Jim Brickman is bringing his 16th annual holiday tour back to Oklahoma this week, but he won't be performing a piano recital or even your typical concert.
“I've never had an opening act. ... It's music but it's not ‘this song and now this song.' Because there's no band, I think people get a different kind of vibe from it. It's more like going to a theater and not going to a concert per se,” he said during a phone interview from the road last week.
“I think of it like an old Andy Williams special: People come in and out and visit and sing songs and chat. ... To me it's nostalgic to have a very warm, invitation-type feel to it.”
The pianist/songwriter will return to Rose State Performing Arts Theatre Wednesday night with his “On a Winter's Night” Tour. Along with Brickman's signature solo piano performances, the show will feature singer-songwriter Luke McMaster, with whom he collaborated on the new single “Good Morning Beautiful,” as well as his longtime tourmates vocalist Anne Cochran and violinist Tracy Silverman.
“‘On a Winter's Night' is the tone of the entire experience. It evokes more of a warm, comfortable, community gathering type of tone,” Brickman said during a walk around Charlottesville, Va., before a show.
“It tends to be very familial and comfortable and very lighthearted. Lots of laughter,” he added. “It's really just fun and sweet and romantic and emotional and all the things that Christmas music is.”
The Grammy-nominated adult contemporary artist will incorporate both seasonal songs and his radio hits into the Christmas show.
“I think that Christmas music by nature is a complement to my style. The two sort of dovetail: emotional, romantic, simple, nostalgic, beautiful,” Brickman said.
His popular yuletide originals like “The Gift,” “Simple Things” and “Coming Home for Christmas” will be featured along with his interpretations of holiday classics like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night.”
“I'm a big fan of the hymns and carols,” he said. “To me, the hymns are the most stirring and emotional.”
The Cleveland native has sold more than 7 million records, released six gold- and platinum-selling albums, charted 30 adult radio hits and earned a Canadian Country Music Award and a Gospel Music Association Dove Award. In January, Brickman landed the top three spots on the top 10 of Billboard's New Age chart with his albums “Love,” “Romanza” and “All Is Calm.”
His albums feature collaborations with celebrated singers like Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum, Michael W. Smith, Kenny Loggins, Carly Simon, Herb Alpert, Collin Raye, Michael Bolton, Sara Evans, Donny Osmond and Olivia Newton-John. He said working with such an array of talented performers has been one of the joys of his nearly 20-year career as a recording artist.
“As a songwriter — which is really what I am more than anything — it keeps your songwriting fresh and relevant to the audience ... because it always feel current. So if you're at Target and you see the album, it's not like ‘Oh, yeah, that was that guy from the '90s that played the piano,'” he said.
“In collaborators, I always look for something that is unique to them because you can't be popular as a recording artist or performer if you don't do something that's unique to you. If you're like someone else, you'll always be following instead of leading.”
Although he has scored his share of chart-toppers, including “Valentine,” “Love of My Life,” and “Peace,” Brickman, 51, doesn't think it's the hits that compel fans to buy his albums. From formal wedding ceremonies to laid-back Sunday mornings, he said people tend to use his music as part of the soundtrack of their lives.
“The entire album is played as a background to something to set a mood. And it's not as much about ‘Oh, I love that song, let's play that album,' it's more like ‘I love that style and I love that feeling of the whole thing, let's play that album,'” he said.
“For a bubble bath, a dinner party, romance, trimming the tree, all things that are sort of life moments is how a lot of people use my music. So it tends to be a natural fit to have it be celebrated at Christmastime.”