Self-taught pianist and composer Riopy brings his debut UK tour to Manchester’s Stoller Hall this week.

Ahead of the show, we caught up with the Franco-British artist to find out about his latest single Nocturne and upcoming album Thrive.

The single and album come after a storied life including a time spent in a cult as a child.  Born in rural France, his mother left home with him when he was six months old, eventually joining a cult, where family ties were discouraged – and obedience to the head guru was paramount. Deprived of any outside culture, young Jean-Philippe taught himself to play on an abandoned piano when he was two, making up songs in his head, then performing them. RIOPY was drawn to the piano as it allowed him to focus on creating music from scratch, quiet his mind from his OCD anxieties and to retreat into his own private world. “I understood tones, sounds and numbers, because I’d always been counting,” he says. “Playing piano was the only place I felt safe. I discovered something new every time I sat down at the piano. It was the only thing I enjoyed doing. And even if I wasn’t at the piano, I’d play music in my head to cope with stress.”

You released the first single from your upcoming album a couple of weeks ago in Nocturne. How does that hint at what’s to come on your album Thrive?

The force within us in a world of chaos. We all have it, we just need to go and draw from it…The first release of Thrive had to be Nocturne, a statement, a point of start. The start of the journey has to be a. bit dramatic, to set up the direction for what is to come.

Can you tell us a bit about how you set about writing Nocturne?

It was inspired by Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor – I recomposed the whole piece, how I saw it, what it meant to me, this pure sadness, this very singular emotion, and felt adding strings, as a lyrical component to the story.

Your music is very emotional – what feelings do you feel Nocturne bring out?

It is one of a very few pieces I cannot describe with words this very peculiar feeling. Impossible to really put a feeling on it. All I can say is that it makes me feel something very powerful, very deep. Inextricable

You’re famously self-taught. Do you feel that’s an advantage in perhaps having more freedom of experimentation as you were learning and developing or did it put obstacles in your way?

Musically, yes, totally. Freedom.  I was free of it all, just making me feel something, that’s the way I’ve always been writing music. Almost like a DNA code for me. Each piece has a unique code, that would be needed in my life at that particular time, without being pressured by anyone or anything, music for the sake of music.

But then, to perform and to bring it to the world, I would not fit anywhere and would not be consider as a pianist by classical music people…so the road was much harder, longer, difficult. I would not change anything, though. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. I still love making music more than anything else in the entire world.

Your previous releases have been incredibly successful. Do you feel that adds any pressure in the run up to the release of Thrive?

Funny question. I do not think about it. If I start looking at success, it would be the end of me. I follow my heart and my lifestyle helps me keep the little spark, that enables the music to flow. Success is to what you love.

​Can you tell us a bit about the album, content and inspirations?

Satie, Chopin, Pachelbel, Brahms, Debussy. I wanted to make an album from the classical composers that have touched me somehow. Each track on the album has a melody that I found so beautiful, but my mind was always going to places while listening to those pieces. I decided to write it down, and I made Thrive.

Sonically, how does it compare with your previous material?

Well there are strings, I brought an orchestra for this one, some of the feelings required strings…and I think it is not as light as my previous albums, perhaps we go back a bit more to the RIOPY one, which is more raw but has more layers and a bigger emotion range. I guess it is an evolution, always. Towards the 4th …ha

What was the process for writing and recording the tracks for the album?

So it all started with those two chords from Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies. Hearing those simple yet perfect chords were bringing out so many stories to my mind, I was hearing a lot of notes on it, so I decided to do was taking me a beautiful place. I started playing those notes and heard some more, then I followed those notes like driving on a road not knowing where I was going. The writing part was long, it took nearly two years to finish this album – many different layers, interpretations, moods, etc. One note can change the whole story, so it was not really easy to make sure I was staying on the right path…Many trials. Then, once I wrote everything, I went to my dear friend Roberto Borzoni, whom I wanted to produce the album.  We worked together every day for months, he was great, patient and super professional.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting it together?

To print what the vision in my head. That’s the most difficult…

What were your thoughts the first time you listened back to the completed album?

Totally gone. I left our reality. Lovely feeling

The tour marks your first major UK tour.  What are your thoughts now it is underway?

Very excited. I’ve been waiting for this one for a very long time…

How did you prepare for the tour?

I get into my zone, meditate a lot, getting that zone of flow, ready to share and give everything I have through those plastic ivory keys. ha​


Riopy performs at Manchester’s Stoller Hall on 3 February 2023.  The Manchester show is one of 10 UK dates he is performing:
1 February   –   London, Cadogan Hall
2 February   –   Bristol, St Georges
3 February   –   Manchester, Stoller Hall
4 February   –   Gateshead, Sage
5 February   –   Leeds, Howard Assembly Room
8 February   –   Edinburgh, Queens Hall
9 February   –   Bury St Edmunds, Apex
10 February   –   Coventry, Warwick Arts Centre
11 February   –   Canterbury, Gulbenkian
12 February   –   Southampton, Turner Sims Concert Hall