Your music is a reflection of both your career as a medical professional and a musician - how would you describe your song writing process?
Different... Pretty much all of my music starts out as improvisation at the keyboard. I use my music time as a release from the stresses of my 'day job' as a radiation oncologist, which can be both emotionally and mentally draining. The tone of the improvisation mirrors my emotional state at the time. Sometimes, I'll draw inspiration from visual memories that trigger a strong emotional cue. I usually write a piece backwards; I'll start with a rhythm loop, a bass line or some chord changes, and work out a background loop that I can play over. Pesky things like melodies usually come late in the game and require the most work. I try to keep the melodic statement simple because from simplicity comes power. I know that a melody has arrived when it winds up on endless repeat in my head when I go to sleep and wake up...
Are there any social causes that you have a special attachment to, and work to support through your music?
At first I wedded myself to the American Cancer Society because it seemed like a natural marriage. While we never divorced and 50% of the profits from my last CD, 'Every Part of Me' will go to this charity, I've felt much more drawn recently to the immediacy of Habitat for Humanity. Moving to Mississippi, I've had the opportunity to see poverty in a different light. I was amazed to learn that there were still houses in my town without indoor plumbing. Things really hit home, no pun intended, after Hurricane Katrina. The victims were no longer anonymous, but now included friends who had lost everything that they had owned, some losing family members to the wind and flooding. While many of these people had resources to draw upon for aid, a great number did not. Habitat for Humanity was created to provide decent housing to those in the greatest of need, in part through their own efforts. 50% of the profits of my new CD, 'The Hear and Now' will go to this charity.
What is more challenging: performing for an audience, or working to create in the studio?
They both offer different sets of challenges, but given that I haven't performed live since I was 23, I'd have to say the former would be the most challenging! The time I spend working on my music is precious to me and I'm always focused on creating new pieces, rather than on revisiting old ones.
What's your favorite vacation destination?
The place I always head to when I have time off is Pensacola, Florida. The city itself has a genuine and undiscovered quality to it and it[']s beaches are second to none. Hurricane Ivan did a number to it, but it's back again strong and I love being there. Hopefully, they'll adopt my tune 'Pensacolada' as their anthem...
Do you have a favorite new artist or CD release that you can't stop listening to?
I can't stop listening to my new CD, 'The Hear and Now', but that's because I've been too lazy to take it out of the CD player... Recently, I started to listen to Brad Meldhau. His conceptionalization and freedom just blow me away! Also, Chris Botti's music is very inspiring. However, if we're talking about a 'new' artist, I'd have to say the Cameroonian guitarist Jay Lou Ava. His African-infused jazz has a very fresh and infectious quality to it. Interestingly, he's cousin to a favorite duo of mine, Les Nubians.
If you could spend a day with any person, past or present, whose company would truly inspire you?
Wow, that field is rather diverse and all inclusive! I could think of many contenders, but the choice would definitely be my father who passed away about 19 years ago. I'd love for him to meet my son. That would be most inspirational. Of course, if he did come back and visit me, I would have to promptly check myself in to the nearest psychiatric facility, because that's something I'm just not equiped to deal with...