Tag: Mindi Abair

Mindi Abair: The Power of Reinvention

MindiAbairI’ve been given a beautiful and meaningful gift. One that allows me to make a living as a solo artist. I mean, what could be better than that? I actually get to make records, tour with a band that I’ve hand chosen and play the music I write for audiences all over the world. I’ve been a goal-oriented person my whole life, and seven solo records and countless tours later, I’m still going strong!

But once I turned 40, things started to feel different for me. I started becoming confused and a bit foggy. I was disoriented just “marking time” as they say. Continuing on the same path that I had originally set for myself. It felt as if I had been exposed to a virus that was somehow making me question my place in life. All of the usual things that had inspired me up to this point were gradually fading away and I felt as if I had musically become a caricature of myself. I needed new inspiration, but wasn’t sure where to find it. I needed outside influence, but wasn’t sure how to go after that either. I was just too cozy and safe inside of my own private bubble.

I decided that now was the time to do a little soul searching. But, how does one go about reinventing themselves after living life as a very defined person? I knew that I had to follow my heart. If there was more out there for me, then I was going to go out and find it.

I came to the conclusion that on the off time from my band, I’d go out and do the things that made me happy. I felt the need to become a fan of music again and not just be immersed in playing it. I soon found myself going out to clubs to see bands that I really loved.

After a few months, it occurred to me that I was mostly seeing rock and blues bands. Hmm, OK… note to self. Maybe I was now just tapping into some happy childhood memories. After all, I did spend twelve years growing up hanging with the eight rock bands my dad had put out on the road. And in between those rock tours, I would watch unearthly amounts of MTV. Not exactly what you would consider the usual path to a career in Contemporary Jazz.

One of the shows I was frequenting was my friend, Waddy Watchel’s band. Waddy and I have played together off and on since 1995 – going back to when we both joined Adam Sandler’s band. Waddy’ s band has played The Joint in Hollywood for the past 15 years; with everyone from Keith Richards and Neil Young’s bass player Rick Rosas to Jack Tempchin sitting in.

It became total Rock ‘n’ Roll Zen for me. The loud guitars, the driving force of the drums and the sheer intent of the lead singer! It was a “spa day” for me, as I put it to Waddy. Somehow in the cacophony of rock ‘n’ roll, I had found peace and reveled in the sheer abandon of the music that was being played.

Of course, I couldn’t just watch. Playing was in my blood and those nights of being a fan eventually led to me sitting in with the band and becoming a regular fixture with the group. The music that we were playing really inspired me: Rolling Stones, Mott the Hoople, the Beatles! I was officially “moonlighting” from my chosen career as a Contemporary Jazz saxophonist – and I loved it!

It wasn’t long before I got a call from Don Was asking me if I’d like to play “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” on American Idol with one of the contestants. I knew that I could use my newly found mojo to pull it off. And I did! Steven Tyler even called me out in front of millions on TV saying “Forget about you, who’s your sax player?”

I ended up spending two seasons on American Idol, eventually playing seven episodes with Phillip Phillips who won it all. What an honor!  And on my last day on the set, I received a call from Steven asking if I’d like to be the first saxophonist to join Aerosmith on tour since 1973!

Wow! Now I was REALLY moonlighting! I had decided to just do what made me happy and in the spirit of reinvention was now taking off and spending my summer vacation with Aerosmith!

The band was nice enough to let me keep my own dates that were already booked, so every now and then I would take off and join my own band and play. Interestingly, it was during my own band’s shows that I started feeling a change in the music. I began to notice that I was moving around and playing differently. I was even starting to dress differently. But it wasn’t as if someone else was coming out of my body. It was still me, only a better me! A stronger, more confident and more inspired me!

My next inspiration came to me quite organically. It was the day that I heard of Clarence Clemons passing. I had never met him, but he was a hero of mine as a performer and player. Saddened by his passing, I turned to Facebook as my vehicle for expressing my feelings. As fate would have it, a promoter saw my post and called almost immediately to ask if I’d be up for sitting in with Max Weinberg and paying tribute to Clarence with him. And truly, I could not have been more honored.

A few days later, I played with Max and it was an emotional night. I really tried to dig deep and pay appropriate tribute to this man that I so admired. I ended up joining Max on tour for the next few weeks, even getting to play with him and Bruce Springsteen at the Beacon Theater one lucky night.

Sinking my teeth into this incredible new mojo, I pushed myself into finding greater depths of expression. It was freeing and for the first time in many years I actually wanted to ‘practice’ saxophone. I sat for hours in my room, dusting off old Springsteen records and playing along – forming scales and new melodies in my head. I had found a new love affair with my saxophone and went through a true rebirth as a player. It was work, but I loved every second.

I realized that all of these experiences had helped redefine me. The thoughts that had been haunting me were gone and I was now on to another chapter in my life. One with new goals I was ready to reach for, and with even more abandon than my previous ones! I eagerly took the inspiration that was given me and ran with it — all the way back to my record label, Concord Records. I explained the last few years of my life to them and even played them some of the new music I was writing. I explained why this would make a breakthrough record for me as an artist. They were in, and I soon set out to make a career record for myself.

I was joined by people I never dreamed would play with me on one of my records: Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Keb’ Mo’, Booker T. Jones, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and Trombone Shorty. I had played for them all in their world… moonlighting… and now, I understood for the first time how they fit into mine.

“Wild Heart” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts.

I’m not sure how many times one has the power to redefine and/or reinvent oneself. I’ll have to wait and see but right now I’m reveling in my new skin. Change comes when you look for it. And even though I wasn’t sure of where it would lead, I just needed to free my mind and take the journey. I’m a new woman now. A stronger, more capable woman and someone who’s making music that moves me every single day.

*****

Mindi Abair is one of the most dynamic performers on the music scene today. In addition to her acclaimed solo work, she was the featured saxophonist on the two seasons of American Idol, jammed with Paul Shaffer on the Late Show with David Letterman and joined rock legends Aerosmith for their 2012 summer tour. More recently, the powerhouse saxophonist/vocalist received a Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Summer Horns, a #1 recording with her friends Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot. Abair’s new album, “Wild Heart” includes guest and songwriting performances by Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, Trombone Shorty, Max Weinberg, Waddy Wachtel and others. Find out more at www.mindiabair.com

Wild Heart: Saxophonist Mindi Abair Discusses Dynamic New Album

MindiAbair-WildHeartSaxophonist Mindi Abair is one of the most creative artists in music today. Already known for her acclaimed jazz prowess, Abair has been the featured sax player on American Idol for two seasons, toured with the likes of Duran Duran and Aerosmith and even did a stint with the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. But on May 27th, Abair takes reckless abandon to a whole new level with her new album, Wild Heart.

For this project, Abair brings along some musical heavy weights that include Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Jim Peterik (Ides of March/Survivor), Waddy Wachtel, Max Weinberg and even an emotional duet with the legendary Gregg Allman. By capturing the raw emotion, power and synergy Abair delivers an album unlike any she’s ever done. Wild Heart is definitely not your father’s jazz record, nor one that you sit down with over a glass of wine. Rather, it’s an album to rock out to and savor.

As an added treat, Abair has partnered with Pledge Music to give fans the opportunity to interactively experience Wild Heart. The campaign offers exclusive packages ranging from dinner with Abair and her band to shout-outs at concerts, signed CDs and much more.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Abair about her amazing new album and more in this exclusive interview.

What inspired the Wild Heart project?

Over the last few years, I found myself moonlighting; doing a lot of rock and roll, blues and organic music. I remember touring with Aerosmith and seeing the sheer abandon they brought to the stage night after night. Then I went on the road with Max Weinberg and played with [Bruce] Springsteen for a night. I was inspired and didn’t want it to just be something that I experienced. I wanted to bring some of that energy into my own project. This record really captures the mojo I had been playing with for so long, and it was so much fun bringing in people I love and respect to help me create this sound.

Let’s discuss a few of the songs from the album:

I Can’t Lose:

You can’t just write songs about the bad experiences in your life. Sometimes, you’ve got to write about being on a winning streak. That song came about because I changed a few things in my life and things started happening. I started doing American Idol, then Steven Tyler came to me and asked me to go on tour with Aerosmith. They were always a huge influence on me. I was in this life event phase where things were just going my way and I felt like writing a song about it. Whatever it is, right now I can’t lose.

Mindi Abair (Photo: Greg Allen)
Mindi Abair (Photo: Greg Allen)

Amazing Game / Train.  What’s it like to write a song with Jim Peterik?

I first met Jim on a jazz cruise when he was there to promote his Lifeforce CD. We became great friends and have written a lot of songs together. I love writing with him. Words and melodies just flow out of him. He lives, breathes and cares so much about every note, word and chord. With “Train” we wanted to write something that had energy and really conveyed that change of life attitude. You know you want to change, yet you’re stuck in that rut. But there’s a train coming, and you’re going to jump on and leave it all behind. I always tell Jim that he brings the “eye of the tiger” to his writing, and the two songs we wrote for this album (Amazing Game and Train) both have the eye of the tiger in them. That’s the force of nature that Jim Peterik is.


Kick Ass (with Joe Perry of Aerosmith)

I wrote the song with Matthew Hager who produced my first four cds. I always thought it was a great song but I wanted more power from it. Then I remember sitting in the studio one day and suddenly pictured Joe Perry with his shirt half-ripped open, walking down the runway with his guitar in front of 50,000 people and killing it on guitar. Then I said, “Wait! I KNOW Joe Perry! This could actually happen!” [laughs]. So I made a phone call and we were literally in the studio within a week. He brings so much power and testosterone to a track. It was amazing to sit there and play off him. He pushes you to better yourself and that’s exactly what he did on that track.

The Shakedown (with Waddy Wachtel)

I first started playing with Waddy back in 1995 when he was the music director for Adam Sandler’s band. Whenever I’m on stage with him, that whole atmosphere is my zen. When he said that he wanted to be a part of this project it made me so happy. So we went into his studio and wrote that song. Another cool thing about the song is that my dad actually plays B3 on the track as well.

How did Max Weinberg get involved on the track?

I toured with Max shortly after Clarence [Clemons] died. He needed a sax player and I went in and the two of us hit it off and ended up going out on the road for a few weeks. We became really good friends and I asked him to be a part of the project. Working things out with our tour schedules was tough, but we planned it out for when we were both in New York doing separate gigs. I booked a studio, we each came in before our sound checks and made it happen.

Just Say When (with Gregg Allman)

“Just Say When” is not even a song. It’s Gregg. When he plays he always reaches out and touches the depths of your soul. I spent three days at his house and we wrote that song together. It was crazy to be there with him and live his existence for a few days and just be creative. It was a master class in musicality. It’s real and very representative of both of us.

What made you decide to do a Pledge Music campaign for the album?

I really love what I saw people doing with it. You’re capable of giving so much more than just a CD and letting fans become more involved in the project. I’ve got really incredible fans, so offering up a few things is a way for me to be closer to them and also gives a window into the soul of this record.

What first attracted you to the saxophone? 

My dad played sax and I grew up on the road with his band. He always looked like he was having a good time whenever he played. In school band, I remember they had put some instruments out on the floor and said “choose”. So I thought back to him and chose the sax. It was also a point in music history when there were a lot of great players in pop music: Maceo Parker, Clarence Clemons, David Sanborn and others. Sax was a viable instrument even going back to the inception of rock and roll. There was a time when you couldn’t have a band without a guitar and a sax. With this album, I wanted to make a saxophone record that hearkens back to a time when sax was the coolest instrument on the planet.

Over the course of your career has there been one moment that stands out to you as most memorable?

It’s been an awesome journey. Getting to play with Bruce [Springsteen] was pretty amazing. Going out on tour with Aerosmith was another huge highlight. To get to play and sing with them every night was a dream come true. But the real high for me is every night on stage with my band. I never take for granted the fact that I get to go out there and play music that I wrote and share it with people. To have this beautiful conversation from the stage is really special.

Mindi Abair Official Website: http://www.mindiabair.com/
For more on Mindi PledgeMusic Campaign Click Here

Mindi Abair Talks Touring With Aerosmith, Jazz And Summer Horns

Saxophonist Mindi Abair
Saxophonist Mindi Abair

Her solo career has yielded six albums that have topped the Contemporary Jazz charts, along with producing 10 No. 1 radio singles.

But saxophonist Mindi Abair is definitely no stranger when it comes to rock and roll. A product of the public school music program, Abair has shared the stage with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Duran Duran.

But it was Abair’s performance as part of the American Idol band that caught the attention of then-Idol-judge (and Aerosmith frontman) Steven Tyler, and ultimately led the band to add its first sax player in 30 years for last summer’s Global Warming Tour.

On Abair’s latest album, Summer Horns, she’s joined by fellow saxophone greats Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot in covering some of the greatest songs of a generation; including infectious renditions of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” as well as others made famous by the likes of Chicago, Tower of Power and Sly & the Family Stone.

minditylerAbair also is busy with her next solo album project and was recently elected president of the LA Chapter of NARAS, the company that oversees the Grammy Awards.

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I spoke with Abair about Summer Horns and her time on the Aerosmith tour. We also discussed the importance of keeping music-education opportunities alive in schools.
Read the entire interview by Clicking Here.

For more information on Mindi Abair and Summer Horns, check out her website:
Click Here