Does it get any better than this for Jim Brickman fans?
“America’s New Romantic Piano Sensation” (the facetious nickname the popular national pianist/songwriter/radio host jokingly bestowed on himself) performs in Pittsburgh on – wait for this! – Valentine’s Day!
The Cleveland resident sends this message to local residents: “I love coming to Pittsburgh. Please join us to celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Byham Theater. I can promise you’ll leave with a smile!”
Brickman is billed as the best-selling solo pianist of our time, earning 21 number one albums and 32 Top 20 radio singles in the industry bible, Billboard Magazine.”
Such songs as “Angel Eyes,” “Valentine,” “If You Believe,” “Love of My Life,” “Simple Things” and “The Gift” have taken him into the White House, Carnegie Hall and the worldwide stage.
He has been nominated for two Grammy nominations, Gospel music’s Dove Award, two SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers) songwriter of the year awards, and the Canadian Country Music Award.
His recorded collaborations have crossed genres to feature artists such as Martina McBride, Carly Simon, Lady Antebellum, Michael W. Smith, Herb Alpert, Michael Bolton, Donny Osmond, Kenny Rogers, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Loggins, Jane Krakowski, many country, RB, Broadway, pop and jazz musicians.
Still, the question must be asked: Is the Valentine’s Day season like the Super Bowl for America’s New Romantic Piano Sensation?
“Yes, it is, without the wings and commercials,” says Brickman. “It’s the pinnacle of romance. So friends and lovers want a soundtrack to help them celebrate. I’m happy to oblige.”
Brickman’s gentle, soothing approach on the keyboards, his humorous and serious observations and interaction with longtime friend, fine vocalist Anne Cochran, also from Cleveland, always make for a charming, relaxing evening.
A romantic vibe
The vibe definitely leans to the romantic at his Valentine’s Day concerts, he says, “but it really is about sharing the love of family, friends and anyone you care about.”
He says the audience interprets his music to fit their mood and situation. “So songs I’d never expect to be “their song” sometimes surprise me. At the concert, they will hear the hits and the songs that help share the love,” he promises.
Because many of his compositions have no words, Brickman says they allow his audience to fit the music to how they feel.
“Calm, escape, peace, spirituality and, of course, romance are all the elements that can be interpreted depending on what the listener wants to hear,” he explains.
Regardless of the season in which someone hears him play, Brickman suggests, “Be prepared to let the music take you wherever you want to go.”
“I think the most unexpected thing is the light-hearted fun we have,” he says. “People say they laugh and cry, but for all the right reasons. My guests provide a wonderful compliment to both.”
Asked to assess his artistic strengths, Brickman says that first and foremost he is a songwriter. “I look for a strong melody line in the music I write. If I can’t remember it, I can’t expect anyone else to. I never expected to be a performer but I do enjoy sharing my music,” he says.
He uses the term “Brickman-izing” to describe his interpretation of other artists’ music, anthems and Christmas carols.
“If they have a very basic melody line, I add my left hand accompaniment to the sound,” he explains. “The melody will still stand out, but the lush Brickman sound will embellish it.”
This is the 25th anniversary of the launch of his recording career and he will have some new music to celebrate.
A first for the artist
“After much insistence and encouragement, I’m recording a CD of me singing my songs,” Brickman says.
Still to be checked off on his bucket list is a musical. “I’d like to write one. I started out at 15 playing piano at a youth theater in Cleveland. I’d love to go back to those roots and write for the stage,” he says.
Ongoing is his very popular “Soothe” projects, designed to help people relax and find an occasional calming escape, including an album and book that bear those titles.
“Listeners have taken their CDs to places like yoga, massages and even to the hospital. College students tell me it gets them through all-nighters. I kind of wish it was around when I was in school,” he says.
He finds fresh motivation and satisfaction from the opportunity to work with artists outside the music industry.
“That is very rewarding, and The Brickman Bootcamp for Songwriters encourages would-be writers and teaches the craft from the inside out,” he says. “We cover everything from creative inspiration to having their songs published and performed. After the last Bootcamp, I was so motivated I wrote three new songs.”
The Jim Brickman Show
“I love the radio show. My co-hosts are a ‘Gen X-er,’ a “Millennial” and me, the ‘Baby Boomer.’ We approach topics from very different perspectives,” he says. “The guest interviews are always fun and interesting. I’m very particular about who’s on. If I’m not interested, how can I expect the listeners to be?”
He takes pleasure at the manner in which instrumental music seems to have found renewed popularity.
“Just look at the number of Pandora stations that are strictly instrumental. They aren’t necessarily orchestral compositions, but the number of solo artists, piano, strings and synthesizer are definitely on the rise and well received,” he says.
Jim Brickman is a standout among them.
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review