Its that time of year again, Valentine’s Day. The month of LOVE has arrived. What better way to get us into the mood, than to talk about one of my most favorite musicians/song writers of all time... Jim Brickman. Who is Jim Brickman? You may have heard many of his songs without even realizing whom the genius writer/pianist was. If “Valentine,” “Love of My Life,” “Beautiful,” or “The Love I Found In You” sound familiar to you, you’ve just reminisced a few of the top billboard hits which this musician humbly takes under his musical belt.
Personally, Brickman’s music is the first of its kind (mostly instrumental, with very few vocals) to move me the way it does … I have used his music to escape (“Escape,” ironically is the title of one of his latest CD’s), to relax, and simply get into a state of mind of serenity and of peace. Although I’m sure many of these pianists have trained with classical music, I am one of those who can only handle so much classical pieces before I mentally “tune out.” Those close to me know, I can play a Brickman CD OVER AND OVER again, and not tire of it. It holds such a personal place in my heart that I played it when I was pregnant with my son, and when he was born, its all he would listen to until he turned about six months old. Those who know me, attest that he would cry if I changed the musical selection from Brickman’s “Picture This” album to anything else. It was strange but funny. I tried classical, I tried other pianists, but only Brickman’s harmonies would soothe and calm my son. My son has had the love for Brickman’s music from birth, so to speak, and ironically, Jim’s own love for music started at a young age. Said Brickman of his start of his love for music, “I started playing the piano when I was about five years old, and it just came naturally to me. I don’t come from a musical family, so I guess it really was the passion coming from within. Its always been that way with me.” I was inspired after hearing this and asked Jim what his formal training regimen consisted of. “I had traditional piano lessons from a lady down the street until about age 12. Then (we) found an amazing teacher who really understood me. That’s when I started to find my voice, and became interested in songwriting,” recollects Brickman. What gets me is no matter what type of flair and genre his music flows into, it always maintains the qualities of being simple--calming, yet passionate, and classy. I asked Brickman how he does that. He graciously responded, “Thank you! That’s what I strive for in my music. A simplicity that allows the listener to take their own message from the music. I never think about what style I’m writing, I only think about what inspires me at the time. Sometimes, it’s a feeling inside, sometimes, its an observation of a place, a picture, a relationship . . . all kinds of parts of life are inspiring,” comments Brickman.
Thus I found it an honor to be able to meet Jim at an exclusive “Breakfast with Brickman” event hosted by Roadrunner’s brand new Music Hall and KSSK, as well as attend his concert in Honolulu, two years in a row. Last year was my first experience getting to watch him in person. LET ME WARN YOU NOW! As he says in his show, make sure you go with someone you like, better yet, LOVE! The tone, mood, and music will make you fall in love, or for those who know what its like, fall in love ALL OVER AGAIN. My boyfriend, the skeptic, is a die-hard Elvis Presley, rock and roll, 80’s fanatic. Prior to going last year, I know he was hesitant. But only up until he heard Brickman play. He was simply blown away, and became an instant fan. I thought, okay, well he went ONCE, but he won’t go again … nope, it was HIS idea this year, as well as a wonderful Christmas present to me from him, for us to again go to Jim’s concert at the Blaisdell.
Enough about me. Concert night. What surprises me about Brickman’s concerts are the energy from ONE PERSON! Not only is Brickman entertaining and funny, but surprisingly very down to earth and so conversational … it feels like what we call in Hawaii, “Backyard” style music, but yet more intimate, romantic, and because concerts are in the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall, sounded with the best acoustics. Brickman also cannot feign his genuine love for our state, and expresses his love for the people of Hawaii as well as the state as a whole, every chance he gets. When asked about this love for the islands, Brickman said, “There’s something about the culture in Hawaii that seems to really connect with my music. I’ve always had the best audiences of any place on the planet. The emotion, the enthusiasm, the romance. I love to play here and visit.”
This year, he brought to Honolulu one of his personal best friends and long-time musical partners, Anne Cochran. She wasn’t at last year’s concert, but I have always enjoyed her singing. I loved her voice the first time I heard it; think a strong, solid, raspy voice, in the likes of Sarah McLaughlin and Enya. Then add a feminine softness to it, within the likes of Jewel, and you’ve got what sounds like Anne Cochran. Cochran, a friend of Brickman’s from their high school days, now tours the world with him and his entourage, which includes a young but very talented and spectacular violinist, David Klinkenberg. Brickman compares the style of Klinkenberg’s playing to “Led Zepplin meets River dance.” The harmonies present when Klinkenberg accompanies Jim’s music, and add to that, vocals, give me pure chicken skin, and makes me fortunate to have been witness to such beautiful music. Choices of Brickman’s, whether of his musical partners, or song selections on concert night, were excellent, and he played new selections, popular songs, and old favorites, including his own personal favorite, “Angel Eyes.” I asked for the story behind that song. “It was the first song that people came to know of mine. Its simple, emotional, and I think defines what my music is like. I never had any idea that the song would become as popular as it has. The melody just came to me one day, very quickly, and feels really comfortable to play,” said Brickman.
One thing I’ve noticed that Brickman also does admiringly, is to highlight local talent. Last year he brought local talent Shawna Masuda up on stage during his concert, to accompany him on vocals, and it stunned Hawaii’s audiences who didn’t know who she was, including myself. Little did I know she was an aspiring and very accomplished young woman, who had already starred in several local productions, including “Miss Saigon.”
This year, he brought to stage, Hawaii’s own Jordan Segundo. Because I hadn’t seen Segundo’s performances since his days on “American Idol,” I was very impressed to see how polished his performance was. His vocal talents have truly blossomed and it was a refreshing change to Brickman’s show. He even performed one of my most favorite Brickman songs, “Beautiful,” which I absolutely love, because its original arrangement features Wayne Brady and his awesome voice. I braced for disappointment, as most of us do when you hear someone else sing one of our favorite songs. Again, Segundo’s talents surprised me, and I was pleased to hear a very beautiful rendition of one of my favorite Brickman pieces. In my opinion, artists fortunate enough to work with Brickman can know that they have truly been hand selected by a very talented musician and song-writer. I was curious to know Brickman’s reasoning behind choosing the accompanying artists to his beautiful pieces. “I choose the artists. Sometimes, a vocal icon like Donny Osmond, or Olivia Newton-John, Carly Simon, and other times people I discover. The voice is a very important aspect of bringing my songs to life. It has to feel right, and I have to have some connection to the vocalist. Either a friendship or a musical relationship,” states Brickman.
Relationships for Brickman, have seemed to evolve into whatever he touches, turns to musical gold. One of my most favorite albums of Brickman’s, is his Disney Collection. He was asked by Disney to arrange older songs, and to write original pieces, into a compilation of his very favorite Disney songs. The result? Phenomenal. Not only will this album bring every single person back to their childhood and transform serious thinkers, doctors, executives, into daydreamers, but remind you that all of us still live with that child within. Says Brickman, “The Disney album came at a great time in my career. Because I had written 12 albums of original music by then, and wanted to take a break from writing, and just interpret other music I liked . . . just for one album. I enjoyed paying tribute to the legacy of Walt Disney and what he created.”
In addition to the legacy Brickman has already created for himself, he continues to take part in many projects near and dear to him. For 11 years he has had a radio show, which is broadcasted locally on 92.3 KSSK FM, called “Your weekend with Jim Brickman,” which includes celebrity interviews, entertainment reports, and many other lifestyle segments which you won’t find on any other show. He’s busy doing that, as well as something he recently started, a “Valentine’s Day Cruise” which offers cruise-goers the opportunity to experience romance aboard the most beautiful settings. “I wanted to have an experience with the audience that was very intimate. Over the years I’ve been so lucky to have a core audience that has remained very loyal. It’s a way to have a special experience that’s unlike the concerts. Also, my family goes on the cruise, so it’s a great time to work, play and relax,” says Brickman. This year’s cruise went to the Mexican Riviera. Can you imagine seven days in paradise with the world’s “New Romantic Piano Sensation?” (Brickman’s self-dubbed name for himself)
So with all this newfound knowledge about one of my favorite musicians, I knew that with the kind of driven person Brickman was, there were probably many stones left unturned that he still wanted to explore. Sure enough, Brickman gleefully responded, “I want to work on music to heal. Music to comfort . . . people’s lives are so hectic, I love to provide the soundtrack for relaxation and opening the mind . . . oh, and I’d love to write a Broadway show.”
Thus, with a future of unlimited potential, a current crazy schedule, touring city after city, I wanted to know how someone whose music relaxes, found any time to relax himself. He semi-realized how crazy his schedule really is! “Wow, yes for a guy who inspires relaxation, I am kinda busy, but I love to be challenged. The radio show allows me to talk to others on the other side of the mic. The books allow me to speak through words and not melody. The concerts allow me to be a performer and share my music live. They’re all things I love to do,” says Brickman. Well lucky for us, that this busybody and musical genius loves to do those things, because I don’t think I could ever get enough, of the talented works of Jim Brickman.