Movements of The Heart...and an Invitation
- By Matthew Mayer, SoloPiano.com
On a chilly Saturday morning in December, I sit in my home office looking out the window to a calm, stoic Nebraska morning. A hot cup of coffee awaits me on the desk, its steam rising ever so peacefully before my eyes, as I take in the soothing piano sounds that fill the air.
David is considered a pioneer to the world of contemporary piano and new age music. To musicians in these genres, the name David Lanz is one you could fit in any conversation on the above topic, and some would say he is in a genre of his own.
An internationally acclaimed and platinum selling musician, Lanz hit the No. 1 Billboard Charts in 1988 with his song Cristofori’s Dream. This made history, topping Billboard Magazine’s first Adult Alternative/New Age chart (it stayed there for a consecutive 27 weeks). His name would be known around the world, and his music would inspire many for years to come.
David’s music has long been an ingredient in my own musical recipe, having been introduced to and inspired by it as a child. My mother had his albums in her collection along with the other well known standards ofGeorge Winston and Mannheim Steamroller, to name a few.
Now, on this December morning, and decades after first listening to his music, I am looking forward to speaking with the Grammy-nominated musician about his newest release, “Movements of the Heart.” I also am intrigued to get insight on David – the musician and the person.
The phone rings and I greet him. He replies with “Hey, Matt, it’s David. What’s up man?” I smile. My first impressions of this man would prove to be exactly who David turns out to be (which will come at the end of our interview when I ask him which three words best describe him).
And so our conversation begins…
MATTHEW: It is truly a privilege to speak with you about your new and highly anticipated release of “Movements of the Heart.” Tell us a little background and personal inspiration on how this album came to be.
DAVID: After doing several tribute ensemble albums celebrating the songwriting of McCartney/Lennon/Harrison, it was high time for me to go back to my solo piano roots and back to my composing. I started from a few gleaned sketches from my stash of previously recorded piano ideas and while in the process of writing and recording the record I fell in love, ended a very long term relationship and began with both feet in the water with my new love...who inspired much of the new record. Her energy really shaped the feel and scope of “Movements of the Heart” ...all the way through the production and into the final decisions for the title and artwork.
MATTHEW: What does this album represent or mean to you?
DAVID: It is all about who I am today, my emotional and spiritual state and expressing the feelings of being in love and moving through the changes of life.
MATTHEW: I have listened to this album several times. To me, there is a definite theme of love, and in some songs I can almost feel a heart longing for something. What do you want listeners to walk away with then they listen to “Movements of the Heart?”
DAVID: During the recording, I was separated from my new love relationship, and dealing with the final stages of a long marriage. I was longing to be with my love, and at the same time, this longing was shaping the music. This same longing I believe is inviting the listeners to reach out and connect to their soul, their heart, and feelings.
This new love who David speaks affectionately of is the talented Norwegian-based artist Kristin Amarie. Amarie launched a debut solo release entitled “Notes from a Journey” earlier this fall. Her album, produced by Grammy-nominated Alex Salzman, also highlights a guest appearance by a piano virtuoso named....David Lanz.
I was invited into this love story - this longing, and first hand experience of what David was going through during the creation of "Movements of the Heart." There was not only a “creative” transition taking place, there was also a literal relocation taking place.
In the beginning, he would compose and put the finishing touches on older and pre-formed tunes in his west coast home, a location that added to the longing, but no doubt helped inspire several of the songs you hear on this album. However, this album would finish with David moving to upstate New York, uniting with a new love and giving birth to new songs that could only have come to fruition with the uniting of David Lanz and Kristin Amarie. Amarie was not only an inspiration, but also provided much of the creative insights and direction as well.
MATTHEW: Do you have a particular favorite song on this album?
DAVID: Not really…I love all my children:)
MATTHEW: One of the things I’ve noticed in your new album, along with many of your compositions throughout the years, is your ability to keep an ear engaged with your music, taking listeners on surprises throughout your pieces, but still remaining in the theme of your song. What’s the key to making music that keeps listeners engaged?
DAVID: Basically I am a genius at being David Lanz:) … took a long time to figure out who I was, but I pretty much know me now… and… I have sponged up and experienced so many other great musical moments and ideas to draw upon. My attitude and belief in spirit keeps me fresh, I suppose, as well.
As our conversation continued, it occurred to me that David was gifted with a courageous soul - knowing himself with a calm confidence, while at the same time extending a nurturing hand to serve as an invitation for us to be a part of his most intimate journey – the movements of his own heart, a journey of a longing, and a love born.
I continued to get to know David, the musician.
MATTHEW: How did you get started playing the piano?
DAVID: My mother and grandmother played so it was always around me growing up. I started lessons at 4 1/2 and composing at 10.
MATTHEW: Did you always know that music was something you were going to pursue and do the rest of your life?
DAVID: Yes, I pretty much had this in mind at least from the age of 12.
MATTHEW: Who were your music influences growing up?
DAVID: I start getting excited with my mom playing boogie woogie, and then rock and roll, the Beatles, all the British Invasion groups, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Miles, Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Ludwig, Amadeus, JS Bach, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Joe Zawinal (Weather Report) and on and on.
MATTHEW: You have been performing for decades now. Over the years you hear of artists having to “re-create” themselves to “deliver music that the masses want to hear.” In your biography you say, “I always want my listeners to really enjoy the music, but if it connects to their deeper levels of emotion and allows them to really feel the stirrings in their own hearts...all the better!” It seems like you always respect the listener where they are at in that moment in time when they listen to your music. Do you write music from a place of what you think is going to “resonate” with others or do you write what is truly stirring in your own creative process?
DAVID: Nice question. I have written thousands of songs beginning decades ago as a singer/songwriter. I spent many years listening to pop music absorbing the forms and developed a very melodic style. The melodies are what most folks resonate with…me too…so the rest of the writing is just opening up to what is happening to me in the moment and letting it flow.
MATTHEW: How would you describe the music you compose?
DAVID: Well…it has been described as “David Lanz” music. How about contemporary music for piano…or maybe just Heavy Mellow?:)
MATTHEW: One of the many successes you have had over your performing career was a song you wrote in 1988 titled, Cristofori’s Dream. Cristofori’s Dream made history topping Billboard Magazines first Adult Alternative/New Age chart and remained there for 27 weeks. It went on to sell millions of copies all over the world. What was it about that song in particular that you think resonated with so many people around the world?
DAVID: I tapped into history by paying tribute, out of gratitude, to the inventor of the piano. I really feel it was a song of destiny for me, as it totally changed my life and has been such a treasure for so many other people. It was a pure inspiration, and people can perceive that when they hear it.
MATTHEW: You have performed in many different countries, with 80-piece orchestras, and stages around the world. Is there a performance or moment in your career that sticks out to you the most?
DAVID: The first time I actually heard my music played by an 80-piece orchestra, which was in a studio in Munich, Germany, was such a stunning moment I will never forget it. There are really too many other moments to choose from!
MATTHEW: There are many theories of “creativity” out there. Some say it’s a muscle that needs to be continually trained and worked on and it builds with repetition, others say it strikes at certain times and you have to strike back when it’s there. In your career as a performer, have you gone through periods of “writers block” or times when the “creative genie” has seemed to go away? What is the secret to keeping your creative spirit going?
DAVID: I guess if I knew that I would really be on to something! But yes…I do exercise the creativity muscle all the time, so I suppose that helps by giving me mental permission to be creative. Writers block has not been an issue, but being truly inspired cannot be planned out.
MATTHEW: What is your biggest piece of advice for the aspiring musician or piano player in this time of the music industry? What would you recommend they do, or first steps to take, to start out in this business?
DAVID: “You create the taste by which you are savored.” Not sure who said that, but its good advice. Be yourself, don’t try to chase trends. To be unique you have to be yourself. My friend David Nevue wrote a great book about marketing music on the internet. That might be a good read for the do-it-yourself musician. Google David Nevue:)
As our conversation continued, David mentioned a quote that has been around for the ages: “The Art of the Artist is to Conceal the Art.” In layperson's terms, People are drawn to honesty (real or perceived) and if music or art in general reflects a message of honesty (or a truth), it becomes even more powerful. And just like life, David compared composition to that of an Oyster. Saying that it can start out icky in the beginning, but over time it becomes something beautiful.
MATTHEW: Looking at your music career, if you could go back and do it all over again, would there be anything you’d do differently?
DAVID: I would have been a little more hands on in the managing department. I paid way too much to a certain manager early on who really did not know what to do with me and did not move me ahead. However, it was a good lesson learned and now I do mostly manage myself and create the music I want to create.
MATTHEW: What does success mean to you - for your music - and do you feel like you have achieved what you set out to do?
DAVID: My main goal was always to have the most amount of people possible hear my music, so with all the concerts, radio airplay and now with the internet and especially my solo piano songbooks, put out by Hal Leonard, I am hitting the mark I set and beyond!
So what else is there to know about David Lanz? Of course with all interviews, we had our final speed round of questions:
MATTHEW: Favorite place in the world?
MATTHEW: Do you play other instruments?
MATTHEW: Do you have any phobias?
MATTHEW: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
DAVID: It would be a dinner party and the guest list would be long and varied:)
MATTHEW: Favorite movie or book?
DAVID: Cinema Paradiso
MATTHEW: The three words that best describe you.
DAVID: Cool. Calm. Collected:)
We share a laugh at the end of the interview, for it was those three words: Cool, Calm and Collected that validated my first impressions of this man who has left his musical mark on the world stage.
Hanging up the phone after our interview, I return to my cup of coffee. I sit back in my chair looking out the frosty window, taking a moment to ponder the brief yet intimate conversation I had with David, who had taken a break from his busy day to chat with me. He was getting ready for another sold out show that would happen later that evening in the privacy of his own home. (A Facebook Photo that day would show David holding a broom with a smile, cleaning and getting his place ready....for another invitation).
This album, “Movements of the Heart,” captures the bittersweet compositions of a man confidently walking through an intimate transition – a longing, a love story, and an open invitation for listeners who care to join. From previously sketched-out tunes over the years coming to fruition - to new songs inspired by love and the longing and pain that comes with any transition, David invites you on this personal journey.
Accept his invitation? Then you too may hear some of what your own soul longs for...or even perhaps…Love.
The story continues as life does. Later that night, I too had a performance...
I am playing at a private event with my black suit and scarf around my neck when someone comes up to me out of the mingled crowd with a cocktail in hand and asks, “Do you know the music of David Lanz?”
Sitting on the piano bench, I look up with a short pause and a flashback smile, remembering a conversation I had earlier that day on the phone.
“I know his music well,” I respond. The person then says to me, “Your music reminds me a lot like his.”
Thank you, David, for the invitation.
- Matthew Mayer
For More information on Movements of the Heart and other albums by David Lanz please visit the following
David Lanz Official Website: www.davidlanz.com
David Lanz Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/TheDavidLanz
For more information on Notes from a Journey and other music by Kristin Amarie please visit the following:
Kristin Amarie’s Official Website: www.amariemusic.com