Lifoti Interview | Christopher Nielsen The Miracle Music Maker

In Harmony Through a mix of talent and tenacity, the versatile Christopher Nielsen—multi-instrumental is through his lifelong career as a bandleader, producer, and composer for video and television productions.—He does it all. The soulful conviction of Christopher Nielsen floods his listeners with a hearty stew of rich tones and silky vibes. Even those whose thirst is never quenched cannot help but set down their drink, close their eyes and give in to the seductive musings of this rising star. Hailing from Minnesota, Nielsen is so much more than your all-American musician. His music possesses a stirring, earthy sound that leaves his fans aching for more. His talent is pure. His passion is unmatched. His musical tastes are founded on jazz, blues, R&B, Soul, and multicultural folk music. His style has evolved to reflect a range of acoustic piano in the likes of George Winston meets Ramsey Lewis and a percussive backbeat from origins of drummers like Billy Cobham, Carmine Apiece, Tony Williams, and bands like Earth Wind and Fire, Weather Report, Miles Davis to Tower of Power. The artist recently unveiled a brand new studio albums titled Our Voyage Home & Landscapes. The track is magnetic, impactful and engaging, combining great melodies, with a world-class production that’s always about making sure that every detail in the mix is up to snuff. As they say, a chain is only strong as its weakest link, and in this case, it’s hard to find a fault in terms of production, and performance excellence here. When there’s so much passion and focus involved, you really can’t go wrong indeed! 

As an artist, Nielsen isn’t just about creating great music. With Christopher, you don’t just get a good song, but also a fantastic snapshot of an artist with something to say, and a very creative approach to what he does. Our Voyage Home & Landscapes is a showcase of personality and passion, and a very stark reminder that Christopher is an artist who is not the kind of person who would rely on a shortcut or settle for less. His songs are excellent and well-produced, a strong indication of his artistic integrity and ability to create music that’s massively appealing. Having said that, Christopher still managed to develop a strong individuality, shining for his personality and showing the world what he is all about. This release is a must for all fans of high-quality Jazz and classic music out there. 

The music created so far by him combines different musical concepts and genres, bringing true emotion, character, and difference to his audiences. His song begins with a melodic introduction, allowing the mood to set in. Soon after, the verses fall in, establishing the song’s structure and dynamic energy. The audience’s response to his new music has been absolutely mind-blowing, prompting the artist to release more songs consistently. We caught up with Nielsen to see what he’s currently working on and to get some insight on what drives him to work so much in such a short amount of time. It seems that this artist is setting the bar higher in terms of performance and production alike. In this exclusive interview with Lifoti Magazine, Nielsen open ups about his inspiring journey.

➧Interview By Maria Nicolas

• Would you please share a brief synopsis of your 40 year music journey? If you could walk us through your music-related journey from the start to present, what are some of the most notable facets of your life as an artist?
» I grew up part of my life in the tail end of the 60’s love revolution, on a farm in rural WI where my father and mother were “fun loving earth cookie hippies” that left the suburban life in Edina MN where they were successful business owners to “get back to nature”. After a couple years on the farm they separated and my started father holding rock festivals on our farm. Through this and other great experiences growing up I ended up being part of a community of folks that were always very musical. 

I had a passion for music at an early age, aside from always banging on everything and making up mumbled songs about anything, driving my parents and siblings crazy, the first time’s I started really expressing anything coherent was when I was about 11 and we had an old organ and some misc. drum parts that I combined with a few cardboard boxes. I would make up blues songs playing one hand on the organ and another banging on the cardboard boxes. My father had a huge appreciation for the blues and incredible album collection of the best of the best blues artists. This was a big influence on how I feel music. Then when I was about 13, I finally save a little money from a job my father gave me and bought my first drum set. While this was a step up I still used garbage can lids and pots and pan covers for cymbals. My dad’s brother, uncle Gary, who was a rather well known and later MN Music and Nashville hall of fame recipient, taught me my first rock beat. I still have an old cassette tape of me before my voice changed playing this kit I was so proud of... “Here is my tom tom... “Thud” here is my snare drum... “crack” and here is my cymbal... “bang of a trash can lid” and here is the beat Uncle Gary taught me... “Bang, crash, thud” so cute to listen to45 years later. 

The first real drum set I played was in Jr. High school. My band director Felix James was from a family of Southern preachers and a skilled jazz musician. He is the one that taught me how to really listen to music and where I found my love for Jazz music and Baptist gospel music. He introduced me to Earth Wind and Fire, Tower of Power, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and so many other incredible Jazz and soul R&B groups. This was when I got to play in my first band. I was the youngest member and I remember playing a gig where when we went on break I over heard someone from the audience say to their friend “Yea these gut are great but the drummer is not so good”. I was crushed but I told myself “I was going to be the best drummer in the world!”. Well that is a bit of a tall order but I did hit the grindstone and achieved a lot of skill followed by incredible opportunities as a professional drummer for over 20 years.

1980-1985 as I was graduating from high school, when my hard work and newfound skills had started to get noticed. I had a lot of great things happen around that time; I won the Winter Carnival Talent Contest doing a drum solo, I got a Scholarship to the University of MN to study with Marv Daulgren and Sam Eliot, I wrote a book on Stick Twirling techniques that I had an offer for a publishing deal, I formed a Jazz Fusion band with some friends called Lower town where we played several of my original songs, I was hired to be part of a show at Valley Fair where we played 6 shows a day 6 days a week, stadium gigs, parades and more. I was hired as a music director for a local theater and a ton of stuff was all happening at once. Though I was not famous by any means I had some combined experiences that gave me a glimps into why and how artists as they become more popular struggle with burnout or turn to chemical abuse. I luckily kept myself clean from abuse but definitely struggled with to much going on, burn out and difficult economic challenges during this time period. 

After this period in my career I started getting involved in other aspects of the music business and multimedia production. I self studied and started producing a music TV series “Live From the Neighborhood” at public access channel that won several national awards and further connected my network in the Twin Cities Music Community. This led me to taking on a role as Entertainment and marketing director for St. Paul’s dining and entertainment district. That led me to becoming a festival producer which then led me to starting a full service talent agency. These combined experiences allowed me “to be in the right place at the right time” and created opportunities to play with some of the best musicians in the world in a variety of settings.

1985-1990’s I was involved in a lot of musical theater. Unlike the club scene, this was a drug free environment where I had the privilege of working with so many people that have gone on to amazing high profile careers. I worked with Mixed Blood Theater for 9 years, Penumbra Theater and others. The last was Troupe of America where I toured in Christmas shows all over the country and Canada. This introduced me to the East coast where I eventually moved in 2000. Working in Musical Theater helped me have more time to work on writing music. By this time, after working in several popular recording studios, I had built a small recording studio and started producing soundtracks for film and video productions. I developed an Agency to do soundtrack work and build a nice group of corporate clients including IDS Financial, 3M, Aveda and more. 

As my talent Agency and production company grew I found it to be an increasingly competitive and challenging business to sustain. I had ethics and some of the other player sin the business at that time were not always ethical. One of the last touring groups I played with before retiring from being a professional drummer in 2000 was “Curtis and the Kicks”. This was a fun power trio lead by guitarist Curtis Marlatt. The “Kicks” was a great group for me and a lot of fun since as a power trio I got to showcase my playing with drum solos and a wide variety of groves. We played all over our local region and toured across the country (US)and traveled a couple years for extended tour sin the (US and British) Virgin Islands. 

In 2000, after many changes in my personal life, I walked away from my talent agency and touring to move to the East Coast. When I landed in Newport RI, I hibernated in a small apartment, took on a day gig and went on a writing spree and wrote more songs in that period of a year than ever before in my life. Eventually my day job evolved to working on a secret military base in Newport for a government contractor as an interactive graphic developer and web technologist (Skills I picked up reading on tour bus with Troupe America).It was shortly after this that I met my wife Sony and we had our son Angelo. In 2005 I produced a solo piano CD called “Mystic Holiday”. Since I had retired and was now focused on being a family guy I wanted to record some of my music “before I lost my piano chops”. The “Mystic Holiday” collection was music I would play as a way of meditation, self reflection, and I would use it to connect with my spiritual side. I eventually left my “day gig” to start a small web development company CNP Integrations where I could work from home and be more available for my son as he was growing up. As my son started to grow my wife and I started a non profit organization to foster and inspire youth and entrepreneurs, called the Business Innovation Center (BIC).At the BIC we built a TV Studio, Recording Studio, Café and collaboration space. It was one big toy box for me and through our work here that I started teaching music to refresh my production skills. It helped introduce my son and his friends to broader aspects of music and multi-media production. In 2018 I started to get the bug again to play and began ramping up my drums, bass and piano chops. I started working on a few songs to hone my production skills and thus was the birth of “Our Voyage Home” which was completed in early 2020.My wife had asked me one day “For all that work you did back in the 80’s and 90’s what do you have to show from it.” Well... I had abasement full of manuscripts, gig recording, papers and trophies and other stuff but no releasable recordings of my music. That is when I realized that if I am going to get back into the music business, now that my son is grown, I have to get this collection produced and published before I do anything else. The “Our Voyage Home” Collection of13 tracks, includes songs I wrote in college, the first song I ever wrote (for my mother), several songs I wrote to perform with my Lower town band and several tracks inspired over the years combined with a couple new pieces specifically written for this album. I was able to explore a lot of different instrumentation and showcase my skills as a drummer, base player, piano/keyboardist and arranger. This album involved many talented musicians and engineers and several pieces required significant production efforts. While the album was being mixed and mastered in the UK by the team at Doctormix.com, I created another less percussive album of neo-classical, new age piano jazz which I call “Landscapes”. Due to several delays and logistical issues their releases ended up being right on top of each other. Each of the two new albums have several music videos created and as of this publication date several more yet to be released. Fired up and filled with years of bottled up musical ideas I am brewing with several new music projects in the works.

• Compared to when you started a music career some decades ago, is it easier or harder to be a musician in 2021?
 » This is difficult to answer since I am coming back into the music business as a producer recording artist vs a live player during the time of a pandemic when everything in our world is in chaos. It is very obvious that live music has been hit hard by this. It is hard for me to fully imagine how hard this has been for so many musicians that struggled in a difficult industry before the pandemic let alone now. The one thing I can say is that the music industry is very different now from when I started. Since Napstar the publishing industry and artist label relationships are vastly different. There are also digital portals, streaming playlists, submission platforms and social media that has completely changed the playing field for getting new music out and heard by audiences that can appreciate what you do.

• What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
 » I would never build myself up by putting anyone else down. Music is an expression of love and passion and as long as you feel it and someone else can identify with it there is a purpose. If there is no purpose related to my life, well then, I can always choose to not listen to it.

• How important was music in your life? Were your family and friends supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, could you see yourself doing anything else?
 » Music has been a gift to me and a way to communicate something from within. I have very supportive musical friends and family that have always been there for me. I have been blessed to have opportunities to do so many other things outside of music and many that I continue to do. In this new chapter of reuniting with music I feel I am coming from a much more rounded place as a person.

• How are you keeping busy and musical these days during the pandemic? How are you staying connected to your listeners? Are you finding that social media is even more useful now?
 »I have used this “worldly transition” to reinvent myself and create. Since this is a relaunch of my music career yes social media is very helpful. I would go as far as saying it is mandatory for connecting with an audience because that is where everyone is right now.

• How does your live show add to your mission? How do you want fans to feel when they see you live?
 »I am not performing live right now but it is something I may consider again in the future. I would want it to be fun, entertaining as well as filled with fantastic performances by myself and other musicians. if they can remember a couple hooks and hum them on the way home that would be icing on the cake.

• What, or who serves as your biggest inspirations, both musically, and personally?
 »Personally, these days I am interested in a lot of thought leaders around technology and humanity, folks like Noah Yoval Harari, Ray Kurzwile and many others. They get me thinking deeper about our world and society which lends it self to more depth in my music. Musically I would have to say artists like Quincy Jones, Chick Korea and the communities of world class musicians that surrounded them were all influences and inspirations. I pick them because of their mastery of skills and humility as a people. I have to say Earth wind and Fire, and Prince were also next in line... there were so many since there are so many categories Song writers, Bassists, Pianists, Arrangers, Producers... but since I was a drummer for a big part of my career I have to mention: Billy Colbham and Buddy Rich fill this slot for me as a player. But now there are so many new and young players doing amazing work the list of what inspires me as a writer now is far to long.

• What is the first thing you listen for when listening to a new recording? What is theone thing every song must have for it to be solid?
 »First is it musical and enjoyably to listen to. Some music is here to connect us to vibration sin the universe, other music is to get us to feel like moving our bodies while other music is here to inspire our thoughts or visualizations or appreciation for skill and technical merit. I guess the one thing is “does it connect with it’s purpose”.

• Let’s talk about your debut album, “Our Voyage Home” and recently released album, “Landscapes.” What did it feel like releasing these collections? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Can you describe the themes that you explore on these albums?
 »“Our Voyage Home” was about reconnecting to my roots and to rebuild my musical and production chops for what I wanted to do next. I needed to close off a chapter of my musical career by finishing these works and connecting it to where I am today. It was like lifting a burden of weight off my back so I can move swifter and with more grace creatively. “Landscapes” could not have happened without what I learned and rekindled through the experience of “Our Voyage Home”. “Landscapes” explores more piano/string arrangements and digital orchestral soundscapes. It is difficult to target genres that my music fits into but “Our Voyage Home” is a great CD to keep in your car for road trips and “Landscapes” is a great companion for a Sunday morning cup of tea on your porch. However, I am sure you can find your own preferred listening experiences.

• While it’s difficult, can you pick out a few of your favorites on “Landscapes”? What was it like producing them and where did the inspiration for them come from exactly? What makes it so meaningful to you?
» Last summer I was fortunate to achieve a lifelong dream of getting a boat to cruse the bays around the eastern south-coast. Becoming in tune with the vastness of the ocean and its massive impact on our world and seeing the coastal areas that I had previously only see from inland gave me a profound perspective that I wanted to capture in my music. I also had the privilege to visit my the farmland where my wife grew up in Brazil which had endless rolling hills and an amazing waterfall that inspired the idea of calling this collection “Landscapes”. I would have to say my favorite pieces would be Butterfly since it connects me to the epic landscape of the ocean and Moonbeams because it connects me with my wife and introduction to the rich culture of Brazil. I would also say Eli, since it is a piece I wrote for my sister when we were young and it connects me to a beautiful time in my life as a young adult.

• What was it like making the music video for “262 (Give it Up)”? How creatively involved with the process were you?
» The video for 262 (Give it Up) was shot in Brazil while visiting my wife’s home town of Lages in Southern Brazil. We found some parks with young skateboarders and then ran into them again skating through downtown. The footage was shot by myself and Corey Garside whom also did the editing. It was a fun creative collaboration.

• Do you think music today is enjoyed more for the beats and rhythms or for the lyrical content? Why haven’t you used the vocal son your music? (specially in Our Voyage Home AND Landscapes)
» To the first part of your question; that would depend on the genera, use and purpose. There is so much more interesting music created these day that is not mainstream pop. With access to streaming services like spotify and itunes, that connect folks to a global marketplace, I think there are broadening tastes by music consumers. I have written a lot of vocal music over the years and I tend to either write love songs or pieces with messages about political or social equality. As I came back into the music world I wanted to connect with an audience where I can let them visualize their own ideas against a backdrop of my themes and unique musical styles. Then perhaps in the future I will release some of my vocal music. It is in the cue ;-)

• What was it like making the music video for “262 (Give it Up)”? How creatively involved with the process were you?
» The video for 262 (Give it Up) was shot in Brazil while visiting my wife’s home town of Lages in Southern Brazil. We found some parks with young skateboarders and then ran into them again skating through downtown. The footage was shot by myself and Corey Garside whom also did the editing. It was a fun creative collaboration.

• You perform and release the music with your own name. Why not just go by artist or stage name?
» I have never been someone to want to take on a persona, I am just me this is what I do and I hope you like it. I do not anticipate being worldly famous where just being myself would be problematic. If anything I might be the guy behind the scenes for someone else in the lime lite or the soundtrack to your favorite movie where you seem my name at the end in small print.

• I know you are multi-instrumentalist and multitalented at your work. Your work is reflecting the similar skills of pioneers like George Winston, Ramsey Lewis and Billy Cobham. But for listeners, how do you relate your music with them?
» Yikes, this is tough. My humility and realism has a hard time thinking that I am in the same class as pioneers like those you mention. However, I have three albums out right now and several in the works. Each of them are or will be unique in style or genera and perhaps could resonate with unique audiences. I guess I would say if something from one of my collections connects with you please let it be the back drop that helps you visualize or connect with something interesting in your life.

• What’s the most important song you’ve produced at this stage in your career? Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell your younger self about this industry?
» For me it was Midnight Maiden since it is more like a musical jazz/opera and it was complex and difficult to play with any band live as well as uniquely difficult to produce. This was more of a personal goal than something I thought about for commercial purposes. As far as advise to myself about the industry. Stay true to your strengths, who you are and continue to adapt to the changing times.

• What does the next page in your career trajectory look like? What does the rest of this year and the start of 2021 look like for you? Do you have plans to release more new music or a full album soon? Are you currently writing new music?
» Yes, I have a new album in the works and several in the cue. I also have started a collection of music for film and video. I want to try and get better connected with music libraries and music supervisors for film placement. I want to do more with sync rights licensing, movie trailers, soundtracks and that sort of stuff. The structures area little more formula in nature but I like the challenge of writing and creating within defined parameters as an exercise to dig deeper for inspiration. Most of the feedback I have received about my music over the years and especially from “Our Voyage Home” and “Landscapes” is that that my music style lends itself well to visualization.

Now it's time for Rapid Fire Round, you have to answer in one line. So get ready for it...!
» The first song I remember hearing? The thrill is gone - BBKing
» The first song I fell in love with? - I'll write the songs for you - Earth Wind and Fire
» The first album I ever bought? - All n All by Earth Wind and Fire or Songs in the key of life by Stevie Wonder I can not remember but I think i bought them both at the same time.
» The first gig I went to? - Was to hear my Uncle Gary play in Chicago - First Arena Concert was to hear WAR then Weather Report & Maynard Fergeson
» The song that makes me want to dance? Down and Boogie - Earth Wind Fire
» The song I wish I’d produced? When something is produced well I celebrate it vs wishing i produced it. I only wish i had produced stuff I have a hard time listening to so i can make it better.
» The song I can’t get out of my head? Is nt she lovely - Stevey Wonder
» The song I can no longer listen to? Muskrat love by Captin and Tonile
» The genre I don't like? None
» The song I want to play at my upcoming B'day? Get-a-way Earth Wind and Fire
»Describe CNP Creative Music in one word? Harmonious

• You’ve always championed new music. Are there any recommendationsfor Lifoti and its readers to check out?
» Yes, check out my friend Jason Peterson DeLair. He is doing some great work: Spotify 

Check out the “Our Voyage Home” & “Landscapes” from Christopher Nielsen here

Follow him on Official Website | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes 

Recently released Lifoti's April 2021 issue 13, you can check it from below link's for your country:

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