About the Artist: 5 Questions with Chris Ho

While at the 2014 AMTA National Convention I had a chance to stroll through the Denver Art Museum. I saw a fascinating exhibit by a local artist named Daniel Sprick. As I was leaving, to my surprise, Sprick was doing an in-person "artist talk" for a few museum benefactors. I stood quietly and listened intently, and it was amazing to hear him describe his artistic process.

Musicians also are artists. Understanding a bit about what makes musical artists tick, can be intriguing. In a way, it helps us connect to the artist and ultimately their music. I love the music we share here at At Peace Media, and through our new subscription service, sighTUNES. I hope you're going to love it just as much.

About the Artist is our series of interviews, getting you up-close and personal with our musicians and the work they are so passionate about.

Chris Ho has become an integral part of the At Peace Media family. Since 2013 he's created more than 50 original albums exclusively for At Peace Media.  And yes, exclusive means just for us and our customers. 

His background is as a jazz pianist, and he toured with Smokey Robinson. The relaxation genre is fairly new to him, and he’s become immersed in and dedicated to it. We kinda love that about him. And we think you'll love him too.

What was the first live music event you went to for which you also bought tickets?

One of the first concerts I attended as a teen was Jethro Tull at the Forum in Los Angeles. I think the tickets were only about 20 dollars back then… maybe even less. The show was incredible and I was playing a lot of rock music in bands as a kid. At the same concert was Charles Lloyd who is another flute artist but not so flamboyant as Tull's Ian Anderson. Lloyd's group also left a strong impression on me because it was an art group playing jazz. This was my introduction to music that is more art, as opposed to music that is more entertainment. I hadn't realized there was a difference, and it was to be a conflict that I had to work out for many years after becoming aware of the dichotomy.

What was the first music that made a definite impression on you?

For some reason I was always attracted to all kinds of music. My parents' record collection had a lot of dance and ballroom tracks, asian pop (Japanese and Korean mainly), film scores and some musicals from Broadway. I was studying trumpet at the time and so liked anything, especially if I thought I might be able to play it on trumpet.

As I grew older my tastes solidified and I liked the instrumental records more and more. Tijuana Brass, Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 were some of my favorites. I was also enjoying the compositions of the records along with the well-produced performances, editing, and mixing.

Then rock and jazz caught my ear and I learned a lot about writing and performing in those genres. I gravitated towards bands that had top flight musicians, great writing and intelligent lyrics and themes.

Steely Dan is still one my favorite bands. I also liked popular groups like the Beatles, Doors, Rolling Stones, Chicago, Elton John, Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder.

The most influential music to me was JAZZ music. To play jazz you must be a master of the instrument that you play and in addition, you have to know everything about music on the theory side. The improvisation demands a profound knowledge of harmony which can be extremely challenging. Jazz has also made me a better composer. Because I can improvise millions of ideas on the fly over any harmony I am able to write any kind of music with authority, craft and soul!

What do you find most challenging and rewarding about creating music? 

Creating music is both easy and challenging for me. The easy part is that as a jazz trained pianist I can generate endless ideas over infinite chord progressions. But the challenging part is to be original and have a sound that is unique, a fingerprint so to speak. Another challenge is to not repeat oneself. I often think of ways to make each track different but still meaningful and with a spiritual core that makes a piece of music stand out.

Composers want their tracks to have a certain magic that is an intangible quality, difficult to define or construct but very real. In one year I wrote and recorded over 52 hours of orchestral spa music. That comes to about an hour of new music a week!! If I listen to one of the pieces and it sounds fresh and original and has a certain passion and new ideas, then I am satisfied.

What or who inspires your work? 

Often I am inspired by the masters in music like Aaron Copland, Stravinsky, Mozart, Samuel Barber and many film composers.

There are a great many jazz artists who also give me a charge to create like Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, and many others. People can also be a source of inspiration. I admire high achievers in any field from sports to arts to sciences. I think people who have made a difference and have made the world a little better also have a positive effect on the artists who know about them.

What would you say are the primary reasons you create music?

Music is an outlet for creativity. I'm drawn to abstract painting, cooking and inventing new recipes, landscape design, not just songwriting and scoring. I never think of the reasons why I create things, I just do. I am usually pleased with the results or outcome of a project, meal, painting or book.

I want the relaxation music to be a soothing, gentle wash of sounds to help your clients better enjoy their time with you.