This is the third interview I’ve done with Greg Maroney, but it’s been four years since the last one and Greg just released what could easily be his best album to date, Hope Resides
. Because this is more of an update, we kept the conversation current. Our interviews from 2009
have more information about Greg’s earlier life and background. One of my very favorite composers, Greg talks about the inspiration for his newest music and recording most of it during last fall’s storm Sandy.
Click the album covers to read Kathy's reviews.
KP: Hi Greg! As I write this, it’s the official release date of your eleventh album of new material, Hope Resides. I understand you recorded this album the night storm Sandy hit. Let’s talk about that.
GM: Hi Kathy! As you know, the East Coast was struck by an intense hurricane in October 2012. Although we were out of its direct path, we still sustained some damage to our property. I had already set aside that particular date to record, and really did not have another opportunity for a while. I wanted to get the music down while it was "in my fingers," so to speak. So, although the storm was howling all around me, I just started recording and hoped for the best. I expected to lose electricity, as we live out in the country and if it even rains a few drops the power goes out. I also was not sure how much storm noise I was going to pick up during the recording process, but something was going my way, and I just kept recording. The power stayed on, and when we listened to the recording in the studio, there was NO storm noise. The mics and placement I used did an excellent job of recording only the piano.
KP: It’s kind of funny how sometimes the conditions are perfect and things don’t work out at all, and other times, in the worst of conditions, things go fine. Do you think that because you were expecting to lose your electricity during the storm that you were more relaxed about recording and just let it flow? It’s such an expressive album!
I was nervous about it, but I had the time budgeted and knew the material, so I was good to go. We had done a lot of work on the hammers and action of the piano, so it was ready! I thought that I would just play through it and see what happened. The power goes out frequently, so I was expecting the worst, but something was smiling upon me as there was not even a flicker. I was able to record the bulk of the material in three days. I still had to go back and do a few pieces over again on days four and five, but nothing too extensive, and by then the storm had passed.
KP: 2012 was an especially eventful year for you and your wife, Linda. What were some of the events and changes that inspired the music for Hope Resides?
2012 WAS an eventful year! My wife's mother has Alzheimer's disease and was requiring more care than she was receiving at her own home. We volunteered to build an addition to our house and have both of Linda’s parents move in with us. Well, we really bit off a big bite! The addition to the house came out really nice and actually integrates her care with our privacy needs quite well, but as her disease progresses, she requires more and more care. However, this is a much better way to care for our elderly than placing them in nursing homes or other institutions that care for patients with Alzheimer's disease.
The house addition was pretty intensive. The builders came with a big excavator machine and started ripping into the house we so lovingly worked on for sixteen years. They tore out the sunroom that we sat in most of the time to have our coffee and watch the weather do its thing. We saw many approaching thunderstorms from those seats! But, my very smart wife (who designed the new addition) built a sunroom on top of her parents’ living space, so now we have a replacement room to watch the snow and rain.
KP: What inspired the title for the album (and the song)?
GM: The title went through many incarnations. First it was going to be about a bird flying through the mist on a lake, and we were going to call it Hope Rising. Then we found the poem by Emily Dickinson that had the phrase "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all." I thought that was pretty cool and accurate, so we changed it to Hope Resides.
KP: As you well know, I always love your more turbulent music. Let’s talk about “Against the Tide.”
GM: Ahh, that is one of the more emotional songs. These types of songs come out once in a while. For me, music is an expression of my inner workings or emotions, and sometimes life throws you some curves. This is my way of expressing those more turbulent feelings. Plus, there is power and majesty in them. I think it touches a place in a lot of us that does not get to come out too much. Not an inner frustration, more like the powerful yearning we all feel. Toward what is the big question....unity, completion, union? I am not sure.....that is the great mystery.
KP: Was that one particularly difficult to transcribe into sheet music?
GM: No, it is a longer piece, but pretty straightforward. It is more difficult to play, as it is a faster and louder song, but the transcription wasn’t too difficult.
What’s the story behind “Into the Fray”?
GM: It is another of my more emotional songs. As I was working on it, my wife came up to the piano and said, "That song sounds like you are yelling at me." Well, that was not my intention in composing the song, but the emotional content seemed to be there. Since I did not want to play a song that made my wife think I was yelling at her, I scaled it back some and then recorded it.
KP: “Kaleidoscope” is kind of different. What inspired it?
GM: "Kaleidoscope" is a more technical and fun song. It is not packed with emotion. I was working with the sound of the diminished chord and tried to incorporate it into a song. This is the result of an exercise I worked on that evolved into a song.
KP: Is “Narcissus” about the flowers or the mythological character who was so enamored by his own reflection?
We live on a small farm in rural Pennsylvania, and over the years I have planted Narcissus bulbs in the back few acres so that every spring the yellow flowers come up and dot the grass with their beauty. It is an early harbinger of spring. Since winter can be a little harsh and cold, it is always a wonderful feeling to have spring just on the horizon, with the hope of warmer weather. "Narcissus" is a song about walking among the narcissus flowers in April when the sun is out, the air is warm and the flowers are blooming.
KP: You closed the album with one of my all-time favorites of your pieces, “The Reluctant Ballerina.” I love this new version. What inspired you to re-record it?
GM: I have wanted to redo "The Reluctant Ballerina" for quite some time. The original version was OK, but the song has evolved (as most of my songs do) into something that flows a bit better than the original. Also, I wanted to correct a few phrases in the song. So, this is the version that I really hear in my head.
KP: I’m sure a lot of people like your lighter, more romantic music best. What inspired “In the Moment”?
"In the Moment" was composed as an antidote for "Against the Tide." I needed something light and happy, and this song fit the bill. Emotional catharsis is good in smaller doses, but sometimes you just want something happy and light.
Greg with Wayne Gratz in Florence, OR. 3/11
Greg, Wayne Gratz, and Kathy in Florence. 3/11
KP: How about “Hurry Home”?
GM: I wrote this song expressing the feeling that my wife has when I am out on the road. Sort of a "hurry home but have a good time" kind of feeling. She is always there when I get back, happy to see me, but willing to have me leave to tour and play in concert.
KP: And another favorite of mine, “Waiting”?
GM: "Waiting" expresses a bit more sadness than "Hurry Home." This song expresses a sense of longing and waiting.
KP: I definitely think this is your best album yet, Greg! It’s the first entry on my list of favorite CDs for the year. Is there anything else you’d like to share about it?
GM: I think we have covered many of the main songs, except "For Jean." Right after my wife's parents moved in, they were sitting on a couch listening to me practice/play the piano. They were so cute and tragic at the same time. They are at the end of their lives and had to give up the house that they had been in for 40 plus years. And, her health is failing. This song just popped out. I don't thing they realized they were the inspiration for the song - they can barely hear anyway - but I think it captures both the beauty and sadness of their situation.
KP: We just finished the sheet music from The Spectrum of Love (2011). Are you going to make that a book?
Yes! That book is coming soon. It has been a lot of work transcribing all the songs from the album The Spectrum of Love
, but with your editing help, I think we have a good song book ready to go. It just has to go to the printers and should be available as a spiral-bound song book within a week or so.
KP: You also recently compiled a really big book of sheet music from several of your albums. How many songs are in it?
GM: That song book is a monster! It has 479 pages and includes every song I have transcribed to date except the songs on the albums The Spectrum of Love and Hope Resides. There are 49 songs in it!
KP: Yikes! No wonder I have so many boxes of your sheet music drafts! Are you planning to do much touring this coming year?
GM: I would like to tour this year, although my home commitments make it a little more difficult. But, I have concerts lined up for Boston, New York, Nashville, Spokane, and possibly the Arizona area. Plus, I am getting my house concert series back up and running. We had to suspend it during the house construction, but since the construction is over, I am resurrecting the Harmony Grove Concert Series.
KP: Any chance of a return visit to Florence, Oregon?
GM: I would love to return to Florence, Oregon. I had a blast the last time I played there with Wayne Gratz. Your house is perfectly suited for the concerts and you have a wonderful Yamaha piano.
I’ll look forward to that! When will you start planting in your garden? Now that your house addition is done, you should have a lot more time for the veggies and strawberries!
GM: The weather is still pretty cold out there, and the ground is frozen. When I lived in California, I never knew that the ground would freeze, but, it does. Makes it a little hard to plant things, plus the cold air kills plants or makes them dormant. So, sometime in April when the weather warms up a bit and the buds sprout on the trees you will see me out there planting the tomatoes and corn.
KP: Is there anything else you’d like to update?
GM: I think we have covered a lot of ground! Never a dull moment here...always something new and exciting to deal with. Plenty of music coming, the home scene is weird and wild, and my Kubota tractor works wonderfully! Thanks so much for inviting me to do this interview!
For more information about Greg Maroney and his music, please visit his website
and his Artist Page
here on MainlyPiano.com.