I had the pleasure of meeting Kris Baines at the Whisperings Awards weekend near Seattle in 2018 and loved his performance at the “Discovery” Concert that weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing his first solo piano album of original music, Melodies & Interludes, Vol. I,
which was released in 2017, but his most recent album, Melodies & Interludes, Vol. 2
, took my breath away! An artist on the rise, if you are not yet familiar with Kris Baines and his music, please let me introduce you! We did this interview via email the middle of January 2019.
KP: Hi Kris! How are things in New Zealand?
KB: A little bit upside down, but apart from that all good! No seriously, things are good, thanks. It's good to be at the beginning of a new year, with new goals and a fresh perspective. I have a beautiful family, good friends, the opportunity to write and record music, and projects to invest my time in that I hope make a difference - so I am a happy man!
KP: That’s great! It was so much fun to meet you and see you play at the Whisperings Concerts near Seattle, WA last March (2018)! I wish we had had more time to get acquainted, but hopefully that opportunity will come soon!
KB: Yes it was so nice to meet you, Kathy, and I hope too that there will be more opportunity to connect. It's always good to put a face (or even a whole person!) to a name. I had such a blast at that Whisperings weekend - when else do you get to hang out with 50+ other solo pianists!
I know! Whisperings is such a fantastic community of pianists. David Nevue has done an amazing job!
Click on the album covers to go to
Your most-recent album, Melodies & Interludes, Vol. 2
, was one of my Favorite Albums of 2018. I really love the peaceful but deeply emotional vibe of the music and was really glad to see it get some other rave reviews besides mine. How has the album done since you released it in October 2018?
KB: Well I was absolutely floored by your review, again thanks so much. When I saw other reviewers and listeners being really positive about it also, it was just such a blessing. You spend all this time working on the music, self-doubt creeps in, and so much of the time everything sounds strange to your own ears and less than what you hoped it would be. Then when people speak highly of it, it really helps to get that weight off the shoulders, and you get excited that what you created is actually benefiting someone - it doesn't get much better than that! I certainly haven't sold thousands of copies of the album, but it's out there and getting played so that's something to be thankful for. It seems that many people really like that album, so I just need to improve my marketing skills to reach more of "those" people. :-)
KP: Hopefully this interview will help to make more people curious about your music! I was really sad to have to miss the album release concert in Washington State (US) this past fall. How did that go?
KB: It was a special night. I had never actually performed a concert of my original compositions until that night and I really enjoyed it - especially as the crowd was so supportive. The highlights were having my 16 year old daughter perform her first solo piano single, and also my good friend who I hadn't seen for 15 years drove 13 hours to come and see the concert and play a song with me that we hadn't performed together since we saw each other last.
Wow! That must have been a very special concert!
Some of your fans may not be aware that you are also a pastor. Tell us a bit about that.
Kris and Holly Baines in Washington State
The Baines Family
KB: Well, to make a (very) long story short. Back in 1994, I was actually living in Los Angeles playing in a rock/funk band. A sequence of events led to a big life change and I became a Christian. I then moved back to the UK and met my wife Becky. I found myself with a passion that was even greater than music, and that was to teach and share the truth of the Bible in a practical, relevant way. That's a big part of the role a pastor plays in addition to counseling and helping people walk through life with a spiritual focus. When we moved to New Zealand 22 years ago, I began working with a church. About sixteen years ago, we moved further south and started a church in Christchurch (great place to have a church!). Over the years, my time has been divided with primarily serving as a pastor, writing and recording music, and just to make life interesting, I spent 12 years working as an EMT/paramedic!
KP: Talk about variety! From some of your Facebook posts, it sounds like 2019 will bring about some major changes for you and your family.
Yes, we are actually moving on from Christchurch to work temporarily with a church in the North Island of New Zealand just north of Auckland. The plan from there is to relocate our entire family to the States. I am currently looking at our options but it's no small task - especially with 8 children! There's such a lot of work to do with visas and immigration, so we're taking it one step at a time. We love New Zealand and the people here, and we have also built up many great relationships with people in the States. We actually spent 3 months there as a family in 2015 and got to know lots of people. I guess we as a family feel "directed" to the States for this next season of our lives, knowing it would provide some good opportunities for both our ministry / church work, and also my music work - so watch this space and let us know if you have a large spare room!!!
Kris at the Whisperings Discovery Concert near Seattle, WA.
KP: Moving a large family to one new location would be quite a project, but to two in a fairly short period of time? How old are your kids?
KB: You're right about that - it's certainly a mammoth task. However, the older girls are very competent and it makes a big difference having several older children who are happy to help with the younger children. We've done lots of different projects together and it's amazing what you can get done as a team of 10! The ages of our children are 17, 16, 14, 11, 8, 6, 4, & 2 - 6 daughters and 2 sons! Of course none of us could do it without my wife, who is of course simply wonderful in every way!
KP: She must be! I’d love to meet her sometime! Will you have time to do some new music this year?
KB: I certainly hope so! We have a busy start to the year with our relocation to the North Island of NZ (about 800 miles north), but I am just about to release my first single of the year called "Naomi's Joy". It's a very up-tempo, joy-filled composition, inspired by my 4 year old daughter Naomi who is all smiles, giggles, and fun! The aim is to release a single a month and hopefully do 1 or 2 new albums. So time will tell I guess.
KP: Do you plan to release any sheet music of your compositions?
KB: You know, I wish I could release sheet music for every one of my tracks, but the truth is, it comes down to finances. There are some great people offering these services, and they are worth the money as it takes time - but I just don't have the volume of sales to justify that at present. An alternative for me has been starting to release tutorial videos - an overhead shot of me walking through the composition which is great for those who prefer to learn by ear. My daughter Holly is fast-tracking her way to becoming proficient in transcription, so that will certainly make things a lot easier in the future - though I won't expect her to do it for free, of course :-)
KP: Holly is obviously an aspiring musician. Are any of your other kids showing musical promise?
KB: Yes Holly (age 16) is showing great promise in her performance and composition. We are a very musical family and love to sing together as well as play various instruments. Of course they don't get as many piano lessons as they probably should - the irony of being children of a pianist! Some of the children play for fun, and enjoy it, but there are a couple of others, like Holly, who seem to have a special gift and feel on the piano and I just love seeing that develop. Between our family members, we cover singing, piano, congas, drums, mandolin, guitar, violin and cajon!
KP: Another Osmond Family! In addition to writing music for albums, you have done a lot of composing for television and films. Tell us about that.
Well I've always loved the genre of soundtrack & score, so any opportunity to do that has always been wonderful. I love this type of composition because it's all about the visuals, and that's what inspires the music. One favorite "gig" was when I got to score for an independent feature film back in 2005. The producer was a friend of a friend, and had heard I composed. She approached me and said their current "Grammy award winning composer" was just not coming up with the right cue for the climactic scene in the movie and asked if I could give it a go. The movie was a romantic comedy and I was keen to have a go as I always gravitate towards more emotive music. I was pleasantly surprised when after my first attempt the director, producer and editor all said they loved it! From there, I was gradually asked to replace the other composer’s cues (a bit awkward!) until I ended up doing 90% of the overall score. What ended up happening was the original composer got offended and threatened to sue the producer. Because of this, I was told they would keep my music, but I would only get a credit at the end, as the original composer had to keep the "music composed by..." credit at the opening of the film. So it was a bitter-sweet experience because I went to the red carpet premiere here in NZ, watched a movie with my score on the biggest cinema screen in New Zealand, but my involvement had to be kept "secret" so no one got sued! It was kind of strange having that experience, and walking out and seeing the posters everywhere with a different composer’s name on it - but in a funny way I kind of liked it, as I prefer to be in the background when I can.
KP: That’s an incredible story! Are you still doing quite a bit of soundtrack work?
KB: For a while I was pursuing the soundtrack composer path, but in recent years I have tried to focus much more upon my solo piano composition. Before this transition, I had some great opportunities as mentioned, and I really hope to do more soundtrack work in the future.
KP: I understand that you released a music video last year that received national attention in NZ. What was that about?
Well, for quite a while I had wanted to do an emotive solo piano version of our national anthem, "God Defend New Zealand." I kept having the idea of making a video of the song to honour the men/women who served in battle. I have a great friend who's an awesome videographer. He got a few helpers, and together with some of my children we made the video. We got an old piano for free (the night before the shoot!) - a friend made a 'piano sled' and we hired a truck, then we put the piano in some amazing locations and gave it a shot. I had to record the track in the studio, then mime it at 30% faster than the original. You then slow the video down and it has a unique flowing feel to it (The Piano Guys do it all the time). Anyway, we did this in just under 2 days, and it cost under $600 to make. Once posted on Facebook it really seemed to resonate with the people here, and became something many shared as their tribute to the fallen. On our equivalent to Memorial Day (ANZAC Day), I was contacted by a major TV network and they featured it at 6:15pm on prime time TV that night. To date it has had over 40K views on Facebook, so we were pretty pleased with those results!
KP: I need to check that out! Let’s go back and learn more about your early background. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
KB: I was born in the UK and grew up in a coastal town called Clacton-On-Sea, in Essex, South East England - about 2 hours drive North-East of London.
KP: When did you start playing the piano?
KB: When I was 8 years old. Well, that's when I started piano lessons, but I think from as young as 3, I would mess around on toy keyboards.
KP: How long did you take lessons?
KB: For around 8 years I took classical lessons. I definitely wasn't the best student and didn't practice very much - I used to come home and jazz up Chopin! In my teen years I struggled as playing the piano was seen as quite a "wimpy" thing to do by many of my friends in the culture at the time. I loved doing Karate which wasn't wimpy and I felt torn between these 2 pursuits. Thankfully, my mother encouraged me to continue and I was glad I did! It's so different now, and it's often seen as quite "cool" for someone to play the piano. It's sad so many people give up and then later regret that decision as an adult.
KP: It might be cool to play the piano, but in this age of “instant gratification,” it’s becoming much more difficult to motivate kids to devote the time and effort it takes to learn to play well. Fortunately, there are exceptions that seem to be born with a passion for music.
You toured and recorded with several bands. Who were they and where were some of the places you played? Did you play keyboards and piano?
It was during this time playing in various bands from my late teens onwards that I really developed my style and learned so much music by ear. I began in cover bands and at age 17 got to tour Europe for 2 months playing at US Air Force bases which was a great experience. I then moved to London and played in a rock band for a while, whilst doing some of my own composition. After a short stint in music college, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue music further and ended up in a rock/funk band called Iannello. This was probably my greatest experience playing with amazing musicians. We recorded a few songs and played at many of the popular venues in LA such as The Viper Room, and Whisky-A-Go-Go, The Dragonfly & The Troubadour to name a few. My set up was quite different - I had 2 synths and played one of them through a Marshall guitar amp with distortion and a wah-wah pedal! I mostly played Clav, B3 and other vintage sounds, mixed with electronic synth patches. I have to say my enthusiasm/drive was a little over-the-top at that time. One time I sent a tape to the Hollywood director Tony Scott and said if he let me score his next movie, I would do it for free (how cheeky is that!). Amazingly he actually wrote back (I was only 16 or so!) and thanked me, but said a guy called "Hans Zimmer" was already scheduled to score his next film! I also contacted the keyboard player for Madonna and asked if I could do the next tour instead of him if I gave him half my payment for the gig! He graciously declined. So yes, a little over-zealous perhaps.
KP: Was your family supportive of your becoming a professional musician?
KB: Yes very, to a fault in fact. I should have tempered their enthusiasm to support me with a more realistic view of work and income, but for some reason I thought I would just get famous quickly and not need a real job! I learned the hard way that this wasn't my destiny :-)
KP: I think there are a LOT of people in that boat! Are any of your siblings musicians?
KB: I have 2 younger brothers. One of them is not musical at all, and the other is very musical but has pursued art instead. He plays really well by ear and could probably do quite well but it's more of a hobby for him. In the rare times we get to jam together we have a lot of fun.
KP: When did you write your first piece of music?
That's a great question I don't think I've ever been asked before! I don't know exactly, but I'm pretty sure my first recorded composition was a soundtrack style piece played on an electronic keyboard (you know the type where you just play the chord shapes in the left hand and it does everything for you) for a home movie I made with some friends. I can recall the melody now, and I would say on a cheese scale of 1 to 10 it was about an 11!
KP: Auspicious beginnings! Were you a music major in college?
KB: Yes for 1 year of a 2 year college course, but then I quit, sold my keyboards and bought tickets to LA to "try" to become rich and famous - also known as young and dumb :-)
KP: There are a lot of people in that boat, too! Do you play other musical instruments?
KB: I play guitar but only very basically. I often say that piano / keyboards are my first instrument, guitar is my 17th, and there are none in-between!
KP: Haha! When did you know you wanted to become a professional musician?
Probably around 10 or 11. I had big ambitions and somewhere there is still a home movie of me telling the camera that one day I wanted to produce, write, direct and act in my own movie AND do the soundtrack - big dreams for a little person! A more serious focus occurred at age 16, when after successfully passing all the pre-exams to join the army, the enlisting officer encouraged me to follow my passion to write and record music, as it was more “me." I started sending tapes to record companies and movie directors and that began my pursuit to do something significant with my music.
KP: What and who are the major influences on your music?
KB: Well, as a Christian I have to say my relationship with God, above all other things, guides and governs my life. I thank God for giving me the gift of music, so I want to honour Him with it. Much of the emotion, joy, and feeling that I attempt to transmit through my music, finds its source in the events of life, both good and bad, how that life has changed over the years, and the people and places that we come into contact with along the way. When I was young and starting out, I was very influenced by electronic keyboard artists such as Jean Michel Jarre (and his AMAZING light shows!) and many soundtrack composers. From a piano / feeling perspective I have been greatly influenced by Keith Jarrett - not so much with the up-tempo jazz, but his incredible way of making the piano an extension of himself and really expressing deep emotion through his music. Of course I listen to all sorts of piano players, and all sorts of music, but I would say above all I am most heavily influenced by soundtrack composers, whether it be orchestral or electronic. I just love the emotive nature of soundtrack music, which is why I just had to include "interludes" in my albums, to get that out of my system! I love Hans Zimmer’s simplicity and creativity, and James Horner was a great influence also. Anything that conveys emotion seems to get my attention.
KP: Do you still teach piano?
Only to my children, though as I said - not as much as I should :-)
KP: How many albums have you released?
KB: 2 in recent years (2017 & 2018), and there are 3 from 2000-2002, so 5 total with a big gap in-between!
KP: Do you perform in concerts very often?
KB: No. I had a season of doing concerts of solo piano hymn arrangements from my first album, but performing has not been something I have done much of. I do love it and hope to do LOTS more in the future.
KP: Who are some of your favorite composers?
KB: Well, as mentioned before, many soundtrack composers such as Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Michael Giacchino, Dario Marianelli. As far as pianists some favourites are right in our Whisperings nest such as Michael Logozar, Matthew Mayer, Ryan Marvel, Zachary Bruno, Chad Hewitt & Reis Taylor-Dixon. I love so much more music by other Whisperings artists but those are the guys I really feel a "kindred spirit" with in terms of feel / style.
KP: They are all amazing! Do you have any favorite performers?
KB: Keith Jarrett is great to watch live - totally involved in his performance in a unique way and he does heaps of improvisation which I love! I would love to see any decent orchestra playing my favourite soundtrack music - especially if the composer was conducting!
KP: If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?
KB: Wish #1 - For God to grant me the wisdom to make the best choice with wish 2 that would benefit the most people in the most significant way, and for wish 3 on a personal level - to hear a world class symphony orchestra play one of my compositions from the best seats in the house alongside my family - that would be incredible!
KP: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
KB: I just want to say how much I appreciate your service to the artist community and the great dedication and focus you have towards solo pianists. I can't imagine how you manage doing so many reviews and listening to so much music, yet you take such a personal and detailed approach with each project - thanks Kathy for all you do!!!!
Thank you, Kris! It’s a joy!
Many thanks to Kris Baines for taking the time to do this interview! For more information about Kris and his music, be sure to visit his website
and his Artist Page
here on MainlyPiano.com.