My fascination with Japan began in San Diego, California, in 1964. My parents and I had moved there in 1956. Over the next ten years, I graduated high school, went to junior college, and started playing music. It began with garage bands and playing for high school dances. Some of my first professional gigs were at San Diego’s Naval Base, playing for the Officers, in a faded second hand ‘off white’ dinner jacket. Then came my first official night club gig—a Japanese restaurant named Miyakos. We played light jazz standards and even accompanied a singing Geisha with tunes like Sukiyaki, China Night etc. I remember pilfering almond cookies, and taking home big empty sake bottles to put on top of my old piano, filled with coloured water.
I was mesmerized by the whole Japanese atmosphere and culture.
Fast forward to 1989. While working at Victoria’s Seacoast Sound, where we produced jingles, albums, soundtracks etc., I was commissioned by the Earthday Foundation of Canada to compose a theme-song for the upcoming 20 year anniversary of Earthday in 1990. The result was ‘Mother Earth’, which was recorded in English and French, broadcast nationally, made into a video which played on Much Music, and became Canada’s official Earthday song for a time.
The song ended up on a Seacoast demo reel, and made its way to Mr. Masaru Nishiyama, a head producer at FM Osaka. He loved the song, and would eventually fly me to Japan to perform it live on a Japanese environmental radio special which also included Sting, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, the Stones, Dick Lee, and others. He introduced me to Michael Martin, an American living in Japan, who would become my manager.
Through Michael, I would end up writing songs and producing vocals for a number of artists, including Peabo Bryson, Christina Aguilera, Wendy Moten, Lalah and Kenya Hathaway, Brenda Russell, Debbie Gibson, and Japanese artists like Keizo Nakanishi, Toshinori Yonekura, Anli, Yasushi Nakanishi, Kiyomi Suzuki, Nadia Gifford, and others.
Over the next few years, I made several trips to Japan for various studio projects, and eventually a 4-month 36-show concert tour with Keizo’s all-star Japanese band. (They were really good!).
I was signed to Polydor Records of Japan in 1991 and recorded my first solo album ‘Power in Our Hands’ in 1992. I still stay in touch with Keizo and some of my former Japanese band mates. I still miss them very much, as they were beautiful spirits and incredible musicians. I felt very much at home in Japan. It felt familiar, almost like I’d been there before. As an 18-year old kid, playing piano in Miyakos Restaurant, little did I realize what a huge role Japan would play in my future.
Domo Arigato Gozaimus.