Brickman offers songs for all seasons
BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
A new album and a new winter tour are bringing pianist and singer Jim Brickman back to Hawaii for the weekend.
Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
His latest album, “On a Winter’s Night,” is welcome news for his fans; it is one of 47 currently available on Amazon. And Brickman’s Platinum Tour marks a newsworthy career milestone: 20 years as a popular performing musician.
Can it really be 20 years since Brickman set aside his successful career as a jingle writer to become a full-time recording artist?
In a word, yes!
“I’m happy to be coming back,” Brickman said, calling Hawaii from Troy, N.Y., before Christmas, on Dec. 11. Snow was falling. His next stop was Buffalo. Even allowing for the opportunity to be well away from snow drifts and blizzards, Brickman was looking forward to playing here.
“It’s an amazing experience,” he said. “The enthusiasm, the appreciation for romance and the beauty of the music is unique, I think, to the islands. It’s one of the things that keeps me coming back.”
Brickman’s back story is well known. He started playing the piano at the age of 5, balanced his college courses in performance and musical composition with business classes, and in 1980, at age 19, formed a namesake jingle writing company, The Brickman Arrangement.
“I wasn’t a star and I wasn’t star-ving,” he recalled, accenting the second syllable. “It was moderately successful, considering that I did most of it in my early and mid-20s.”
The transition from jingle writer to concert pianist was not something he planned. As the jingle-writing jobs got bigger, he said, “I missed playing the piano. I was mostly doing business and marketing.” Meanwhile, Brickman discovered that he was comfortable onstage.
“I had started doing some speaking at conventions, advertising conventions, mostly, on the subject of creativity,” he said. “In fact, I did one in Hawaii at the Hanohano Room for the Hawaii Advertising Federation. … I was up in front of people speaking, and I was pretty comfortable but I didn’t really corollate the two until I started the piano career.”
Brickman’s second career started in 1994. He moved from Ohio to California “to see what was out there,” booked studio time “on the piano that I had heard on the Bruce Hornsby song ‘The Way It Is’” and made some recordings, “just for myself.”
The recordings got him a deal with Windham Hill and then became the tracks of his first album, “No Words.” One of them, a song titled “Rocket to the Moon,” became his first entry on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.
Twenty years later Brickman has a long list of adult contemporary hits and fan favorites on his resume.
“One of things that I believe in wholeheartedly is that if you’re lucky enough to have hit songs, you should play them in your concerts,” he said. “It’s getting to the point where there are a lot of them — and I’m so thankful that there are.
“The first time I played in Hawaii, I didn’t have enough material to even fill out the concert at the Hawaii Theatre. Now I have too many to chose from.”
In Honolulu the set list will also include songs from his new album.
“I like to play some new music, and since it’s called ‘On a Winter’s Night,’ it’s not exclusively a holiday album,” he said.
For instance, a song titled “That Silent Night,” an original that Brickman co-wrote, “is more of a song about two people who miss each other. It’s not completely centric to references to Santa Claus.”
Brickman said he’s not a fan of most contemporary written-to-order Christmas and/or “holiday” songs. Most draw from a short list of seasonal cliches that he chooses to avoid.
“One of the things I like to do is write about people in an environment rather than describe a scene for people. I’d rather have them conjure up what that looks like for themselves.”
Brickman uses the same approach with his show. Although he describes it overall as “lighthearted,” he doesn’t feel the need to explain things that the audience can probably figure out.
“If they don’t get it, they don’t get it. Oh, well. Aim high.”
“I’m a songwriter at the core; that’s really what I am, and so it’s very important to me to exercise some new songwriting muscle and creative invention but complement that with standards and nostalgia and familiarity.”
Another treat for concertgoers at Brickman’s performance may be youthful guest performers. Brickman said he enjoys featuring talented young singers in his concerts.
Sometimes he finds participants who are the winners of local talent contests.
“What I notice about the winners or the people who sign up for something like that is that some take the opportunity and run with it, and others just show up and sing the song and expect that I’m going to make them famous tomorrow,” he said.
“I think the opportunity is important. I didn’t have that type of opportunity in my career. I had to find it myself, and it took a while.”