piano virtuoso and composer Fiona Joy is back in 2015 with
a new CD entitled Signature - Solo. Produced
by Cookie Marenco and recorded in California, the ten track
CD is filled with a masterful array featurng Fionas patented
piano magic. After recording numerous albums under the name Fiona
Joy Hawkins, Signature - Solo is her first solo piano release
as Fiona Joy. The album does feature guitarist Lawrence Blatt on
a track but the showcase here is truly Fiona Joy enchanting with just
her concert grand piano. That track with Lawrence Blatt is Once
Upon Impossiblewhich also features Fionas only vocal
on the CD is being described as An ethereal voice-piano duet
that lets us see the other side of the artist. Speaking about
her mission on Signature - Solo and how it ties into her furture
plans for the latest music, Fiona tells mwe3.com,
"I write piano to stand alone as solo, but because I also
love to compose and I often hear or imagine other instruments, I had
always recorded with lots of orchestration. Not because it was required,
but because it added flavor and color to the piano. I thought it was
probably time I released piano on its own. I do plan to release another
version of Signature Solo as a studio instrumental version
called Signature Synchronicity next year (2016) so you
will see the difference and understand how both versions can work
equally as well." Music fans who thrilled to Fionas
last album 600 Years In A Moment, will equally enjoy the stately
yet dynamic solo piano sound of Fiona Joys Signature - Solo
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Tell us about your 2015 concert tour in China. Who organized it and
how many concerts are you playing there? Its not widely known
but the Chinese are a very musical people.
China was amazing. I feel very privileged to be invited to tour there
as a cultural exchange. I didnt realize that my music was already
popular in China, with over 2 billion downloads on one single platform,
because China has piracy issues and no-one pays for music so
never having received royalties, I was very surprised to play for
1,200 people who all knew my music. The people are wonderful, the
food was awesome, but we really do need some advocacy to work out
how to get paid for our music there.
They called me the "Piano Angel" (lol). I'm just happy to
be invited by the government of China as a cultural exchange to represent
New Age piano and I'm very pleased that they liked it enought to ask
me back... twice!
mwe3: Your new album is simply called Signature - Solo.
Released after your 2013 CD, 600 Years In A Moment, the
album is mainly a solo piano album. What is the inside story behind
the Signature - Solo CD and why you decided to go for more
of a solo sounding piano album this time?
I write piano to stand alone as solo, but because I also love to compose
and I often hear or imagine other instruments, I had always recorded
with lots of orchestration. Not because it was required, but because
it added flavor and color to the piano. I thought it was probably
time I released piano on its own.
I do plan to release another version of Signature Solo
as a studio instrumental version called Signature Synchronicity
next year (2016) so you will see the difference and understand
how both versions can work equally as well.
What was it like working with Cookie Marenco at Blue Coast Studios
in San Francisco? What did Cookie bring to the Signature - Solo
CD and how did you become involved with Cookies new record
label Tiny Island Music, which is an offshoot of her Blue Coast Music
Group? I heard that she used double DSD audio to enhance the sonics
of your music.
Cookie Marenco leads the way with download and hi res format technology.
The album was first recorded to tape and then DSD formats but for
the mass market Cookie decided to release through her Tiny Island
Music which only releases CDs and mp3s to download platforms (like
mwe3: Compare working with Cookie Marenco to working with Will
Ackerman and Corin Nelson, who worked with you on both Sensual
Journeys and 600 Years In A Moment.
Oh jeez. Thats a really hard question and you missed
out Tom Eaton. I could not hope to have worked with a more amazing
bunch of people.
Not sure when I got kissed on the butt by a fairy, but I have managed
to work extensively with all of them.
Different albums and markets have different recording styles, which
is exactly why I have done Signature Solo with Cookie Marenco
at Blue Coast Records and why Im doing Signature Synchronicity
(studio version with instrumentation) at Imaginary Road Studios with
Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton. Essentially they are the same album recorded
in the two different worlds.
I cant in all honesty say which style of recording I enjoy most
as a pianist its liberating to do a solo album in single takes,
but I adore working with other musicians and consider myself as much
a composer as a pianist. I think I have the best job in the world.
How do you keep up with all the new technologies in the audio world?
Is that part of the reason you went back to a more stripped down approach
to this recording, by recording solo piano? I thought the cassette
was a big deal but that was 45 years ago! (lol) So the Signature
- Solo is on CD, SACD, audiophile vinyl and four different types
Fiona Joy: Lucky I only need to have a basic grasp on the audiophile
formats. Cookie is a trail blazer and as the engineer at the controls,
she looks after the technical specs. Im just the piano player.
I do believe that these hi resolution formats will be a future growth
market and also help to save the music industry from piracy.
mwe3: The Signature - Solo album does feature one guest
artist - renowned guitarist Lawrence Blatt on a track. How did you
meet Lawrence and tell us something about that track. His CD Emergence
is a great album. What are your other favorite instruments to collaborate
Seems thats the favorite track. I invited Lawrence to play on
it with me without warning of chord charts or music files to listen
first. He came into the studio and just nailed it. He was completely
on the same wave length and we talked about doing a project together
at the time.
Turns out we are! We have an album planned together along with
Jeff Oster (piano, guitar, horn) to release in 2017. It's in the diary
and its going to be very exciting. After so many years of all three
of us working together, and threatening to co-write an album, we finally
made the commitment and joined by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton as producer...
it will be epic I believe.
I read you recorded Signature - Solo with a restored 1885 Steinway
piano. How did that piano that you recorded the album with impact
the overall sound of the CD? I didnt even know Steinway was
making pianos in 1885! Whats involved in restoring a piano of
that age and how does it compare with other Steinways and different
pianos youve played and recorded your music on?
The old pianos have so much soul. There is a believe that the wood
in the piano can hold energy vibrations and if thats true then
a lot of good music and energy was poured into this piano. It's beautiful
and combined with the sound Cookie produces from the piano and room,
it makes for a great piano to record.
I came from a 102 key Stuart and Sons in my home to an 85 key
Steinway, so the odd time during the recording I ran out of notes!
I laugh now, but if you had seen the proverbial wheels turning during
my recording session you would probably laugh. A little extra rubato
in there at times to account for the thought process of working out
where to place my fingers given I had run out of keys!
I prefer old instruments to new ones. Sure the new ones are reliable
and even and everything is perfect
but the older ones have some personality and a good old piano can
sound beautiful so long as you figure out how to make it sing. Its
a bit like driving a new car. The clutch is always different. I have
done over 170 concerts now on a different piano every time and Im
getting used to working with something different each time. My two
favorite Steinways are at Cookie Marencos Blue Coast Studios
and the other is at Imaginary Road Studios. Both are old Steinway
Tell us about the cover art for the Signature - Solo CD. Where
was the cover photograph taken?
My friend Leanne Prussing is an artist and she came over for a head
to head on our project and suggested I put the pink dress on
and we go to the railway tracks for some photos. Shes
a painter and will be doing the cover for my next album. The photo
ended up so great that we just had to use it unadulterated for the
cover of Signature Solo. So back to the drawing board
for the next cover! Im sure Leanne will come up with something
equally as interesting.
The shot was a complete accident - no hair, makeup, grabbed the first
shoes in the wardrobe which were Ugg boots... but a lovely an inexpensive
one that surprised all of us. Two of my good friends Maureen Burt
and David Hofeditz helped design the presentation and voila! A great
I did get into trouble from a lot of people for running on the train
tracks on a bridge with 4 meters -12 feet down to the water between
the wooden rungs. We were careful enough to check the train timetable
mwe3: Theres so many great tracks on Signature - Solo.
One of my favorites is From The Mist which is very haunting.
Tell us about From The Mist and dont you think that
would make a great soundtrack theme song?
Joy: I should have included in the
liner notes that my father, Garry Heaney wrote the theme so
its a co-write of sorts. My dad writes a theme for me for each
album and I write it into a song... in this case he wrote the opening
theme. Its a Celtic fairy march to represent the fairy-tale
theme of the album.
mwe3: Track six Invisible Train is another Signature
- Solo highlight. You can almost hear the train coming around
the mountain in the music. Its a really swirling piece of music.
How did you get in the mind set to record this track? Theres
a touch of rock dynamics involved on that track, even though its
very classical in nature.
Fiona Joy: I had a childhood fascination with the story of the
Little Red Caboose. When I was about 5 years old my Grandmother bought
me the tape and the book and I would sit for hours and house listening
to it. I wanted to recreate that as one of the fairy-tale stories
on the album. Im really pleased you mentioned and like that
one, as its a favorite to play live.
mwe3: Ceremony is a great way to open the Signature
- Solo CD. It has a very fast tempo. What time signature is that
Fiona Joy: 13/8 and then 9/8, but
a lot of people are arguing over that. My good friend Dr John Napier
(a musicologist) says the 13/8 is actually 3/4, 3/4, 4/4, 3/4 and
violinist Rebecca Daniel of the Australian Chamber Orchestra says
in the classical world she would consider it 12/8 with a pause. Jeff
Haynes (percussionist) says you cant count it you just have
to feel it.
Fair Not is another highlight of Signature - Solo.
Theres a range of dynamics on that track. Would you say its
more classical in scope than New Age. Thats another track with
a strong melodic identity. When writing music, is it more challenging
to write strong melodies or to create unique moods, like shadings
Fiona Joy: Another favorite to play...
it has so much drama. It's about a princess in a tower, a beautiful
and protective dragon at the bottom and an evil person trying to steal
something that doesnt belong to them.
It was written because my friend Leanne, the painter, was sick of
me complaining in over and over its not fair and
said I should write a song to get it out of my system. So I wrote
Fair Not. Because its a fairy tale, it has a happy
ending and the dragon prevails! (lol)
mwe3: Do you like to write music in specific keys and time
signatures and do you have a preference for writing music in different
I dont aim for any key or any time signature, but I do tend
to move through them within a track, sometimes to the horror of the
session musicians trying to figure it out. I mix it up pretty evenly
I think. The trick is to make it sound simple and seamless. The only
time I have to think about it is if I need to write out the sheet
music or chord charts.
Can you tell us about the song you wrote called Grace,
which is on the Grammy winning Winds Of Samsara CD. How did
you meet Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman and was the track specifically
written for the Winds Of Samsara CD? I saw the video but I
didnt see Ricky in it. You mentioned theres going to be
a vocal version of Grace too.
Actually there is a solo version of "Grace" on Signature
Solo. I met Wouter in Melbourne at a concert and we talked
about working together. Both Wouter and Ricky are amazing musicians
to work with and I just loved the arrangement they did of the song.
I felt very honored that they chose to put "Grace" on their
Grammy winning album Winds of Samsara.
vocal version is coming out on Signature Synchronicity
early next year. There is also a chill beatbox version on the same
album. Yep, beatbox! And the artist is my son Nick Hawkins. It was
great to work with
him. He got his rhythm from learning drums as a kid. At the time I
wanted to throw them out the window, but in hindsight they were a
good idea! (lol) They were set up about 4 feet behind my office chair
and many a time I would nearly jump through the ceiling when he would
sit down to practice. Hes quite the beatboxer now and he has
a lovely singing voice. Maybe a surprise for the next album!
mwe3: Why dont you like the term New Age music? I always
thought New Age was a modern term for expansive, mood enhancing and
ambient instrumental music that wasnt quite jazz and wasnt
quite classical. Maybe we need a new genre name for your music, considering
the New Age term is just about 30 years old.
I think I have finally given in to it. The bar in New Age music seems
to be rising with so many amazing albums coming out using the genre
name and with ZMR giving us more access to a mass audience, so things
are on the improve. Im now using Contemporary Instrumental/New
mwe3: You mentioned before that youd like to branch out
into further production work and assist other rising New Age and contemporary
instrumental artists. Is that still among your future plans?
Joy: I love producing. The first
album I produced for a musician, other than my own albums, was By
A Wire for Jennifer DeFrayen. Jen just won the ZMR International
Radio voted music award for Best New Artist, so Im feeling very
proud of that project. I love helping other artists bring their music
and dreams to reality and I would love to continue to produce more
mwe3: With your 2015 concerts in China youre becoming
more of an international musical celebrity. Where would you like to
play next and what steps are you taking to further move your music
onto the global stage? Can Carnegie Hall be very far behind?
Carnegie Hall is booked for 2017. Im planning to tour the major
cities of the US with Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster as well as our
producer and Grammy winning guitarist Will Ackerman. We will be touring
the planned co-write 2017 release FLO. (Fiona, Lawrence, Oster). I
cant wait to do a whole album with them, as they are two of
my favorite musicians and we have done so much work together that
it seems like a logical progression.
I have had several more invitations back to China as well as an invitation
to record another audiophile album with Cookie Marenco at Blue Coast
That, together with the release of the studio version of Signature
Synchronicity with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton will fill
my next 3 years completely!
I have an ACE team with me - Beth Hilton the B Company for
PR, Business Manager Annette (Dunnie) Crossley handling licensing
and contracts and stuff, radio promoter Ed Bonk and office helper
Im always constantly surprised by the team of helpers on Facebook
who willingly do all sorts of odd jobs to get things done.
I wouldnt manage all this without them. Thanks for asking...
to Fiona Joy @ www.fionajoy.com