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Interview with Wayne Gratz, April 2022
Interview with Wayne Gratz, image 1
Pianist/composer Wayne Gratz was actually one of the first composers I interviewed back in the early 1990's. We did the first couple of interviews over the phone and I wrote them up as articles rather than actual interviews since I couldn't transcribe the conversations. Then for a while I was recording interviews on my phone answering machine (remember those???) and it took days to transcribe them word for word. Email has certainly made the process easier, and we did this interview update via email in April 2022. (All four of our previous interviews are available here.)

Wayne was one of the original artists on the Narada label. Between 1989 and 2002, he released seven albums of original music on Narada, appeared on several Narada compilation albums, and also recorded four albums of cover music on the Enso label. In 2002, he started his own Wayne Gratz Music label and has released ten albums and a few singles since then. Still one of my favorite artists, we have been friends over the years and finally met when Wayne and Greg Maroney came to Florence, OR in 2011 to do a house concert here.

Interview with Wayne Gratz, image 9
Wayne released his latest album, The Wisdom to Wait, in fall 2021 and I think it's his best album yet. We were overdue for an interview update and it was great to catch up!

KP: Hi Wayne! I was just looking at your Artist Page on MainlyPiano.com and we did our first interview in August 1993! We were both still teenagers then, right?

WG: Yes, time has gone by so fast. I can’t believe it’s been 33 years since I had my first album release with Narada.

KP: Yes! Reminiscence! That's one of the few albums that I have on LP, cassette and CD! I still love that album!

It's been quite an evolution for both of us since the early 1990s!

WG: Absolutely. It’s amazing how all aspects of the music industry has changed so much, including interviews!

KP: We finally met in person when you and Greg Maroney came to Florence, OR in March 2011 for a four-concert Pacific Northwest Tour. That was SO much fun! I thought you were going to freeze to death on our beach, though, being used to Florida weather! It was really interesting because after all of the years of talking on the phone and writing letters, it felt like I'd known you forever. Sharing music seems to do that!

WG: Yes, likewise! That was such a fun week. The beach was great, much different than the beaches here in Florida. I have such great memories and have met so many interesting people along my musical journey. I can’t imagine where I would be if I hadn’t written and submitted my first 3 demo songs to Narada back in 1988.

KP: I, for one, am so glad you did!

I guess the only other time we've met in person was at the 2016 Whisperings event in Southern CA. That was fun, too, and I got a chance to meet your wife, Kyra. Maybe once things feel a bit safer we can do another concert here. I'd really enjoy that! Are you doing much performing these days?

WG: The last concert I played was a Christmas concert in 2019. Lately I have been playing some solo piano corporate events. Yes, I would love to visit Oregon and the west coast again.

KP: Your most recent album, The Wisdom To Wait, came out last fall (2021). I'm listening to it again now, and really love it. What was the idea or inspiration for this album?

WG: Thank you Kathy. Honestly, I felt it was time to release a new album. I simply sat down and started composing. The titles came to me as the music was created.

KP: Obviously the time was right! There are 14 tracks on the album, and some are solo piano and some are more orchestrated. How do you decide which pieces to keep as solos and which ones to add more instrumentation and/or voices to?

Interview with Wayne Gratz, image 4
Greg Maroney and Wayne near Florence, Oregon March 2011
Interview with Wayne Gratz, image 2
Kathy, Greg and Wayne in Florence, OR 3/11
WG: Basically, I sit in my studio and listen to the tracks with my Yamaha S90 and MODX at my side and if I hear something that adds to the music, I record it. I love adding synthesizers which can take the song to a whole new level.

KP: Have you done all of your recording in your home studio since Narada went away in 2002?

WG: Yes. Kyra and I have moved a couple times since then and we both agree that the space for the piano/studio is always a priority.

KP: Let's talk about some of the pieces on the album. It begins with "Daybreak," a very warm, light and optimistic piece that makes me see pastel colors and the promise of a fresh start and a new day. Are you an early-morning person? What inspired this piece?

WG: I’m definitely not a morning person. “Daybreak” to me was the start of new page, a breath of fresh air so to speak.

KP: "As the Stars Appear" is almost magical and is soooo peaceful. This one is more orchestrated, but the piano stays in the lead. What was the idea for this piece?

WG: This piece was actually recorded back in 1998 when I was still with Narada. One day I decided to go through all my multitrack ADAT recordings, which took some time. All the tapes were stored in Tupperware containers. I can’t believe they survived the heat of the various storage areas.

Anyway, “As the Stars Appear” never made it on a CD until now. I’m not sure why I didn’t use it back then. It was just a piano solo improvisation and I added the orchestration for The Wisdom to Wait album. It is actually my favorite song on the album.

KP: Tell us about "Angels at Alto Vista Chapel."

WG: I was on a corporate event for 10 days in Aruba and we found this amazing chapel on the top of a hill. There were hundreds of candles burning inside and it was very drafty which made the candles flicker. It was one of only a couple times in my life that I felt as if I was in the presence of Angels.

KP: Wow, interesting! What about "Abstract Reasoning"?

WG: This was an “abstract” late night improvisation.

Interview with Wayne Gratz, image 14
Interview with Wayne Gratz, image 10
Click on album covers to
go to Kathy's reviews.

KP: "As Winter Comes" seems very melancholy. Is that in response to the influx of tourists who come to Florida during the winter months? haha!

WG: I never really thought of it that way. LOL. Actually, growing up in Pennsylvania, late autumn came to mind when I titled this song. I remember the beauty of the first snow. I loved walking through the woods at night during this time.

KP: Tell us about the title song, "The Wisdom To Wait."

WG: I’ve always found it very difficult to force the creative process of writing music. Over the years, I’ve had the best results by allowing the music to find me which can take a lot of patience. I think that’s why I make it a habit of recording lots of improvisations as they come to me. In a sense, improvisation is the music finding you.

KP: I never thought of that, but it really makes sense.

It looks like you've released quite a few singles over the past few years. That seems to be the way to go right now. Is it working well for you?

WG: Actually, I’ve only released a couple of singles on my label. I’m usually working on an album and most of my songs end up there. From time to time an idea comes to me which may end up as a single release. The latest one was “Quiet Dancer” and I see it pop on some digital platforms from time to time. I may release more in the future.

KP: Another fairly recent project was with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project called Ocean Angels and Guardians (2020). There are literally hundreds of albums by hundreds of artists from all over the world and in quite a number of different genres that have recorded albums and EPs in support of the project. I've reviewed at least twelve of the albums and find the project compelling, as was the book. How did you get involved with it?

WG: Ian Urbina contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being a part of this project. As I learned more about it, of course I said yes. I really loved diving into this project….. no pun intended. I thought the book was very informative and I found the topic very inspiring to create music to.

It is also such a great cause and I was extremely happy to be a part of it.

KP: Do you have any idea of what your next music project(s) is/are going to be? No pressure!

WG: I’m not quite sure as of yet. I currently have a folder full ideas and I recently purchased new piano mics for inspiration.

KP: In addition to your albums, you have created the soundtracks for quite a few films. What are some of the movies?

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WG: The latest was a documentary: Conquering Kilimanjaro created by Bolder Docs. I also composed the soundtrack for Trans, the Movie” back in 2011. It was a great experience and I would love to do more.

KP: Are you still playing with your band, Paradise? If so, how many years have you been together?

WG: Yes. Paradise has been together for 45 years, however, we don’t play nearly as much as we used to. It was a great run!

KP: There is a relatively new group on Facebook called Narada Lovers. Has that rekindled interest in some of your older albums on the label?

WG: Yes, it’s nice to look at the posts people have placed on Facebook. I get tagged from time to time and I find it very flattering. I’m very happy to know my older music is still being played and recognized.

KP: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your music and career?

WG: The pandemic actually enabled me to spend more time writing and recording mostly because all of my live performances and gigs were cancelled during this time.

KP: And my usual question: If you could have any three wishes, what would they be?

WG: My wish: I would wish the world global unity, health and peace.

KP: Thanks so much for doing this, Wayne! It's been great to catch up!
For more information about Wayne and his music, be sure to visit his website and his Artist Page here on MainlyPiano.com.
Kathy Parsons
April 2022