Today we bring you a Q&A with John Adorney, one of the most beloved performers in our genre.
BT Fasmer: Congratulations with your 20th anniversary as a New Age music artist! Listening to Beckoning today I guess you are still happy with that album? It is, in my opinion, one of the finest albums released in our genre, and a release that will stand the test of time.
John Adorney: Thank you, BT. I just happened to recently listen to Beckoning after not having heard it for quite a while, and yes, I’m still very happy with that album! Listening to it was an interesting experience, as I’d just completed my new CD, Invisible Songbird. I could hear how my arranging style in particular has changed over the years. One of the main things I noticed is that in the beginning, piano was almost always the lead instrument in my music. Over the years, I’ve incorporated many other instruments to carry the melodies, and also to flesh out the arrangements. Another big thing that’s different is that Daya doesn’t sing any lyrics on Beckoning – only wordless vocals.
BT: Tell us about Invisible Songbird. From a fan’s perspective the album plays as a celebration of your unique style and atmosphere. Was this your intention too – or did it “just happen?”
John: Whenever I create a new album, my main intention is to make music that I’ll enjoy listening to. It’s one of the liberties that I’ve been able to enjoy being with the EverSound label. I get to write the music just the way I hear it, and so however it comes, each piece dictates exactly what it needs to be complete.
I happen to like a lot of different styles of music, so on Invisible Songbird, many of those styles are represented. I think that in particular, the first seven tracks on the album each have a different musical style – from pop, Celtic, Caribbean, country/bluegrass, to Middle Eastern and New Age. But for me, the feeling that each piece evokes is what’s important, and I think that the different styles each lend themselves to capturing something meaningful.
BT: On Invisible Songbird you master everything from Bach to Bluegrass, yet you are staying true to New Age music format. Which genre do you enjoy the most?
I tend to think of New Age as a catch-all category – a place to put music that doesn’t fit anywhere else, so it really does embrace many styles. One thing that I’ve noticed about New Age music since its beginning, is that a lot of it has a heartfelt quality. Maybe that’s because New Age artists in general were trying to capture something beautiful, and that’s a quality I definitely identify with. I believe that beauty can be expressed in all styles of music from every culture around the world.
Since cello was the first instrument that I learned, my original training was in classical music. So there are probably classical elements underlying many of my compositions. Then, as soon as I became aware of pop music, I fell in love with it. One thing I’ve always thought is that teenage kids shouldn’t be the only ones who get a rush from hearing their favorite song on the radio – adults should be able to enjoy that too! So when I write music, one of the best responses I can have to a piece is to have it bring tears to my eyes, give me a pleasant chill, or make me want to get up and dance. So no, I don’t have any particular favorite when it comes to a musical style. It just has to have that “heart” quality.
BT: I understand that there’s a secret hidden in the cover artwork on Invisible Songbird?
John: When I was working on this album, I was aware that this year is the 20th anniversary of the release of Beckoning. So I wanted to do something special. The main thing I did was to put more music on the album than usual – it’s got fourteen tracks as opposed to the usual ten or eleven. Then I wanted to do something in the artwork that was a secret “nod” to Beckoning. So I took the moon that’s on the front cover of Beckoning and used it to dot the “i’s” on the title font for Invisible Songbird.
Also, on Beckoning, the back cover is basically the front cover inverted – instead of the moon and stars being inside the flower, the flower on the back is the moon, set in a starry sky. On Invisible Songbird, I somewhat followed the same idea – that the bird on the front is a shadow, and the branch is real, but on the back, the bird is more present and the branch is just a shadow.
BT: Will there be a Toward a Gentle Place volume 2?
John: That’s my hope. As you know, Toward a Gentle Place was released in 2017 and was the first “theme-based” album I’ve ever done. Leading up to and after the presidential election in 2016, there was a lot of tension in this country and around the world. I felt it was a good time to create an album that would maybe help heal some of that tension. So I based the project on a principle in music therapy in which the therapist meets the client where they are, mood and energy-wise, then leads them with the music to a more desirable state. So the album begins mid-tempo, then each successive piece leads the listener to a more “gentle” place.
I’ve gotten a fantastic response from so many people about Toward a Gentle Place – people with cancer, people with loved ones that are dying, people that have trouble relaxing enough to go to sleep. Almost immediately after it came out, I decided I’d like to do a second volume. So yes, hopefully next fall I’ll have a new version ready.
BT: I recently did an interview with Randy Baltzell regarding the release of his debut album “Heart of the Wilderness.” He told me following; “No one responded to my emails, except John, when I contacted Eversound. He was so helpful in leading me in a direction to get started. We started off with a 45 minute phone call, in which he was telling me what software to buy. I remember being so surprised, that a successful recording artist such as John, would take the time to answer my questions, when he had never heard any of my music! ” What a remarkable story! Is this something that you ordinarily do, or is Randy an exception?
John: That’s a very kind response from Randy. When he first contacted me, he was very sincere and humble, and needed advice about some of the technical aspects of recording. Then, when I heard the first rough versions of his music, I thought that he was someone that I wanted to help as much as possible. His music is gorgeous, and he’s extremely talented.
When anybody that writes to me through my website, I will always respond. I really enjoy getting to know people, and if someone is sincere, I’ll do whatever I can to help them, particularly if it’s something music-related. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about doing the crowd-funding campaigns for my CD projects is getting to know those people who enjoy my music. I’ve Skyped with many of them, and gotten to know many more through our email conversations.
I also send out a free monthly email newsletter called JOHN ADORNEY Music Notes. In it, I talk about projects I’m working on, tell stories and anecdotes from my life in music and music therapy, and answer questions. It’s another way to interact more intimately with people, and I’ve gotten great feedback about it. If anyone’s interested in receiving Music Notes, they can write to me through my website (www.johnadorney.com). It’s important to me that people get it only if they want it.
BT: A lot has happened in terms of music equipment and software in the last 20 years. Does this give you more freedom, or is it not that important for your creative process?
John: That’s a great question. Yes, the new technology gives musicians much more freedom now, and there are countless ways that the software and computer technology has made making music much easier.
Everything is much more integrated now. I don’t have to have five pieces of hardware struggling to communicate with each other. Most of it happens all in one computer now – all the sounds, effects, etc. And the fidelity is much better than it used to be because every piece of equipment that was being used in the past added a little noise to the overall sound. Now, it’s all very clean. The cost is much lower now, too.
Sharing files long distance with other musicians is easier than ever. The last two albums that I had Daya sing on, we did through Skype sessions. Also, I had Randy Baltzell play some trumpet on my CD, A World Awakens, and he recorded his part at his home studio in Oregon, then sent me the files. Great sounds from around the world are available at my fingertips, and I can play tons of exotic instruments with just a computer and a keyboard. Then, with one or two good microphones and a quiet space, I have everything I need to record live instruments. And if I play a piano part into the computer, the software can immediately output the music as a score.
BT: Thank you John for taking the time to answer these questions! To all out there; if you haven’t checked it out yet, do listen to Invisible Songbird! It is available for purchase on the EverSound homepage.