of the things I like best about Exposure
is the effort that has gone into the
presentation of the CD- i.e. it feels like a
complete package- so much more than just the
music. The poems, pictures and stories
contained within the sleeve-notes; you could
so easily have just done a basic insert, but
you chose not to. Why?
genuinely appreciate you noticing those
details, Stephen. Our team devoted lots of
love to the presentation of Exposure.
I kept on saying this can't be your typical
new age / easy listening record with cliché
titles (at least they were to me) with
titles that are ill-inspired or simply way
too obvious- more importantly, how many
times do we see a forest, a river, a stream,
clouds, waterfalls on the cover of these
nature- we all need nature, we are living,
breathing organic beings. My story is that I
am a city boy who still bleeds and requires
the same solace and peace as do those who
live in the country and wilderness. We opted
to juxtapose the melancholic-organic-sensual
music with the film-noir, urban, concrete
elements city life offers us. A brilliant
photographer by the name of Per Kristiansen
shot all the abstract photos here in
downtown Toronto after the album was
completed, and I had provided him with the
titles and poems. The poems are simply
abstracts and innuendos that accompany the
inspiration behind the music.
a prodigious passion for great design. Since
the death of the LP, which provided the
visual artist with a bigger canvas for
artwork, I feel album art has suffered
because of the reduced canvas size on a CD.
Therefore, we wanted to give our audience
something tactile, something to hold, touch
and feel, similar to a mini coffee-table
book. The booklet will hopefully arouse
discussion over the abstract meanings behind
the songs- which I won't bore you with at
please do! Please do! I am sure readers of
this are equally intrigued as I am...
perhaps you could expand another time. Can
you tell us a little about your musical
background- was it a musical one? When did
you start playing the piano? Did you receive
formal training? Did you compose your own
music? When was your first break? Do you
play any other instruments?
started playing the piano at the age of
three. I come from a musical family. My
mother and brother are both pianists, and I
was fortunate to grow up in a musically
nourishing environment. I am a classically
trained pianist-musician (The Royal
Conservatory- pictured right- and the
University of Western Ontario). I started to
"really" compose music around the age of ten
when I understood the relationship between
the notes and harmony. It is hard to define
my "first break". I have had remarkable
encouragement from a very early age, from
three great mentors: Oscar Peterson, André
Gagnon and David Foster. I signed with Sony
/ ATV Music Publishing when I was 22 years
old, from then I became a staff songwriter,
session player, producer, arranger and
conductor with members of the Toronto
Symphony Orchestra. Co-writing with Aldo
Nova Céline Dion's "A New Day Has Come"
changed everything for me. This led to
wonderful collaborations with the likes of
Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban, Olivia
many instruments which help with my
knowledge of orchestration and song-writing.
However, I am master of only one- the piano
There are a lot of piano lovers who visit
Piano-Heaven. I know you record on Yamaha
pianos, but for the purists amongst us, can
you tell us specifically what type of piano
you used for Exposure?
Exposure was recorded entirely on my
custom-built Yamaha C7 Concert Collection
Grand Disklavier Pro Piano (pictured right),
maintained by my wonderful piano technician,
Wayne H. Ferguson.
if any, were / are your musical influences?
Whom do you enjoy listening to when you have
a moment of peace?
Debussy, Satie, Ravel, Chopin, Ralph Vaughan
Williams, Nick Drake, Oscar Peterson, Bill
Evans, George Gershwin, Kanye West, Thomas
Newman, Puccini, Joni Mitchell, Mozart, John
Williams, Bach, Yo-Yo Ma, Glenn Gould,
Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Herrmann, George
Winston, Seal, Madonna, Burt Bacharach,
Moby, Eminem, Mahler, Fauré, Keith Jarrett,
to listen to classical music when I chill.
However, I will most often juxtapose my
current project with something extreme,
particularly when I am completely drenched
and fried after 12-14 hours of recording.
For example, if I am working and recording
an album like Exposure, I may listen
to a rap record like Mos Def to cleanse my
palette and come back to my art clean the
next day, unaffected by something that would
sound too close to the style I am working
find it fascinating that your album (and
most deservedly so) has been doing so well
in the current climate where CD sales are
falling, and record stores are closing left,
right and centre. Your album seems to be
bucking the trend. I'm not sure how to
categorise your music, or indeed if you
would want your music labeled in such a way.
New Age? Contemporary Instrumental?
Certainly the New Age genre has suffered
greatly from its peak in the 1980s. Why do
you think this is? What can be done to
reverse the trend?
important to note that this album has been
entirely funded by myself and James (my
manager)- where our passion for solo piano
music brought us both together sixteen years
ago. We both recognised early on that we
were the only two people who had the passion
to drive this record to the right audience.
No one understood in the beginning that a
solo piano could surpass some of the biggest
acts in Pop Music in the charts. James and I
have known this all along; we took a risk
and followed our gut. A remarkable feat is
that radio is not driving our success- it's
simply the music, the quality of the
recording, the presentation, live shows and
are volatile in the music industry- people
are unsure of things, afraid to commit,
afraid to spend- ironically we thought it
couldn't be a better time to swim against
those currents. I believe this is one of the
reasons why this recording stands out.
again, your observations are extremely
acute; we've been slotted everywhere from
Classical, to pop, to Roots, to New Age, to
Jazz.... I honestly don't care how they
categorise my music; I only care that it
reaches the people and that people are able
to find solace and a friendship in this
album- one that they can turn to for years
only offer my personal observations on why
the New Age genre may seem to have suffered.
The genre is too gentrified as of late- it
has been bothering me for quite some time.
There are many brilliant players, and sadly
they are lost among the many mediocre
recordings in this field- we'd be lying to
ourselves if we said this wasn't the case.
It's a shame, because New Age music at its
best, at the core, is a beautiful and
wondrous thing. Its purpose is to soothe,
heal, bring peace and solace, allow the
listener to escape to a more desirable
place. The internet has not helped control
this gentrification, and at the same time,
it has done extraordinary things to widen
lose control of things, we crash. We are
then forced to re-construct and re-build. I
believe great things are ahead of us with
instrumental music- it never left us- it
simply became cloudy. I am very excited of
what is to come!
intrigued by the track David's Whisper.
You seem to infer that David's spiritual
presence- a figure from the past- offered
you a guiding hand in the creative process
of writing the album. Can you tell us more
beside Michelangelo's ‘David’ (right)
in Florence, Italy, recently. I was swept
away by its beauty and elegance. I sat there
for hours in awe of this statue born from
the hands of this great artist called
experience re-adjusted my values
artistically- actually the entire Italian
trip did. I was fresh off the success of
A New Day Has Come, and I started to
think then that it would be possible to make
a solo piano recording- and make it
accessible to the people, to the world.
as if David was whispering to me that you
can do anything you want, "go record your
album!" I know, I know, I know, it does
sound trite and clichéd. However, I did not
expect David to ignite this feeling inside.
Hence, there was something very spiritual
and religious, almost out of body in that
doesn't sound at all trite to me. It's
almost as if this experience was the moment
of your calling- and the musical journey you
have since made has been your pilgrimage.
This intense personal experience has perhaps
helped you to compose your very best music.
Anyway, moving on, away from music, how do
hard to shut the brain off. I wish I knew
how to relax away from the piano.... playing
with my daughter brings me great joy.
Let's talk briefly about the creative
process. How does it work with you? Does a
tune tinkle away inside your head and then
you work on it at the piano? Are the tracks
improvisations? Are they tightly structured?
Do you work on them again and again until
you're satisfied with the finished product?
never ends, Stephen.... the music keeps
playing inside my head over and over and
over and over.... even though I am a
classical musician first, I am pre-wired
instinctively like a pop songwriter. My
composition process is rather raw; I don't
linger and self-indulge too long on
excessive stuff musically (it is the pop
arranger in me), not to be mistaken for
allowance or breathing room between notes.
Therefore, all the pieces on Exposure,
are a series of worked improvisations. I
improvise to get the organic pure natural
juice from the music, and then structure the
piece into some kind of form until it feels
right. The song Cadeau was a moment
of pure bliss; what you hear on the album,
is the actual moment it was dripping off my
fingers- luckily I had the Record button on!
finally.... has the success of Exposure
fired you into recording more original
material in the future? I hope the answer to
this question is "Yes!" What can we expect
next from you?
fervent YES Stephen!!!! Believe it or not, I
have almost two other albums recorded and
ready. Now that doesn't mean I am going to
necessarily release those particular pieces
anytime soon. Let's just say that I will
forever believe that there is a place for
sensual piano music.... I will never stop
recording this kind of music. Having said
that, I believe in evolution, I believe in
growth- I will leave a little room for
Excellent news, Stephan. I hope we don't
have to wait too long to hear this new
material. Thank you for such an insightful