Who: Michael Kaeshammer
When: Thursday, Dec. 17, 8 p.m.
Where: MY Millennium Place
Cost: $22 adults, $19 students & seniors, $16 WAC members
Some artists hit a creative wall by the time they're working on their sixth studio album, but not Michael Kaeshammer.
This soulful singer/songwriter has hit his stride with his latest album, Lovelight , which was released earlier this year, letting go of all his inhibitions and drawing inspiration from the positive direction his own life is taking.
"I think with this one, I kind of found what I wanted to say, writing-wise," Kaeshammer said. "The album before this, I think... I approached it as I was writing for the album, and once it was released, I started writing just because of things that were on my mind."
"It was the easiest album I've ever made."
He took his live rhythm section of Mark McLean on drums and Marc Rogers on bass into the studio and got down to work.
"Singing the songs and playing the songs was easy because they actually meant something to me, so we just had a good time!"
The album was inspired by his own personal life experiences - long distance love and memories from the artist's time in the musical mecca of New Orleans and his home country, Germany. That was coupled with cover songs that were carefully selected for an authentic feeling of connection to the lyrics.
Since releasing Lovelight , Kaeshammer has been going virtually non-stop, steadily on tour since June, hitting jazz festivals across Canada before heading to China and Germany, where his old school-inspired ballads are starting to really catch on with crowds.
His style - a modern, inspired take on a genre that has serious roots in the Southern United States - is a bit of a throwback for older generations, almost a return to a better time. And for younger generations, it's often something entirely fresh and new.
"My dad plays some ragtime, blues and gospel piano, so there was always a piano around, and when I was a kid, I just wanted to be like my dad," he explained.
His parents would have parties at home, with guests gathering around the piano to hear his father play. The young Kaeshammer grew up on a steady diet of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone from his father's collection of jazz records, music that later influenced his own creative endeavours.
"I always just say, 'well, I'm a piano player, I'm a musician, I'm not a jazz piano player.' That's just what comes out, that's how I like the piano to be played."
Kaeshammer shies away from the jazz label, pointing out that his live performance is more than just a genre, transcending labels with an engaging, interactive approach that heralds back to the days of the jazz greats he grew up on.
"It was about the music, but it was also about connecting with the audience and putting on a show," Kaeshammer explained.
"The music is almost secondary. I don't want to diminish it, but for me, personally, I'm a huge gospel fan - gospel's probably my favourite type of music."
Though he isn't religious, Kaeshammer explains that he connects with the performance and energy of the genre.
"What I love about that music is that it's not about the music itself, it's about the connection in the room and the message."
Since launching his career in 1996 with his first album, Blue Keys , Kaeshammer has evolved from an amazingly skilled pianist into a singer, songwriter and all-around entertainer, who imagines himself as being part of the audience during each and every show.