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Issue Date: December 2008

Mood Music

Jim Brickman has sold millions of CDs, sang a duet with Kermit the Frog and toured with Donny Osmond. This month, the Shaker Heights native comes home for a Dec. 26 holiday concert at Severance Hall.
Jim Vickers
Jim Brickman doesn’t play Cleveland every Christmas, it just feels that way because we’re always celebrating the end of the year with him, whether it’s watching his Channel 3 holiday special or using his music as the soundtrack of our family gatherings.

“My music and the way it relates to the holiday season, it’s sort of a natural fit,” Brickman says. “I think people sort of associate me with it.”

This month, for the first time in three years, Clevelanders can celebrate the holidays with Brickman in person when he performs at Severance Hall Dec. 26.

A decade after his commercial breakthrough that saw him become a household name, Brickman has grown into a one-man brand, recently releasing his second Target-exclusive CD,Faith, and striking a deal with American Greetings to feature his music in a line of e-cards. We recently talked to him about changes in the music industry, his duet with Kermit the Frog and what he and Bill Clinton have in common.

What led to this year’s release of Unspoken, your first instrumental album in 15 years?
Over the years, so many of the huge hits were duets ... I felt like I was hearing from the audience that they use this for a bubble bath or to de-stress or to do their homework. I thought it would be nice to really simplify and go back to the roots of what started all this.

You’ve performed with a number of notable musicians. Who were some of your favorites?
Olivia Newton-John is one of my favorite people on Earth. And when you feel like you can connect with someone as a friend and have a musical life together, that’s really wonderful. She’s one of my favorites, as is Donny Osmond. ... With Olivia, I had to tell her at some point that I used to have that totally hot poster of her on my bedroom wall. I was actually with her one time with Bill Clinton, and he said the same thing to her: “I just can’t get that poster thing out of my mind.” I figured, if the president can say that, I can say that.

How did you end up singing a duet with Kermit the Frog at the Muppets postage stamp unveiling?
When I was a teenager, I sort of got to be a fly on the wall [atSesame Street]. It was short-lived, but it was a wonderful experience. Over the years, I kept in touch with Jim Henson’s kids. They knew that I loved Kermit, and Donny Osmond and I had done “The Rainbow Connection” as a duet on one of PBS concert specials.

How has the shift in how people now buy and consume music affected you as a musician?
I’ve never really believed that much in the traditional model of the record business. I was part of it for a long time, and most of my biggest hits came from that era of the ’90s. But now, a lot of it has to do with the connection between what I do and where my consumer is.

My exclusive albums for Target aren’t available anywhere else. They’re also positioned in such a way that people know how to use the music. It’s not driven off of hype or who I’m dating, what I’m wearing or the number the single is on the chart.

If you buy a greeting card or a candle, you know what the experience is going to be. I’m lucky enough that I’ve branded an identity that people know my music is going to be quality.

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