Chris Spheeris has been composing and recording soundtracks to an inspired life for more than two decades. Spheeris’ music has infiltrated TV shows, documentary films, Olympic competitions, miss universe pageants, commercials, NPR radio, satellite and syndicated programs, pop songs, and of course, in the music systems of millions around the world. Born and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin, Chris spent his summers in Greece, the land of his heritage, through his bicultural experiences, cultivated his ear for music that embraced an expanse of musical styles. At this time, his sister played the classics of Beethoven, Chopin, and De Bussy. Inspired also by the Beatles, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and his beloved cousin Jimmie Spheeris, Chris developed an early style of song writing and guitar playing that was very much his own. He spent the first six years of his musical career as a singer/songwriter with his childhood friend, Paul Voudouris.
During that period the music of Vangelis, Brian Eno, Talking Heads and Kraftwerk peaked his curiosity in the emerging field of electronic music. Early in the 80’s at the conclusion of his working relationship with Voudouris, Chris built a small studio and began experimenting with a blend of electronics and acoustic instrumental music. Many of these early sketches were to appear later, on his first major label release.
By 1984, Chris had started his own grassroots record company, comprised of borrowed cassette decks, and a now archaic Macintosh 512 computer. The rather random distribution of his cassette releases brought one of his recordings to the desk of Columbia records A&R department. By 1986 Chris had become one of the first “New Age” (as he was then categorized) artists to be signed to a major label. His first recording, Desires of the Heart, went on to sell more than 250,000 copies. His second Columbia release Pathways to Surrender in 1988, featured 2 vocals, Walk with Me, and Where the Angels Fly established Chris Spheeris as an artist of depth and versatility.
In 1990 Chris teamed up once again with Paul Voudouris to produce Enchantment, an instrumental recording which eventually sold over half a million copies, went Platinum in Spain, and increased his distribution word wide. Chris’ follow-up solo releases were Culture (1993), Desires a rerecording of Desires of the Heart (1994), Eros (1996), and, what Chris refers to as his “ultimate production”, Dancing with the Muse (1999).
He also recorded several collaborations Europa (1995) with Voudouris, Mystic Traveller (1998) with Robert Cory, Brio (2001) with fellow guitarist Anthony Mazzella, and Adagio (2001), a solo pianist CD of Spheeris compositions, performed by George Skaroulis.
With the release of Dancing with the Muse, Chris felt that he had completed a cycle in his recording career and directed his focus back to song writing, performing, recording documentary soundtracks, and writing poetry. Out of this came an Emmy Award, a book of poetry, and a repertoire of songs that he has since been performing. Between the years of 2004-2010, he released three live cds: Solo Live, Bridge and Songbook Live.
2011 brought Maya, Chris’ first studio recording in a decade. The recording features the voices of Deva Premel and Martha Redbone. Many of the compositions were derived from his Emmy-winning soundtrack to the Chip Duncan documentary film, In a Just World.
In 2011, Chris also conducted 8 workshops and a group trip to Peru. Regarding the workshops, Chris says, “When music was my life, my passion and my purpose were to share music. Now that my awakening is my passion, i can share that as well as music and anything else i can to inspire others into their own joy and fullness.”
2011 also brought Maya, Chris’ first studio recording in ten years. Maya began as an Emmy-winning documentary soundtrack and was developed into a full music cd over several years. Maya is dynamic, impressionistic, exotic, and sonically adventuresome. In Chris’ own words, “For me, Maya is best listened to through the body. The first time i really “heard” it was when i danced to the entire record.”
Between workshops, time in the studio, and occasional performance,s Chris directs his creativity to photography, digital art, writing, gardening and raw food preparation, home remodeling and antique clock restoration.
What does the future hold for this artist? In his own words, “Images, musical and spiritual journeys, a celebration of life, and whatever else inspiration brings. Whatever is most inspiring to me, i work to translate into a form of expression and communication. That is my fundamental nature and my job, always has been.”
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS
Cypriot journalist Jeannette Orphanides interviews Chris for the online publication “Anazitiseis”. http://anazitiseis.com/
Chris you are a composer, performer, producer and self taught in many instruments such as piano, guitar, bass, keyboards, bouzouki etc . When did you first start exploring this amazing world of multi talents you have been blessed with? When did you compose your first song and what’s the title? Was it ever published?
Actually, I began playing guitar in Greece. I was 13 years old and we were living in Athens that year. One of the first songs I ever learned was “asta ta malakia sou anakatomena”. it was perhaps a year or two later that I wrote my first song. It was called “no need for me”. It was a sad song, a true song, about a girl I had feelings for that didn’t seem to pay much attention to me. My friend Paul Voudouris and it recorded this song on our first LP.
Which music genre moves you the most and fills you in. Which is your favorite song?
My inspirations don’t occur in genres. I do, however, seem to be most moved by film music and classical music as of late. A favorite song? My God! honestly, it would have to be the one moving me in the moment I’m being moved.
Did you know from an early age that music would be the path that you would follow, or at some point of your life you had second thoughts whether your life should have taken a different course?
I never thought music would be my path in life. I idolized the Beatles, learned all of their melodies and harmonies, yet was always very shy about my singing. I wanted to be an architect, then a heart surgeon, then a philosophy professor. it was more through fate that i ended up in music.
When you compose, do you have a full image of what you want to create, or you just let your hands flow freely on the piano leading you to the music?
Sometimes, I hear a melody in my head and have to sit down and play it. Other times I simply feel inspired, put an instrument in my hands, and surrender. For me, it’s almost never conceptual. I would have to say it’s more instinctual or spiritual.
Talk to us about creativity and inspiration. Which are your influences and which are the sources of your creativity?
I could talk about creativity for hours. Inspiration is my drug and my religion. Let me just say that I experience inspiration as the divine force of creation. I’m influenced by everything, and particularly inspired by life’s daily miracles and the courage of others to be unique and brilliant.
After a few years of absence you made a comeback with “SONGBOOK LIVE”. A cd with 14 songs performed by you and a couple of instrumental pieces. Talk to us about this work. What makes it special? Which are the songs that you distinguish?
I was only absent from being Chris Spheeris the instrumental recording artist. I chose to relieve myself of that job for a while so I could experience life outside the studio. One of my hobbies and challenges has been to become a singer, or perhaps more accurately, to free the voice within me. I have always been very self-conscious about my singing voice so to put myself in front of audiences as a singer has been quite healing for me. The songs are very personal, intimate, and recorded in a very honest way. this recording will always hold a warm place in my heart and will remind me of the small venues where I shared the songs and the two musicians, Courtney the cellist and Eric the percussionist both of whom I love dearly.
We are used to having from you absolutely beautiful instrumental music, along with some songs that you perform at times in your cds. In SONGBOOK LIVE you chose to perform almost all of your songs. What made you come to that decision? Where does your heart beat faster, in composition or performance?
Songbook live was not created for the big market. I know my limitations as a singer. There is a humility and sincerity in these songs and their performance which has its place. My heart beats faster in performance. My spirit, however, connects much deeper in the process of composition.
According to your beliefs, what makes an artist being differentiated from other artists and how do you find today’s music industry, especially as far as young artists are concerned. Has the flow of things changed? Which changes do you see?
For me, art has never been about the artists. It is about the spirit of humanity that is expressing at a particular time in particular circumstances through particular individuals. There is of course in pop music a preoccupation with the artist. in general, I prefer musicians to be heard and not necessarily seen. the wonderful gifts that artists are endowed with are divine and not personal. The epidemic of narcissism seems to be at an all-time high and does not necessarily contribute to the highest in human expression. Then again, this narcissism becomes part of the art and a very clear sign of the state of our culture.
You are also writing poems. As far as I know you wrote a poetry book. Share with us a few things about it.
I don’t necessarily call myself a poet, I’m more of a mute that occasionally opens his mouth and out pour surprisingly articulate words that often express intricate emotions. I enjoy writing as much as I enjoy composing music, but then again I enjoy photography just as much, or gardening, or cooking, or anything else in which I feel completely present. the book was a small edition meant to be shared with those interested.
You love photography. What kind of photography do you like? Where can someone see your creations and gallery?
Yes I enjoy photography. I’ve been taking pictures as long as I have been writing music. I like any kind of photography that shows me a way to observe. I am just now setting up galleries on my website to exhibit my photographs.
Which talents, which you haven’t yet explore would you like to explore in the future?
I have been feeling for several years that I am a painter. we will see. More significantly, however, I feel it may be time to father a child. There is no greater art form.
What nurtures your spirit and soul?
Love. Love. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Sincerity. Innocence. Passion. The mystery of everything. Love.
Is the winner is always alone? Is the road to success and establishment a lonely one with high cost on a personal level?
I don’t really know how to answer this question. Success for me is measured in the degree to which I can be true to my heart. I have made conscious decisions in my life to travel quieter roads and I have no regrets.
Which sacrifices did you find yourself doing in order to pursuit and maintain “the dream”?
When I was younger, I sometimes envied a more conventional life- marriage, children, a regular paycheck. I spent hours, weeks, months, years creating my art, most of the time alone. When i became lonely for the fruits and comforts of the outside world, i left the studio. that was 10 years ago. Now I believe the only sacrifice I could’ve made in my life is to not live my dream.
Music Is the mirror of an artist’s soul. Through an artist’s performance but especially through an artist’s composition we can see the depth of one’s soul and one’s dominating feeling. Which one would you say is yours?
Music, and all creation is the mirror of God. Performance exhibits the excellence and vulnerability of being human. I open up and never really know if I am to be a vehicle for brilliance or mediocrity. I like to think that I accept both with humility and grace.
If you got one chance to do it all over again, what would you keep and what would you change. Would you do something differently?
The only thing that I would change in the history of my life is to have learned Greek as a child. I was never taught Greek in school. I learned Greek through my travels to my beloved homeland. The language is so rich and beautiful that I often ache when so much of it goes over my head.
So far, we spoke about Chris Spheeris the artist. Let’s just talk about Chris. How is Chris in his daily life?
Private. Fairly quiet. I stay home a lot. I enjoy simple things. Cooking. Gardening. And of course anything creative. I love my family and I’m ever so grateful to still have both of my parents. I live in a small town in the mountains of Arizona. It is quite beautiful here. I like to be useful in the world. I am happiest when I feel I have something to offer.
How would you describe the “ideal day” for Chris?
An ideal day for me is one in which I am reminded to be grateful.
Would you call yourself what we call a “private person” ?
Yes I’m quite private to common perception, yet quite transparent in the presence of love.
Which are your special features? What would you like to keep from yourself and what to change?
I am so grateful for my hands. They are large and strong and I work with them every day. The changes that I work to make in my character deal with opening my heart more, having less fear, living less in my ego, judging less, opening to more love and gratitude and the increasing my ability to see the perfection in all things.
What do you respect and appreciate in people and what draws you off of them?
I respect kindness and compassion and generosity. I respect the ability of certain individuals to see humanity as all one spirit and to serve it as such. I’m repulsed by blatant selfishness, greed, rudeness of manner and the blaming of others for one’s own misery.
Do you think human relationships are difficult? Which do you think is the secret of relationships?
Of course human relationships are difficult. We humans ourselves are complex and difficult. Most of us have no idea who we are, so how can we possibly understand how to relate to others? I don’t know what the secret of relationships is but I think it has something to do with understanding that we are all one Spirit, one heart, one organism.
Do you think that there is a long distance between potential and achievement? What’s the secret to eliminate the distance?
Sometimes there is a long distance between potential and achievement. Other times no distance at all. The universe is constantly being improvised. When we are completely present in our experience, we are living our potential. when we dream we are living our potential to be the dreamer.
Are we destined, or do we create our destiny?
My understanding of life isn’t profound enough to answer this question. Who are “we” anyway? Are we the individuals that we point to in the mirror? Or are “we” the force of all creation that orchestrates everything at all times? All I know is this: there is only one way that things happen, and that is the way they happen. There is no option. there never was.
Share with us something beautiful that has really touched your heart…
Watching my brother become a father for the first time to a most beautiful little girl.
You have given us a legacy of music treasures which I personally consider that they are timeless. Especially your NEW AGE music which I believe it is a music coming from a higher ground. Should we expect something different from you in the future, or you are fulfilled with your music identity?
No matter how far out I think I go, my music still seems to sound like my music. I am working on a number of new pieces right now which I find in some ways more mature than my older music, yet it amuses me when classic Spheeris idioms appear again and again unintentionally. Am I fulfilled with my music identity? I never thought of it that way. I just keep creating.
How can someone get in touch with you?
ChrisSpheeris.com or Facebook. I try to respond personally to as much correspondence as possible.
I can give a message to the world, as I have been for quite some time now. It’s in the music, in the poetry. It’s something about recognizing ourselves in each other. It’s something about how we are all connected. It’s something about Love.