Photo Credit: JarvieDigital Photography
The Piano Guys: Nature, Innovation & Goodness Rolled Up Into One
This past weekend, a friend and I decided to take our kayaks out for a paddle up and down the local river. Little did we realize that our morning’s exercise would turn into an illustrious array of wildlife and nature that made me especially grateful we had decided to partake in our outing this particular day.
The Osprey, the cranes, the ducks, the geese, the turtles and even the crabs seemed to be jubilant -- dancing in the sunshine to melodies orchestrated by the soft winds of summer. The entire symphonic scene felt very “Piano Guys” to me so it made sense to me that I share their interview with you now, while I remain immersed in the vibrant memories of my weekend.
No doubt, Paul Anderson, Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, and Al van der Beek (The Piano Guys) understand better than me how inspirational nature can be. They’ve become a worldwide sensation as a result of their moving, artistic compositions combined with their savvy use of Youtube as well as a powerful devotion to faith and family.
I, daresay, there is nothing like them around -- short of Mother Nature and the Lord, himself.
Explain the process of choosing the songs you do and then matching them to the locations?
One rule we always like to follow when choosing a song is to make sure it’s family friendly. We all have young children and entire families come to our concerts (ages 3 and up), and so we always try to make our music/videos appropriate for all ages, genders and religious beliefs. We want it to be all-inclusive. Many people will go watch the original video after watching ours, so if we don’t feel comfortable listening to, or watching a potential cover’s video, with our children, we won’t choose that song.
Sometimes we’ll write a song with a specific location in mind, like the Great Wall of China and the Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil. However, most of the time we just start writing and during the process the music will dictate the locations and video ideas just start to flow.
Who are you itching to work with?
We’ve collaborated with quite a few YouTube artists in the past and we’ve enjoyed doing that. We recently worked with Placido Domingo on a rendition of "Silent Night" and that was an amazing experience that none of us ever thought would happen. There isn’t anyone specific that we have in mind at the moment; we just like to work with people who share the same passion in creating music that can uplift, inspire and bring families closer together.
How long does one video usually take to complete?
It usually depends on the concept. We've had some videos filmed and edited in a couple days where some have taken months. Here's a couple examples..."Fight Song/Amazing Grace", which was filmed in Scotland, took 3 days to films and 2 weeks to edit. "Cello Wars" took 24 hours to film, but 6 months to edit. "Snoopy" took a couple hours to film and 1 day to edit, and traveling all the way to the Great Wall of China; we only had 6 good hours to film! It's always an adventure for sure!
What is the hardest part about being The Piano Guys?
Having been nominated "Most Shy" in high school, I'd have to say that getting outside my comfort zone performing and doing speaking engagements has been really tough. I love it though, because I'm constantly being pushed beyond what I feel my limits are, therefore, learning so much and creating experiences I'll treasure forever!
Have you ever thought that your and your music are means for God to remind the world - during an immense time of crisis - that "we need to do things differently" and "return to doing them for the right reasons" and he packaged your emergence in a way rather perfect for the times? That you are, in a sense, messengers that all will listen to. Please share your thoughts.
This is a very humbling question. We firmly believe that each of us in this world - no matter who we are or where we live, how we grew up, or what language we speak - can accept a calling from God to spread His message simply by using the unique gifts God has given us to love our neighbor. We believe God is our literal Father in Heaven and as such wants ALL of his children to know how much "He loves us." Yes, we are as diverse as leaves on a tree, and there is tremendous purpose and benefit in this diversity, but we all belong to the same tree fed by the same roots. And if we all understood this correctly and deeply enough there would be no starvation, deprivation, disparity, or hate. Imperfection is a vital part of life — we are meant to learn from our own and each others’ mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes can sometimes coax us far away from the original message: God’s unconditional love. If we, as The Piano Guys, can somehow put this message into our music videos and open the hearts of our listeners — not as a religious agenda or ulterior motive but out of sincerity and authenticity (because with love comes the antidotes of faith, hope and clarity to see things as they really are) then we are happy and fulfilled in what we get to do every day.
Is there a social cause or cause based organization you support? Please share.
We, indirectly, support many causes, but paramount among them are 'music education, the importance of the family, and not taking ourselves too seriously.' :-)
What is it that you've gained most from this experience?
The satisfaction and happiness that accompanies a large-scale opportunity to bring cheer to people or to comfort people who are going through hard times or to inspire people to develop their gifts and talents.
Which story in the bible does The Piano Guy's story most closely resemble, in your opinion?
The story that comes to mind is Peter's opportunity to show that indeed he did love the Lord by responding to the Lord's invitation to feed His sheep. We feel we have a chance to help
people feel the love of God that we feel in our lives. We seek His blessing upon our music, videos and concerts. We pray that God will be able to uplift and "feed" people through the things we produce.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
Al: I hope that we can be remembered for bridging a gap for the younger generations between modern/pop music and classical music. Showing them how cool classical music is and how fun music can be to be a part of and how much joy we can have in our lives by sharing it. And for making wholesome entertainment that brings families together.
Paul: I would want to be remembered as a good husband, father, and friend.
Steven: As a hopelessly in love husband and an unconditionally devoted father.
Jon: As awesome dads that made a difference for good in the world
Ironically, if you view The Piano Guys most recent video (found here), you will feel as if you were cruising next to my friend and I on the Oyster River last weekend. It is spectacular -- yet another masterpiece capturing the beauty of The Piano Guys surroundings and soul. Absolutely magnificent, mesmerizing, and un-missable.
Also not-to-be-missed is The Piano Guys current tour, which launched in Salt Lake City, Utah on September 16th, 2016, and will carry through to December 10th, 2016, concluding in Hershey Park, Pennsylvania. It's an event the entire family can enjoy. So bring everyone -- just as The Piano Guys like it.
Many thanks to The Piano Guys and DSW Entertainment for making this interview possible