The state of his heart

Pianist and songwriter Michael Maas 'unleashes' CD of original music with a concert Friday

Posted: Thursday, August 01, 2002

It's been 26 years since Michael Maas was speechless, and he wants to be speechless again.

"Speechless Again" is the title of Maas' new CD, a collection of 13 songs he composed, performed and recorded in Juneau. Maas, 27, is performing a concert of his original music at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at the Back Room at the Silverbow Inn. Drummer Tom Meyer and bassist Lincoln Farabee will accompany Maas, and songwriter Jason Messing will also perform a short set of his music.

Maas grew up in Juneau in a musical family. His dad, Ron Maas, is a trumpet player in the Thunder Mountain Big Band and helped found the Juneau Symphony. His mom, Kathy, is a symphony violinist and Michael started playing piano at age 7.

"I wrote my first song at 16," Maas said. "I've been making tapes and CDs since high school, but this is the first recording that was worth unleashing."

Maas recorded "Speechless Again" in his home studio in the summer of 2001, working with songs he'd written over the previous three years. He played all the parts himself, multi-tracking the layers of music to assemble the songs. He uses a wide variety of processing techniques to color the sounds and create engaging arrangements for the songs. Many showcase his talents as a pianist.

"I play piano, so most of the other instruments are samples I play on my sampler," he said.

He described the songs as cheesy yet intelligent pop music, struggling a bit to find comparisons.

"I don't want to say Tori Amos or Elton John because I'm not that good, but it's keyboard-based pop music," he said. "The person people say I sound like is Ben Folds."

In addition to those writers, Maas said Prince and Juneau musician Rory Stitt have been influences.

"Rory Stitt did a show a couple years ago and again this summer, and he's a great talent. We're both singer-songwriter-piano players, although he's 10 times the singer I am, and he spurred me on," Maas said.

Maas studied piano in Juneau with Ruth Anderson and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. He attended the University of Idaho and the University of Alaska Southeast for a few years, and has been taking time off to work. He's been a substitute teacher and this summer he's working with Gray Line, driving tour buses.

He used to play piano with the Thunder Mountain Big Band, and that's where he met Farabee and Meyer.

"A few years ago I organized a series of singer-songwriter concerts at UAS, and I met Jason thorough those concerts," he said. Messing, a singer and guitarist, will perform a set of his original songs Friday night following an intermission.

Maas has MP3 files, song lyrics and more information on his Web site at www.michaelmaasmusic.com/.

Admission to the concert Friday will be $3 at the door and Maas will have copies of his CD, "Speechless Again," for sale for $5.





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