Christmas music has long been very important to pianist Jim Brickman. The performer has just issued On a Winter’s Night, a brand-new yuletide collection, and he tells Billboard that he can’t wait for fans to hear it.
“I’m so thrilled,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful time working on this album. I think it turned out really great.”
The disc contains vocal cameos from artists such as Jana Kramer, John Oates and Country Music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers. Brickman said having a singer on the album who has had such a long history with Christmas music made for a very special moment. “There’s no question about it,” he said. “The special thing with someone like a Kenny Rogers or a Johnny Mathis is the respect I have, and I love their work so much, and when they sing a song that I wrote, that makes it even better,” he said (Mathis appeared on Brickman’s 2013 disc The Magic of Christmas). Rogers lends his classic voice to “That Silent Night,” a Brickman original. “If he said he would sing ‘Jingle Bells,’ that would have been great, but the fact that he’s singing a song that I wrote makes it as a songwriter really special,” admitted Brickman.
Rising country songstress Kramer guests on “Clouds.” Brickman said that he loves sharing the spotlight with newer artists. “As much as I love working with icons like Kenny, I also love getting to pair with newer performers. It’s a wonderful message to showcase multi-generations of talented people, and I love that combination.”
Currently on tour to promote the album, Brickman will make a stop in Nashville on Dec. 9 at the Schermerhorn Center. He says he loves getting to spend time in Music City. “The Schermerhorn is such a beautiful place, and it’s truly an honor to play there. I write and record most everything in Nashville. I co-wrote the Kenny song with Tom Douglas, who is such an amazing songwriter. We’ve written a lot of songs together, and I think of Nashville as my recording and songwriting community.”
He says there’s a vibe with the country genre that is very much compatible with his music. “I’m most attracted to storytellers and singers, and with country, you have singers who really know how to bring a story to life. With pop music, it’s not as much about telling stories as it is technique and production, and things like that. As a piano player, I am drawn to great melodies by a great singer that have a great lyric.”
With success as a recording artist, a composer, a radio show host and an author, how does he mix everything up so well? He admits that every layer of his multi-faceted career works well with the others. “So much of it comes very naturally. None of what I do or choose to do is anything that I don’t enjoy, or is something that doesn’t seem appropriate. I wouldn’t have a radio show if it was something that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I love radio and have always been very passionate about it. So even the books are an extension of my songwriting — my stream of consciousness thoughts that I don’t put in my instrumental music. Everything is very much natural, which I think is important. I think age does that. I’ve watched people like Kenny Rogers, you watch their choices. We all get to the point where we just want to do what we love. I’m at that point right now.”
Hearing the memories that people associate with him and his music continues to humble him. “It’s a great feeling. These are intimate life moments. I think the parallel is that the music itself is so intimate. I want it to feel that when we’re together, I’m enhancing that moment. I’m proud of that. It’s rare. That’s how you know when it’s really connecting. When someone says ‘I heard your music at this point,’ or ‘I was in chemo, and your music calmed me down,’ you know it’s real.”
Look for a new book, Soothe, from Brickman in 2015. He says it’s a little bit of real-life inspiration. “It’s a lighthearted look at how someone is known for calming other people down and is not a calm person themselves,” he says with a warm and knowing smile.
Nov. 28 – Allentown, PA @ Miller Symphony Hall
Nov. 29 – Wilmington, DE @ Grand Opera House
Nov. 30 – York, PA @ Strand Capitol PAC
Nov. 1 – Avon Park, FL @ SFSC Theatre for the Performing Arts
Dec. 2 – Columbia, SC @ Koger Center for the Arts
Dec. 3 – Knoxville, TN @ Tennessee Theatre
Dec. 4 – Birmingham, AL @ Alabama Theatre
Dec. 5 – Springfield, MO @ Hammons Hall
Dec. 6 – Jacksonville, FL @ Jacoby Symphony Hall
Dec. 7 – Clearwater, FL @ The Capitol Theatre
Dec. 9 – Nashville, TN @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center
Dec. 10 – Charlottesville, VA @ Paramount Theater
Dec. 11 – Troy, NY @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
Dec. 12 – Verona, NY @ Turning Stone Resort & Casino