Edmund Bagnell: Violinist and Singer
Edmund Bagnell is a diverse artist, having performed as an actor, violinist, singer, and 1st violinist and singer in the internationally touring string quartet, Well Strung. A native of South Carolina, Edmund was cast as Tobias Ragg during his senior year at NYU in the 1st National Tour of John Doyle’s staging of Sweeney Todd. This lead to many more performances as an actor in NYC and across the country. In 2012, Edmund became the 1st violinist of the string quartet Well Strung, which released three chart topping albums in the classical crossover genre. The band had several notable live performances on the Today Show, toured internationally, performed on Broadway and with many notable performers such as Kristin Chenoweth and Audra McDonald.
In 2015 the band’s song “Chelsea’s Mom” became a viral hit. In 2019, Edmund premiered and toured internationally with his solo one man show, He Plays the Violin, to rave reviews. Now, with his first solo album, Christmas at Home, Edmund is excited to share yet another aspect of himself as a solo recording artist. Combining his years as an actor, singer, violinist, and band member, this album is a blend of his love for all these genres, and is a personal look in to what he loves about making music.
(Courtesy of Edmund Bagnell’s website https://www.edmund-bagnell.com)
Thanks so much to Edmund Bagnell for taking time out of his schedule to do an interview for TSM.
TSM: Hi Edmund, when did you first start playing the violin? And what inspired you to play it?
EB: When I was seven years old I started playing the violin. My parents would take me to the Philharmonic Orchestra when I was a kid, and there’s something about seeing the emotion of the bows moving altogether and the giant section of violins bowing. I was very drawn to the sound and just how everybody a y can move in such a choreographed way. That’s what drew me to the violin.
TSM: You are the first violinist of the string quartet, Well-Strung. How did this quartet come together? And what is the inspiration behind the name of it?
EB: We’ve been a group for nine years now. We formed in NYC, and we actually kind of started a little bit more as a theatre-based performance, and people really responded to our music. So, the theatrical elements kind of fell away, and then we began to operate more like a band. The name came from a stream of instruments.
TSM: Your first solo album Christmas at Home will be released on November 20. How did you go about song selection for the album? And do you have a favourite song from the album and why?
EB: This is Christmas music, and it’s something you live with your entire life. So, many years to think about my favourite songs that I’d love to do. It was not difficult to pick the songs; I picked everything I wanted to record and I always wanted to record. My favourite song is probably “Somewhere in My Memory,” which is from the soundtrack of the movie Home Alone. That’s because the movie came out when I was a kid, and so I loved that movie. So, here I am as an adult getting to live my home alone fantasy by playing a song from the soundtrack.
TSM: You mention that the songs are inspired by childhood memories of holidays in the past. Can you share one of your memories with us?
EB: My grandmother’s Italian and she has the biscotti cookies. She’s from a tiny island Ischia, off the coast of Italy. She would make these biscotti that tasted nothing like what you can get here in the states. They were very rich-flavoured cookies, and so I grew up with here making these, and I loved them so much. Now I make them, as I got my grandmother’s recipe, and it’s handwritten out from like the 1950’s. One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to now make my grandmother’s recipe of Christmas biscotti.
TSM: When did you get into singing?
EB: When I was a teenager, and I grew up singing as a kid. I remember as a kid being proud I can sing loudly. I really enjoyed it, I think that is kind of what it was. Then as a teenager, that’s when I really started to enjoy it. I think it relates to the violin in a way because the violin is the instrument that is supposed to be the most like the human voice. So, in a way the two speak to each other. When I’m playing the violin, I kind of think out vocal phrasing, and vice versa.
TSM: What is one of your most memorable venues you’ve performed at and why?
EB: With my group, Well-Strung, we performed at the United States Embassy in Russia in Moscow two years ago. It was for all these diplomats from all over the world, and it was televised; that was really cool. I so enjoyed, literally the room was all across the world. It was wonderful getting to perform and share music, and meet and chat with everybody afterwards. That was a very special performance.
TSM: Who are your major music influences?
EB: Recently, with this album, I think I’d look back to more classic sounds. Bing Crosby was certainly in my mind when recording this classic Christmas music. I love all influences: Justin Beiber, Rihanna, Broadway; that’s a huge influence for me. I like Steven Sondheim; I love that contemporary, orchestral sound. Plus film composer, John Williams, he wrote the score to Home Alone.
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
EB: Ending Covid would certainly be one. More than anything, and certainly here in the United States, our country is so at odds right now. The issues are very black and white. If I had any power, just be to let people be able to speak to each other a little more clearly, and see each other’s side just a little bit more.
TSM: What is one of your favourite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
EB: My manager actually told me this, and the sound is kind of businessy, but I think it actually has more life implications. He said, “Always ask for what you want.” I don’t think it necessarily means a greedy thing, I think just be honest with who you are and if you’re honest with others about what you want, I think it will get you to a better place, and have people see you more clearly. I always thought that was good life advice, and I try to think about that as opposed to being wishy washy with intentions.
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can readers find out more about you and your music?
EB: I will be releasing a music video on November 20 for my first single, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I will also be releasing some other videos in December, and I will be sharing my grandmother’s biscotti recipe on my YouTube page. I love these cookies so much that I want to get this recipe out there.
Instagram is a great place where people can find me: @edmund_bagnell
TSM: Thank you so much again for doing the interview.
EB: Thank you so much for chatting with me.