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Interview with Doug Hammer, May 2024
Interview with Doug Hammer, image 1
I started reviewing Doug Hammer's music back in 2007 with his debut album, Solace. One of the most versatile artists I know, Doug also does production work and orchestration for a variety of other artists. Over the past year, he has released a series of three albums called Swim To America (Vol. 1, 2, and 3) which features the music of Swiss rocker and pop chanteur, Stephan Eicher, reimagined for solo piano. Last week, Doug also released "Oceanea," a solo piano single with his arrangement of one of Thomas Dolby's songs. For this interview we focused on these recent releases, but I've done five other interviews with Doug over the years that cover more of his background and many of his previous recordings. You can find all of them here.

KP: Hey Doug! How are things on the East Coast?

DH: Hi Kathy! Things are warming up here in New England. The bees are buzzing, the flowers are blooming and everything is bursting with life.

KP: We have lots of Rhododendrons in bloom here on the Oregon Coast, so it's a beautiful time of year!

When we did our last interview in 2020, there were two of you! Is there just one Doug this time?

DH: There is only me.
DH2: Oh, really? Surely, you jest.
DH: Don’t call me Surely.
DH2: Here we go again.
DH: You started it.
DH2: No. You did by nixing me!
Interview with Doug Hammer, image 6
Click on link to
go to Kathy's reviews:
Vol. 1 Vol. 2 Vol. 3
Interview with Doug Hammer, image 7
Click on songbook cover
to go to Kathy's review.
Interview with Doug Hammer, image 8
Click on album cover
to go to Kathy's review.
DH: OK, sorry. Can we move on with just one of us?
DH2: Sure, why don’t you go away for awhile and I’ll answer Kathy’s questions.
DH: I’ve got an idea. Let’s magically merge back into one DH for now.
DH2: Good idea!

S H P L O O O F !!!

KP: Oooh! I hope that wasn't too messy!

You have to be one of the busiest artists in the music business! You just released the third volume of your Swim To America series and now we're working on the sheet music for all three volumes. Tell us a bit about the inspiration for Swim To America.

DH: This is a busy year indeed! I connected with Stephan Eicher over the pandemic through social media. I created a few fan videos of me arranging some of his songs for piano. He noticed and the rest is history.

KP: When did you discover Stephan Eicher and his music?

DH: Way back in the early 90’s. That’s when his music took off in Europe, especially France. My wife is French and I discovered his music over there. Then, every time we went back, I searched for his latest CD’s. My boys grew up listening to his music in the car.

KP: How did you choose the title for the series?

DH: It’s one of Stephan’s songs and a song which always spoke to me. His arrangement is so beautiful, mainly him and his guitar with piano and strings. I’ve always been struck by his emotive singing.

KP: Your playing is also exceptionally expressive, so it's no wonder it's such a good match! Didn't you say Swim To America was originally going to be one album and you had too many favorites? That's a nice problem to have for all involved!

DH: Yeah, that happened with Travels, too. When I decided to go ahead with the project, I went back and listened to Stephan's entire discography. There were a few releases that were not available here in the US, even through streaming and YouTube. Stephan sent me those and I got to work. There were a number of songs I really loved that just didn’t work for solo piano for various reasons, but most of them did work. As I worked on the arrangements, the project grew to two albums and then I realized I would need three. I remember sitting across from Stephan at a cafe, telling him my idea of three albums spaced out over a year. He liked the idea!

KP: Did you have to get permission to do each of the arrangements or did Stephan give you the go-ahead to choose?

DH: I had carte blanche (complete freedom) on the project. I actually wanted more input from him, but I think he wanted to get out of the way and let me figure it out on my own. He did suggest a few songs which I included, of course. And he did have a few arrangement suggestions, like two.

KP: This is all such an amazing story! When did you actually meet Stephan?

Interview with Doug Hammer, image 2
Interview with Doug Hammer, image 3
Doug with Stephan Eicher.

DH: Summer of 2022. We met in Switzerland.

KP: Have you been able to play with him when you were in Europe?

DH: I did! This was the summer of 2023. He headlined an outdoor rock festival and he invited me onstage (we rehearsed before) to add some piano to one of his songs while a tightrope artist was walking over a huge audience. He was arranging the song in realtime so I watched him closely.

KP: Since Stephan is known mostly in Europe and you are mostly known in the US, have your European sales and his American sales increased? It seems like a real win-win for both of you!

DH: It’s hard to tell at this stage but overall I would say yes. Plenty of his fans know about the project and my fans are discovering his music. Cross pollination! I’m shipping more CD’s to Europe than the US right now.

KP: Wow, that's interesting! We should mention that you also have a two-CD set that includes all three albums. Is that version available only from your website?

DH: Correct. All 39 songs are included on two discs and in the same order.

KP: The sheet music for Swim To America, Vol. 1 is now available as a PDF download. We're pretty close to finishing Vol. 2. Do you have a target date for releasing that one and Vol. 3?

DH: I have some more releases planned this year so I will be staggering the songbooks but yes, in the near future, Vol. 2 will be available and not long after that, Vol. 3.

KP: Do you and Stephan plan to collaborate on any more music?

DH: That is yet to be determined. There are some possibilities and we shall see.

KP: Are you planning to do any concerts together?

DH: Same thing, to be determined. It’s all about timing and availability.

Interview with Doug Hammer, image 4
Interview with Doug Hammer, image 5
Doug and Thomas Dolby.
KP: You also just released a solo piano arrangement of Thomas Dolby's "Oceanea," which I love. How did you choose that song?

DH: When that song came out in 2011, I was really awestruck by the beauty of this song. Days after the release, I came out with a video on YouTube of my piano arrangement and Thomas and his fans took notice. I have a mutual connection with Thomas here in Boston so I was able to meet him!

KP: You mentioned that you had played with Thomas. Was that recently?

DH: That was in 2013. I played my version of "Oceanea" onstage with him! Just piano. Then I did accompany him on few songs - thrilling!

KP: I guess so! I didn't realize that this isn't a new arrangement of "Oceanea."

DH: I wasn’t going to release it but a film director contacted me about wanting to use the YouTube version in his film, so I contacted Thomas and he agreed to the idea but I wanted to re-record it and “do it right”. I re-recorded it last year and decided to release it, but I waited until after Swim to America, Vol. 3 was released.

KP: Do you have any concerts planned? You are so amazing live!

DH: Thank you Kathy! Not at the moment. I’m really focused this year on new releases and sheet music. There is a lot more coming down the pipeline this year.

KP: What else do you have up your musical sleeves?

DH: Ah, you know I don’t like to spill the beans but here’s a bit. I have a 7-song EP coming out in the next few months and something in the fall which I still have to arrange and record. All original music.

KP: You have done quite a bit of orchestrating and production work for other artists. Do you have any projects you want to share or talk about?

DH: Not right now. I do enjoy that work. It’s like putting a puzzle together where you get to make the pieces. Some pieces fit and some don’t. You throw those pieces away. I love the challenge and I love supporting the artists.

KP: Is there anything else you want to add?
DH: I feel fortunate to do what I do. The support I get from fans who dig what I do is immeasurable. And the kudos I get from my peers and musical heroes is off the charts. I have no words, really!

KP: Just keep doing what you're doing! It's all really awesome!

DH: Thank you Kathy for your tireless support of all artists! We love and appreciate you so much.

KP: Thanks, Doug!

Many thanks to Doug Hammer for taking the time to do this interview! For more information about Doug and his music, be sure to visit his website and his Artist Page here on MainlyPiano.com.

Kathy Parsons
May 2024