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Brickman making stop at Sweetwater

Songwriter's Across America tour invites audiences to sing along

Jim Brickman will perform at Sweetwater Sound on Oct. 8.

Published September 28, 2022

Two-time Grammy nominated songwriter Jim Brickman is bringing his Brickman Across America Tour to Fort Wayne.

On Saturday, Oct. 8, the famed storyteller and pianist will perform in the Sweetwater Performance Theatre, with it being recorded live as part of a compilation album.

“Most of the time, I tour around Christmastime, and I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do something that’s a little bit different,’ ” Brickman told Whatzup about the tour, which begins Oct. 6 at City Winery in Chicago. “I’ve always loved traveling, and I’ve always been influenced as a songwriter by great American composers and the influences of early American music. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to stop around the country, at iconic venues, and at places where I could celebrate American music.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

Showing knack for piano

Born in the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Brickman’s parents introduced him to piano at the age of 5, but, according to his bio, he butted heads with his piano teacher, who said he “didn’t have a knack for it.”

“When you’re a songwriter, technique is not really your forte,” Brickman said. “Your forte is: the music is going around in your head and you play it by ear. You’re drawn to music, but not technically proficient. 

“Songwriting isn’t something you know when you’re 5, 10 years old,” he added. “So, people don’t understand that, and the teacher is like, ‘He won’t play the notes on the page,’ but they don’t think of why.”

Proving he did have “a knack for it,” Brickman went on to attend the Cleveland Institute of Music and began a career as a jingle writer for commercials for the likes of Diet Coke, Cheerios, and General Electric.

“I loved doing it,” he said. “It wasn’t something where I was like, ‘I’m only doing this to get somewhere else.’ It was my career.”

However, the shine eventually wore off, and Brickman wanted to try something new.

“I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do, and it wasn’t as enjoyable as it was at the start,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to move to California and just explore.’ Maybe I could be a studio musician, write songs for movies, I didn’t know exactly what I was after. It was more that I just wanted to see what was out there.

“I did a lot of recording and still did some jingles for clients, but I felt like once I started to play more, I had a style that was unique and it was something people could use to relax,” he added. “It was instrumental music that could be popular because it mainstream, it wasn’t imperial or jazz. It was pop music, only instrumental.”

Racking up accolades

In 1994, Brickman released his first album, No Words, which reached No. 13 on the New Age chart. Following that, things really began to heat up as 1995’s By Heart went gold, reaching No. 3 on the chart, followed by two straight gold albums in 1997 that hit No. 1, Picture This and The Gift.

In all, Brickman has four gold albums and 22 that have topped the New Age chart. His 2003 album Peace garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album and 2008’s Faith was nominated for Best New Age Album.

Despite the accolades, it’s the experiences that have left the biggest impression on Brickman.

“Whenever you work with people you admire, that’s always a highlight,” he said. “Working with Carly Simon, Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Mathis, Lady A., Michael W. Smith, all these people that I’ve had a chance to collaborate with who I have always admired. That’s always a highlight.”

Going where the music is

His upcoming tour may go down as another highlight. He’s looking forward to trying out new music that might hold special meaning in different parts of the country.

“Wherever people settled as immigrants, which is everybody, they settled in places where their culture was part of the early American settlers,” he said. “So, you have Appalachia, the evolution of Shaker hymns, bluegrass, all these combinations of things. I’m also celebrating the later 20th century things, like Motown and rock n’ roll.”

Along with playing regional music, fans at the shows will be able to use their programs for a sing along, which will be recorded and emailed to attendees the following day.

“It will also be a live by request, so there will be a lot of crowd interaction,” he said. “It’s very impromptu, and no two shows are alike.”

And for those hoping for some holiday music, he’ll embark on his Very Merry Christmas tour in late November, with stops in Kalamazoo on Dec. 13, Toledo on Dec. 14, and Cleveland on Dec. 17-18.

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