AV: Before we get
down to questions about Mystical America, could you tell our readers a little bit
about yourself and how you got started creating the style of music that you do
LS: I grew up on a farm inNorthern
California. My mother
started teaching me to play classical piano when I was 4 years old and I began
“making up my own songs” on the piano when I was about 8.
I was very influenced by the classical music I was learning and the style of my
music still reflects my classical training.
In most record stores my music is found in the “New Age” section, although some
prefer to categorize it as something else such as “Contemporary Instrumental”
AV: Your latest
CD, Mystical America, was released not too long ago.
What was the seed of inspiration for this CD and how did you go about beginning
to do the work on it?
LS: I’ve always been enthralled by places that have spiritual
significance, mystery and mystical intrigue.
Growing up nearMt. Shasta,
a place very close to my heart, I was always fascinated to hear stories about
how people had been affected by the spiritual power of the mountain. Through traveling I became inspired by other
fascinating places in America
and decided to try and capture some of the beauty and magic of these places in
AV: Was there anyone else besides yourself who
worked with you on Mystical America? What
kinds of contributions did these other participants make to the overall CD? If you worked on it alone do you ever seek
outside advice on what you are working on before it is completed?
LS: In creating Mystical America I worked very closely with an
amazing artist, my friend and Producer, Chris Camozzi.
He understood completely my vision for this project and helped me fine tune the
compositions. We spoke at length about
the symbolism behind each song concept and he helped bring the music to life
through his deep understanding of the pieces and his wonderful talents. Chris brought in Mary Pitchford, a terrific
violinist who I’ve worked with on my previous release, “Pianoscapes for the
Trails ofNorth America”, as well as Diane
Grubbe, a wonderful flute player, and Scott Fuller who is a genius at effects
and orchestral arranging. Chris also
played acoustic guitar on the album.
Another person I always work with very closely is Frederick Wilson of Delvian
Records and The Gate Media Group. He
is closely involved from the beginning as a friend, mentor and also in the
creation of marketing and promotion strategies for communicating the essence of
the project. He is also a mastering
genius. I was also lucky enough to
work with a famous artist on the cover art, Johanna Pieterman. She designed a work of art specifically for the
project. It is a “real life” Statue
of Liberty with sage leaves in her hair representing “Nature’s Splendor”, an
ear-ring shaped like a wheel representing “Sacred Symbols”, a petroglyph on the
front of her garment representing “Mysterious Messages” and Ogam Writing on the
hem of her sleeve representing “Magical Creations”.
Did beginning work on this new project bring
to mind echoes of your previous releases and how did Mystical America build on what
came before without becoming derivative of past compositions?
LS: There is a lot of negativity in the world about America right
now. With my new release, “Mystical
America” as with my previous release “Pianoscapes for the Trails of North
America” I wanted to celebrate things that are special and positive, in my
eyes, about America. Musically
speaking, the CDs are similar in that they are both based on melodic and soothing
piano compositions. “MysticalAmerica” has a
bit more additional orchestral instrumentation than my previous releases.
If someone was curious about Mystical America how would you describe the music to them?
LS: I hope that the music on my new CD will take the listener to
these wonderful and magical places.
The music has been described as very soothing and relaxing. All of the pieces are my original compositions
except for the final track is my arrangement of
Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”
which I have dedicated to my beloved “Mt. Shasta”.
Tell me about what you found satisfying about
creating the music of Mystical America and is this feeling the same for all the
music that you create or does each one generate its own emotional response
LS: I love composing music and if I had my way I’d probably be
sitting at home in my pajamas all the time doing nothing but that. When I’m composing I feel very contented and
absorbed and the day goes by very fast.
I don’t remember feeling a great difference in emotion overall while composing
the music for this CD compared to the music I have composed in the past. Each piece is an expression of my own emotion, and
there is a wide variety on each album.
For example, the track Heavener Runestone is to me about the loneliness,
elusiveness and sadness of an important message that no one has been able to
decipher. And Coral
Castle is about the tremendous love
that motivated the creation of one of the most extraordinary and mysterious
structures in North America.
What will those who have heard your music
before recognize as “you” about Mystical America and what will they find on it
that breaks new ground compared to your previous music?
LS: The gentleness and softness of the compositions and my
playing touch as well as distinct melodies and themes is a “me” that I think is
recognizable. There are more
instrumental orchestrations in addition to the piano on my new album.
What kinds of
musical influences might your audience find in your music as they listen to
Mystical America? Are you aware of these
influences while you were creating this CD or do they just seep in on their
LS: Reviewers have compared me to George Winston, Liz Story and
Wayne Gratz. I consider this a great
compliment as I’m a fan of these artists; however, I wasn’t aware of these
influences during the CDs creation.
I just let what was inside me come out.
When did you
know that Mystical America was done and that tweaking the mix would not make it any
better? Are you pretty objective about knowing when you can’t make a piece of
music any better than it already is and calling it done?
LS: My Producer is very helpful with the tweaking. I trust him immensely and rely on him to help me
decide when a piece is “complete”. I
really need this help; otherwise I might continue tweaking into infinity.
release of Mystical America do you still get butterflies in your stomach when it’s
finally time to share it with the public?
LS: Yes, I get butterflies.
I just try to get them to fly together in coordination and then release them
What kind of
feedback have you been getting since releasing Mystical America and does this
feedback (reviews, e-mails etc) ever affect how you might approach your next
LS: I’m very excited about the wonderful response to my latest
CD. It’s been very encouraging and
humbling. I guess it affects my
approach in that I just feel very lucky to have the opportunity to continue
making music, which I love doing, most of the time more than anything else.
intimately familiar with Mystical America what would you like for your listeners take
away from this CD after they have played it a few times? Or upon repeated listenings over a period of
LS: I hope they just enjoy it and discover something that has
personal meaning to them about the songs.
There is no great message that I’m trying to convey through this album. It’s just an attempt to communicate through music
emotions that I feel from places that have inspired me.
When listeners hear the music they may feel those same emotions or something
different altogether. And they may
hear them again differently years later because as we experience more I think
we hear and understand things differently.
this release be available and how can AV’s readers get a copy of their own?
LS: Mystical America
is now available at retail stores nation-wide and online at Amazon.com, CDBaby.com,
and Delvian Records.com and on Itunes.
interview sessions there is always something that an artist really wanted to
tell their audience about their latest release but the interviewer never asked. Is there anything else about this CD that stood
out in your mind and that you would like to share with the readers of Ambient
Visions before we close this interview out?
LS: Enclosed in each Mystical America CD is desert sage incense
in honor of the ancient tradition of burning sage as a spiritual blessing.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at Ambient Visions
and I wish you much success with Mystical America.