Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jim Brickman: America's Romantic Piano Master - The Interview

 
Jim Brickman is a two-time Grammy nominated songwriter and pianist with six gold and platinum
albums to his credit. He has worked with some of the most successful music artists of our time
and he hosts a weekly radio program, Your Weekend with Jim Brickman. He is currently on tour with his annual Christmas show which features music from his latest studio album, The Magic of Christmas.   

The 17th annual Holiday Tour is taking you through much of the Midwest. You will be in the Chicago area on November 30.  What's the best aspect of the annual tour?

Besides the music, the audience gets a feeling of family. They are part of the celebration, it’s not like they just sit and enjoy the show.  They come away with a very festive, yet intimate experience.
What are your favorite Christmas songs? Carols?

I love the hymns and old carols, because they were actually written by the masters. I love more modern songs that really create a visual experience, like the lyrics ”Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and “ I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and of course, my songs!
Do you think we could ever get to a point where "newer" songs become classics like the ones we have been listening to for generations and in some cases hundreds of years?

Of course!  These songs are playing for a whole new generation of listeners who are starting their own traditions.  New songs as well as old classics will be associated with the memories they are making.
Do you have a couple of unique family holiday traditions?

Well, I’m on tour throughout the holiday season, so the singers and crew become one big family.  We decorate the tour bus with Christmas lights and go out for a nice dinner before we break for Christmas.  Our unique tradition would be the “Secret Santa” gift exchange.  We pick names at the beginning of the tour and try to fit in some shopping in the cities along the route.  The gifts are often quite original!
Working with Johnny Mathis and Sandi Patty must be beyond rewarding.  One is a legendary singer who has been active in the music industry for over 50 years and the other is one of the premiere Christian vocalists of all time. Share the experience of working with them.
On the current album, "The Magic of Christmas," Johnny Mathis, Sandi Patty and Megan Hilty brought a sensibility to the music that was unique to each of them.  Johnny’s voice and legendary sound gave “Sending You A Little Christmas” a new and inimitable message.  I found him so interesting to work with. He was very eager to talk about the significance of the song and his interpretation.  The final result is pure Johnny Mathis and I am so pleased.   Sandi and Megan each gave beautiful performances that added magic to the collection.
Your 20th anniversary is being kicked off in early January, 2014. What are some of the most notable of lessons learned from your career to this point?

I guess I’m just really hands on and have remained involved in every aspect of my career. Even after 20 years, I can’t let go of that.  I’ve always relied on myself to initiate ideas both musically and in business.  I am still surrounded by good friends who have worked with me from the start.  
You recorded Sending You A Little Christmas at Capitol records. I walked through the building a few years ago and was overwhelmed at every corner. Frank Sinatra. Dean Martin. The Beach Boys. The Beatles. Peggy Lee. Bob Seger and so many others at one time or another recorded for Capitol. Tell us about that experience.  Johnny Mercer's storied founding and history is worth discussing all alone.
If the walls could talk . . .  I walked in and thought “Wow, I’m recording my music in this studio that I’ve seen in pictures ever since I can remember.”   I could just feel the presence of the “greats” who recorded there and was hoping some of their brilliance would rub off on me.  It was truly a “pinch me” moment.
You have worked with a wide array of gifted musical artists, including Martina McBride, Michael W. Smith, Donny Osmond, Kenny Loggins and Lady Antebellum.  What leads you to working with another artist? What's the inspiration usually for the collaboration?

I’ve pursued artists whose work and style I admired but were not known for singing adult contemporary ballads.  I thought that combining musical styles would be an interesting mix.  My intention was to create something new style-wise bringing a different slant to the traditional Adult Contemporary ballad.  For instance, Martina McBride was a relatively new country artist.  I liked her sound and invited her to try “Valentine.”  The combination was successful and I’ve continued to collaborate and use Adult Contemporary, Christian, Country and some ‘soon-to-be discovered” artists.
Who is the dream musical partnership for you?  Living and deceased?
Plain and simple, I would love to hear Karen Carpenter’s incredible voice singing my songs.    
 
You've written commercial ad music for some major companies and organizations.  Do you still write commercial ads?

No, but once in a while I get notification that my music has been used for a commercial or on an NFL tribute.

How did you get into radio? What motivated that decision?
I’m a naturally curious person. I was being interviewed so many times I thought it would be cool to ask my own questions.  So, when the opportunity was presented to me to host a music show, I jumped at it! 
PBS. Without PBS we would be lacking almost all music on television. Their recent Great Performances celebrating their 40th anniversary was wonderful. How did the connection happen for you? Are you working on something with PBS now? 

I’m a strong supporter of PBS and I'm happy to be associated with them over the years. After my success with “Rocket To The Moon” and “Valentine,” working with PBS was the perfect combination of support for them and reaching new audiences.  Earlier this year we filmed Jim Brickman’s Celebration of the 70’s which will be shown on PBS stations in 2014.   

Who are your favorite musical artists of all-time?
The Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Carole King,
Which artists influenced you the most?
Peter Allen, Burt Bacharach and Hal David as writers.
Best pianist of all-time?
George Gershwin was an incredible pianist, but an equally talented writer.


Jim, thanks so much for spending a bit of your time with Chicago and Then Some. Please visit his site to check out his tour schedule. www.jimbrickman.com  Merry Christmas!
 
 
Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2013