Half Moon Bay and Brian Wilson

 

In case you don’t already know, composer/artist/Beach Boy legend/survivor Brian Wilson was my main musical influence on my new album, Half Moon Bay.

In early 2018, I was revisiting some YouTube videos from 2015 which highlighted Brian’s then-new album, No Pier Pressure. That album was Brian’s musical look back from the happy place his life is in now, and stretched beyond pop music to include some lovely instrumentals. But then again, he was doing that in 1965 (check Pet Sounds). Among the songs on No Pier Pressure is a beautiful, quiet instrumental called Half Moon Bay.

When I heard it, I knew immediately that I would record Half Moon Bay for my new album. Not only did it become the title cut, it encouraged me to look further into Brian Wilson’s massive catalog of songs.

Brian has written so very many lovely songs, but ultimately, I chose three: Half Moon Bay (2015), Lonely Sea (1962) and Summer’s Gone (2012). Lonely Sea was an early Brian song on the Beach Boys second album, Surfin’ USA (1963). It was never a single or radio hit, but Brian’s poignant vocal & gorgeous chords & melody make it a standout Beach Boys song.

The third Brian Wilson song on Half Moon Bay is Summer’s Gone, the final song on the Beach Boys’ 2012 reunion albumThat’s Why God Made the Radio. Because that album is likely the final Beach Boys album, Summer’s Gone has a special significance. For me, it was the perfect choice to be the last song on Half Moon Bay. 

Deciding to include three Brian Wilson songs on Half Moon Bay really raised the bar for me as a musician & composer, but I loved every minute of the process. It made my summer of 2018 very special indeed. As Brian likes to say, “I hope you like my music.”

 

Happy birthday, Brian Wilson!

 

Happy 76th birthday to Brian Wilson!

I've always loved the music of the Beach Boys and their guiding light, Brian Wilson. Brian has written beautiful music throughout his life, both in & out of the Beach Boys - I'm honored to record 3 of his songs on my new album. Post-production is next week, finalizing each song before uploading the album for CD production & digital distribution. Then comes the hard work of promotion to radio worldwide. As with Nightfall London, Half Moon Bay promotion will be in the capable hands of Randall Davis of The Creative Service Company out of Colorado Springs.

I am so grateful for these 10 beautiful songs, including 3 Brian Wilson originals (Half Moon Bay, Lonely Sea & Summer's Gone). Like Brian, I credit God for my music & for the loving power entrusted to me as a recording artist.

Deciding to record 3 of Brian's songs for the new album set a high bar for me as a composer & musician. I'm truly excited about the result - can't wait for Half Moon Bay to be released in late July.

 

"Whisper In the Wind"

 

So where do song titles come from, especially for instrumentals with no lyrics?

I can't speak for other writers, but a good title actually gives me inspiration for composing a song. "Whisper In the Wind" was the working title of the song I just finished today, my 7th and final original song on Half Moon Bay. It's lovely, laid back & a perfect fit for an album that's all about the peace & well-being that many of us find at the water's edge. 

With eight songs on Half Moon Bay now complete & only two to go, I totally agree with Brian Wilson, who has said many times over the years that God gives him the songs he writes. I know the Lord uses our musicianship & imagination to craft something beautiful & worthy, but in the end I'm convinced the inspiration comes from Him.

And a good song title. :)

 

Nightfall London receives 3rd place from OWMR Awards!

 

The U.K.'s OWMR 2017 awards were announced today! Nightfall London placed 3rd (out of 10 albums nominated) for Best Piano w. Instrumentation! So many great albums in contention this year - I'm very honored to have placed so near the top.

One World Music Radio is Europe's #1 online radio service in its genres. Special thanks to Steve & Chrissie Sheppard at OWMR for their help in promoting the album last year, and for playing my music!

You can view the nominees & listen to the awards show here: http://www.oneworldmusic.co.uk/2017-awards/4593893808

 

 

#6 & #7 complete!

 

I recorded two more songs this week for the new album! First Light Sunset Dreams are #6 & #7, which leaves only one more original and two Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) songs to go.

I listened to all 7 completed songs this afternoon. The back cover quote from MainlyPiano.com is so right for this album: "Music that overflows with hope, faith & peace." A few weeks ago, Half Moon Bay was just a concept. I can now tell you that the album graphics are a perfect reflection of the music inside. Barring any problems, we're looking good for a July release.

 

Half Way There!

 

By now you know that I'm deep into recording "Half Moon Bay," my new album project. As of today, we've finished song #5 and have now completed half the album!

The new song is "You're So Nice," a quiet piano love song unlike any I've ever recorded. I commonly write (& record) songs in sections, starting with the melody. With only a couple of chords & the beginning of a melody in mind, I decided to try improvising the entire song without stopping. Four minutes later, I stopped recording, listened to the playback and was so glad I had decided to keep playing. I love the result - I hope you'll feel the same when you hear "You're So Nice" in a few months.

At the half way mark of any project, I start to get a feel for the overall sound of an album. With five songs now complete (and a couple of Brian Wilson songs still to record), I couldn't be happier with the direction "Half Moon Bay" is taking. I'm excited & grateful to be recording a worthy followup to "Nightfall London."

Stay tuned for updates! We're on track for release in August.

 

Mother's Day memories

 

I can't let Mother's Day go by without a special word of gratitude & love to my mom for putting me on the good path of being a musician. She herself was a great pianist & loved to play & sing at church & home. Mom started me on piano lessons when I was only 7 years old.

Mom began her own lessons as a girl by "practicing" at home on a roll-up fabric (or paper) keyboard, learning the positions & names of the notes by rote. As Zechariah 4:10 asks, "Who can despise the day of small beginnings?" Certainly not me - a lifetime of music in our family was the result of Mom's humble musical beginnings.

Here she is at the keyboard of her brand new 1957 Wurlitzer ebony spinet, the same piano chosen by Sam Phillips for Sun Studio in Memphis. I don't know that she was aware of that when she chose her new piano, but I wouldn't be surprised.

And here I am at the same Wurlitzer in '59. It's the piano I learn to play on with lessons starting a couple of years later. It's been a treasured part of my music studio now for many years.

 

Our Prayer

 

The lovely & ethereal Our Prayer, written by Brian Wilson in 1966, was the first track for the Beach Boys album, Smile (which would go unfinished for decades). Our Prayer was Brian's effort at what he called "holy music." 

In a 1969 interview, Brian said, "I was sitting at my piano thinking about holy music. I poked around for some simple but moving chords. Later I sat down and wrote Our Prayer in sections. The boys were overtaken by the arrangement. I taught it to them in sections, the way I usually do. The purity of the blending of the voices made the listeners feel spiritual. I was definitely into rock church music."

Thank you, Brian, for all your beautiful music over the years. The loving power of your music still rings true.

 

New album project!

 

First look at my new project, inspired by the lovely music of Brian Wilson (Beach Boys). Production on Half Moon Bay begins in May, with release in August 2018. 

I've always loved Brian's music - can't wait to get started! Initial setlist includes 3 Brian Wilson covers, an Eagles cover (Love Will Keep Us Alive) & 6 originals.

 

Nightfall London Released 1 Year Ago

 

NIGHTFALL LONDON RELEASED 1 YEAR AGO

It was one year ago, April 2017, that we released Nightfall London, my 3rd quiet-music album in 3 years. Nightfall would garner wonderful reviews, chart for 5 months on world radio playlists, and eventually receive multiple nominations for 2017’s “Best Piano Album w. Instrumentation” by Zone Music Reporter and One World Music Awards.

But a year ago, all that was yet to come. I only knew that the music felt right as, track by track, the album took shape in my little home studio. Nightfall London would be a true test for me as a composer, with nine new original piano-based songs framed by a mix of strings, choral voices & synth work inspired by the nocturnal London theme.

My new friend, Randall Davis at the Creative Service Company in Colorado Springs, did 4 months of stellar work promoting the album to radio worldwide. A favorite personal moment came a few months ago when an old radio friend told me, “You’re all over Spotify, Rick!” It seems that he & his wife like to say, “Alexa- play Rick Sparks” on a daily basis. 

So, thank you, Nightfall London, for making the last 12 months a wonderful year for Rick Sparks Music. It truly is a blessing to do what I do, with inspiration from the Master Musician (that would be God) and the support of so many who love my music. In just a few weeks, I start work on a new album, due for release this fall. I can't wait.

NIGHTFALL LONDON REVIEW EXCERPTS
"It has been created with love and intention and a delicacy of care and attention. One of the best new-age albums I have heard this year - stunning." -Steve Sheppard, One World Music Radio

“Overflows with hope, faith & peace.” – Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com

"Highly recommended, especially when winding down after a long day." -Wisconsin Bookwatch

"Kick-back music perfectly tailored for sonic getaways, this is quite solid restful work for when it's time to stopper down. Contemporary instrumental fans have a winner here." -Midwest Record

"Clear & resonant piano without needing to overemphasize itself. Beautiful synthesizer patches (reminiscent of) the early Moody Blues....simply pretty and utterly devastating." -Mark S. Tucker, Veritas Vampirus