Behind the piano: Casey Crosby

Behind the piano: Casey Crosby

Today I’m introducing you to American pianist Casey Crosby, which we will get to know better in this Behind the piano article!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I come from Syracuse, NY.  I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of Northern Virginia and later in a small town in rural Upstate New York. Since leaving university, my professional travels have taken me around the world. I have worked and played in many countries. In the past 20 years I have resided in Poland, Italy, Ireland, and Germany. Now I live in beautiful Switzerland.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I started taking lessons at the age of 10, so I play the piano since 40 years. I also play the organ.

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
My grandmother got from Reader’s Digest a record of Beethoven’s 9th symphony which she gave me to listen to on her record player. The music blew my mind and I asked his mother to get me lessons on any instruments that could get me to play what I  heard. In my parent’s bedroom there was a Wurlitzer Electric Piano and a girl I liked had piano lessons on Wednesday’s so my mother booked me piano lessons on Wednesday’s after school for 50 cents.

How long have you been making piano music?
Since I was a teen. 

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
When I was 13, I was asked to provide some dramatic scoring for a play being performed by the school I was in at a statewide performing arts competition. I had to write down the notes for the judges to have. At the end of the competition, though the group did not win a prize, I was given an “honorable mention” for “lively and stimulating” musical support. That kind of got me “kick started” into thinking there was maybe something cool to be achieved with this. I never dreamed it’d turn into a career

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
For me there’s only one real pianist in this genre worth mentioning: George Winston. He was the first and coolest. You could throw around many names, but they all come back to him. We are all store brand generic cola. He is “classic coke”. It was during my university years that I was introduced to the music of George Winston. I attended my first concert of George Winston in 1989 in Lynchburg Virginia, VA. I began studying Winston’s influences of Jazz, R’n’B and stride piano. On a rainy Monday night in half a full auditorium in October 1995 in Utica, NY, I attended another concert of Winston. Winston walked onto stage in his traditional socks-no-shoes and flannel shirt look, sat down at the piano and quietly announced “This is a song by Larry Young called “The Cradle”. It was the only time I remember listening to a song and not breathing without realizing it. I caught my breath somewhere around measure 30. Winston’s music was crucial to shaping who I became as a composer and performer.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
I wouldn’t say there are really any rules, so to speak, that need to be broken, but there is a certain mentality that should be obliterated, sooner rather than later. That is the whole lack of passion and due paying process that artists today feel entitled to skip. The desperate need for acceptance from social media and shiny gadgets and “likes”. While social media is important, I believe every composer in this genre should have one aim- and that is to perform for an audience. The balls to risk small crowds yet treat them to a full on 2 hour concert like its 500 people in Carnegie Hall. If I had to choose something other than mentality, it’d be to encourage pianists in this genre to find ways to be unique and virtuosic, and not use the same lame song titles and endless arpeggios for every song. People used to record albums when their ideas were completed. Nowadays pianists write songs in order to have a record. I think quality and individuality would be much better represented by people finishing their theme and “message” and then deciding whether it worthy to record or not.

How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
I only record in label sanctioned recording studios. For example I recorded my latest album “November” in the Powerplay Studios in Maur, Switzerland, and I am planning to record my next album “Calix Meus Inebrians” there too. Artists from all over the world such as the Bee Gees, Keith Jarret or Prince record there. I wanted to have a high quality recording and the Powerplay Studios had everything I needed: A beautiful Steinway B211 Grand Piano (which I need to do some of my songs that use muted strings), all the technical equipment and a great engineer (thank you Reto!) who also mixed and mastered the album. It was totally worth it because I think the high quality result I got from recording in such a place played a part in getting “November” several awards, since they also value the recording quality of the music.  

Thanks for participating in my Behind the piano series Casey!

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