Pianist Chad Lawson seeks healing in new album
Can music improve mental health? Pianist and composer Chad Lawson thinks so.
His new double album, to breathe, released Friday to coincide with National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Recorded at the legendary Beatles Abbey Road studio, it features members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestraviolinist Esther Yo and cellist-composer Peter Gregson. These collaborative pieces form the first part of the album, with the rest consisting of solo piano versions of the same works, as well as others.
“Irreplaceable”, which was released as an EP earlier this year, opens the US release from Decca Records. “It’s not a void you’re trying to fill. It’s something you’re trying to cherish,” Lawson said. morning edition host Rachel Martin after performing the piece in NPR’s performance studio. “The idea of remembering what is irreplaceable in your life to help us through these difficult seasons.”
It is an invitation to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life, to reflect. “It’s unbelievable that it took us a pandemic to stop and realize what a life I’m living right now,” Lawson said. “It’s about being able to be present in that moment.”
Lawson, who aims to make his music accessible, said his biggest audience is in the 18-28 age bracket and his work has already been streamed some 500 million times around the world. Amateur pianists can even download the scores of some of his pieces to try their hand at the keyboard or piano at home.
Lawson described his composition process as centering on one melody given by piece, walking away for about a month, then listening to the music again while reading, which gives him new inspiration. “So usually the song will tell me what the story is after,” he said.
In the case of “fields of forever”, the guideline came to him during the recording session with Gregson and Yoo. Lawson recalled, “The red light is on. We’re recording this song. And then all of a sudden I started having memories, these images of my mom and my dad…just moments of all days, whether it’s a picnic or maybe just driving on the boardwalk.”
When Lawson’s performances were canceled during the pandemic, he turned to his work as a yoga instructor and breath coach, starting the meditation podcast Calm down after fans said his music helped them cope with their anxiety and struggles. “Music is meant to heal,” he explained. “The music I make is something that’s going to be able to calm someone down with whatever they’re going through.”
Lawson has no training as a therapist, but his listeners tell stories of major mental health issues, from sexual abuse to suicide.
“Even though I don’t have a license, I’m not a doctor at all, I’m conversational,” Lawson said. “And I think that’s what people are looking for right now. I think they’re looking for something that’s not too heavy, that’s not a burden to listen to, that offers some hope .”
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