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Interview with Louis Colaiannia, November 2016
Interview with Louis Colaiannia, image 1
Pianist/composer Louis Colaiannia recently released Four Days In My Life, an album that was born last summer when Louis and John Paris performed here (Florence, OR) for the first time (6/15). Louis is one of the busiest performing musicians I know and his music is constantly evolving. An active jazz and new age pianist/keyboardist, he recently produced and played on a couple of singles with singer/songwriter Brittany Dymond, and they plan to release a Christmas album this year as well. Louis returned to play here this past July with Kathryn Kaye, and what a fantastic evening of music that was! I’ve known Louis Colaiannia for awhile now, but some of his answers to my interview questions still surprised me. Enjoy!

KP: How are things in Colorado today?

LC: Hi Kathy! Colorado is unbelievable this year.  The weather is so beautiful and I hope it never ends!  Although I'm about ready for snow and some good skiing.  I guess I can't have it both ways but wow, Colorado is beautiful this year. 

KP: You just released a wonderful new album called Four Days In My Life. Tell us about it. 
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Click on the album cover to go to Kathy's review.

LC: I am very excited about this new album. I recorded it at Imaginary Road Studio in Vermont and it’s produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton. I am so blessed to have such an amazing group of stellar musicians that appear on the album with me. I composed most of the music sitting on the beach in Florence, Oregon in 2015. I found Florence to be so inspirational and I pretty much had the beach all to myself for four days. I brought my keyboard and laptop onto the beach and just let the ocean, the birds, the wind, the entire experience become part of my music. It was really a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience.  But I still have sand in my laptop!
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Photo courtesy of Louis Colaiannia.

KP: I’ve ruined a couple of cameras with sand, too!
How many of the pieces on the album were actually composed when you were here in Florence last June?

LC: Seven of the songs were composed on the beach.  Of the songs not written on the beach, “Aurora's Light” was written to honor the unborn child of Michelle Wilkins who was attacked and had her baby daughter cut from her and taken. Her baby girl was to be named Aurora and did not live. “Winter Rose Song” was inspired by my 5-year-old granddaughter.  I was showing her something on the piano and she was trying to do it and made several mistakes that were actually very beautiful! I used her mistakes to help build the melody in “Winter Rose Song.”  Her name is Rose and she was born in December hence "Winter Rose." 

KP: I need to listen to that song again now that I know the story!
This is the second album you’ve recorded at Imaginary Road with Will Ackerman and his group of amazing musicians. It seems that a large portion of the albums I’ve been reviewing lately have been recorded there and produced by Will. What makes the experience so special and valuable?
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Click on the album covers to go to Kathy's reviews.

LC: First of all, working with a legend such as Will Ackerman certainly makes one bring their "A" game! It’s so comfortable working with him and he and Tom Eaton are both so brilliant that they make it so easy to create above my usual level of music! The entire setting is so beautiful, comfortable, relaxing, and inspirational and I always learn so much just being around them and listening to how they dissect and produce my music. Its an unbelievably incredible experience. Since I've started working with them, not only have I changed how I write and produce my music, I now even listen to music differently.

KP: Interesting! When you were here in July, it sounded like you have a really busy fall lined up. What are some of the concerts you’ll be doing and the artists you’ll be performing with?

LC: Yes, it has been an incredibly busy fall.  I just can't believe how lucky I am to be busy doing what I love to do! I performed in concert with jazz sensation Steve Oliver in Denver and will perform with him at the world famous jazz club, Spaghettini’s, in Seal Beach, California on November 27th. Then I'm performing jazz at the Surf Club in Clear Lake, Iowa on December 3rd.  The Surf Club is where Buddy Holly performed his last gig before he passed away in the plane crash leaving Clear Lake. I think that will be an amazing event. I just completed a tour through Arizona performing in Tucson, Phoenix, Sedona, and Prescott.   

KP: Okay, let’s back up a bit and find out more about your background. Where were you born and raised?

LC: I was born and raised in Denver Colorado. I attended Denver public schools then the University of Colorado. I graduated from the University of Colorado Dental School and I was a practicing dentist for a number of years. I finally was able to leave dentistry completely in 1999 and have been doing music full time since. 
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KP: Now, there’s a surprise!
When did you start playing the piano? When did you start lessons?

LC: I was told by my parents at age 5 that I was going to learn to play a musical instrument and that I could choose any instrument I wanted but I was going to be stuck with it! I happened to see Liberace on television and thought that was for me, so I chose piano. They bought me a piano and it started a life-long love affair between me and my piano. I started lessons at age 5 with an amazing piano teacher, Mrs Kerstner. She moved to Ohio when I was in middle school, but we still stay in touch to this day. In fact, when I performed at Carnegie Hall last year she called me to ask what time I would be performing and she put my picture on her dining room table, put on my CD and listened to my music while I was at Carnegie. It’s an incredibly special relationship we still have to this day.

KP: I have a few former piano students that I have that kind of a bond with. It’s a really nice reminder that I had a positive impact on their lives.
Are any of your family members musicians?

LC: My mom agreed to take lessons with me on whatever instrument I chose, so she studied piano with me then fell in love with organ and mostly played organ. But it was really cool to have mom taking lessons with me.

KP: Did you play in rock bands?

LC: Oh my, yes! I played in many rock bands. I even sat in and recorded a song with a rock icon (that will remain anonymous here) and was fortunate to perform or even just jam with some of the biggest names in rock. 

KP: Was most of your training in classical music?

LC: Yes, I was classically trained. After Mrs Kerstner moved to Ohio, I studied with Kathleen Joiner who was the pianist for the Denver Symphony, then Bill Sible at the Denver Piano Conservatory and head of piano at University of Denver.

KP: When did you start composing?

LC: I started writing sappy love songs in high school and I had dreams of being a rock singer. It may have taken me 30 years to discover that I can't sing and then I started writing solo piano music in the 1980's. I was actually playing in a rock band at the time and I was hired to write background music for a meditation CD. I fell in love with the instrumental music and I have been doing that since.

KP: How long have you been a professional musician?

LC: I have been doing music full time professionally since 1999. I also played music professionally working my way through college.
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KP: How many albums have you released?

LC: I have nine albums that are piano based.

KP: Do you have any idea of what your next project will be?

LC: I am releasing a Christmas album this year with vocalist Brittany Dymond. Next year I will be recording a solo piano project at an amazing world famous recording studio in Europe. I also have a new jazz project that is about complete and will be released next year.

KP: Lots of new music! One of the things I like most about live performances is learning about how and why some of the music was created. Some of your pieces have really poignant stories, but probably none more so than “Aurora’s Light,” which is the first track on the new album. Do you want to tell that sad yet inspiring story?

LC: Yes, I would love to share that story. It's about Michelle Wilkins and her unborn baby girl, Aurora.  Michelle was responding to a Craigslist ad for maternity clothes when she was attacked and her baby was cut from her and taken.  Michelle was left for dead and barely survived but her baby girl Aurora did not live. Michelle was familiar with my music and reached out to me to write a song for her daughter that did not make it. Of course, I was very honored to write that song, but I needed to learn more about her in order to try and do her justice.  I learned that she has forgiven the person who did this to her and she believes her daughter is now a spirit of light, hence the name “Aurora's Light.”

KP: It such a beautiful piece! What about “Moon Over Florence”?  ;)

LC: When I was in Florence, Oregon, a person that I truly look up to named Kathy Parsons suggested that I write a song called “Moon Over Florence.” I thought that was a beautiful idea and then sitting on the beach and seeing the moon, I was truly inspired to write that song. But the idea came from you Kathy and I thank you so much.

KP: Haha! I wasn’t sure you remembered that conversation!
You and your lady-friend have released a single called “Special.” Tell us about that.
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LC: Yes. Thank you for asking about the new single.  It is in the adult contemporary genre.  Brittany had an incredibly tough period in her life a few years ago and during that period she felt saved by the small random acts of kindness shown to her by strangers. Something simple like holding a door for her, or just a casual smile brought her enough peace to get through her difficult time. She wrote a song about her experience and how the kindness of a stranger can actually save someone.  We both believe we should all be kinder to each other and we have no idea of the struggles other people are going through. When she sang the song for me, I was honored to be able to produce the song with her and put the piano to the song. All the proceeds from this song will go to the Carson J. Spencer Foundation for suicide prevention.
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KP: It’s a very moving song and should do well - especially with such a worthy cause to support.
Who and what are some of your musical influences?

LC: Liberace was my very first influence and I actually got to play a song for him. I was in middle school and I played his version of “12th Street Rag” for him. 

KP: That must have been an experience! Do you have any favorite composers?

LC: Absolutely!  My all time favorite is Beethoven because of the passion in his music. I also love Rachmaninoff because of the power and Chopin. 

KP: Do you play any instruments besides piano and keyboard?

LC: I play a little guitar and bass, but I'm not very good.  

KP: What has been your most exciting musical experience so far?

LC: I've had so many incredibly exciting musical experiences that I sometimes just marvel at my life, but if I had to choose one it would probably be meeting and working with Will Ackerman.  Although performing at Carnegie Hall was exceptionally exciting, too.

KP: If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?

LC: My first wish would be to be able to spend an hour with my parents who are no longer with us. I would want to share what has happened in my life with them and hopefully see pride in their faces.

Secondly, I wish that my music could become known well enough that I would know with certainty that my music will live beyond me.

Finally, I wish that everyone could know peace, love, and security in their lives.

KP: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

LC: I would just like to acknowledge all people who work so hard and have so much passion for our genre yet do not record and release music. The radio programmers, promoters, reviewers, the people at Zone, and others that give so much of themselves to support the music and keep our genre alive. Without their selfless passion I'm not sure we as artists could be doing what we are doing. 
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Louis with Kathryn Kaye at Kathy's July 2016

All photos by Kathy Parsons except where noted.

Many thanks to Louis Colaiannia for spending some time with us! For more information about Louis and his music, be sure to visit his website and Artist Page on MainlyPiano.com
Kathy Parsons
November 2016