Michael Kaeshammer enjoying life on his own musical island

There’s no answer on the first attempt to reach Michael Kaeshammer at his home on Vancouver Island.

Fifteen minutes later, the two-time Juno-winning boogie-woogie pianist picks up on first ring.

Apologies all around, as he was out in his garden enjoying some rare, good, B.C. spring weather.

Accepted. Not just because it’s an incredibly valid excuse, but because Kaeshammer is so damn charming.

Calgary audiences will get a fairly rare opportunity to witness that Wednesday night when the German-Canadian musician performs live at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, playing selections from his latest album, 2016’s No Filter, as well as whatever fits his fancy from his celebrated 20-plus-year career.

Prior to the show, Kaeshammer spoke with theYYSCENE about that new record and the life he’s built for himself on his own little island.

Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Q: How is your spring going so far?

A: I’m good. I’m going back on the road for a week, which is how I like it these days, just a little bit at a time.

Q: You’ve been doing this long enough that I’m guessing is something you’ve worked towards, to be able to pick and choose your spots, right?

A: Yeah, and you know … flying really has become a bit of a chore at times, depending on how you travel and arrange. So, I’m trying to stay home more and just write more and record and work on music, you know? Things that actually make me happy. (Laughs) And when I do get on the road, it’s fantastic because I miss the playing live, because I used to be on the road basically all year. So now I have the best of both worlds.

(Before Calgary), I’m going way out east. An acquaintance of mine runs the Dalhousie Jazz program (in Halifax), so he asked me to come in and speak and work with the kids, and then do a show with them, which is something I don’t do very often. So if it’s something interesting like that, I love to go, but if it’s just a one-off gig that would be a long way to go.

Q: You seem to have built a career that’s on its own little island.

A: (Laughs) You can see what my life is so you can relate that to my career as well. I’m living on an island and I’m spending my days the way I want to — it’s still very productive, I love to work — so, yeah, I have nothing to complain about. And my career is the exact same way, I’m focussed on what I love to do and I know there are people who gravitate towards it, so why should I bother with the rest?

Q: Musically, it’s the same thing. Some people call you blues, some people call you jazz, some people call you rock ’n’ roll, some just call you boogie-woogie piano and some people even think there’s a classical bent to what you do. But your new record seems to incorporate all of those styles and it does it in a way that is very cohesive.

A: I think that’s because I don’t see it that way. I know where it’s coming from. For example over the last couple of years what I want to play at home is classical. I know how to play the other stuff, so that became a whole new thing for me to actually invest time in that. It just automatically works into your writing and into your playing, because it becomes second nature. And those are all things that I love that you said: jazz, blues, classical, rock ’n’ roll, Jerry Lee (Lewis), whatever — it’s all great music. To me, I’m just playing piano. (Laughs)

Q: Let’s talk specifically about this record. You had some help with the songwriting, didn’t you?

A: It was really just this guy John Goodwin, I met him probably 2009-2010. I went down (to Nashville) to write with a few people and I didn’t know any of them, so it was a lot of first-time writing sessions. I just wanted to do it as an exercise. And then John and I became friends, we hit it off, so we talk on the phone anyways. He’s a lyricist — he plays a little bit of guitar, but everything coming out of his mouth is poetry. So I gave him these songs and said, “Why don’t you look them over and then we’ll talk, and you can give me some direction where you would change things, grammar-wise or choice of words or taking out the things that just don’t have to be there to make a point.” That’s what we did over the phone, but we knew each other really well. So it wasn’t me setting up a writing session with someone who I know has a track record with success or something. It’s just a friend.

And I feel it’s the same with the band playing on the record or the guests on the record (Randy Bachman, Denzal Sinclaire and others), I think if you surround yourself with friends who are like-minded and you want to make music together, then the outcome is going to be good no matter what.

Q: Why did you go to Toronto to record it? The sessions took two days, so it just seems that this is an album, with all that you’ve said, is one that could have been done at home. And it actually sounds and feels as if it was done at home.

A: There is a lot of it that was done at home, pre-production-wise. Everything you hear was written and arranged the way it is at home. I had a piano that I brought in from Vancouver that I really wanted to record on and I had it here for a month, and I recorded a solo record on (2015’s The Pianist). And at the same time, I started writing all of these songs and those are the ones that ended up on No Filter … So the structure of the song was all done here and then, because my band lives out east, I just sent them the stuff and we rehearsed it and they basically played what I came up with at home. When you record, there’s still something to the fact that you want to capture the moment when you play together. I could have had them overdubbed, but I don’t think it would have been the same result.

Q: I know it wasn’t easy, but it sounds easy, it goes down easy.

A: It is easy actually. For me it’s the easiest thing to do. It will be a lot harder going through security at the airport tomorrow. (Laughs)

Michael Kaeshammer and his band perform Wednesday night at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. For tickets go to