You can't stop Yanni
By Ed Condran - Correspondent
Published: Fri, Apr. 24, 2009
Chris Rock once cracked that if 10 million people bought the Spice Girls debut album, 1996's "Spice," why didn't he know anyone who purchased a copy.
The same line could be applied to Yanni. The New Age superstar, who will perform Friday at the RBC Center, has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, but it's unusual to hear anyone discussing the finer points of a Yanni disc. A native of Greece who has lived in America for 35 of his 54 years, Yanni has accomplished a great deal during his lucrative career. He was the first recording artist to play India's Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City. But his relationship with actress Linda Evans earned more headlines than any concert he ever played.
Yanni clings to his privacy. Even his greatest fans know very little about "the man behind the music," or so states the text inside the book flap of the instrumental artist's memoir "In Words," (Miramax Books, which was released in 2003.)
On his new CD, instrumentalist Yanni has added vocals. But not his own. - HOLLYWOOD RECORDS PHOTO
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: RBC Center, Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
After completing his arduous 1998 tour, Yanni went into a deep depression and contemplated retiring. But the keyboardist works out his troubles by writing music. His latest cathartic experience is "Voices," which was released a month ago.
While on tour with the album, which features vocalists for the first time, the laid-back entertainer talked about the disc, his nadir and his tolerance for pain.
Q: Why add vocals to your music after all of these years?
I wanted to add new layers to the music. It gives it more depth. Lyrics are excellent. The singers that joined me for the album (Chloe, Leslie Mills, Ender Thomas and Nathan Pacheco) are wonderful singers.
Q: Can Yanni sing?
Absolutely not! I have perfect pitch. I can hear every note an orchestra plays, but I can't sing a single tune. That's fine. I'll play piano and keyboards and write. It's good that I changed things up since people can be like, "Oh, he added vocals, that's what he's up to now?"
Q: To paraphrase the apt question on the back of your book, what are the chances that a poor kid from the seaside town of Kalamata, who doesn't sing, dance, study, write or read music, becomes one of the world's most popular musicians?
It's impossible. But I love impossibility. I love when I talk to kids nowadays and tell them if I'm able to do what I did, you can do anything. About the only thing I give credit to me is my ability to take pain and my ability to focus.
Q: How did you develop such a tolerance for pain?
Because of my swimming as a kid. I went through intense training five hours days. It wasn't just physical pain. I learned how to persist. It's about not being afraid of being uncomfortable. I encourage kids to be persistent.
Q: You took a five-year hiatus. What did you do during that period?
The first thing I did was run away (laughs). I went back to Greece, to the place where I was born. I walked away from my career. I did no interviews, nothing. I didn't play piano for one year. I walked the mountains with my dad. I dealt with the pain. I just sat there and said, "I'm not going to leave unless I feel happy again."
Q: Was there a strong possibility that your career was over?
It was a very strong possibility. I had serious talks with my father. ... He said, "If you don't write another song as long as you live, you'll be fine." There is a lot of Greek in me. Greeks like to enjoy life. My grandma, who is gone now, I would talk to her and she would say, "Yanni, how are you doing?" "I'm in China playing the Forbidden City." And she would say, "Yeah yeah, but how are you doing? Are you loving life?" Sometimes I would say, "No, I'm not. My career is doing great but I am not. happy."
Q: The average person will read this and think, "Yanni has it all. What's he whining about?"
Of course. That's the irony of it. The irony is called trouble in paradise. You get to paradise and you're not happy. That's more scary than if you're not in paradise and not happy because you hope someday it will get better. What's better than paradise? How can you not be happy?
Q: What drove you to be the first recording artist to play the Forbidden City and the Taj Mahal, not to mention, stage a show at the Acropolis?
First off, every Greek dreams of playing the Acropolis. It was wonderful. When I decided to do the Acropolis, I also decided to record it. I was a little frustrated with my career. I thought if I could videotape that event it would expose me to so many people and be great for my career. So many people told me it wouldn't work. I laid out every penny on that project and I was right. It worked out well. As far the Taj Mahal, it had never been lit at night and it was for my show and it was breathtaking. The Forbidden City was just so incredible as well. It's great to do something no one else has done. I got performances from musicians at those places that you'll never get in the studio or in another venue. It was incredible.
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