Pianist/composer/keyboardist David Wahler is an artist who lives his life on his own terms. He started playing the piano as a young child and continued his music studies through college, but did not release his first album, Antiquus
, until 2009. David was awarded “Best New Artist” for that album by Zone Music Reporter and has gone on to win many other awards for his music since then, including “Best Relaxation/Meditation Album” for last year’s release, Mosaic
. David recently released his ninth album, Two Hearts
, which will definitely be one of my Favorite Albums of 2019. We talked about the new album and a variety of other things in this interview from October 2019. Enjoy!
KP: Hi David! Congratulations on the release of your beautiful new album, Two Hearts! Let’s talk about that first. What inspired the music on this album?
Thanks Kathy! Two Hearts
came about in the past year as I contemplated the state of our country, and the conditions in the world. It’s hard not to get caught up in the negativity and gloom-and-doom surrounding us, yet I knew that according to my spiritual teachers, we attract what we think. I made a conscious effort to think positively, and one of the targets of that thinking led to love and the strong relationships we have with those we love. The album just started ‘flowing’ from there!
Click on album covers to
go to Kathy's reviews.
KP: The couple of videos I’ve watched (so far!) were for the title track and “Love Lost,” and I found it fascinating how you opened both videos up to a variety of kinds of love and of loss - between lovers, friends, pets, family, etc. So many songs (and other kinds of music) focus on romantic love, but the love we feel for various people and other creatures in our lives can be just as intense, important and emotional. I think it’s brilliant that you opened this up to such a wide interpretation. Will the other videos be that expansive?
DW: I believe so. The video for the track “Night Sky of Orion” is an interpretation of the vastness of our Universe and the underlying love that binds all of creation. And the opening track for the album, “Always,” is an anthem for the love between two people - love that can bridge lifetimes and settles in the soul. I did use time-lapse photography of flowers opening in this video to depict that type of love.
KP: That’s what I envisioned when I was listening to the piece, “Bloom,” too.
DW: Like “Always,” the track “Bloom” deals with a relationship and the growing beauty of experiencing a new love take hold and prosper. It has always fascinated me how we form relationships - often from a small spark that weaves its way into something quite strong and beautiful. It “Blooms”!
KP: Indeed! Do you have any specific stories about the music that you’d like to share?
DW: Well Kathy, as you can maybe tell from the titles, the music is very personal to me. I ‘talk’ through my music and find myself wanting to get my messages across with notes and orchestrations. It’s always been that way for me - much easier for me to tell you what I’m thinking through the notes. From “Confession” and the anguish of ‘putting it on the line’ with another to “One Fine Day" and the towering happiness of commitment and ceremony.
KP: I completely understand and your music says so much very clearly and beautifully!
Last year’s album, Mosaic, was awarded Zone Music Reporter’s “Best Meditation/Relaxation Album of the Year” and received several other nominations for Album of the Year as well. What was the inspiration for that album?
DW: Like so much of my work, Mosaic was created from events in my life. Memories, important occasions, observations and ultimately the happenings that created the fabric, or “mosaic,” that I call ‘David Wahler Alive’. There is a diversity of meanings and interpretations in this album that is perhaps wider than the narrower confines of love and relationship in Two Hearts.
KP: Last year, you also released Christmas At Home, an EP that I love of five Christmas pieces. We should probably talk about that a bit, too, since people will be thinking about the holidays very soon.
DW: That was a fun album! I’ve always loved hearing the great interpretations of holiday music that artists in our genre put forth - from Mannheim Steamroller to David Arkenstone to Michele McLaughlin. It was fun to take cherished melodies and give them my slant.
KP: It was such a treat to review a Christmas album with such a fresh take on the carols!
Tell us a bit about your background. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
DW: I grew up in Northern Illinois in a small farm town just far enough away from Chicago to not be influenced by the ‘big city’. I’m a small town boy.
KP: Are any of your family members musicians or musically-inclined?
DW: My musical talents became apparent early on, and my parents and siblings (5) didn’t quite know what to make of it. None of them were musical, so I was kind of this aberration in the middle of a rough-and-tumble existence. Even though I knew I was different, I found that being the odd one garnered me more attention… so I fed on that!
KP: When did you start playing the piano?
DW: There was an old upright piano in the Guild Hall of our small Episcopal church. After Sunday service I would rush out to play the latest songs I’d heard on the radio or the hymns we’d just sung. I think I was 6 or 7. I couldn’t read a note of music, but the melodies and harmonies just seemed to effortlessly flow. I’d sometimes attract a small audience and from that recognition a musician was born!
KP: Interesting! When did you start piano lessons and how long did you take lessons?
DW: I kept begging for a piano and my mother finally found an ancient Jesse French upright piano for $50. It was so ugly that she spray painted it and put sparkling embellishments all over. I was seven when I began lessons, and what a rude awakening that was! By that time, I had gotten used to getting praise for my playing (even playing my interpretation of the Grieg Piano Concerto!), but my teacher insisted that I start back at the beginning with the rudiments. It was a very painful couple of years of establishing the correct foundation. I was fortunate to have some wonderful teachers and I quickly became a ‘big fish in a little pond’ in my small community. I continued studying piano through high school and on to University and music conservatory.
KP: Did you play other instruments (besides keyboards)?
No. I was an organ minor in college and sang in the choirs. I really had no interest in other instruments other than keyboard. Somehow playing the piano was like an extension of my body - just a part of it. Somehow other instruments didn’t have that allure to me.
KP: When did you change your focus to electronic music?
DW: I was an adult living in Palm Springs, California. I had become a successful retailer and interior designer. Music had fallen by the wayside in my hectic consumer-oriented existence. One day I was looking up at the TV, tuned to the Spa Channel on the cable station. I heard some music that really moved me, and thought “I can do that! I wonder what it would take to produce that kind of music?” This was around 2002 and virtual recording studios were becoming very popular. I decided to completely change my life focus and I enrolled in Berklee College of Music’s Electronic Music Production program. My goal was to get my music on the Spa Channel on cable TV!
KP: Wow! That’s a pretty drastic change! When did you release your first album?
DW: After I graduated from Berklee, I began in earnest to put an album together. That was in 2007. I recorded Antiquus and released the album in 2009 to critical success.
KP: I LOVE that album! Who do you consider to be some of your musical influences?
DW: Being classically trained, my early influences were the masters: Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Rimsky-Korsakov. I was a pianist but I was always fascinated by orchestration. My piano teacher took me and some other students to see the Chicago Symphony/Chorus perform Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe. I was 10 years old. I was forever hooked on the Impressionists!
KP: Who are your favorite composers?
DW: I’ve always had an eclectic taste in composers, from pop to jazz, to contemporary instrumental. From Brubeck to McCartney and Arvo Part to Erik Whitaker. In our ambient genre I am moved by Peter Kater, Chuck Wild (Liquid Mind), pianist Michael Logozar, and many others. We have a stellar assortment in our midst!
We certainly do!
When and why did you decide to change your career to interior design?
DW: I was living in Boulder, Colorado and my partner and I had opened a chain of indoor tanning centers throughout Colorado. Very lucrative, but hardly satisfying for my creative impulses. I had always loved design, from architecture to interior spaces. I enrolled in design school in Denver, and when I graduated, we sold the business and moved to Southern California.
KP: I never would have thought of you as owning tanning salons! Did you have your own interior design studio?
DW: Yes, I had a design studio and home furnishings retail studio in Rancho Mirage, California for many years. It was a crazy, fun and highly creative time as the desert surrounding Palm Springs was growing in leaps and bounds. It was there that I would put together music playlists for my clients’ homes: music for a spa retreat, music for a dinner party, music for a pool celebration, etc. In doing this, I became reacquainted with the music scene and the vast array of styles available. I loved creating the ‘environment’ - from the furnishings and design elements to the aural atmosphere. I have since elaborated on this with my ‘SounDecor’ Playlists on my Spotify channel. Different sound environments that can be adapted to people’s homes or businesses.
KP: So you were ahead of your time by creating playlists before they became so popular on the streaming sites!
When did you move to the Sierra foothills?
DW: I moved to a remote part of the California Sierra in 2014. I am a devotee of Paramhansa Yogananda and there is a spiritual community in the Sierra foothills outside of Nevada City, CA. I had wound down from my Palm Springs lifestyle and my music was decidedly more introspective and meditative. I moved to the ashram for a few years and devoted myself exclusively to creating music and living a spiritual life.
Interesting! What has been your most exciting musical moment to date?
DW: Being accepted and celebrated by my peers has been very fulfilling. With ZMR (Zone Music Reporter) Music Awards, three of my albums have been nominated for Album of the Year with many other nominations, from album artwork to Contemporary Instrumental Album. I’ve also had three wins for Best New Artist 2008, and two Meditation/Relaxation Albums of the Year in 2010 and 2018.
KP: Congratulations! What’s up next for you?
DW: I am constantly working on new music. I’m at a very fulfilling time in my life where the creative urge can be nourished on my terms - working when I want and creating music at my pace.
KP: If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?
DW: 1. For people to realize that we are all interconnected and a part of God’s creation.
2. Love Thy Neighbor
3. Everyone count to 3 (or 5!) before reacting.
KP: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
DW: My musical friend Erik Scott died recently from cancer. I was not aware that he was fighting this disease. Erik’s death has made me aware of the many wonderfully talented people in our music world who may have serious challenges that we know little about. I hope that I can become more aware of the fact that we are all living very complex and often difficult lives. May we reach out to each other more often and extend our support and love.. We will miss Erik greatly, not only for his extraordinary music, but for his uniquely wonderful human way.
KP: Amen - I couldn’t agree more! Thanks so much, David!
For more information about David Wahler and his music be sure to visit his website
and his Artist Page
here on MainlyPiano.com!