David Garrett Biography
By the time he was thirteen years old, when most of his peers were whiling away their afternoons on their new PlayStations, the virtuoso violinist David Garrett had a classical music career that would make most artists of any age pea-green with envy. Born in the German city of Aachen to an American ballerina mother and a German father who was a lawyer, David was a true child prodigy. At age eight, he was being booked to play as a soloist in front of some of the world's greatest orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Russian National Orchestra. When he was twelve, he was performing alongside legend Yehudi Menuhin. When he turned thirteen, he was signed to one of the most famous and prestigious classical music labels in the world, Deutsche Grammophon, as a solo artist.
With the demands of his fast-burgeoning career and an ultra-intense focus on classical music, David had barely heard any rock or pop music until he was a teenager. "I'd listened to nothing but classical music until the age of fourteen," says the now 27-year-old David, who was home-schooled until that age. "So when I started going to regular school, and started to be exposed to all this pop and rock, it was a revelation."
As a result, David has carved out a unique and wholly new artistic path, one that pays as much homage to Metallica as to Mozart. His daring journey from classical wunderkind to mature and highly adventurous artist has been fulfilling not just for him personally, but clearly resonates with an enormous worldwide audience. David Garrett is already a huge star in Europe, as well as the Far East. He plays nightly to thousands of adoring fans, particularly in Germany where he has already completed a sold-out arena tour, conquered the charts and garnered two gold discs for both of his records released there. On the famous Last Night of Proms in the UK, he played to a crowd of 40,000 people, and also appeared at the legendary Royal Albert Hall in an impressive six concerts in seven days. His sole album released in the UK became a Top 20 chart fixture.
Now, he's set to conquer a whole new terrain with his first American release, simply entitled, David Garrett. His international career is multi-faceted. With arresting good looks and charisma, David landed a deal as a global brand ambassador for Banana Republic in 2009, and has additional endorsements overseas with brands including Audi and Montblanc. Dubbed, "the fastest violinist in the world," by German paper Kolner Stadt-Anzeigere, the incredible violinist will be in the 2010 Guinness Book of World Records, as the fastest-ever performer of the Flight of the Bumblebee, clocking in at a blistering 66 seconds.
David has long been one to forge his own path in the world. As a teenager in Germany, with a glorious, but grueling, classical career of international symphony concerts and recordings, he ached to escape the confines of classical music. Without telling his parents, he fled to New York to at last sample the life of a "normal" adolescent, with every temptation imaginable at his fingertips. The classical violin was put aside as he discovered rock music, clubs and girls.
He eventually rediscovered his passion for the violin during his rebellious phase, and decided to audition at the world famous Juilliard music school. He was accepted, and to his surprise, taken on by the legendary violinist, Itzhak Perlman. While at Juilliard, David began taking on odd jobs to pay the bills – moonlighting as a busboy and modeling in his spare time. Not surprisingly, he eventually landed in the pages of Vogue and the Fashion Week catwalks for Armani, all the while pursuing his musical dreams.
"Before Juilliard I'd lived in a shell, spending 24 hours a day with adults," he reflects. Living in New York and going to Juilliard opened David's eyes, and ears, to whole worlds he had been missing while he'd been off practicing the classical music canon seven hours a day. He says that coming into his own as a musician was a kind of liberation, one which freed him from the expectations of the small and insular classical music world. "Everyone told me not to make mistakes," he recalls. "But when I was eighteen I thought, ‘F*** it, I want to make mistakes!' At that point, I felt a little burned out with classical music and wanted to do something new and fun."
You know you're in for a different kind of violin experience as soon as you hear David's cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." At an after-hours party at David's New York apartment one night, someone shouted out a special request for this song when David was improvising for his guests, and the violinist took on the challenge. He is perhaps the first person to draw a parallel between Michael Jackson and Mozart's writing styles: "I was working on the Mozart A Major violin concerto around the same time I was working this out, and I couldn't help but notice an underlying harmonic pattern in ‘Smooth Criminal' that was similar to the famous Turkish march from the last movement of that Mozart concerto." At the end of the track, he skillfully combines the two works.
Other influences on David include Queen ("the first non-classical album I ever bought was A Night at the Opera," the violinist recalls). The band's ballad "Who Wants to Live Forever" makes its way onto David Garrett, as does AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." The violinist draws on a fantastic array of other stylistic inspirations. "He's a Pirate" was taken from the score for the smash film franchise "Pirates of the Caribbean." David says, "I've always loved film music, and this score just delivered the right amount of power and seriousness to counterpoint the rather funny story." Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" makes an appearance as well; it's been a longtime favorite which David always used first as a backstage warm-up before performances, and then as a staple in his dynamic live shows.
Given his enduring commitment to his first musical love, David (who was dubbed "Formula One on the strings" by the major German newspaper, Kolnische Rundschau) still includes some classical selections on this American debut, including the last movement of Vivaldi's "Summer" from his hugely popular The Four Seasons ("keeping the original structure, but creating a new sound that captures the energy of rock"), and Bach's Air, which gets a daring modern twist. David argues that so much of Bach's music was based on the popular dance forms of his time, ones that he says are "actually quite similar to modern dance music"-why not give Air an R&B update?
Not to be satisfied with just doing innovative and imaginative covers of music from such a wide variety of genres, David also displays his own deft writing skills with notable originals, including "Chelsea Girl," which was inspired by an on-again/off-again flame."
David says that in many ways David Garrett is the ultimate result of his musical journey. He calls it "one hell of a project," but he means that in the best way. "I've put everything into it," he recounts, "my time, my emotions, my musical integrity, my technical playing, my arrangements and new pieces-everything."
The lauded conductor and Kennedy Center Honoree Zubin Mehta put it best when he said, "David Garrett is surely going to have a resounding presence on the music world of the 21st century."