On the eve of the Grammy Awards scheduled for February 13 2011, review publicist John Olsen has just conducted an in-depth interview with award winning composing musician and 2010 Grammy® Nominee Dr. Michael Brant DeMaria.
In this second interview with Dr. DeMaria, we present to our visitors defining insight into the life of an esteemed new age and world influential musician whose music career is very much in the forefront of today’s music scene.
John P. Olsen : Thank you Michael for taking time away from your work and agreeing to our interview on short notice. You are a clinical psychologist, recognized poet, author, public speaker, and now a twice Grammy® Nominated musician with your 2010 Ocean album currently under consideration. Were you anticipating the Ocean album would turn out to be your second Grammy® Nomination this year, and with the awards ceremony soon approaching, what are your expectations for winning a Grammy® in the New Age category with Ocean?
Michael Brant DeMaria : First off, I want to thank you John for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to sit down with me as well. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you and I have great respect for the work you do. As always, your question goes right to the heart of the matter. As you know the New Age category is an extremely competitive category. However, in the back of my mind I knew Ocean was number 1 on the New Age chart for 3 months and did win two very prestigious awards, Best Ambient Album of 2009 and Best Relaxation/Meditation Album of 2009. I knew it was possible, but I did not think it was probable. Not only was Ocean competing with luminaries and legends in the New Age world, Ocean happened to be up against albums by Olivia Newton John and Tina Turner who both had their entries in the New Age category this year.
As far as winning, I have no expectations. Once again, the other nominees in my category are true legends in the world of New Age music, Paul Winter, Kitaro, and R. Carlos Nakai. Each of these men have influenced and inspired me over the last 25 years. I am very humbled just to be in their company. At the same time, I try to live by the Samurai warrior saying, “Expect nothing, be ready for anything”.
John : You have studied and performed with friends and past Grammy® Winner David Darling, along with Grammy® Nominated R. Carlos Nakai. What are your connections with colleagues David Darling and R. Carlos Nakai over the years?
Michael : R. Carlos Nakai is responsible for me picking up a Native American Flute 17 years ago. I was traveling through Glacier National Park in Montana on my way to enact a very traditional vision quest. I found a copy of Nakai’s Earthspirit and put it in my tape player in the car while I was driving. It was the first time I had ever heard the Native American Flute and it literally brought tears to my eyes. Although I had played piano, synthesizers and percussion most of my life, as soon as I heard the hauntingly familiar sound of the flute I knew I had to play it. When I finally did find one to play – it was like finding an old friend. Years later I joined Nakai’s organization, INAFA, The International Native American Flute Association – and have been a member for over a decade. It was at INAFA conventions in Taos, NM and San Francisco, CA that I finally had a chance to meet and play with him. Not only is he an amazing talent, but a very generous man with his time and knowledge.
Likewise, David Darling’s life, teaching and music have been and remains a very strong influence in my life. I had been listening to his music for many years when I heard about his Music for People program which trains people in the art of improvisation and facilitation. I took my first workshop with him back in 2005 and was immediately hooked. I apprenticed in the program for 4 years and graduated in 2009. In my opinion, he has done more than almost any other musician to teach the finer and deeper aspects of the art of improvisation. He is truly a master in his craft and actually is teaching much more than music – but actually a way of life based upon compassion and creativity. The highlight for me last year attending the Grammy’s as a nominee was having the opportunity to see him win, in person, his very long overdue Grammy® for his amazing album, Prayer for Compassion.
John : I read an article by the prominent author and past entertainment editor for the LA Times Richard Rushfield, where he mentions your name when giving his assessment of the 2010 Grammy® choices. What was your reaction to his article titled Handicapping the Grammys : Best New Age Album?
Michael : To be honest John I was a bit overwhelmed by it. Someone sent me a link to the article and my first thought was, “Boy I bet they don’t even mention me”, being the relative unknown in the category this year. After I read it I was very moved and appreciative of his kind and generous words, particularly about the track Moonlit Sea on my album Ocean. Of course, he admits I am a long shot, but a long shot nonetheless, who he thinks actually has a chance.
John : In your professional life Michael you are an equally devout music professional and psychotherapist. Would you ever pursue one profession over the other at some point in your life, or is it safe to say you are, and always will be recognized as a recording artist and a therapist?
Michael : You’re not the first who has asked me that question John. For me, an artist does for a culture, what a therapist or healer does for an individual. In this way, I feel they are two sides of the same coin. I also find they inform and balance each other in my life. Composing and writing are very solitary and deeply self-absorbed tasks that can take a lot out of you. After 4 days of that kind of intense work I’m really ready to sit across from somebody and be totally there for them. Of course, after 3 days of really being there for others I’m ready to dive back into the solitude of the creative process. I find one replenishes what the others depletes, like crop rotation – it has been a blessing in my life how they have woven themselves together. Now I don’t know what the future holds – but in some way I will always be active in both – although the format for how that may evolve remains to be seen!
John : Michael, you have already realized many achievements in many aspects of your life and I wondered if you would answer a more personal question by telling us what has been the motivating force in your life?
Michael : The primary motivating force in my life is love. Love in the sense of what the Greeks called agape – which is a love for life itself and humanity. I love life, I love people, and I love to create. I feel very blessed that I have been given the opportunity to express what is nearest and dearest to my heart. For me, love is about connection – and unfortunately we live in a time where most people feel a profound disconnection from life, nature, each other and even from their own hearts. The Cherokee say our first teacher is our heart – and unfortunately in our culture we leave that teacher far behind too early in our educational system and in our society. It’s very much my mission in my life to bring a bit more heart into the world through my writing, speaking and music.
John : During the past several years your music career has noticeably gained momentum and taken flight so what do you believe are the reasons your music compositions have repeatedly been granted numerous honors and award considerations over the years?
Michael : You are so very kind John. To be completely honest I really don’t know. What I can tell you is this. My music comes from a very humble and sincere place. When I go into my studio to record I have no interest or desire for any recognition or awards. It’s the furthest thing from my mind. I have no interest in impressing anyone – only in being true to my journey and the experience of the moment. I’m still that 6 or 7 year old boy who went to the family piano to take a sonic adventure – and to help me connect with a greater presence. In that way, it’s a spiritual practice for me. In this way, my albums are all crafted to take the listener on a journey. Each journey actually begins where the last one ended – they build upon each other. In fact, in many ways The River, Ocean and Gaia are a trilogy. They are also part of the larger Healing Sound Project which I have been dedicated to for the last 8 years. It has been a joy for me to see how this music created with the intent of making the world a bit more peaceful, soulful and heartfelt has been embraced so deeply.
John : In our earlier interview everyone had a chance to learn you have donated your time and talents by performing at fund raising benefits and concerts including the Gulf Oil Disaster in 2010 so could you tell us about the charity work you have been involved with over the years?
Michael : I have always felt John that it’s important to give back and whether it has been donating to Native American charities from Siyotanka or wildlife recovery from the gulf oil spill from Ocean, I try to make the project connect to something greater – something more than just about me. I love to play, create and record – so it is simply an added bonus when concerts or albums bring attention to well deserved programs. The world is in a state of great need today – and I believe artist have a unique ability to draw attention to worthy causes. Just as all my albums are concept albums – they are all designed hopefully to teach as well as to be enjoyed for the pure joy of listening.
John : Thank you again Michael for the opportunity to learn more about your amazing career. It has been an honor to get to know you personally while providing coverage of your lifework and career achievements for our visitors. Is there anything you would like to mention before we close?
Michael : The honor has been mine John. You do a great service to all of us in the New Age music world through your many efforts. I did want to mention I’m working on a new album – I don’t want to say too much about it, and the title is even in flux at this point – but I hope it will be available for release in late 2011. Let us just say that it is a project I’m very excited about and will be another very unique sonic journey for the soul, this time exploring the mystery of creation itself. Thanks again John and wishing you, B.T. Fasmer, and all your readers a happy, healthy and joyous 2011!
Visit ontos.com homepage and then sample / purchase on his albums page and CDBaby.com page or Amazon.com page. Read our earlier interview and album reviews on our page dedicated to Michael Brant DeMaria.
Copyright images courtesy Michael Brant DeMaria.