Interviews


Bryan Rowe is not only a musician; he is a poet. Although Songs of the Soul arrives minus any lyrics, the words are illustrated through Rowe’s classically sculpted piano playing. It is a masterwork about life, death, and the renewal of the cycle. The record takes us through the seasons of the Earth – spring, summer, winter, and fall – as it relates to birth and the end of our years. It is an album that chills the heart with overwhelming feelings of loneliness and painful acceptance; in the end, we are left wanting to hold our loved ones next to us, to savor each of those precious moments.

Derek Jensen: What I have heard from you thus far seems to transcend the classical music category in the sense that I hear traces of jazz and soundtrack scores in there. You seem to compose your music without any stylistic boundaries while other classical composers may feel confined. Do you feel a sense of liberation when you write these pieces?

Bryan Rowe: The sense of liberation I feel is simply the product of what I have been feeling or focusing on “inside” and then hearing and seeing how that focus translates into music, the sole expression of those feelings and thoughts. I am, as any other human being, an amalgamation of all the experiences I have lived.  I never feel confined by any form or structure of music, but there is an underlying, logical construction of my music that is perhaps influenced by the classical genre. As a child, my parents listened to all types of music – I inherited their vinyl collection – every genre was represented.  I love soundtracks of movies, particularly those of Morricone and Barry. So all of those musical sounds, coupled with ones I call definitely “Rowe” do represent me as a composer who is naturally influenced by a wide spectrum of genre, including jazz.

Jensen: How do you convey your feelings through the writing of music?

Rowe: There is not much of a plan when I compose. What pours out of my being is essentially the expression of what I am trying to convey.  The piece, “I Lament You,” was written upon my father’s passing just a few years ago. I cannot  express to you how “deep” that piece goes for me.  Sometimes it is utterly painful to hear or play it, but that is what the music is about; it is the conduit of my emotions and experiences.  The music I just wrote for my daugther’s wedding expresses the joy and euphoria of falling in love and the celebration of committing one’s self to another.  The music is grand but dance-like.  So there is no magical formula.  I simply compose what my mind and heart collaboratively decide to convey based on what has influenced me emotionally.

Jensen: There is pain but also acceptance on Songs of the Soul. If you don’t mind, please tell us the story behind the album.

Rowe: Songs of the Soul was recorded in a single take with no music in front of me.  I mention this because the collection expresses an emotional outpouring of  “loss” and “forgiveness” and is based on life events.  The first release of the album was based on my experience of the ending of a marriage and the stages of emotion that naturally accompanied that part of my life.  So it is easy for the listener to comprehend why I titled pieces as I did.  The second release of the album, just last year, was motivated by the losses of my grandmother, mom and dad, and father-in-law, all within 18 months.  Through that span of time, dealing with parents’ illnesses, caring for them, and literally experiencing their deaths was gut wrenching, just as the divorce was for me in the ’90s.  I thought it appropriate to re-release the album with new artwork that expresses the intimacy and personal tragedy of losing someone, and in my case, four important people in my life.

Jensen: Songs of the Soul was recorded in the ’90s. How have you evolved as a musician since then?  

Rowe: When I listen to Songs of the Soul and compare it to the music of Spiorad or even the recent wedding music for my daughter’s wedding, there is for me a marked sense of evolving and maturing into a composer in which there is a sense of “getting to the point” of the music, putting that melody out there and being more economical in my use of notes to do just that.  Living through what life has presented me since the ’90s has naturally contributed to my bank of experiences; so without question I am still evolving into my own as a composer and pianist. And, these life experiences have, I believe, refined my skills as a builder of melodies that  express more intimately than ever those experiences that I have been blessed with by life itself.

Jensen: Growing up, was it always classical music for you? What other forms of music hooked you in during those years?

Rowe: As mentioned previously, my parents always had music playing in the house.  My dad was a very gifted guitar player; he loved Chet Atkins.  My three brothers and I, together with my father, had a band called The Impossibles. We played everything from the Everly Brothers and Nat King Cole to the standards of the ’60s and ’70s.  I even spent several summers during my college years as a cocktail pianist so I had all of “popular” repertoire memorized since I was a child.   My parents were also committed to the family attending church; all of the boys sang in choirs as children and continuing through our high school years. So I was naturally influenced by the music of the church, hence my classical bent.  While I enjoy classical music, I always thought, and still do, that I wanted to pursue my own music, never abandoning the classical background and the music that I grew up listening to and playing as a child with my family band. All of those experiences still contribute and are an integral part of  my evolving as a composer and musician.

http://www.bryanrowe.net

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Soon Bob Geresti will have more albums than the entire population of China. Seriously speaking, there’s no doubt that Geresti has already given birth to an extraordinarily large and surprisingly consistent discography. Move over, Billy Joel; Geresti is the real Piano Man.

Julian Wilson: Seeing your whole catalog online, you seem to be a creative dynamo. To where do you credit this explosion of artistry?

Bob Geresti: I think my piano bar days had a lot to do with that by realizing what music people really liked, and I like just about all of it. I think of a theme and then there are always many songs to fit that theme. It’s just a matter of me working on those songs and trying to come up with a fresh way of playing them that is exciting to me as well as the listener. Sometimes I’ll play a song that doesn’t do much for me but my friends will really like; ultimately it has to feel and sound good to me.

Wilson: Give the depth and amount of your work, it doesn’t seem to be a commercially driven enterprise but one based on a serious passion for music. What was the genesis of this? Where did this love for music start?
Who or what triggered it?

Geresti: I feel I always played with the same passion. People would always ask me if I was going to come out with a recording and one day a good friend of mine, Butch Weaver, who is a big fan, called me and said we were going to record. He rented a piano and rented out this recording studio here in Atlanta and I went in and recorded enough songs for two albums that were put on cassette. Playing at Cumberland Mall in Atlanta during the Christmas holidays showed me how much people really enjoyed my recordings and the need for more. I had plenty of songs in my repertoire and did several songs you wouldn’t expect to hear on the piano as a solo but people loved them. Then, in 1992, I did my first wholesale trade show to sell my albums to buyers who came to buy items to resell in their store, and it took off from there. I contacted a distributer who sold Danny Wright ‘s music who was very popular at that time, and they said my albums were too much of a performance and the music would not fit into gift shops so I started marketing them myself and have done so ever since and that company, by the way, is out of business now. I tend to go by what people want from then on to decide what theme to use. Patriotic is my next endeavor but also working on a follow up to the Keys Into The 70’s and another inspirational album.

Wilson: Your piano covers of classic-rock tunes [on Keys Into the 70’s] could’ve been considered blasphemous to the purists yet they are lovingly faithful and tastefully considered. What made you decide to transform them in such a fashion?

Geresti: I always try to get the feel of the song across like that of the original band playing it and by the way using my left hand sometimes helps me do that.

Wilson: Did you want to be a rocker at one point?

Geresti: Yes, and I was with a band called Ziggurat who released two albums with me writing some and playing multi keyboards and always using a Yamaha Electric Grand Piano in my set up.

Wilson: How did your music end up on the Weather Channel?

Geresti: My friend Sharron (who is a big fan of mine) had mentioned that when she and her mom would listen to the Weather Channel they would always mute it because the music all sounded the same kind of jazz sounding, and I agreed. She wondered if they would ever consider playing my music so I told her to send some of my CDS and see if they would consider it. Two weeks later Tony Fulkerson called me to get my BMI registration number for “Days End” and said they would start playing it in March. During that month I listened several days in a row and never heard it so I called Tony, and he said it was played between midnight and 7 a.m. I was disappointed that many people wouldn’t hear it during those times and he said since it was such a pretty song he would play it during the prime time slot from 7 a.m. – midnight for April. In May I thought I would have to call them again to see if they would consider playing more of my music but on May 1 I was on the road in my hotel when that evening I heard three of my songs being played. I e-mailed Tony when I got home and he said they had several good comments and that he really liked the piano music. I am sending him more CDs for future use since he will play public domain and my arrangement of “Pachelbel’s Canon in D” is extremely popular so listen for that one in the future.

http://www.gerestimusic.com