Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and pianist Jim Brickman has always considered himself an optimist. But even the purest of optimists sound a tad weary of this pandemic-riddled year.
“I’m doing… good,” Brickman says with as much as enthusiasm as he can muster during a recent interviews. “I mean, I miss traveling, especially internationally. [Pauses] I try my best to think about the benefits of this time rather than what I am missing.”
One of those benefits is his “Comfort & Joy at Home 2020” virtual tour, a live event running through Dec. 23 that gives fans the chance to enjoy Brickman’s beloved holiday show from the comfort of their homes while, at the same time, supporting their local venues during these challenging times.
“I wanted to give back to the theaters that were always so supportive of me,” says Brickman, who will donate a portion of the proceeds of his Dec. 4 show to North Central College’s Fine & Performing Arts Department. “I also wanted to create something that simulated the tour that we would normally be going on, rather than do a national livestream somewhat passively, which wouldn’t have any community quality to it.”
Showcasing a series of selections from his recent album “Soothe Christmas Vol. 6” along with some of his greatest hits including “The Gift,” “Angel Eyes” and “If You Believe,” Brickman will perform a virtual live concert via Zoom each night for a different city from an extravagant holiday set constructed within his home studio.
“I will able to see you and you will be able to see me,” explains Brickman. “I’ve actually started doing a few shows already, and once I start playing and seeing people, there’s kind of a quality that brings me into that space. It’s certainly not the same, but I’m trying to say to myself that, at least, I don’t have to get on the bus afterwards,” he says, laughing.
For nearly 25 years, Brickman has traveled across the country and around the world to bring his brand of easy listening music to his fans. But this year, obviously, everything is different.
Well, almost everything.
“We are even trying to make the studio feel like it does if we were in fact on tour — from the dressing rooms to catering areas,” he laughs. “Basically, we are trying to simulate the feeling of a live show not only for the audience, but for us.”
And yes, Brickman might even call you out if you take a bathroom break during the show.
“You just never know,” he laughs. “I’m going to try my best to relax everyone and have some fun with it. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind situation.”
Every ticket holder will receive a Christmas stocking delivered to their home before the show, that will include everything from a CD to an actual “ticket” to the show to jingle bells that the audience will be encouraged to ring throughout the 90-minute performance.
“I wanted to offer something tactile to enhance the overall experience,” Brickman explains.
Most importantly, each show will essentially be customized for the audience for which Brickman is playing on any given night.
“That’s what I do onstage, so that’s what I will be doing here,” says Brickman, who is also offering virtual “meet-and-greet” opportunities with certain ticket packages. “It makes it more comfortable and a little bit homier and a little bit more like I’m there. My mom lives in Chicago, so yeah, we will probably be talking about that. Chicago has always been a special place for me.”
It’s those sorts of memories that have been running through his head throughout the past year.
“This year was like a forced break for me, to think about what I want to do next and approach things as a performer,” he says. “Do I want to keep doing the same thing I have been doing or do I want to reimagine it? It’s a time to ask, ‘What is my life?’ It’s a time of reflection and planning. It’s the same for everyone, I assume.”
“I know the pandemic has been hard on everyone, but we aren’t going to dwell on that during these shows,” explains Brickman. “I feel like there [are] enough people doing that. Instead, we are going to enjoy a night of music with our friends and focus in on our blessings.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.