A Piano-Heaven Interview With:

Wayne Gratz

 

 

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It's around twenty years ago that Orlando-based pianist Wayne Gratz released his debut album on the Narada label. In 2002, Wayne began releasing his music on his own record label, Wayne Gratz Music, and has recently released his fourth independent CD, Light, Lands and Shorelines. Born in 1954 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Wayne began playing the piano at the age of six, and soon took up guitar as well. He returned to the piano in his teenage years, and has enjoyed a highly successful career as a pianist. Wayne kindly took time out from promoting his twenty-second album to answer some questions for Piano-Heaven.

Enjoy the interview...

 

S.C. Congratulations, Wayne, on your new CD, Light, Lands and Shoreline, which I am really enjoying. You've marked its release by holding a concert in an historic church hall- can you tell us a little more about the concert and how it went?

W.G. Actually, the first concert I performed with the Kinkade DVD was at St Peter’s Church in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. We projected the DVD on a big screen while I played the soundtrack on a beautiful Steinway piano. We had a really good turnout and the concept of big screen art and live music was very well received.

You've been a prolific composer over the years (22 CDs since 1989!), but this is the first time I think you've collaborated with someone else to such an extent. How did the partnership come about? Have you always been interested in Art, particularly that of Thomas Kinkade?

Kyra, my fiancé and business partner, has a family friend that is connected to the company Galleryplayer. Galleryplayer produced the Kinkade DVD and thought my musical style would go well with art. I had been somewhat familiar with the art, and I had heard of Thomas Kinkade. Galleryplayer sent me some of the artwork and I found it very easy to compose to.

What approach did you take to composing the music for the album? Was it a case of studying the paintings in minute detail and composing note by note, or was it more a case of getting a feel for a particular piece of art and then letting the creative juices do their job? Are you a pianist who works tirelessly on a composition over and over again until you get it "just right" in your mind, or are you someone who goes with the flow in true improvisational style?

I would find a melody and a mood that would fit a certain painting, and then I would improvise around the melody while recording. Probably sixty percent of the album is improvisation. I don’t think I’ve ever worked tirelessly on a composition. I always like to just let the music flow through me. Many times, I actually have to go back and learn what I have written.

Water seems to feature heavily in Kinkade's work, and, having looked at your track titles over the years, water is also something that you seem to have been inspired by in your compositions- agreed? (I see you're a fisherman....) I guess water and the piano are made for one another. Nature themes feature heavily in your work- do you find it a source of inspiration?

As I’m sitting here answering your questions, I am at the ocean’s edge. Water, especially the ocean, has always been an inspiration to me. For example, last night I was on the beach fishing in the middle of a thunderstorm.... a little crazy I guess. I rely heavily on nature for my inspiration. (Readers might be interested to know that fellow Narada artist Michael Gettel's famous "Summer Rain" composition from San Juan Suite was composed whilst in a boat during a terrific thunderstorm).

For the true piano-lovers out there, what piano and keyboards do you use in this album? I know you record your music in your own studio- can you tell us about what facilities it has to offer?

I have a Yamaha C7 grand piano in my home studio. I also use a Yamaha s90 and a Korg Trinity for background synthesizer orchestrations. I have a digital recording suite with Pro Tools recording software.

You released your first album for Narada way back in 1989. How did that come about? How times have changed! Since the demise of Narada, you've set up your own label to release your music. Do you prefer it that way? Why do you think the two premier New Age labels (Narada and Windham Hill) ceased trading almost at identical times after so long in the business? Was it something you were anticipating?

My record deal with Narada came about after I sent them a demo of three songs. They had shown a big interest and asked me to send more songs to review. After about twelve songs, they decided to sign me. At this point, I enjoy having my own label. Kyra and I have been working very hard to get established and just like any business, the success we achieve will be from our own hard work. I don’t know what happened to the New Age market, it seemed to have just stopped. In the music business, it’s always day to day.

Simple question in relation to music. The Internet: friend or foe?

FRIEND.

These are challenging times in the music industry. As someone with a huge amount of experience in the area, is it something we just have to accept and go along with, or are there steps that can be taken that might help to restore the New Age genre in particular back to its big-selling days of the 1980s?

There are so many people that have yet to be touched by the power of “New Age” music. I think the term “New Age” has to be re-defined. The people at the last couple of concerts I played truly felt like they were hearing something fresh, brand new and uplifting. I think ”New Age Music” has to be demonstrated, people have to experience the music, not the term.

The Narada roster was simply outstanding. Along with your good self, there was Michael Jones, Spencer Brewer, Michael Gettel, David Lanz and Kostia. Everyone had their own individual style. I'm intrigued as to the set-up- did you all work entirely independently with little or no contact between yourselves, or did you get together and bounce ideas off one another? Do you still keep in touch with any of your fellow artists? And whatever became of the wonderful Kostia?

We all worked independently. I met David Lanz for the first time last year when we did a concert together in Atlanta with Whisperings Solo Piano Radio founder David Nevue. I also met Kostia at a Narada concert in 1993. The last I heard, Kostia moved back to St. Petersburg.

Let's go right back to the beginning. Did you come from a musical background? When did you begin piano lessons and when did you start composing your own music? How did you get your first "break"?

I didn’t really come from a musical background. My Mother played piano a little bit, however, both my Mother and Father were very supportive. When I was five, they recognized my musical aspirations. I was six years old when they bought me a piano and I started taking piano lessons. I was about sixteen when I began improvising and composing music. Regarding the first “break”, I believe it is all relative.

As I mentioned in my review, there always seems to be one outstanding track on each of your albums, and each album is full of highlights! For me, The Windows Glow is the overall winner from your latest album. When you're composing, do you get a sense of which track is going to be the most popular, or are you sometimes surprised by your listeners' response? (I am a huge fan of Traveller!)

I’ve never really had a sense of the “hit song” on any of my albums. That’s up to the listeners.

And finally, Wayne... what next? I'm amazed that Narada never released a compilation of your work (perhaps they'd still be in business if they had!) I recall visiting your web-site several months ago and seeing a compilation CD advertised with "bridge" in the title- are you still hoping to release that?

Thanks, that is a huge compliment! A Walk Across the Bridge is still a work in (legal)* progress. I hope to be able to release it in the near future.

 

* My relationship with Narada has been a good one. Through the years, they have inspired me to write more music then I could have ever imagined. All the people at the label were truly genuine and always had the best interest of the music in mind.

Thank you, Wayne, and I wish you continued success with Light, Lands and Shoreline.

Thank you!!! Great questions!

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAYNE GRATZ: Light, Lands and Shoreline

 

Read the Piano-Heaven review of Wayne Gratz's

Light, Lands and Shoreline

here

 

 

 

 

Wayne Gratz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist of the Month: Wayne Gratz ...

 

 

 

 

 

More Information

Wayne Gratz's Website

 

Light, Lands and Shoreline Website

Purchase Wayne Gratz CDs from CD Baby