We had the chance to interview the talented jazz composer Alan Goldberg. Read below to learn more about his vision, upbringing and More!
Alan, how was it growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, and ending up in Austin, TX?
Well, Waterloo, Iowa isn’t a major music scene. I started out playing violin in the school orchestra, and I played piano and drums. During high school, I was fortunate to work as a “local roadie” - unloading and loading equipment trucks whenever the ‘big name bands’ came to town on their midwest tours - Rush, Styx, Heart, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon. Before the Rush concert, I was ‘hanging out’ with the late great drummer Neil Peart and asked him what the secret of good drumming was. He didn’t hesitate when he said “rudiments, man, rudiments”. That was a highlight for me, right there in Waterloo, Iowa. We moved to Austin from Minneapolis during the internet boom in the late 90’s. Now Austin does have a music scene, obviously. I’ve played keyboards in a band here pretty much since we arrived. Austin has grown and changed a lot since we moved here. It’s important to keep the live music vibe vibrant and strong. 2020 was a tough year and Austin needs the live music scene.
What inspired you to enter the genre of Jazz?
Jazz is freedom. My earliest exposure to jazz was through the music of Vince Guaraldi as soundtrack to the “Peanuts” cartoon specials. I wanted to play that. As a teenager, I listened to a lot of progressive rock - Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull - then gravitated to progressive jazz - Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock - then all jazz, while keeping the progressive vibe alive . I listen to Reggae - anything that makes me feel free when I listen to it and when I play. There is a big musical palette to work with in jazz. I like strong melody and melodic solos. I like walking bass lines and weaving horn lines together with the piano, like I did with the songs in “The Show”.
Do you think there is room for growth in today's industry?
I think there is tremendous growth on the creative side as people get better at making their own music. The music business is “simple” 1) Make great music 2) Find the people who will like your music 3) Let them hear your music The challenge to growth, and satisfaction, in the music ‘business’ is in marrying the music to the listener. If you don’t play live shows it becomes a data management problem. The new information about music grows tremendously every day, and so musicians end up working Spotify playlists and focusing on creating metadata. There’s just so much. The role of the music curator keeps growing in importance, to sift through the blizzard of new music and give you a chance to hear music you like, and to be heard.
Tell us about your project, "The Show"
The concept for “The Show EP” came from a forty second piece of music I made as an intro for a film that wasn’t used. The film maker wanted something ‘darker’. I turned that snippet of music into “The Show Redux” and it all blossomed from there. Once I had an intro song, I imagined a small jazz ensemble playing the incidental music of a live stage performance. I needed intermission music for the ‘lights up’ bio break, and another for relaxing before the next act. I also needed a finale for the people who leave the show right away and for those who stay to the very end. I used classic ensemble horns, drums, bass, piano and imagined music to fit the moment, regardless of what the stage performance was. I recorded a demo version of the song and sent it and the sheet music to musicians, who recorded the part and sent it back to me during the pandemic. I played the piano and bass parts. Because of Covid, the whole thing was put together virtually.That four song EP was released in October, 2020. A ‘deluxe’ version with two more songs - “Afterparty”, and “Curtain Call” will be released in 2021.
Do you have family members who are into playing instruments?
I have four brothers. Three of them are horn players - sax, trumpet, and trombone. They all marched in the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band.. The sax and trumpet playing brothers still play in local jazz bands, as do their sons. When I made, “The Show”, I imagined them playing the horn parts. Maybe someday that will happen. My mom said that I 'bit the piano' when I was three or four. She always used to point out my teeth marks in the wood of the piano to people. My older brother took piano lessons but pretty much gave it up when I would hop on the piano bench and play by ear what he had been working on hard to play from the sheet music. He got mad at me. My mom did a lot of acting in community theater musical productions of Broadway shows. I was in some musicals as well. Maybe that’s where some of “The Show” comes from.
So tell us the typical day of creation for Alan Goldberg
I’m fortunate to be able to work on music full time, and it still seems like there’s never enough time for everything. I always have a song that I’m working on, I “press record” and capture new piano ideas. I record and post piano covers of favorite songs on my YouTube channel. I learn a new virtual instrument. I practice songs, chord progressions, scales. I do the social media and PR things. I always find time to exercise and either listen to music or hum ideas into a phone memo if I’m on my bike. I’m focused on getting licensing deals to get my music into film and TV, so that takes a chunk of time.
How has Covid-19 affected your career currently?
I’m a two-time cancer survivor, so I’m pretty careful to stay in my ‘pod’. Our band has stopped playing. I also miss going to Jazzfest in New Orleans and Austin City Limits Festival here, other concerts and just live music overall. On the ‘plus side’, as I mentioned, “The Show” EP was put together entirely virtually. I developed a decent process to do that by necessity. Also, the potential distractions are reduced since I don’t go out much, so I stay focused on music, exercise, and staying healthy.
Could you tell us some of your accolades; what are you most proud of in your musical career?
I don’t know if I would call them accolades, but I can think of a few moments. Many years after I released my first album, “Fuel For The Fire”, I got an email from a woman who said my album helped her through her grief after her husband died. She said she listened to that album a lot and found some peace in it. I know how that can be, when one particular set of music gets fused with an intense moment in life. I’m glad it helped her a bit. I play the 30-string lyre, to a degree. It was featured on my album “Chasing Stray Flames”. I put several of the spiritual, meditative musical experiments I did on the lyre up on SoundClick back in the day. I wrote a lyre song to honor the victims of the Istanbul Neve Shalom Synagogue bombing in 2003. The son of one of the victims of the bombing contacted me to say that the song touched him and his family and to thank me. That meant a lot to me. Those times of connection when my music can help to shape a moment emotionally in a positive way are what it’s all about.
any last remarks
I’m looking forward to getting past this virus and back to ‘normal’, and to getting some of my new music into TV and film. The key is that it’s all fun and I can’t imagine doing anything else but continuing to make more music every day.