Wayne Gratz | Pianist
September 26, 2009
Dr. Kent: Welcome back to Sound Authors. On this show, I talk to both Sound Authors and Authors of Sound. I’m especially excited about the show’s new relationship with Concerts in Your Home, which is a wonderful place online that helps to feature artists by creating house concerts around their music, all across the country. Some amazing artists do these house concerts. My guest on the show today is one of those amazing artists; his name is Wayne Gratz. Welcome to the show.
Wayne Gratz: Yes, hi, Kent, how are you?
Dr. Kent: Great. And am I pronouncing your last name correctly?
Wayne Gratz: You are.
Dr. Kent: Wonderful. We’re going to listen to a couple tracks from your album. Let’s talk first about one of the tracks, then we’ll listen to it. It’s called ‘Two Views.’
Wayne Gratz: Yes. That track is actually the title track from the album ‘Two Views,’ which is my latest album that just came out. Basically that album is kind of about my childhood, and how I was building all of these memories as a child, and how much different they look when you get older and look back on your childhood. A lot of those songs on that particular album are about some of my childhood memories. Like I said, ‘Two Views’ is the title track on the album.
Dr. Kent: When you’re composing these songs, how do you go about doing that?
Wayne Gratz: Most of the time, my songs start out with improvisations, with maybe a melody. I have a recording studio in my house, and I also have a piano in my house, so a lot of times I’ll get a melody and I’ll just turn the tape recorder on and I’ll do a lot of improvisation on a melody. That’s basically how I write my songs now a’days.
Dr. Kent: So let’s listen to ‘Two Views,’ from the album ‘Two Views.’ Then we’ll be back, and we’ll talk to Wayne in just a second again. Here we go.
Wayne Gratz: Awesome, thanks.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful track from Wayne Gratz, from his newest album called ‘Two Views,’ and that’s the title track. What a beautiful song there.
Wayne Gratz: Oh well, thank you, appreciate it.
Dr. Kent: You’ve got your recording studio in your own house for a lot of stuff, how do you go about recording the final version?
Wayne Gratz: What I do is I actually use Pro Tools. I think most musicians are familiar with that. There was a time when you had to go into a big studio and spend a lot of money. The technology now a’days is so good that you can have a home-studio and get really high quality CDs. Basically, my piano’s in my living room and I put some really good mikes on it, and I send it into the computer, and when I get a track that I really like, I hang onto it, and I do very, very little editing. That’s the thing with doing everything digitally: you have the option of editing things out, but I usually like to get one good take and just keep it. I don’t really like to edit a whole lot. That takes you through the whole process.
Dr. Kent: How about the sound? Do you have to do much reverb added to it, or do you just get that from the mikes?
Wayne Gratz: I add a little bit of reverb to it, things that are called “plug ins” now, that are actual virtual, on the computer. I use just a touch of reverb; I try not to use too much, so the ambient is just right on.
Dr. Kent: What was the process like when you were doing some of the Narada stuff, ten years ago plus? Did you go into the studio with them? How was that process different for you?
Wayne Gratz: First of all, the whole album was written on a demo, and then, the process of about six weeks of going somewhere, either to
Dr. Kent: How’s your career changed from then ’till now? New age piano is something that kind of did pretty well in the 90s, or piano in general. Some people always love it. What do you do as a career musician to keep it going?
Wayne Gratz: I try to do as many concerts as I can in a year. I haven’t been doing that many. I try to write as often as possible, and spend time at the piano, and writing some new music. You’re right that the market has slowed down, no doubt. It seems I have more time on my hands to write, and that’s what I’m doing.
Dr. Kent: Tell me, just for a tiny little couple seconds, tell me about this Concerts in Your Home project. You are one of the members of that.
Wayne Gratz: Yes. Concerts in Your Home: I’ve done a couple of them, and both of them were just fantastic experiences. You get to meet a lot of people. You’re one-on-one with people, and it’s usually in a really nice, intimate atmosphere. It’s fantastic. I would like to do four of them a week [laughs].
Dr. Kent: Right. And that’s the thing about piano; I’ve been a couple times to Carnegie Hall and I’ve heard piano in there, and it’s not amplified. It sounds gorgeous in that hall. A piano in a parlor has a different sound, and there’s so many different possible sounds you can get out of this instrument. What kind of piano do you have at your house?
Wayne Gratz: I have a Yamaha C7.
Dr. Kent: Do you have people come and tweak it, and make it in tune all the time?
Wayne Gratz: Yes, I have a piano tuner technician who’s been my piano tuner technician for probably 15 years. I haven’t had the piano that long, but I’ve had other pianos before that one, and he’s always taken care of my pianos.
Dr. Kent: It’s a different sound you’re trying to get out of it than say Tom Waits, or something.
Wayne Gratz: Yes, I guess you could say that. A pop sounding piano’s probably a little bit brighter, a little crisper. Yes, it would probably be voiced a little bit different in Tom Waits’ studio than it would be in my studio.
Dr. Kent: Cool. You said that track ‘Two Views’ had to do with your childhood, and I know you were brought up in North Carolina.
Wayne Gratz: Actually, I was raised in Pennsylvania. I was born in North Carolina, and I was raised in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Kent: Were you raised in the city or the country?
Wayne Gratz: I was raised in suburbia.
Dr. Kent: Suburbia, nice. What kind of echoes of your childhood find themselves in your music. What kind of music were you listening to? Was it rock, pop, folk music, classical? What was it all?
Wayne Gratz: All of the above. When I was a teenager, I was listening to people like Guess and Pink Floyd. Probably my biggest influence was Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Keith Emerson. When I was younger than that I actually was playing guitar, I was listening to Grand Funk Railroad. A lot of classic rock I was listening to when I was a teenager. Before that, I took piano lessons for a while, so it was kind of simplified classical. I didn’t take piano for that long, but I did dabble in classical a little bit when I was younger.
Dr. Kent: What is the difference between classical piano, purely in technique? A lot of folks have had piano lessons as kids. What’s the difference between that and what’s classified as new age piano, and what you classify it as? What do you call your own piano playing?
Wayne Gratz: I describe it as pretty, sort of, folky, sometimes mellow, thought-provoking, and classical, more on the adagio side. A lot of classical music is really, really difficult to play, and my music’s pretty simple to play. I try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s just the way I write. That’s probably the way that would be.
Dr. Kent: It’s a lot of melody, right?
Wayne Gratz: Yes, it’s a lot about melody, and especially linear melodies. Nice chord voicings that are really pleasant to the ear, and sometimes they don’t go from chord to chord; sometimes you can let the chord ring, so people can think about the chord that they’re hearing. There’s some things that are different.
Dr. Kent: What kind of different experiences have you had in music? I know you’re part of a band as well, and you’ve dabbled in guitar. What else are you involved in?
Wayne Gratz: I play in a band that actually plays party music. We play everything from blues to jazz, to Led Zeppelin. Other things I do, I enjoy computers, I enjoy doing website design. Probably the computer I would have to say is my second; it’s actually what I went to school for.
Dr. Kent: Really? Where do you do website design?
Wayne Gratz: I maintain my website, and I’ve done a few others. It’s something that I’ve learned over the past year. I don’t do it a whole lot; I do it more for a hobby than I do for any kind of trying to make a living at it.
Dr. Kent: Cool, and we can check that out, of course. His website is www.waynegratz.com. And Concerts in Your Home: book a house concert; sounds like he likes them. Those are www.concertsinyourhome.com. You can book him and some other great folks on there. They’re kind of partners of ours now, and that’s fun. It’s been fun chatting with you about your music. Tell me what you’re working on next.
Wayne Gratz: I’m actually playing a concert next week, and right now I’m practicing for it.
Dr. Kent: Cool, and doing some of the solo stuff?
Wayne Gratz: Yes, we’re doing a concert in Walhalla, South Carolina in an auditorium up there; it’s with David Roth, and David Nevue. Currently, that’s what I’m working on.
Dr. Kent: Wonderful. Where can we find out more about your music? Obviously there’s your website.
Wayne Gratz: The website, and also, we sell CDs on the website. We sell some sheet music on the website, and if the music isn’t on the website, it’s downloadable at all the major Internet stores: iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, all the major stores. Even the Narada stuff is still on there. So, it’s really, really easy to get.
Dr. Kent: Very cool. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Give me just a nutshell about this other song we’re going to listen to going out here, called ‘Waters Flowing Softly.’
Wayne Gratz: Yes, ‘Waters Flowing Softly’ is a song that I did. I did a soundtrack for a Thomas Kinkade DVD, and this song was inspired by one of his paintings.
Dr. Kent: Wonderful. So we’re going to listen to that going out, and go check out Wayne Gratz at www.waynegratz.com, or Narada, or on iTunes, or Concerts in Your Home, a whole bunch of places. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.
Wayne Gratz: Kent, thank you very much.
Dr. Kent: All right, let’s listen to ‘Waters Flowing Softly,’ like he said, featured on a Thomas Kinkade DVD. You can go pick that up and listen to it firsthand. But here it is, and then we’ll talk to you again after the song’s over. ‘Waters Flowing Softly’ by Wayne Gratz.
Dr. Kent: That’s a beautiful track from Wayne Gratz. His latest album is ‘Two Views.’ Go check him out online at www.waynegratz.com, or on www.concertsinyourhome.com, where you can actually book him for a house concert if he’s in your area. What a beautiful song, and you can hear that on Thomas Kinkade’s DVD as well. I hope you all have a wonderful week, and pick up a great book, and a great CD, and we’ll talk to you the next time. We’re actually going to be here once a day now, at 3 p.m., so tune in every day. We’re going to be recasting hundreds of old great shows we’ve had with people like Billy Collins, and all sorts of folks like that, so tune in once a day at 3 p.m., and then live again a week from now on Friday, and we’ll be talking to a bunch of new folks then. So pick up a great book, and be safe. We’ll talk to you soon.