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

 

My Top-10 in Radio Airplay!

 

SoundExchange just reported my Top-10 songs for worldwide radio & online airplay for March:

1. Dream Angus
2. Portree
3. Beautiful
4. Endless
5. Loch Lomond
6. At Rest
7. Be Still, My Soul
8. Matilda's Flowers
9. Hearts As One
10. In the Bleak Midwinter

Those 10 together would make a pretty good album!

 

SiriusXM Airplay!

 

Airplay is a beautiful thing!  So grateful for our friends at SiriusXM who continue to play my music on Spa & Escape channels.

 

Nightfall London Receives 2017 OWMA Nomination!

 

I am incredibly honored to have Nightfall London nominated for the OWMA Award for "Best Piano w. Instrumentation Album" of 2017! One World Music Radio has the biggest audience of any online radio channel in Europe. I will always be grateful for their superb support of Nightfall London - many, many thanks!

 

The Little Album That Could

 

It’s been four years now since I decided to record my first of a trilogy of quiet-music albums that have truly changed my life. 2014’s Endless was a shot in the dark, my best-effort as an indie artist to find my place in the new-age music world with quiet piano-based songs from the heart, “quiet piano to replenish your spirit.”

After hundreds of hours of arranging, recording & post-production in my little home studio, plus designing album packaging, hiring a radio promoter and launching an artist website & Facebook page, I released Endless in the fall of ‘14 to worldwide radio & digital outlets. My hopes for the album seemed to be vindicated as really wonderful reviews started coming in.

Over 200 broadcast & online radio outlets in the U.S. and worldwide added Endless to their playlists, eventually pushing it to #7 on Zone Music Reporter’s world radio airplay chart. That was enough to earn the album two qualifying ZMR nominations for 2014: album of the year and best piano album with instrumentation. Although I didn’t win, being nominated was a huge thrill. It also encouraged me to stay the course with my future album projects, Matilda’s Flowers (2016) and Nightfall London (2017).

In 2016, SiriusXM Radio added six Endless songs to their Spa & Escape channels. The SXM airplay was a shot in the arm to sales, and the monthly airplay royalties to me as artist & composer were very welcome. 2016 was also significant because I launched my own online quiet-music station. The Cove on Live365.com plays “music to replenish your spirit,” my music in combination with dozens of other wonderful artists like Chris Botti, Jim Brickman and 2002.

Suffice to say, I’m grateful to God for letting me record Endless & my other albums since then. I know without a doubt that He helped me find a musical genre that truly expresses my heart, lovely quiet music to replenish the spirit of the listener. I do it for them and for Him, my Lord Jesus.

So here’s to the project that started it all back in 2014 and continues to open doors for my music today. I’m so grateful for Endless, the little album that could.

 

Nightfall London & the Moody Blues!

 

Deeply honored for reviewer Mark S. Tucker to compare Nightfall London to the early music of the Moody Blues. I've always loved the Moodys - "Nights In White Satin" could be a musical template for the direction my recorded music is taking.

"Sparks... more than once has inserted beautiful synthesizer patches as transcendent as the refrains first crafted by Palestrina, Lassus, and others, later refined into opuses by Harold Budd and, returning to England, the Eno brothers and the early Moody Blues....simply pretty and utterly devastating." -Mark S. Tucker, Veritas Vampirus (7/29/17)