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GOLDMINE Q&A's with Chad Lawson on Henry Mancini flip side and his calming new album

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Steinway pianist Chad Lawson recorded his new Decca album at Abbey Road Studios, and the Fabulous Flip Sides column reports on it via a B-side.

World-renowned pianist Chad Lawson's luminous double album breathe, released on September 23 via Decca Records US, features both solo piano compositions and orchestrated arrangements, breathe is a heart-felt invitation to pause and enjoy a cathartic moment of release. Each melody purposefully brushes across the canvas of emotions, allowing a tremendous depth of feeling to shine through every moment. “With this album I really wanted to create something where anyone can sit back, close their eyes, and release everything they’ve been holding inside,” says the NC-based composer, who’s devoted much of the past few years to studying the science behind calming music and its neurological effects. “My hope is that this music can help people exhale and finally let all that go.”

Co-produced by Lawson and London-based orchestrator Geoff Lawson, breathe came to life at the legendary Abbey Road Studios (the same facility where he recorded You Finally Knew, whose standout track “Stay” climbed the Billboard Classical chart for 111 weeks). The lavishly orchestrated opening section features the lush string work of cellist Peter Gregson, violinist Esther Yoo, and members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as Lawson muses on such matters as the durability of true love (on “fields of forever”), the sometimes-painful tension between family life and creative practice (on the breathtakingly bittersweet “with you”), and the pure euphoria of joyful infatuation (on “this is what love is,” whose waltz-like movement perfectly echoes the nervous flutter of new romance). The album’s latter half is comprised of solo piano arrangements that highlight Lawson’s attentive sculpting of melody, an element he regards as the most vital channel for emotional expression.

Today, Lawson shares the hopefully-melancholic album opener “irreplaceable,” which presents a nuanced meditation of grief with its cascading melodies and soul-stirring orchestral arrangement. Although breathe is about letting go, “irreplaceable” is an invitation to reflect and cherish what holds a special place in our hearts. Watch the visualizer here:

Before his solo debut, Lawson developed a thriving career as a touring jazz pianist but found himself feeling disconnected from the music. As he began to explore new musical territory, he ultimately found that the solo piano gave him comfort and a sense of healing that other music did not. “I started hearing from listeners who’d say things like ‘I just lost a loved one and felt like you were holding my hand through the most difficult time in my life,’” says Lawson. “That’s when things started making sense for me, in terms of making emotion the core of everything I do.” Since his solo piano debut in 2009 called Set On A Hill, Lawson has established himself as a musical mindfulness advocate that continues modernizing the piano for the streaming age.

Lawson’s 2020 Decca debut You Finally Knew has earned over 275 million global streams. Coinciding with the critically-acclaimed album’s release, Lawson launched the iHeartRadio Award-nominated podcast Calm It Down, which seeks to help listeners recharge and recenter through the power of music. Today, Calm It Down has 60k listeners per week and over 1.5 million downloads to date. Last month, Lawson debuted his meditative solo piano EP irreplaceable, which inspired listeners to find peace through their own irreplaceables in life (read his recent AllMusic interview here). Also in May, Chad incorporated meditation and guided breathing techniques into his performance for a packed house in London at the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre. breathe is the next chapter in a career dedicated to helping others as Lawson continues to forge a powerful new pathway for healing with piano music.

With the forthcoming release of breathe, Lawson hopes that listeners will allow themselves a retreat from the incessant noise of everyday life. “The past couple of years have shown me that people are in need of something soothing to the mind, and I’m happy that I can provide that in some way,” he says. “At the end of the day, all I’m asking is for my music to be a place where people can go to tune out the outside world for a little while, and feel that emotional embrace that so many of us have been missing.” 

GOLDMINE's Warren Kurtz writes….Pianist and composer Chad Lawson is a Steinway artist who transitioned from jazz to an easy listening/light classical style, with a calming delivery in line with the meditation classes he offers. He was a touring pianist for Julio Iglesias which inspired him for the musical direction that we discuss. Lawson’s new double vinyl album Breathe is comprised of eight songs with an orchestra followed by nine solo piano performances of the first eight songs plus one more, “The Sweetest Sound.” The time change in the middle of “This is What Love Is,” the waterfall feeling of “Letting Go” and the Chopin-like touch on “Beneath the Moon’s Embrace” are among the many stunning moments on this soothing new release.