FIONA JOY
Signature - Solo
(Tiny Island Music)

 

Acclaimed 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 Fiona’s 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 Impossible”—which also features Fiona’s 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 Fiona’s last album 600 Years In A Moment, will equally enjoy the stately yet dynamic solo piano sound of Fiona Joy’s Signature - Solo CD. www.FionaJoy.com



mwe3.com presents an interview with
FIONA JOY


mwe3: Tell us about your 2015 concert tour in China. Who organized it and how many concerts are you playing there? It’s not widely known but the Chinese are a very musical people.

Fiona Joy: China was amazing. I feel very privileged to be invited to tour there as a cultural exchange. I didn’t 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?

Fiona Joy: 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.


mwe3: 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 Cookie’s 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.

Fiona Joy: 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 i-tunes)

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.

Fiona Joy: Oh jeez. That’s 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 I’m 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 can’t 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.


mwe3: 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 of downloads?

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. I’m just the piano player. Phew.

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 with?

Fiona Joy: Seems that’s 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.


mwe3
: 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 didn’t even know Steinway was making pianos in 1885! What’s involved in restoring a piano of that age and how does it compare with other Steinways and different pianos you’ve played and recorded your music on?

Fiona Joy
: The old pianos have so much soul. There is a believe that the wood in the piano can hold energy vibrations and if that’s 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 Son’s 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. It’s 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 I’m getting used to working with something different each time. My two favorite Steinways are at Cookie Marenco’s Blue Coast Studios and the other is at Imaginary Road Studios. Both are old Steinway B's.

mwe3: Tell us about the cover art for the Signature - Solo CD. Where was the cover photograph taken?

Fiona Joy: 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’. She’s 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! I’m 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 cover.

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 first! (lol)


mwe3: There’s 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 don’t you think that would make a great soundtrack theme song?

Fiona Joy
: I should have included in the liner notes that my father, Garry Heaney wrote the theme – so it’s 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. It’s 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. It’s a really swirling piece of music. How did you get in the mind set to record this track? There’s a touch of rock dynamics involved on that track, even though it’s 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. I’m really pleased you mentioned and like that one, as it’s 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 track in?

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 can’t count it you just have to ‘feel’ it.

mwe3: “Fair Not” is another highlight of Signature - Solo. There’s a range of dynamics on that track. Would you say it’s more classical in scope than New Age. That’s 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 and atmospheres?

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 doesn’t belong to them.

It was written because my friend Leanne, the painter, was sick of me complaining in over and over ‘it’s not fair’ and said I should write a song to get it out of my system. So I wrote “Fair Not”. Because it’s 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 key signatures?

Fiona Joy: I don’t 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.

mwe3: 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 didn’t see Ricky in it. You mentioned there’s going to be a vocal version of “Grace” too.

Fiona Joy: 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.

The 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. He’s quite the beatboxer now and he has a lovely singing voice. Maybe a surprise for the next album!

mwe3: Why don’t 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 wasn’t quite jazz and wasn’t quite classical. Maybe we need a new genre name for your music, considering the New Age term is just about 30 years old.

Fiona Joy: 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. I’m now using Contemporary Instrumental/New Age.

mwe3: You mentioned before that you’d 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?

Fiona 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 I’m 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 albums.

mwe3: With your 2015 concerts in China you’re 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?

Fiona Joy
: Carnegie Hall is booked for 2017. I’m 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 can’t 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 Records.

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!

Thankfully 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 Therese Meredith.

I’m always constantly surprised by the team of helpers on Facebook who willingly do all sorts of odd jobs to get things done.

I wouldn’t manage all this without them. Thanks for asking...



Thanks to Fiona Joy @ www.fionajoy.com



 

 
   
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