Longtime Austin-based musician and composer Alan Goldberg creates a roller coaster ride of piano-based progressive fusion music to give the listener surprises, twists, and ‘weightless moments’.
As a baby boomer growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, his early influences came from what he could hear on the radio, or find while browsing in a record store. His roots in classic and progressive rock, including bands such as Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Frank Zappa, and The Who, along with blues rock and jazz fusion influences like The Allman Brothers and Chick Corea, fused together and molded his improvisational piano style.
He worked as a local stage hand when bands like Rush, Styx, Heart, Aerosmith, and REO Speedwagon came on tour to Waterloo in the mid-seventies. “I was mostly playing drums at the time, and I had the chance to ask Neil Peart of Rush what the secret of drumming was. All he said was “rudiments, man, rudiments”.
After surviving fourteen winters in Minneapolis, as well as his first bout with cancer, and soaking up influences from the likes of Prince, The Replacements, and Peter Himmelman, he moved his wife and young son to where it rarely snows - Austin, Texas. For the past 20 years, Goldberg has played keyboards in local Austin blues/Rock bands, putting out a CD with “The Damage Project”, as well as his own CDs, and absorbing the Austin vibe to keep the musical roots and vibe fresh and immediate.
He kept the thread of progressive and interesting rock alive by discovering and seeing new bands, like The Dear Hunter, Coheed and Cambria, Circa Survive, Between The Buried and Me. “I always find something new that I like in that branch of music. The story continues, and the branch keeps growing. It’s not just verse, chorus, verse” music.
As a mostly solo recording artist, he realized that the way to capture his passion most honestly was to “just press record” and capture his piano performances in real time. He made videos of his playing initially as a learning tool, to be able to help him improve his keyboard technique. He then challenged himself to be able to play a four to six minute, brand new, from the heart piece in a single take without making a mistake. Video doesn’t allow do overs. The ‘in the moment’ improvisational style leads to a roller coaster ride of melodies and interwoven parts that serve as the backbone for his latest album - “Passion No Distraction”, as well as his previous three albums, “Fuel For The Fire”, “Small Acts”, and “Chasing Stray Flames”.
His second battle with cancer was a wakeup call. “Cancer has a way of getting your attention”, Goldberg explains. “There is only now. There’s no time for worrying. I cleaned house in my head. I watch my thoughts and feelings closely. I let things flow, and then the music comes.” Focusing on ‘mind work’ to eliminate distractions and to foster passion, creativity, and fearlessness, he built a philosophy around “Passion No Distraction” as a way of life. He put the “pedal to the metal” and focused on his current album “Passion No Distraction” with the energy and sense of urgency this latest brush with mortality provided.
“My earlier music is used for meditation, yoga, relaxation, background music in spiritual settings, but I play a fusion of ‘proggy’ rock, blues, and jazz that demanded attention”, Goldberg explains. “I want to create the same experience for the listener that I had growing up, when I would put a new album on the turntable, sit in my dad’s big recliner, and as the needle dropped, not know what to expect, or where the music would lead me. I want the listener to hop on my musical roller coaster and have their soul go weightless for a moment.”
Goldberg got help from local Austin drummer Mike Davila on some of the songs on Passion No Distraction, with mixing and mastering work done by engineer Tim Dolbear from Eclectica Studios in Nashville. He is planning to collaborate with more musicians on his next album project, adding their own passion to the piece. He is also planning to do more soundtrack work. “My technique works with video as well. I watch. I play in real time, and then I discover the piece. It can work well when I’m watching something that directs passion in a particular way. Everything can spark an inspiration.
His library of recorded performances continues to grow. “I developed a pretty good cataloguing system so I can find the pieces that inspire me the most – the ones that demand to be brought to the ears of others," he explains. “I add new pieces all the time so I’ve got a lot to do. It’s all fun.”