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A work in progress

Mike Garson's career begins again at 61

¤ Mike Garson and Jimmy Walker with the Rachael Price Trio¤ 8 p.m.¤ Strings in the Mountains Music Festival Park, 900 Strings Road¤ $28¤ 879-5056

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins introduced Mike Garson to a psychic a few years ago. She told him his career would take off when he turned 61.

Garson’s 61st birthday was last weekend.

¤ Mike Garson and Jimmy Walker with the Rachael Price Trio¤ 8 p.m.¤ Strings in the Mountains Music Festival Park, 900 Strings Road¤ $28¤ 879-5056

“I’ve paid my dues and hung in there a long time,” Garson said. “Age is changing these days. Now 60 is like 40. I feel like my energy is just revving up to do my own thing.”



Garson has been in the music industry for 47 years. He spent 34 of those years playing with David Bowie. He also has performed with the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt and Seal. Tonight, he will perform with renowned flutist Jimmy Walker and up-and-coming 19-year-old jazz singer Rachael Price.

Garson is an accomplished pianist and has written several thousand pieces of music covering a variety of genres.



“I wrote 2,300 classical pieces in the last 10 years, and the other 30 years before that, I wrote 2,000 pieces,” Garson said.

Technology has improved the way he produces, records and distributes music. Garson is now hooked on Myspace.com.

“I’ll write a song, and an hour later it’s on myspace,” he said. “When I used to do recordings 20 years ago, it would be six months before it came out. Now I can write a song, get excited about it and get instant feedback. It’s not the same world I grew up in.”

Garson sees himself as a work in progress.

“Most people separate the music from their lives and who they are,” Garson said. “To me it’s all connected. I like to live in the moment and sort of play and express what I am feeling then.”

A common misconception about improvisational music is the amount of practice it involves.

“You need the vocabulary, like when speaking English, and then it takes on its own life,” he said. “Only when you master an instrument can you get to that place.”

Garson has played with many musicians who write darker music, including Trent Reznor, Corgan and Bowie. He attributes that style of music to different stages in their lives that evoked darkness. It could include being exposed to poverty in Africa, political issues in the Middle East and even couples who are not getting along, Garson said.

“Nothing new, is it? In every century and in every part of the world, all the time, it happens on a macro and micro scale,” he said. “People have some homework to do to get their (stuff) together, and then you add drugs and alcohol and abuse and you get a nice picture for an artist to be able to create dark music.”

Garson has been using art in the past three years to express himself. He began creating images on the computer when touring Europe.

“Artwork cools me out in a crazy way when I’m feeling weird. It puts me in a trance state,” Garson said. “Reflecting the world as artists is one of our jobs. Artists are very sensitive and feel the vibrancy of collective space and the universe.”

What differentiates one live performance from another, Garson attributes to the “X factor.”

“There is an unknown factor or higher forces at play. It’s always professional sounding but sometimes is magical,” he said. “I want it to be a spiritual, inspirational experience when I play. There are plenty of musicians out there. I want it to go deeper and effect them for a long time.”


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