in the southern part of Iran called Abadan. My father worked for the British-built oil refinery, so we had a very pleasant, privileged life, almost like in a country club. When the war broke out we had to move and we left our house and all our belongings. We sat in a car and fled to Tehran. My sister had a little portable radio that she put in my crib and played classical music, and that’s how I slept. So the music was always in my head. My older sisters always listened to pop music, while I grew up with the music of Santana. There were three teenagers in our house, and they were still playing music. I was musical since childhood.
Jason: What brought you to music as a specific career path?
Faranak Shahroozi: My family was having dinner on a beach and I asked the band on stage, “Can I play with you?” And they said okay, come on up, and I sang a popular song by whoosh. I was maybe three and a half, four. So I played the piano and studied classical. Then I moved to America when I was 18. I studied music, got my bachelor’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in classical piano performance.
Jason: What happened after graduation? I understand that you connected with influential people who were instrumental, forgive the pun, in helping you establish your path.
Faranak Shahroozi: After I graduated from college, it led me to songwriting, where all of these emotions kicked in when I was maybe 24-25. I started to write very melodic and loaded music. I didn’t do much with them until I met Lenny Williams (of the soul / funk band Tower of Power), who said, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing music. Why don’t I introduce Kenny G producer Preston Glass to you? So Glass listened to him and he said, ‘Okay, I want to produce your music.’ This led me to meet winemaker Robert Mondavi and his wife, who loved my music. I did concerts for him and I played for celebrities, everyone who came to Napa. I made an album called La Musica De La Vigna that Mondavi approved.
Jason: Can you tell us an interesting story that has happened to you since the start of your career?
Faranak Shahroozi: Well, I met songwriter Syreeta Wright, who was married to Stevie Wonder. She sang one of my songs, and she died 19 years ago from cancer, and I still have that song with her voice on it. It’s a song I wrote with my producer, Preston Glass, who is inducted into the Soul Music Hall of Fame. He is one of the best music producers in the world. So he did an album together and Lenny Williams sang one of my songs and another girl sang one of my songs called “Helplessly Falling” which came into a movie called Down ‘n Dirty with Gary Busey. So I did all that, but the highlight at the time was Syreeta, whose music I grew up with sang my song.
Jason: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first started out?
Faranak Shahroozi: My album, the one we produced with Preston Glass and Robert Mondavi, found its way into Clive Davis’ hands when I was pregnant, but I didn’t know I was pregnant. We just finished the album and everything went well. So Clive Davis listened to my music and all he said was, “I work with this girl who can sing and play and compose like you”, but I didn’t think that girl could sing and play like me . So Clive pushed this other person’s album instead of mine. I didn’t know who she was until I found out it was Alicia Keys when her album Songs in A minor came out of. So I was Alicia Keys’ finalist. But Clive Davis told Preston and I to have fun and come back later, which we never pursued. I was busy raising my son, who is now 21 years old. It’s probably a sadder story than a fun one. Can we change the question? [laughs].
Jason: What are some interesting or exciting projects that you are currently working on?
Faranak Shahroozi: The project I’m working on is taken from a book called 165 days about this British filmmaker Asad Qureshi who was making a documentary on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan and he and his team were captured, and they were held captive for six months for a ransom of $ 10 million . Asad is my friend who wrote the book, his story turned into a screenplay and there is a great producer by the name of Yu-Fai Suen from Pinewood Studios who does a lot of great movies. So I’m making music on it, which is exciting. I have already written a touching song for the end. For Thanksgiving, I have my version of “Silent Night” which is very cute. I also took up Francis Lai’s theme from Love story. This one will be released on December 1st.
Jason: Are there any tips you would recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and avoid burnout?
Faranak Shahroozi: Yes. Do not abandon. Knock on all possible doors. And especially LinkedIn. I get so much stuff through LinkedIn, everything. I met my distribution channel via LinkedIn. I was signed last year by Jason Jordan, who signed me right away. LinkedIn is for me, and then, be there. Put on shows and show your face everywhere if you can. But with the pandemic, people don’t have the option. Musicians are suffering a lot.
Jason: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most good men to the greatest number. What would it be?
Faranak Shahroozi: I worked with PETA and gave them some of my songs because I love animals. I met Ingrid Kirkwood from PETA, who started this movement to rescue mistreated animals in homes. If I could be their voice I would love this.
Jason: Is there someone in particular that you are grateful for who has helped you get to where you are?
Faranak Shahroozi: Preston Glass, my producer. He produced Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Diana Ross. Lots of big names. And he believed in me from the day he met me. He said to me ‘your composition reminds me of Francis Lai or Nino Rota’, so he believed in me and he said ‘continue’, he’s in Los Angeles, and we just made my previous album, the one I’m distributing as singles. I’m on my third single at the moment.
Jason: Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And how has this applied to you in your life?
Faranak Shahroozi: Oh, never give up. I think this is the most important advice I can give to anyone. Follow your dreams. Do what you’re good at. And don’t give up on all the younger ones who are starting out.
Jason: How essential is it to be diverse in your profession? You are represented in the classical world and the world of cinema and television.
Faranak Shahroozi: If you look at my library on my website, I have distinct sounds in each recording, and that’s fantastic in the music and film industry. There are many kinds of moods, and like I said earlier, I was always trying to collaborate with other people and have unique sounds. If you listen to my music, you see that each one is produced differently. One is light rock, the other is dance music, some are very symphonic, others are just piano. So I am very diverse. I did a movie called Playing the Crease and during post-production; I asked the director, Jonathan Mark, if I could put some of my music in there, and it worked.
Jason: How can readers follow you online?
Faranak Shahroozi: I am on all digital platforms, from YouTube to Spotify to Pandora and Apple Music. I’m everywhere. My Instagram is at Paranaque Music, so it would be perfect to follow me on Instagram.