Jim Wilson is a multi award-winning recording artist of piano-featured instrumentals, whose two decade career has spawned chart-topping CDs and PBS specials. His 2020 release, “Hard Times Come Again No More”, is a collaboration with Americana Folk icon, Arlo Guthrie, featuring singing phenom, Vanessa Bryan.
The project’s mission is “to bring awareness to people hardest hit by our current hard times and to offer a measure of solace and a glimmer of hope.” The 170-year old Stephen Foster song features a new “epilog verse” written by Guthrie, Wilson and video editor and director, David Beeler. The song’s music video premiered exclusively on RollingStone.com on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Described as “a song for all times, a reinterpretation for our times”, the music video was greeted with overwhelmingly positive responses and received 40k hits in the first week and recently topped over 100k views.
Asked about how this project came to be, Wilson offered, “A couple of months ago, Arlo contacted me with the idea of doing a reinterpretation of the Foster classic, “Hard Times Come Again No More.” I knocked out a rough demo for him, he loved it and I’ve been hard at work since, producing the track and music video. It features a stellar guest appearance from Vanessa Bryan, who killed the vocal. We’re also extremely honored to have been joined by bass legend and multiple GRAMMY®-winner, Stanley Clarke, guitar virtuoso Andy McKee, Charlie Morgan (Elton John drummer for 14 years), and Brad Cole, who played accordion and crafted an incredible master arrangement around my piano track. Wilson is “grateful beyond measure to be working with my childhood hero Arlo, and hope our project shines a ray of hope in a very dark time.”
Jim’s previous 2018 release, “Remembrance: A Collection Of Cinematic Portraits” was hailed as his career masterpiece, topping the Amazon and iTunes charts and held the #2 position in Billboard’s instrumental chart for 2 weeks in a row.
Jim Wilson’s music sometimes referred to as “melodic tone poems,” has been described as “a magical carpet ride of melodic beauty” by music legend Carole King and as making “a classy, artistic statement” by master tunesmith Burt Bacharach. Guest artists on Jim’s recordings have included David Sanborn, Stephen Bishop, J.D. Souther, Chris Botti, Dan Fogelberg and with “Hard Times”, Andy McKee and Stanley Clarke. Four of Jim’s recordings have hit the Billboard Top-20 and he’s had two PBS specials, including “A Place In My Heart”, which was filmed before a sold-out audience of 1,300 fans at the GNC Performing Arts Center in Amarillo, TX. Although the public thinks of Jim Wilson as a rapidly emerging pianist and composer, the music industry knows he has even more talents.
Jim grew up in Texas, beginning his love affair with music at the age of 7. He picked up a guitar at the house of a family friend who gave the instrument to Jim on a whim. “From then on I had this incredible passion for music and learning to play it. Around nine or ten I started composing songs. About that time my charismatic cousin from California came to visit. He breezed into town with his long hair, guitar, songs and stories, and that really ignited the musical fire in my life. I couldn’t wait to be a musician. I started playing in professional bands when I was 14. I switched to playing the piano when I was 19, transferring my James Taylor guitar riffs to piano, which became a foundation of my piano style.” Soon thereafter, Jim packed up all of his possessions in a van and headed to California to pursue his dreams of a career in the music business. “For many people California has represented the Promised Land, the Land of Dreams. I love the energy of the people and the encouragement of the arts.
Jim began his recording career in 1997 when his best friend died suddenly. “That was a life-changing event that made me realize that you never know when you’re going to be called, so you better be proud of what you’ve done and the legacy you’re leaving behind.” He helped develop a revolutionary MIDI-adaptor for the acoustic piano, which for the first time allows this age-old instrument to interact with computers and synthesizers. He developed a topflight reputation, teaching uses of MIDI-piano to the upper echelon of pop musicians such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Burt Bacharach, Carole King and many, many more. Whenever Jim played his own music for them while sitting at their pianos, they encouraged him to pursue his own musical dreams.
As a piano technician, Jim also collaborated with Spectrasonics, a leading innovator of world-class, award-winning virtual instrument software plug-ins, on the release of “Keyscape”. Keyscape is a “virtual instrument” that features the largest selection of unique, collector keyboards in the world – including Jim’s personal, customized Yamaha C7. The library / piano is endorsed by artists including Herbie Hancock and Cory Henry of Snarky Puppy, who called it “the best piano sample.” Ten years in the making, the library was released on September 1, 2016. The piano heard on the “Hard Times” track is in fact the “virtual instrument” representation of Jim’s personal piano, as offered in Keyscape.
Early on in Jim’s recording career, Jim landed an official endorsement by Yamaha Pianos, with the company providing instruments for his performances across the country both as a solo artist and with his six-piece band. Wilson has composed music for the CBS-TV series “Frank’s Place” and CNN’s “Showbiz Today” television show devoted a segment to Jim’s music.
Prior to the pandemic / global shut down of 2020, Jim performed over 100 concerts around the world as keyboard player and musical director for acclaimed singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop. Jim is currently working on projects honoring those nearest and dearest to him. His “Love Will Lead You Home” music video is a touching message of reassurance and hope for his granddaughter Serena, and Jim’s “To Love and Be Loved” music video is a tribute to his late father, who taught Jim that the truly essential, enduring things in life are invisible to the eye.