Andrew Zaeh

‘There’s Something in It for You’ – Chad Lawson on Classical Music Today

Symphonic, melodious, and jazzy is Chad Lawson.

Now, put him in a room with Judy Kang and Seth Parker Woods; rounding out the Chad Lawson Trio. The outcome? All of that and more… more being atmospheric, mind-blowing, and inspiring.

A pianist with a triumphant and tranquil approach to the arts, Chad Lawson has made his mark globally time-and-time again with thought-provoking orchestrations that are based in living in the moment.

If it hasn’t already, his grounded nature will wipe your mind clean of any preconceived notions on artists in-and-around the classical genre. He speaks with elegance and creates extraordinary soundscapes, but at the end of the day has a heart filled with empathy. This translates without a hitch into his podcast, a reflective and meditative experience that intertwines the Berklee College of Music graduate’s heart with his soulful art. Weekly, that audio space makes room for contemporaries, peers, fans, and casual listeners to connect with the things around them in new ways, which plays right into the message that Lawson challenges people to understand in all he does, including conversations with The Aquarian: having an open mind and an open heart is what works hand-in-hand to open doors for you.

The Chad Lawson Trio headlines the Count Basie Center for the Arts on March 16. It’s a space many love as both an artist and attendee due to its rich history and stunning acoustics. What are you looking forward to on the topic of playing there? And what does a well-versed room, musically, mean to the show you put on?

Playing in a room with people who truly appreciate and understand the art of music is such an incredible feeling. When there’s an intimate space and passionate listeners, it creates a beautiful energy that Judy, Seth, and I can feel as performers. It’s more than just entertaining the audience; it’s about creating an experience that allows the audience and us, as artists, to feel the music as much as we see and hear it. It’s almost like having a conversation with the room, the audience, and us, as performers, where everyone is participating and contributing to the overall experience. And just like any conversation, it’s never the same. Each conversation personally we have is always in the moment. When was the last time you rehearsed a conversation, right? It’s the same musically. 

What I’m looking forward to the most that evening is not knowing how the conversation will go as it is different for each performance. As I feel the energy of the room, I adapt my performance to that energy and it becomes symbiotic. It’s always unique, always exciting, and always a little unexpected, but that’s what makes performing live so special! It’s an experience that we all share in the moment, and I can’t wait to see where the music takes us.

Breathe has been out for about six months now. What has this time and the reception been like for you?

As an artist, the past six months since the release of breathe has been a really rewarding experience for me, in ways I hadn’t even anticipated. When I created this album, my intention was to provide a safe space for people to let go of their emotions and find some solace.

Especially during and after the pandemic, it was important to create a space where people could let go of what they’ve been carrying, even if they don’t quite know how. That’s what I wanted breathe to be: a place where listeners could find some peace and let go of their emotions from the past two years, or even two decades. The response from listeners has been overwhelming, to say the least.  As an artist, you never really know how your work will be received once it’s out in the world, so to have so many people share their stories of personal healing, hope, and encouragement has been truly touching. It’s amazing to know that my work has touched people in such a profound way.

Overall, I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience and for the opportunity to connect with my listeners on such a deep level. It’s moments like these that remind me why I became an artist in the first place.

Similarly, the art of breathe correlated beautifully with message of Calm It Down. Was that intentional – blurring the lines between meditative podcast and serene classical creativity?

[The] Calm It Down podcast began in September of 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Since I wasn’t able to tour due to the pandemic, I wanted to find a way to stay connected with my audience. I decided to move my performances to the microphone instead of the stage. Truth be told, the podcast has taken on a life I never anticipated. With over three million episode downloads, it’s been an incredible way to connect with my audience on a deeper level than music alone.

The stories that people share and the newfound hope I hear in their voices is just incredible. While it may not line up with the release of my album, breathe, the podcast becomes full circle with my audience, as my music listeners find the podcast and vice versa. Even during my recent concert in Toronto, Canada, I was surprised how many people said, “I found out about the concert from the podcast!” I am so incredibly lucky to have such a supportive community of listeners who appreciate and connect with my work, both through music and the podcast.

Between you, Judy Kang, and Seth Parker Woods, there is a litany of experiences, talents, and skills to showcase in a live setting. How do you three prep for the stage and bringing these atmospheric songs to life?

Judy Kang and Seth Parker Woods are both incredibly talented musicians and performers in their own right. They’ve toured with everyone from Lady Gaga to Peter Gabriel and performed some of the most demanding classical concertos, as well as their own original compositions.

For me, it’s all about surrounding myself with talented individuals and allowing them to bring their own unique voice to what I’m doing. I’m not one to micromanage the details, as I believe the people I surround myself with can bring something that I could have never imagined. I don’t even know how a violin or cello fits in one’s hand, let alone what it’s capable of or not. When I bring Judy and Seth into the circle, they’re able to add their own voice and perspective to the music we’re creating together. It’s amazing how much color they can bring to the canvas, even if it’s my original music or arrangements. They can take it to a whole new level with just a simple tilt of their hand. They bring something that’s truly unique to the table and add another layer to the conversation that I couldn’t have achieved on my own. It’s a beautiful thing to experience. Not to mention we have as much fun together off stage as we do on… which is super important for long road trips!

Classical music is a mainstay in the world due to the beauty of it, the craft’s much-needed dedication, the influential soundscapes, its use in film scores and theater productions, and much more. What is one misconception about the overhead genre of ‘classical’ that you want to debunk?

I love this question! Thank you for asking.

Classical music is a genre that has stood the test of time and has so many different facets that make it truly special. From the intricacy of the compositions to the incredible skill required to perform them, there’s something about classical music that speaks to people in a way that few other genres can. However, there’s one thing that I really want to debunk when it comes to classical music: the idea that it’s only for a certain type of listener. I think sometimes people get the impression that classical music is somehow elitist or exclusive, and that only people with a certain level of education or knowledge can really appreciate it, but that’s just not true.

The reality is that classical music is for everyone. It’s a universal language that can be appreciated by people from all walks of life. Whether you’re a seasoned classical music aficionado or someone who has never really listened to the genre before, there’s something in it for you. At the end of the day, music is meant to be felt and experienced. It’s not just about analyzing or understanding it at an academic level. My hope is that more people will give classical music a chance and see that it’s not just for a select few. It’s a genre that can move and inspire anyone who is willing to listen with an open heart and an open mind.