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Charlotte Pianist Finds Success With Versatility And The Internet

Charlotte pianist Chad Lawson might be best known for his jazz album Dear Dorothy: The Oz Sessions, which was featured in television shows, movies, and commercials. More recently, he has been releasing classical recordings. Tonight he will be performing the holiday music of Vince Guaraldi in Charlotte. Chad Lawson joined us this morning.

Kevin: Good Morning.

Lawson: Good Morning, Kevin. Thank you for having me.

Kevin: So is it fair to call the music you've put out on your albums recently "classical" or is there a better way to define it?

Lawson: You know, that is a really difficult nut to crack. It's quite the quandary. Some people want to label it "New Age" which I am not really keen on because I don't really think that this is a New Age style. "Neo-Classical" is something that I have kind of been leaning towards. I've also been trying to coin the phrase "Alternative Classical."


Kevin: So Chad, as a musician who has produced many of your records independently, I assume that the internet is a very important vehicle for you. How do you use that to your advantage?

Lawson: It's a game changer. Companies like Pandora, iTunes Radio and Spotify - there are two sides to this coin and some musicians aren't really crazy about some of these companies. But really what it's doing is providing an outlet for independent artists, whereas with a lot of the major record labels and companies, they really kind of have a really large hand on the industry. So I think what we are seeing now is a huge advantage for musicians that have never been heard of. If you have tenacity and you have music you really think people should hear, then you have an opportunity.

Kevin: I've talked to a lot of musicians who have said they have always felt a lot of pressure - especially instrumentalists - that have said they have felt pressure to move to New York to take that next step. Do you ever feel that pressure as someone who lives in Charlotte?

Lawson: It's funny that you bring that up. I actually lived in New York for about five years. I lived here in Charlotte, and that is when I had the jazz trio. And then I decided - pretty much what you just said Kevin - which is I needed to go and make a change of scenery. So I went up there with the whole purpose of not specifically doing jazz, but instead to go up there to study with somebody. I just found my way into a couple of bands. I became a studio musician with Sony while I was there. So some things really happened. But what I have found since my wife and I moved back to Charlotte is that I am actually able to get more things done here then when I was in New York. I miss New York dearly, I really do. There is a sense of urgency, there is a sense that if you are there, you are there for a reason and you are really dogmatic about it. But New York can really eat you alive if you let it. So we had to leave just to breathe for a little while.

Kevin: Well tonight you are performing the music of Vince Guaraldi. Most people know Guaraldi as the man behind the music of the Peanuts and Charlie Brown, but he was a whole lot more than that, wasn't he?

Lawson: He really was. I guess in a roundabout way it was a blessing and a curse for him. He got launched into this huge spotlight. But I kind of wonder if sometimes he would go to bed at night and be like "Have they heard my other songs?" But, you know, he didn't tour. And for a lot of musicians I think a lot of musicians would love the idea of having mass appeal without having to be gone from their daily routine every day. So I think for him, it was a wonderful spot to be in.


Charlotte composer and pianist Chad Lawson's latest album is called "The Space Between" and he also has a Christmas album out called "Solo Piano Christmas." He will be performing tonight with four other pianists playing the music of Vince Guaraldi and other holiday favorites at the Booth Playhouse at 6:30 PM.