There may be no other current music artist who can match Jim Brickman when it comes to the pace of his recording career.
The pianist will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 20, at the J.S. Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans. Tickets are $57 and $62 from (706) 726-0366 and augustaamusements.com.
Since leaving his original label Windham Hill in 2004, he has routinely released two or more albums a year. Along the way, he’s forged alliances with a number of major retailers (Target being perhaps the most notable), to sell his CDs.
In 2014, he added three albums to his catalog. Piano Inspirations featured instrumental versions of a set of original songs. Timeless was a collection of classic cover songs that influenced Brickman’s own musical path. Then came a holiday album, On A Winter’s Night: The Songs and Spirit of Christmas, the seventh holiday release of his 20-year career.
Often, Brickman says, certain recording projects happen simply because a retailer approaches him with an idea for an album. That’s what happened with On A Winter’s Night. He had released a holiday CD, The Magic of Christmas, in 2013 and wasn’t planning to do another Christmas album so soon. But the opportunity to do On A Winter’s Night was too good to pass up.
“I was approached by Amazon to do this,” Brickman said in a recent phone interview. “For so many years, we’ve been doing the Target exclusives. I mean, Target has been amazing to me and they still continue to be, but I felt like if you weren’t shopping at Target or if you weren’t there or didn’t have one near you, you might not be able to get the album. Amazon approached me and said we think you’re missing a whole group of people who don’t even know you have a Christmas album because they don’t shop at Target and they can’t get it. So I thought, wow, that’s a really good point, and it might open up that whole aspect. The other thing is that it’s a digital and physical (release), whereas with Target there is only one option (a physical CD). So I thought it was a nice opportunity.”
Brickman has already released his first album of 2015. It’s a collection of songs with a romantic theme that was released ahead of Valentine’s Day. Called Pure Romance, it found the pianist interpreting familiar songs like Sting’s Fields of Gold, Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love and Sarah McLachlan’s I Will Remember You, interspersed with a few Brickman originals, such as The Gift and Valentine.
It’s a good bet Brickman fans won’t have to wait long for more new music. That next album might well be the first installment in the most ambitious project Brickman has tackled.
Over the years, Brickman has found that many of his fans play his albums to relax or to feel soothed. So he started thinking about an album called Soothe, and the concept grew beyond just a single album project. Brickman said he could see creating music that could provide a soothing soundtrack for a variety of activities, such as yoga or exercise.
He won’t be the first musician to make music to accompany such activities, but Brickman saw an opportunity to raise the bar on the quality of the albums that so far have filled this niche.
“It’s going to be a complete series and collection,” Brickman said. “The music in that category, for meditation, yoga, these types of things, in my view, is consistently inconsistent, meaning that the quality of them is all over the place.
“So it’s going to be Soothe for Sleep, Soothe for Massage, Soothe for Workout,” he said. “And it will have a series of different types of things, but in a quality way, all based around the piano, but with beautiful sounds and not fakey, you know, boxed sounds. There may be some birds chirping here or there or oceans possibly, but not a lot of that sort of thing. It’s an opportunity for me to do a really quality of version of some things that a lot of people kind of (record) just in their basements and then call it massage music. I feel like they can be done in a better quality.”
As he continued to conceptualize the Soothe series, Brickman began to expand his thoughts to a different medium – the written word – after he realized there was a certain irony to the fact that his gentle piano music is known for its soothing qualities.
“I’m known for being soothing and for soothing other people, but I’m not really that soothed of a person,” Brickman said. “So I started to journal a little bit about the irony of this whole thing and how I’m kind of a little neurotic. I can be very type A and this kind of thing, but inside obviously, this music is coming from somewhere to soothe other people.
“So I started writing a very kind of light-hearted couple of chapters about how to soothe a little bit for my life, not in any sort of really ridiculous transformational way, but things that were easier to do, how to sleep better, how to eat better, how to feel less tired, all the stuff that everybody is challenged with these days.”
Rodale Press liked the idea and a Soothe book written by Brickman may be published as soon as this April.
It makes sense that Brickman is able to view his music in terms of how it’s used by listeners.
Before starting his career as a recording artist, he spent a dozen years writing jingles for commercials for McDonald’s, AT&T, Kellogg’s and other high-profile companies. In advertising, music is created for a purpose – to help communicate the benefits or the image of a product or company.
But while Brickman showed a talent for writing music for advertising, he eventually started to feel the pull to write and perform original music.
In the early 1990s, he put together a demo of his solo piano songs and was signed by new age label Windham Hill.
Brickman’s gentle and pretty music quickly registered with adult contemporary radio, as his first CD, No Words (1994), featured the single, Rocket To The Moon, while his follow-up, By Heart (1995), charted three more singles, including his first No. 1, the instrumental Angel Eyes.
Today, his catalog includes some 30 singles that have cracked the top 40 on Billboard magazine’s adult contemporary chart – including 14 top 10 hits. His album sales have now topped seven million.
In between album projects, Brickman maintains a steady touring schedule. His current tour continues through March, and another short run of shows is on the books for May.
For his shows this winter, Brickman said songs from Timeless will be a featured part of his set.
“I think it’s a really beautiful record, and I love to interpret some of the great songs that have been written before my time,” he said.
While Brickman often tours with another musician or two – singer Anne Cochran and violinist Tracy Silverman have been regulars on his holiday tours – his winter run will mostly be solo piano shows. Brickman said he has come to enjoy the atmosphere he can create in this setting.
“I’m doing more of a really intimate thing that has been so much fun to do, where it’s just me and the piano,” he said. “That’s been fantastic. I just love doing that.”