Legendary composer and self-taught Greek pianist Yanni (Yiannis Chryssomallis) is one of the most talented musicians of our time. He has inspired fans all over the world with his beautiful melodies and musical talent. The renowned musician has over 40 platinum and gold albums throughout the world. Yanni is releasing his newest album “Inspirato” which features the talent of Placido Domingo, Renee Flemming, Katherine Jenkins (to name a few) on April 29th, and he joined me for an interview recently to discuss it. He also dished on his world tour, which will hit the U.S. later this year; and his PBS special Yanni: World Without Borders, airing on May 31st.
Candace Rose: As a renowned composer with over 40 platinum and gold albums throughout the world, you’re releasing your new album on April 29th. Can you tell us about it?
Yanni: “It’s called Inspirato, which is an ancient latin word that includes the word inspiration, but it really is about an elevation of the human spirit into a higher level of awareness and feeling and empowerment. It is a compilation of the best themes of music I have ever written in my life. It took 30 years to write all this music and it took me four years to complete the project.
In it, I am using the best voices in the world. I call them voices because we’re talking about Placido Domingo, who to me is number one in the world; Renee Fleming, who is another number one in the world. You just saw her perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl, she’s a sweetheart and her voice is so amazing; Vittorio Grigolo from Italy, Rolando Villazon, Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson from England.
It took four years to record because of the preparation required, but also these people are the best vocalists on the whole planet, so they are always working. They’re always in a different place in the world, just like me! They’re everywhere. We recorded in England, in Germany, in Italy, in Los Angeles, in New York – I don’t remember what other countries. Wherever we could get them whenever they had a break, that’s where we recorded them.
If I could say something about this album, is that it is not an Opera album. It is just the most beautiful project I have ever done in my life, I think. It ends up being that because of the voices, the music, the themes. I took each person and each piece of music and rearranged it, rerecorded it specifically sung by the person, and then they wrote the lyrics mostly in Italian, and they are beautiful! I gave them no instructions as to what the song was about, I told them to just listen to the song and write what they feel, what does the song mean to them? So they’re in it as much as I am. ”
Candace Rose: As you mentioned, you collaborated with some of the most beautiful voices in the world for the album, Inspirato. How did you decide who you would collaborate with and on what particular song?
Yanni: “That was the difficulty, that’s what took a long time because I knew certain voices and others were presented to me, but I listened to almost all of the catalog. I listened and listened and listened and listened, and I decided – well, I didn’t have to listen to Placido Domingo! I call him ‘Papa’, he is the best in the world. It was a matter of him accepting me, and then as we approached him, he said ‘Oh, I love Yanni, he’s an amazing composer. I want to sing more music from his.’ He actually did a duet with Renee Fleming, as well as his own song; and Renee did two songs and the duet with Placido. I mix and match the singers, each singer after I started them for a long time, and then I thought I figured out the song that was appropriate for them to sing. I rerecorded it, I rearranged it and then I sent it to their camp, if you will and they worked on it as much as they could and if they felt strong enough that they could do this song, they accepted it, they sung it and then I got it…I had both parts and then right here where I’m standing is where all it took place. This is where I made Inspirato. I would take the voice and the music, this and that and the other and just make it one piece, but it had to be effortless. I’m not shoving or jamming an opera singer into some melody of mine. It was absolutely effortless or else it wasn’t going to be out.”
Candace Rose: You never used words in any of your melodies up until recently, what inspired you to do so on this album?
Yanni: “Well, I was hoping that because it’s in Italian most people wouldn’t understand it and they would just listen to the melodies and the beautiful voices. However, the lyrics are so beautiful, I have put in the translation in such a way that you can very easily understand what they are saying because each line has the English translation underneath it. The way it was written, it’s easy (if you choose) to understand what they are saying and I would recommend it. These are not trite lyrics, these are adult lyrics. These are people – Placido Domingo plays the piano, he’s a composer, a producer, he conducts orchestras – he’s so developed. The rest of them are the same things, they’re not going to write something that’s trite. It’s very mature, I think it’s very inspiring and every song has a meaning in my life. That’s the one thing you’re going to realize if you’re listening and you see in the translation, that it’s part of my life. It talks about each segment of my life.”
Candace Rose: Each song on the album has a deep personal story, as you mentioned. What was your experience composing it?
Yanni: “I loved it. I just fell over! It was a great idea, it was a cloud. Let’s just find the best voices in the world, find the best things you’ve ever written in your life and make an album. What could go wrong with that? It’s so easy to do! I said, ‘Let’s just do one and see how that goes’, and I started with Placido Domingo because of the connection I have with him, it was a love affair. He took it, and he’s so developed. He knew how to sing it and how to do the inflections and which way to move. It’s not like playing the piano, I have that version with Sam Yervinian playing the violin. It’s absolutely gorgeous, we play it now live. It is one of the most successful instrumental pieces that we perform live in our concerts, so I gave that to Placido and he brought it back, and it was magical. I had to stop listening to it because in a week I would have to go back and play the other version, the instrumental version with the violin…which I love too! But it plays games with your brain and on your mind because they’re slightly different. It’s magic, I don’t know how to explain it.
And then we went to the next one and the next one and I of course got Renee Fleming to sing the opening song for the album, and I just fell in love right there and that was it. It was done. We kept going and one at a time we progressed and got six, seven songs into it…I couldn’t stop listening to it. Nobody could stop listening to it around me. I gave it to a few people that I trust to listen to the stuff and it was like ‘Oh man, we can’t turn it off’. I said ‘turn it off, I’ve got about seven more to go. I don’t want you to get burned out on the album, just stop listening to it. I’ve got a lot of work to do still.”
Candace Rose: We’re really looking forward to the album! Can you tell us about your PBS special Yanni: World Without Borders?
Yanni: “That made me cry when I saw it because the last two years we’ve been in so many countries, and I have accumulated so many experiences. It touched my heart so many different times, I learned so many things and they’re all in that documentary. It’s not a documentary hearing a lot of music, but if you’re hearing music that I’ve played in all these countries, it’s a pretty miraculous and amazing concept that you could make it sound as if you’re playing in one place, except you’re seeing me playing everywhere I’ve ever played.
We have effected countries, we’ve been in countries that nobody else can be. We changed laws of countries because we were there. I’ve been touched. It’s energetic. It has so much energy. We just finished it two days ago (interview was conducted on Wednesday, April 9th). Two days ago we just finished it and it was just so difficult because of the sound differences – now you’re playing here, now you’re playing there, now you’re in Oman, now you’re in Dubai, you’re in Bahrain, Qatar, you’re in Moscow, Ukraine, you’re in Brazil, you’re in – you name it…it just all comes together.”
Candace Rose: You started your world wide tour last month and will be headed to the U.S. later this year. What are you looking forward to most on this tour?
Yanni: “I tell you one thing, I’m leaving tomorrow morning for India. Then we’re going to do a couple of shows in India, in Chennai and Banglore, and then we’re going to Sri Lanka in Colombo and then we’re going to London to play at the Royal Albert Hall, then we’re going to Germany to play Berlin, Munich and to play Dusseldorf (if I’m not mistaken it’s at least three cities). Then we’re going to Poland, then we’re going to go Ukraine, then Moscow.
One of the things that I’m honored with is that they have asked me to visit what they call their Star City, which is their Mission Control for the International Space Station, it’s equivalent to NASA in Houston, which I’ve been at. I’ve watched the flight commander from Ukraine launching satellites and they’re allowing me to bring in my own photographer too, and it’s called Star City.”
Candace Rose: Where can viewers go to purchase your album and for more information on your tour?