The most charted male adult contemporary artist to date is coming to State College for the first time, as singer, musician and composer.
Jim Brickman brings his Platinum Tour to The State Theatre on July 24.
Known for his solo piano compositions, pop-style instrumentals and vocal collaborations, Brickman has released more than two dozen albums. Six of them have gone gold and platinum. He has earned two Grammy nominations, a Society of European Stage Authors and Composers “Songwriter of the Year” award, a Canadian Country Music Award and a Dove Award presented by the Gospel Music Association.
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Born in 1961, Brickman was raised in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. At age four, Brickman discovered his neighbor’s piano and begged his parents for lessons. Later on, he loved listening to everything on the radio and was most influenced by the songs of Burt Bacharach, the Carpenters, Carole King and Elton John.
“My first piano teacher told my mom that I had no talent,” he said. “My mom knew how much I loved playing and eventually found me a wonderful teacher in Marshall Griffith at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where I created my own style.”
While studying composition and performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Brickman took business classes at Case Western Reserve University. In 1980, he founded his own advertising music company, “The Brickman Arrangement,” writing commercial jingles for companies across the country including McDonald’s, Pontiac, Ohio Lottery and Isuzu.
Brickman later moved to Los Angeles, and in 1994, signed to Windham Hill Records and released his first album, “No Words.” The album featured the song “Rocket to the Moon,” which became his first solo instrumental to be ranked on the Billboard charts. The songs “Angel Eyes” and “If You Believe” gained radio airplay from Brickman’s second release, “By Heart” in 1995. The following year, the CD’s title track, “By Heart,” became his first top 20 adult contemporary hit.
Brickman would go on to release several more highly successful albums throughout the ‘90s and 2000s. But after more than two decades in the music business, Brickman decided it was time to leave California and come back where he felt he belonged.
“With all the traveling I do, it’s nice to come back to my roots,” he said.
Brickman’s musical repertoire is diverse and difficult to classify, but he doesn’t mind. His music has sometimes been classified in the new-age genre, but Brickman himself is skeptical of that classification and prefers not to be pigeon-holed into any one particular style.
“In my mind, it’s pop with a strong influence of classical,” he said. “I like to establish a mood, a feeling, and tell a story. But I want my listeners to hear their own story. I enjoy that aspect and continue to write with that in mind.”
With events like his annual fan cruise and songwriting workshops in Nashville, Brickman keeps an ever-full plate, but still manages to devote time to other endeavors and balance them out while still writing, recording and performing his music. He has also hosted his own radio show since 1997, “Your Weekend with Jim Brickman.” Being a naturally curious person, Brickman wondered what it would be like to be on the other side of an interview for a change.
“I was being interviewed so many times I thought it would be cool to ask my own questions,” he said. “So when the opportunity was presented to me to host a radio show, I jumped at it. I have a great staff that preps me, keeps me balanced and on track.”
Brickman has had the good fortune of collaborating with a number of well known and accomplished veterans in the music business, including Kenny Loggins, Michael W. Smith, Martina McBride, Donny Osmond and Olivia Newton-John. Over the years, Brickman has pursued artists whose work and style he admired, but artists who were not known necessarily for singing adult contemporary ballads.
“I thought that combining musical styles would be an interesting mix,” he said. “My intention was to create something new style-wise; bringing a different slant to the traditional AC ballad. For instance, Martina McBride was a relatively new country artist. I liked her sound and invited her to try “Valentine.” The combination was successful and I’ve continued to collaborate and use AC, Christian, country and some ‘soon-to-be-discovered’ artists.”
A few years ago, Brickman walked into Capitol Records to record with the legendary Johnny Mathis and said it was truly a ‘pinch me’ moment.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m recording my music in this studio that I’ve seen in pictures ever since I can remember’,” he said. “I could just feel the presence of the greats who recorded there and was hoping some of their brilliance would rub off on me.”
In addition to his pop and adult contemporary compositions, Brickman has produced several Christmas-themed albums, and two albums concentrated on arrangements of well known Christian music. He just released the first CD in the “Soothe” series of calming music — the ideal sound for yoga, meditation and relaxation. His next “Soothe” release will be for sleep, and he is also gearing up for the holidays with a new Christmas CD.
Brickman said he loves performing solo because he can connect with the audience in a very personal way.
“I’m a natural storyteller, and sharing my experiences and music from the last 20 years feels like sitting in the living room and hanging out with everyone,” he said. “It’s a comfortable, intimate experience.”
Brickmansaid he always tries to put the audience in a certain mood according to the events of the day.
“The weather, the traffic and the time of year all play into how they will receive the music,” he said. “If I know it’s been a hectic time, I’ll begin with a few songs that I know will help them relax and get into the mood.”
Performing for his fans has been very humbling for Brickman — knowing his music has touched them in such a private and personal way.
“It still amazes me every time I hear another story about how my music has touched someone,” he said. “I just hope to keep performing and bringing new music to my listeners.”