Interview: Composer and Concert Pianist Faranak Shahroozi

Faranak Shahroozi poses outside on an island in front of a lighthouse
Courtesy of 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 from the soul/funk group Tower of Power, Syreeta Wright (Stevie Wonder’s wife) and the endorsement of the legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi, Faranak’s first album, titled La Musica De La Vigna, was produced. Her song “Helplessly Falling” was featured in the Down ‘n Dirty film starring Gary Busey. Since 2012. She has also performed for business and musical professionals like Jeff Shell/Stephen B. Burke, the [former] CEO of NBC; Johnson & Johnson; PETA; winemaker Robert Mondavi; saxophonist Boney James; and Tony! Toni! Toné! Faranak is currently working with several music supervisors for licensing her songs in films and television. Her song “Remembering the ’80s” is featured in Johnathan Moch’s movie, Playing the Crease, released in theaters this summer. In this interview she talks her career and exciting projects.

Jason: Can you tell us a story of how you grew up?

Faranak Shahroozi: I grew up in the southern part of Iran called Abadan. My dad worked for the oil refinery that the British built, so we had a very nice privileged life, almost like country club living. When the war broke, we had to move, and we left our home and all our belongings. We sat in a car and ran away to Tehran. My sister had a little portable radio she used to put in my crib and put it on classical music, and that’s how I slept. So music was always in my head. My older sisters were always listening to pop music, while I grew up with Santana’s music. There were three teenagers in our home, and they always played music. I was musical from 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 up, and I sang a popular song by whoosh. Maybe I was three and a half, four. So then I played piano, and I studied classical. Then, I moved to America when I was 18. I studied music, got my bachelor’s and a BA in classical piano performance.

Jason: What happened after graduation? I understand you connected with some influential people which were instrumental, pardon the pun, in assisting you establish your way.

Faranak Shahroozi: Once I graduated from university, that led me to songwriting, where all these emotions came out when I was maybe 24-25. I started writing very melodic, charged music. I wasn’t doing much with them until I met Lenny Williams (from the soul/funk group Tower of Power), who said, ‘Oh, my God, this is incredible music. Why don’t I introduce you to Kenny G’s producer, Preston Glass?’ So Glass listened to it, and he said, ‘Okay, I want to produce your music.’ That led me to meeting winemaker Robert Mondavi and his wife, who loved my music. I was performing concerts for him, and I played for celebrities, everybody who came to Napa. I made an album which called La Musica De La Vigna that Mondavi endorsed.

Faranak Shahroozi poses seated at her piano
Faranak Shahroozi photo courtesy Faranak Shahroozi

Jason: Can you give us an interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Faranak Shahroozi: Well, I met songwriter Syreeta Wright, who was married to Stevie Wonder. She sang one of my songs, and she passed away 19 years ago of cancer, and I still have this song with her voice on it. It’s a song that I wrote with my producer, Preston Glass, who’s a Hall of Fame Inductee for soul music. He’s one of the top 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 went inside a movie called Down ‘n Dirty with Gary Busey. So I did all that, but the highlight back then 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’re first starting?

Faranak Shahroozi: My album, the one that we produced with Preston Glass and Robert Mondavi, found its way in the hands of Clive Davis when I was pregnant, but I didn’t I didn’t know I was pregnant. We just finished the album and everything was great. So Clive Davis listened to my music and all he said was, ‘I’m doing some work with this girl who can sing and play and compose like you,’ but I didn’t think this girl could sing and play like me. So Clive was pushing 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. So I was the runner-up to Alicia Keys. But Clive Davis told Preston and me to have fun and come back later, which we never pursued. I was busy raising my son, who is now 21. That’s probably more of a sad story than a funny one. Can we change the question? [laughs].

Jason: What are some interesting or exciting projects you’re working on now?

Faranak Shahroozi: The project I’m working on is from a book called 165 Days about this British filmmaker, Asad Qureshi, who was doing a documentary in the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan and he and his crew got captured, and they were in captivity for six months for a ransom of $10 million. Asad is my friend that wrote the book, his story turned into a script and there is a major producer by the name of Yu-Fai Suen from Pinewood Studios who does a lot of major movies. So I’m doing some music on that, which is exciting. I already wrote an emotional song for the ending. For Thanksgiving, I have my version of “Silent Night” which is very cute. I also covered Francis Lai’s theme of Love Story. That one will come out on December 1.

Jason: Are there any tips you would recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not burnout?

Faranak Shahroozi: Yes. Don’t give up. Knock on every door possible. And especially LinkedIn. I get so many things through LinkedIn, everything. I met my distribution channel through LinkedIn. I got signed last year by Jason Jordan, who signed me right away. LinkedIn is it for me, and then, be present. Do shows and show your face everywhere if you can. But with the pandemic, people don’t have the opportunity. Musicians are suffering a lot.

Jason: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most men of good to the most amount of people. What would that be?

Faranak Shahroozi: I worked with PETA and I gave them a couple of my songs because I love animals. I met Ingrid Kirkwood of PETA, who started this movement of rescuing animals that were mistreated in homes. If I could be the voice for them, I love that.

Jason: Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you get you to where you are?

Faranak Shahroozi: Preston glass, my producer. He produced Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Diana Ross. A lot of big names. And he believed in me from the day he met me. He said, ‘your songwriting reminds me of Francis Lai or Nino Rota,’ so he believed in me and he said, ‘keep going,’ he’s in Los Angeles, and we just did my previous album, the one that I’m distributing as singles. I’m on my third single so far.

Jason: Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And how that applied to you in your life?

Faranak Shahroozi: Oh, to never give up. I think that’s the most important advice I can give to anyone. Follow your dream. Do what you are good at. And don’t give up to all the younger people who are starting.

Faranak Shahroozi photo courtesy Faranak Shahroozi
Faranak Shahroozi photo courtesy Faranak Shahroozi

Jason: How indispensable is it to be diverse in your profession? You’re represented in the classical world and the world of film 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 movie industry. There are many kinds of moods, and as I was saying earlier, I was always trying to collaborate with other people and have unique sounds. If you listen to my music, you see each one is produced differently. One is light rock, one is dance music, some are very symphonic, some are just piano. So I’m very diverse. I did one movie called Playing the Crease and during post-production; I asked the director, Jonathan Mark, if I could put some of my music in it, and it worked.

Jason: How can readers follow you online?

Faranak Shahroozi: I’m on all digital platforms, from YouTube to Spotify to Pandora to Apple Music. I’m everywhere. My Instagram is at Paranaque Music, so that would be perfect to just follow me on Instagram.

Written by Jason Sheppard

Entertainment reporter living at the end of very cold Canada. Proud owner of a diploma in journalism and just about every CD by John Williams ever released. Favorite directors are Spielberg, Scorsese, Kubrick, Tarantino, Fellini, Lynch and Fincher. Twin Peaks, Sopranos and Six Feet Under are the greatest TV dramas ever crafted and I love 90s sitcoms such as Spin City, Sports Night, Newsradio, Seinfeld and even that one with Deadpool working in the pizza place. Click linkies below to follow me.

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