Pianist Brickman Strikes Chord with First Book
By Jody Ewing
October 18, 2001
Jim Brickman says he is driven. If he decides he wants to do something, he figures out a way to do it. If he wants to meet someone, chances are they’ll soon be chatting. If he wants to travel to some faraway land, that’s usually where he ends up.
Always experimenting with new frontiers, the pianist/composer of gold albums such as “By Heart” and “Destiny” has struck a romantic chord with millions of fans worldwide. His platinum-selling “Picture This,” which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s New Age chart in 1997, went on to become one of the best-selling Windham Hill releases ever, and featured the hit single “Valentine,” sung by country darling Martina McBride. “The Gift,” also released in 1997, featured vocals by Collin Raye and Susan Ashton and became another romantic classic.
Born in Cleveland, Brickman has soared to success in every field he’s entered, including that of host for the syndicated weekly radio show “Your Weekend with Jim Brickman,” a three-hour program of the best in adult contemporary music airing on more than 175 stations across the country.
Given his driven nature and his ever-growing global audience, it seemed only natural that Brickman’s creativity would spill over into other ventures. The result: publishing his first book “Simple Things,” on precisely the same day as his seventh career album, also titled “Simple Things.”
The book, penned with nationally syndicated entertainment writer Cindy Pearlman, is a collection of short essays about savoring life’s pleasures and getting back to the basics in simplifying our lives. The idea for the book took hold as Brickman worked on his new album.
“The concept of the CD sort of came out of my desire to try to get back to basics in my life, because it was getting so out of hand,” Brickman said in a phone interview from his home in California. “I realized that so much of what I did had to do with getting on airplanes and running around the country, talking to myself, checking my e-mail. And what I write about so much is people and emotions and the way people connect. I was just noticing that the world is not as much that way anymore as it used to be.”
Brickman said that with his new album, he wanted to do something that had a message but still connected to his music.
“The book idea came out of that, when I realized that it was a much bigger concept,” he said. “I had a lot of thoughts that I couldn’t convey through music and that’s when it all came to be.”
The essays ponder life’s big issues such as love, health, money and children, and celebrate the ordinary miracles that make each day special. The essay “Spiritual Things” addresses the concept of faith and the importance of having something to believe in these days. He writes of how music hovers on the fringes of faith in the passage, “And this is as ethereal as I get, but sometimes I’ll play something, and I truly wonder how this music came out of me. I really do honestly sit there with my hands on the keys, and I feel like something or someone else is guiding them.”
The book also addresses the concepts of “childhood things,” “the guilt thing,” “risky things” and “first things first.”
Editors at Amazon.com said, “‘Simple Things’ is mostly about opening your eyes. To life. To love. To friendship.”
Brickman says it’s all about keeping things in perspective.
“Our lives have become so complicated, and mostly it has to do with how competitive the world is,” Brickman says. “To keep up with everybody else, people start saying ‘Well, they’ve got a cell phone so I’d better have a cell phone’ or, ‘They’re calling me, I’d better return their call.’ It’s almost made our lives more complicated to have all these tools to communicate. There’s kind of no hiding, no quiet time anymore.”
Brickman, who performs in more than 150 cities each year, isn’t suggesting we give up cell phones or computers, but rather find a way of keeping our priorities in check.
“I don’t think it’s so much giving up, I think it’s more keeping it in perspective,” he says. “It’s saying ‘Do I really need to be carrying my cell to meals with friends, and if it does ring, do I really need to answer it?'”
In a day when many people are “available all the time,” Brickman recommends taking time alone to think without interruption. Simple things one can do include calling an adult version of a “snow day,” and making it a personal day. Or vowing not to check e-mail for one 24-hour period. And learning to say no and learning how to listen. Really listen.
Though the book and album share the same title, Brickman says they are not a companion book/CD. The album adheres to the simplicity theme in its own definitive way, reflecting what Brickman calls the simplicity of piano music and simple melodies. Ten melodic, nonvocal tracks usher in Brickman’s indelible romantic instrumentals. “The Promise” is a haunting, contemplative motif brushed with violin and rich orchestrations. The classically influenced ensemble “Another Tuesday Morning,” first evokes a sense of sadness at what may be a typical day, then swells in a crescendo that leaves the listener feeling both joyful and triumphant.
“The masters of the romantic song, ranging from Sinatra to Mancini, have found new company with the musical talent of Jim Brickman,” wrote Cynthia Smith in a recent issue of Kansas City Public Television Magazine. “His recordings have struck a special chord, molding the timeless beauty of classical influences with the fresh, lively energy of contemporary pop music.”
It is that crossover appeal of both pop and classical music that builds on Brickman’s foundation, as is witnessed in his latest release.
The final three tracks give voice to the album with “A Mother’s Day,” “It Must Be You,” and the title track “Simple Things,” a pop dazzler written by Brickman and award-winning writers Beth Neilsen Chapman and Darrel Brown with Rebecca Lynn-Howard on vocals. The song reinforces the album’s theme of celebrating what really matters – the sun, the moon, the stars, church bells ringing, the thrill of taking chances, the beating of two hearts – and other simple things that “just are.” The song is sunny, uplifting, energizing the soul. Listeners are left with the sense that in the end, everything matters.
And what really matters to this man of many talents?
“Taking my concert live,” says Brickman, whose PBS special “My Romance: An Evening with Jim Brickman,” has served as a PBS fundraiser for two years running. “I love concert performing pretty much more than anything.”
Visit Jim’s website at: www.jimbrickman.com