Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, orchestral arranger. There aren’t a lot of hats that Toronto violinist-pianist Owen Pallett – performing at the Tide & Boar Ballroom on Friday, Jan. 23 – isn’t able to wear when it comes to music.
While his solo work, including his most recent effort In Conflict, has garnered much in the way of critical acclaim, Pallett’s body of work as a performer and arranger alongside others is equally impressive. In the last five years alone, Pallett has appeared on albums from Taylor Swift, Robbie Williams and Linkin Park in addition to arranging strings on Arcade Fire and The National.
His success as an arranger even extends to the silver screen: He and Arcade Fire member Will Butler received an Academy Award nomination for their work in the Spike Jonze film Her.
Not bad for a guy who had essentially been told that, due to a pair of handicaps – a bad bow arm and a sideways vibrato – he would never see any significant success as a violinist.
“I began playing violin at the age of three but by the time I got to the Grade 6 level, I was told that I needed to fix a couple of big problems that my teacher said would hinder my career from progressing,” Pallett says. “The teacher I was studying under eventually helped fix my form but for me, it was more a matter of wanting to get to the point where I could play as good I was going to be able to play.”
Pallett originally released his music under the guise of Final Fantasy. His 2006 album He Poos Clouds won the inaugural Polaris Music Prize here in Canada, introducing his unique musical style to fans right across the country.
By the time his 2010 album Heartland was released, a long four years later, Pallett voluntarily retired the Final Fantasy moniker, choosing to release music under his own name.
And though he doesn’t get to release new music nearly as often as he would like, his profile between records remains high because of the numerous collaborations that he is called upon to do.
“I have basically always had a ‘follow the money’ sort of approach to collaboration but that being said, I also live by a strict ‘pay what you can’ credo as well,” Pallett says. “I would never turn away work because the artist doesn’t have the financial means to hire me to play on their recording.”
Pallett believes that his goodwill approach has more than likely played a role in helping him secure more work from other musicians.
“I have been afforded a number of incredible opportunities to work with some amazing bands and musicians.”
Asked if he has a wish list of musicians with whom he hopes to work in the future, Pallett says the desire to accompany his musical heroes on record is not one that he is looking to fulfill anytime soon.
“I don’t have the urge to work with my heroes because I feel their music is complete as is. The people I admire most have a different musical skill set than my own. What could I possibly musically provide to someone like Kanye West or Bjork? The artists that I am most eager to work with are those where I feel like I can contribute something that will benefit the music at the end of the day. That is what it’s about for me.”
What: Owen Pallett
When: Friday, Jan. 23, 8 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Ballroom, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $23. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com/music