The compilation “Where the Heart Belongs – The Very Best of Curtis Macdonald” has just been released. Today we bring you a Q and A with this highly popular and beloved artist.
BT Fasmer: Congratulations on celebrating 20 years as a New Age music artist! It must have been a challenge to select music for “Where the Heart Belongs ” compilation, since you have a massive 25 albums to choose from?
Curtis Macdonald: Thank you BT, it has been 20 years and this journey as a New Age artist has brought many creative ideas to fruition. Within the 20 years I have had albums that reflected my love for melody, creative electronic arrangements and my appreciation of jazz and improvisation. Choosing which selections that would be on this album from my catalog would have been a challenge due to my various releases in the New Age and Contemporary Jazz genres. So, I gave Javier Sanz, the heart and soul of Eversound, the opportunity to choose the tracks that would represent my best work on Eversound as well as finding selections from my personal label’s collection that would round out a beautiful New Age experience we both wanted to share with the listeners.
BT: I understand that the radio-edit format is the main the focus on this compilation. Tell us about that.
Curtis: As I composed and produced the recordings in their original form, I tend to elaborate and lengthen particular sections in the music to setup the mood. Utilizing my skills as a music editor, I chose to edit a good portion of the songs on this album to accommodate the listeners time and get to the “heart” of each song. Eversound’s Javier Sanz mention the music editorial when we were sorting out the details on this collection and I agreed that this would give a wonderful representation of the songs and entice the listener to discover the original versions on their original Eversound releases “Shadow Crossing” and “Everlasting”.
BT: “Where the Heart Belongs” is quite different from «The Essential Curtis Macdonald Collection» Spotify playlist. I guess fans should check out both collections?
Curtis: The “Where the Heart Belongs – The Very Best of Curtis Macdonald” collection from EverSound is a great way for fans and new fans to discover my music all around the world where Spotify may not be available. The addition of it being a physical CD will give the opportunity for those who cherish owning a physical product to enjoy my music in a tradition they are comfortable with. The Spotify Playlist is a playlist of selections from my entire catalog from my personal label CMMP and Eversound spanning the last 20 years and the many genres I like to explore when composing. So, checking both of them out will give the listener a full understanding of my musical journey.
BT: I am a big fan of “Everlasting”, and was very happy to see it as no. 1 on the new collection. Which song is your personal favorite?
Curtis: My personal favorite is “Holder of My Heart”. This was a song composed for my ever-loving Vivienne DeLuca who has been an inspiration for many of my songs throughout the years. I remember when composing this track and the feeling that came over me when the verse melody took shape. And within minutes as I was recording the foundation, the chorus just came out with a rush of emotion. I have many songs in my repertoire with melodies that sing to the heart, and this one is very special to me.
BT: A recurring theme in your songs is the feeling of coming home and a deep sense of belonging. When composing, do you aim for this topic – or does it “just happen”?
Curtis: I rarely aim for a topic when I compose my personal music, I just write in the emotional spirit that comes naturally at the moment, so I guess it just happens. Most of the time the melodies depict an appreciation of belonging and the secure feeling of home, a recurring theme that I hold dear. I translate a good deal of my emotions and experiences into my music. Family, relationships, and the emotional attributes of love and loss are themes that center around my music and I tend to let those emotions drive my thought when composing.
BT: Listening to your most recent albums, new studio technology really makes your music shine. Can you tell a bit about your current studio set-up?
Curtis: My studio set-up has definitely changed throughout the years. My goal was to remove the “rack” approach of having many stand alone hardware synths and evolve to an “in the box” environment. I have the latest MAC chocked full of RAM and an arsenal of soft-synths and processors. I use Apple’s Logic Pro as a composition tool and I use Avid’s Pro Tools as a mixing and editorial platform. I’m always on the hunt for new plug-ins that manipulate sound and create a sonic space. One of my favorites is ArtsAcoustic reverb.
BT: Are you working on any new material at the moment?
Curtis: I’m approaching my next chapter in my musical offerings a little differently than I have in the past. I’ll produce and release singles that will represent various attitudes and styles that will contain my signature piano melodies and improvised solos while exploring new production values and advancing my sound into the next decade. My love for jazz may dominate as well as more songs in the New Age genre. I like what I’m hearing in the EDM community and the advancement of electronic arrangements, so that will definitely become more of my sound.
BT: Interesting that you should mention EDM. There is an obvious connection between New Age music, deep house (1990s and early 2000s), tropical house (2005-2010) and EDM (from 2012). Do you think New Age music may appeal to EDM fans?
Curtis: The evolution of electronic music and sound design has opened the door to many sub-genres of EDM that have characteristics of New Age music. Down-tempo, Chill, and Post-Club contain elements of slower tempos, atmospheric sound design, and synth instrumentation blends of color that are reminiscent of New Age music’s exploration within the contemporary instrumental genre. As fans of EDM engage in finding music that caters to their generation’s softer side, discovering New Age music and it’s sub-genres that derive sonic characteristics and structure from EDM will become more frequent. It all comes down to the sound and the mood the music portrays. As New Age music evolves further into the conscious of EDM listeners with the advancement of electronic arrangements and production values, the appealing nature of familiarity will settle in.
BT: The music business has changed so much in the last 20 years. It is as if we are living on a different planet. What do you think about the business today? Is streaming a sustainable model in your opinion?
Curtis: I believe streaming is the new radio and the playlist is the new discovery tool. Since the advent of the podcast many years ago, it was only a matter of time that all audio would be listenable on the internet. It has diminished the overhead costs of manufacturing and has allowed to create target discovery in all parts of the world. As a sustainable model, well, Pandora’s box has been opened and will never go away. As an artist, I like the idea that my music can be discovered with an ease of accessibility and there are many portals to choose from. As to what I think of the music business today, I believe we are entering a new chapter. The recorded music industry has somewhat licked their wounds from the transition from physical product to digital distribution and recent acts in Congress should help composers and publishers in the future. If reasonable, sustainable revenue from music streaming can subsidize the efforts of an artist to create more music, it will open the door for new and exciting music for all generations to come.
BT: In your own words, how will you describe your sound?
Curtis: It is considered as New Age/Contemporary Instrumental, or Instrumental Pop due to common “verse – chorus – bridge – chorus” structures where the chorus has an infectious and memorable melody. My approach is to keep the melody simple and easily recognizable by using the sound of an acoustic piano. I treat the piano as if it was the vocal, a single line drenched in reverb to create an ethereal signature. My arrangements are mostly pattern based with the use of sustains as transitional devices. My orchestration is mainly synthesis, with minimal organic instrumentation. Using filters to alter and manipulate the sound, I tend to express sonic qualities with effect processing. My palette of timbers, or sounds, are mostly non-aggressive and warm. A blend that is non-obtrusive and pleasing to the ear.
BT: Thank you Curtis for taking the time to answer our questions!