Half Moon Bay: The Songs


As I’ve written in earlier blogs, once I heard the lovely instrumental, Half Moon Bay, from Brian Wilson’s 2015 album, No Pier Pressure, I knew what the theme & feel of my next album would be. I love the down-tempo, laid-back vibe of the song, which I basically adopted as the sound of my new album. Finding a beautiful graphic of a large half-moon rising out of blue water was a happy accident that yielded the album cover. All that remained was to write 7 new songs, choose 2 more Brian Wilson songs, then arrange & record the album. :)

  1. Sand and Stars. Prompted by the vision of a white sandy beach under a moonlit sky. I used alternating minor & major chords to establish ethereal beauty as the mood of the song. My solo piano plays the main theme, a simple melody which is then progressively enhanced by orchestral strings, electric guitar & angel voices. The middle bridge of tripled voice harmonies (called "angelic" by Brian in his Beach Boys vocal arrangements) floats over rhythmic piano & strings, and the ending repeats the beginning the song, with the addition of bells representing twinkling stars.
  2. Half Moon Bay. Brian Wilson’s lovely paean to inner peace, which he finally found in the latter part of his life. How natural for Brian to name the song after a little surfing community on the California coast. I started with the sustained sound of an electric piano, joined by electric guitar, flute, strings & angel voices. The electric guitar suggested by Brian’s original recording would feature in several more songs on the album. Not only did the guitar give a contemporary vibe to the songs, but it was my homage to Brian’s Beach Boy days. The use of voices gives this and the other songs on the album significant added emotion.
  3. Sunlight In Her Hair. A finger-style acoustic guitar carries the song from start to finish, with chords alternating between minor/major and the addition of countermelody & harmonic strings. A laid-back, deeply romantic vibe suggested by the song title, probably on a beach past or present.
  4. You’re So Nice. An improvised, 1-take piano solo that reflects the feelings of first love - tender, innocent, trusting, beautiful. The brief arpeggiated 2-chord piano opening is a nice segue from the preceding minor/major chord songs to a sweet simple song of mostly major chords.
  5. Ocean Blue. The title was suggested by Dennis Wilson’s 1977 solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue. Framed by electric guitar as homage to the Beach Boys era, as well as evoking the grandeur, mystery and beauty of the sea. This is another song on the album alternating between minor & major chords, with strings & angelic voices adding emotion.
  6. First Light. The quietest song on the album, evoking the peace of sunrise. Simple use of underlying synth to establish chords, with single piano notes & angel voices defining the melody.
  7. Lonely Sea. Brian Wilson’s underappreciated Beach Boys’ masterpiece from 1962 used a pattern of repeating descending chords (which he used again in Good Vibrations). His plaintive vocal of lost love set the emotion for the song which I tried to capture with slow electric guitar, quiet harmony voices and a flute melody, with a brief vocal bridge. The sound of ocean surf frames the open & close of the song.
  8. Whisper In the Wind. In a noisy world, you can still hear the whisper of His still small voice. "He will bring you quietness with His love." -Zephaniah 3:17. Quiet piano, flute, voices & strings - magical.
  9. Sunset Dreams. As the end of the day (and the album) approaches, a piano-based song of memories and dreams at sunset. A piano solo for the first half, joined then by quiet strings.
  10. Summer’s Gone. Brian Wilson’s last song on the final Beach Boy album, 2012’s That’s Why God Made the Radio, is Brian’s perfect look back at his life. From the Endless Summer of the Beach Boys to Summer’s Gone & latter years, Brian comes to terms with both the peace he eventually found and the finality that all things must pass. It was my choice for the last song on Half Moon Bay, a gentle longing for the warmth of the sun from a golden past (or a heavenly future).


I couldn’t be happier with the finished album. As Brian Wilson would say, we put a lot of love in these songs. May they take you to the water’s edge on a warm summer evening of dreams and peace.



The spiritual side of Half Moon Bay


In the liner notes to his 1965 masterpiece, A Love Supreme, jazz legend John Coltrane wrote that he had experienced “a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life.” He wrote that he had asked God for the “means and privilege to make others happy through music,” and that A Love Supreme was his “humble offering to Him, an attempt to say, ‘Thank you, God’ through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues.”

No less a secular critic than Rolling Stone called A Love Supreme a “legendary album-long hymn of praise.” Coltrane is a powerful example of a “secular” artist (in the eyes of the world) who viewed his music as an ongoing prayer of thanksgiving to God, who desired that his music bring joy to the listener.

On stage at the American Music Awards in 1988, Brian Wilson echoed Coltrane’s embrace of the spiritual power of music: “I wanted to write joyful music that made other people feel good – music that helps and heals, because I believe that music is God’s voice.”

I am simply one of millions whose lives have been inspired with joy by Brian’s music over the years. The loving power of his music still rings true.

Half Moon Bay (and all my music) is my humble offering of thanks to Him who inspires and blesses the work of my hands. To compose and play skillfully is to honor the One from whom all my blessings flow, blessings which certainly include my talent and ability as a musician.

In music as in life, I embrace the truth of Psalm 46:10, “Be still & know that I am God.” A master musician named David penned that verse some 3000 years ago. Like David, like John Coltrane and like Brian Wilson, my prayer is that God uses my music to replenish your spirit with peace, joy & love.

As I wrote in the liner notes for Half Moon Bay, “To Jesus Christ – your love and mercy fill my life.” May He do the same for you.


Inside Half Moon Bay: liner notes


Inside the "digipak" CD packaging of Half Moon Bay, you'll find liner notes on a beautiful picture of the Folly Beach, SC pier at sunrise. Folly Beach has been one of my favorite places for decades, ever since I was a college student in Charleston in the 70's. When I saw the picture online, I tracked down the photographer & she graciously granted me permission to use it in Half Moon Bay.

My liner notes are simple but heartfelt.

Opposite the liner notes is the actual CD, under which you'll find a picture of me off the coast of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands a few years back. The photographer was Sandie, the event our 25th anniversary. :)  I had no idea back then that one day, that picture would be a great choice for an album called Half Moon Bay.

Now you know what you'll miss if you choose to download the album, vs. getting the CD. :)





So excited to finally see this day arrive!

After 12 weeks (250+ hours) in the studio, Half Moon Bay is here. Digital downloads are available now, with CDs to follow in early August. 2-min. samples of each song are available on my Music Store page on this website.

The album contains 47 minutes of music to take you to the water’s edge on a warm summer evening, music to fill your heart with hope, faith & peace.

Inspired by legendary artist/composer Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys (and containing 3 of his songs), Half Moon Bay is chock full of summer chill music, perfect for your favorite beach read or just to dial down the noise of your day.

As Brian has done for many years with his music, I credit God for giving me these gorgeous songs. I also repeat what Brian often says: “I hope you like my music.” 


CD-Text testing complete on Half Moon Bay


One of the really important tasks of pre-production with music CDs is making sure the CD-Text feature reads correctly. That's the info displayed on the screen during playback - album name, song title, track number, etc. We reached that stage today with Half Moon Bay.

CDs are considered by many to be old-school tech, but I believe they're still a great way to distribute & play back music, especially albums. MP3s are cool & efficient, but with CDs you get album graphics, liner notes & a physical, tangible "presence" to recorded music that harkens back to vinyl records.

Those of us old enough to have bought records back in the day remember the thrill of opening a new album for the first time, pulling out the inner sleeve, reading the liner notes, looking at the pristine black vinyl & carefully placing it on the turntable.



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.