Christine Brown is a solo piano colleague from San Diego, CA. I’ve really enjoyed playing concerts with her over the years. She’s such a sweetheart. I recently had a chance to sit down with her for an interview. At the end of the interview I’ll share a playlist where you can hear both our music. Enjoy!
PW: Thank you Christine for speaking with me today!
CB: Of course, my pleasure, thanks for your interest!
PW: Please tell us about your background?
CB: I learned to play piano by ear at age 4 on my grandparents piano. Throughout my school years, I took lessons and played for most of the school choirs. I chose not to pursue music in college, fearing not being able to support myself financially, so I graduated with a business degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder. After college, I moved to California for a job, got married, and the piano remained only a hobby. In 1990, my mother passed away. This was a real turning point for me, as I turned to the piano in my grief, and rediscovered my passion for the piano. I began composing, turning my feelings into music. I made a demo tape, someone at work gave it to a relative at Capitol Records, who gave it to a small label in San Francisco – and 6 months later I was on a compilation album with 4 other pianists, selling in the new age stores like Nature Company and Natural Wonders. In 1994, I recorded my first independent solo album. Of course, I had no label so I mainly sold to family, friends and a few fans. It wasn’t until I discovered Whispering Solo Piano Radio that I began to take my music seriously, and my career started to unfold. As the internet music platforms really became popular, suddenly a small independent artist didn’t need to be on a big label to get their music heard and reach fans!
PW: Who were your earliest music influences?
CB: Well, I took piano lessons from age 7 to 16, so I played lots of classical music early on, favoring composers like Chopin, Debussy, Beethoven. Of course, I also enjoyed pop music, and songwriters like Dan Fogelberg, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John and Billy Joel. I used to learn pop songs by ear, there wasn’t much current sheet music for solo piano available. My piano teacher also exposed me to more contemporary composers. I just released my third album of cover songs, often blending pop/rock classics with classical influences. So my early training in classical certainly influences both the cover songs, and my original music!
PW: When did you know that you wanted to be a solo piano artist?
CB: Probably in college, when a friend heard me playing the piano at my sorority house, and gave me a copy of the record “December” by George Winston. I know many of my fellow pianists were inspired by his music, and I thought he was amazing! It was the first time the thought occurred to me that I could maybe one day make a record like this! But after college, I took a “real” job and put those dreams on hold. Back then, you really needed to be on a record label to get heard, and there were only a couple of labels that fell into the new age piano genre.
PW: What inspires you musically?
CB: Lots of things, really. Nature, beauty, places I’ve been, and all the emotions that one feels while experiencing living, – from joy, comfort, calm, to sorrow, pain and challenges. Music has always been such a big part of me, and I’ve played the piano most of my life. Composing and playing is just part of my daily routine, but I never take it for granted. I feel so grateful to be able to do what I do, especially this last year during the pandemic. This past year I released 3 albums, really providing even more focus and time on my music. Regardless of what inspires me, the pure joy it brings me is hard to describe. And the ability to take raw emotion, even if painful, to give it a musical voice and turn it into something beautiful, I think is remarkable.
PW: Your most favorite song in your catalog?
CB: Well, I have many, some are fun to play, some bring back wonderful memories, to chose one is impossible! But I’d say my favorite is any song that I am in the process of composing at the time. There’s such a strong emotion and passion for the music during that creative process that is unfolding, and a wonderful excitement I feel for the possibilities of what the music will say when I am finished.
PW: Biggest joy in your career/life?
CB: Obviously, as a wife and mother of 2 boys, my family has brought me incredible joy. My husband Mark is a huge support, which allows me to be able to do what I love. He always encourages me to go out of my comfort zone, to perform and share my music. Although they are now grown, we are so proud of our boys and really enjoy being around them as much as possible, they are incredible people! They really support my music, sharing it with friends and co-workers.
CB: A career highlight for me was being acknowledged by my peers in the solo piano genre, and awarded “Best Piano Album” by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio. It was a full circle moment, after years of listening to new age greats like David Lanz, (who actually referred me to send my music to David Nevue of WSPR), and then being nominated alongside him!) It was affirmation for me that my dedication and hard work is appreciated and respected. I was also acknowledged as an official Kawai Piano Artist, which was a big honor. I have owned and played Kawai pianos since junior high, so I love representing the Kawai brand. I’ve recorded 12 of my albums on a Kawai piano!
PW: Biggest struggle in your career/life?
CB: Well, losing my mother was a huge loss in my life. However, as mentioned, it was also a turning point for me, which turned into a positive. When you realize how short life can be, it makes you want to pursue your passions, and do the things that make you happy. In general, the business side of music is often disappointing, and a tremendous amount of work, but fortunately the pros outweigh the cons. Just hearing from a fan that your music has helped them or moved them in some way, makes it all worth while.
PW: Advice you’d give to up and coming artists?
CB: Ha! I find it hard to give advice, when I am still find myself asking for it all the time! There is no secret, or shortcut for being an independent artist. For some, timing can be everything, while others may not be as fortunate. But if you love what you do, then you will never have regrets. Be patient, a music career doesn’t happen quickly for most, it takes a dedication to your craft and a passion for music that should supersede anything else. Try not to compare yourself to others, which can be difficult not to do. Your journey is your own, your music is unique.
PW: How do you want to be remembered?
CB: First, as a loving mother, wife and friend, and a good person to all the people in my life. There’s nothing more important than relationships in the end. I also hope I am remembered as an accomplished composer and pianist. I have dedicated most of my life to playing the piano and making music, and it has given me so much in return. I hope that others will enjoy listening and playing my music for years to come. Hopefully, I will be remembered as someone who affected people in a positive way, leaving a legacy of music that hopefully brings people joy!
PW: Thanks for the interview Christine!
And now a playlist that features the music of Christine Brown, Philip Wesley and more! Listen on Spotify HERE.
Learn more about Christine Brown and her music HERE.