Contemporary instrumental pianist Jarred Walker has a positive outlook on life which led him to name his debut album Becoming Tomorrow. “Everyone has problems. Everybody makes mistakes. But the thing to remember is that every day, even the bad ones, are in the process of ‘becoming tomorrow’ where the possibilities are limitless and we always have a chance for a new beginning. In relation to that, I want my music to be upbeat, optimistic, positive and fun to combat the negative in life and to serve as a signal promising better times ahead.”
On Becoming Tomorrow, Walker composed all ten tunes and keeps his acoustic piano playing in the forefront. But he also subtly enhances the music with quiet embellishments from a variety of instrumentation including bass, drums, percussion, strings, electric piano, cymbals, chimes, bells, clarinet, and handclaps. “I like supporting the piano with other sounds,” he explains, “but I also wanted to make sure the background instrumentation never over-shadowed or took away from the piano melodies.”
His Becoming Tomorrow CD and digital download tracks from that recording are available at online sales sites such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes, Bandcamp and many others. The music also can be heard (and this artist can be followed) at many major streaming platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, Google Play and more.
Walker feels he has found a home for his recording in the new age music market “because it is a broad genre which allows a lot of freedom for many sounds and styles.” But he also admits to a wide variety of influences beyond new age that includes film scores, classical, ragtime, Broadway show tunes, jazz and pop music.
“I’m a fan of singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles , and some of the subtle things she does musically have entered into my repertoire like the big bass sounds she gets on the piano. In the world of new age I like pianist Jon Schmidt, Enya and Jim Brickman. I’ve played some of Jim’s material at weddings. I admire many film composers and conductors, but especially the lighter orchestral works by Henry Mancini and Leroy Anderson. I have always been enamored with Scott Joplin’s classical ragtime piano.”
All of these influences are woven into the fabric of Walker’s music. “One of my goals has been to make sure the music is light-hearted, feel-good and enjoyable. If I spot a somber moment in a composition I am writing, I usually follow that with an upbeat, more joyous section as a counter-balance. I often have tempo changes or different sections of a song or maybe go from soft to forceful and back to keep things interesting.”
The album begins with the tune “Something New.” Walker says, “I gave it a cinematic touch somewhat like the ‘Jurassic Park’ theme. There are definitely some film music influences, specifically John Williams.” Regarding “Along for the Ride,’ Walker states, “I channeled Vince Guaraldi doing his ‘Peanuts’ stuff like the ‘Linus and Lucy Theme.’ I wanted it to be fun and catchy. I used a little pizzicato strings to double one piano part.” The piece “Dream of the Firefly” was influenced by the musical “Wicked.” “I started slow and contemplative, and then I added the energy and various production touches until you sort of get the feeling of a marching band toward the end.”
The forceful “Fill The Stars” utilizes some suspended chords and a few other pop music elements. “Steam Horse,” from one of the nicknames given early locomotives, subtly incorporates an Old West feeling at one point. “This Time” includes a bit of ragtime as a tip-of-the-hat to Scott Joplin. “I am big on playing octaves and full chords to make the melody stand out.” Walker named the next tune “Turning Point” because “when I started composing this one it was a slow new age piece, but halfway through I turned it into an upbeat swing number, and by doing that it freed me up to start writing more different types of piano music. It was a major moment for me when I allowed myself to start being more creative.”
“Looking Back,” according to Walker, was influenced by The Carpenters and Burt Bacharach’s chord progressions. “The music of The Carpenters was more complicated and creative than most people realize.” In college one of Walker’s assignments was to write a children’s book, but he took it a step further and composed a children’s song to go with it, and that music became “Around the Block.” “Definitely inspired by the music from various child-oriented video games plus some ragtime influences.” The album finishes with the appropriately-titled “End of the Line,” also the last piece written for the recording. “This is another example where I had fun starting out with one idea and then letting my imagination take me to a whole other place. I worked in a Broadway show aspect and a little jazz, setting off the piano with some soft drums and a bass-line.”
Walker grew up on a farm in the tiny village of Beloit, Ohio. “We always had a piano in our house so I started tinkering on the keys when I was just four years old, and then I began taking piano lessons when I was eight which I continued all the way through college. I always preferred playing my own music more than practicing my lessons, and once at an assembly I got to play a piece that I wrote. I was always taking songs I learned and then turning them around to make something new out of them, sometimes it was just a new arrangement and other times a completely different piece emerged. In school I was involved in everything that had to do with music -- jazz bands, marching band, talent shows, musical plays, choir. In addition to playing piano, I also played bass in a jazz band, percussion in the marching band and tympani in the concert band.”
Walker attended Bowling Green University in Ohio majoring in Music Education for several years. “All of the music theory and music history courses really opened my eyes much wider about how music works.” Although he continued to study and play music, Walker switched his major to Human Development and Family Studies and received his BA degree at Kent State University which led to a series of jobs in social services (at a homeless shelter, a mental health clinic as a psychiatric caseworker, and a correctional facility as an educator).
Walker also started a successful piano duo with his cousin Carson Weingart. Initially patterning themselves after the famous duo Ferrante & Teicher, Carson & Jarred became a popular regional concert attraction. “I spent a lot of time arranging popular music pieces so they would work for two pianos. Our shows were always very well received,” Walker remembers.
“I like cross-pollination between different genres of music,” explains Walker. “ When I was putting my album together, I tried to write material that I hoped would have appeal to a wide audience. I was willing to break a few musical rules along the way and be somewhat experimental, but not too much because my main goal was to make music that people can easily enjoy. I want my music to be positive, make people feel good. It’s as simple as that.”