JazzReview: You recorded Sax Meditations around the same time you were working on Free Your Mind, but they are very different records. How did Sax Meditations come to be?
Walter Beasley: For me it was a release. Whenever I just needed a break from everything, I would write these melodies, and the songs just kept piling up. I knew I couldn't put it on a record like Free Your Mind because it was too slow, and it was just meant to chill me out - to take me away from the challenges of the world, the challenges of family and friends, and the challenges you face as an artist. Sax Meditations allowed me to write the music I was feeling, the music that allowed me to feel a little better about myself. I listen to this record more than I listen to any record I've ever done, because it makes me feel good.
JazzReview: So you never intended those tracks to be on Free Your Mind?
Walter Beasley: I knew this was going to be my baby because this is 100% me, and I wanted it to be a reflection of me. I wrote and produced all the songs. Phil Davis played keyboards. and I did keyboards on three tracks... I went to Jupiter, Fla. And wrote about 4 or 5 of them, and was writing stuff for Free Your Mind too. Some of the personal stuff was coming out, and I knew I had to save it for Sax Meditations. Sounds of Jupiter, Oceanside, Forgiveness,Solace - I was just like, wow, this is something I'll be doing for the rest of my life because of the way it makes me feel. I never thought I could write music that is therapeutic for me. The smooth jazz stuff, the r&b stuff, the traditional jazz stuff - all those genres serve a purpose, have different roles in my life. This is a special role, in that I can just listen to this and be taken away. You know, Sax Meditations really created itself. I used the process of creating these songs to heal myself. I was just doing it to make myself feel better, and the next thing I knew I had 12 songs that were really good songs, and each one of them made me feel better.
JazzReview: Sax Meditations will be out on CD in January 2010, but its' been available for months now as a digital download from your own website. Is that the direction in which you see the industry moving?
Walter Beasley: Digital download was an interesting way for me to approach this because I think that's the way the industry is headed. It allows you to sell songs on the internet to people who are moved by it. It's something I started doing with a live version of Mr Magic a while ago. It's the way of the future, I think. The way I initially released Sax Meditations was to put it on it's own website, www.saxmeditations.com, where people can look at my sunrise photography and have Sax Meditations play in the background.
JazzReview: How has that business model worked out for you?
Walter Beasley: Well, put it this way - When I had a number 1 record at the top of the smooth jazz charts, I made as much money through digital downloads of Sax Meditations that week as I did from Free Your Mind sales, by selling half as many units.
JazzReview: Let's talk about the sound of Sax Meditations. How is it similar and dissimilar to your previous work?
Walter Beasley: What Sax Mediations does is slow everything down. If you take Walter Beasley's music and slow it down, that's what you get with Sax Mediations. I needed to have my blood pressure lowered in a way that didn't involve pills. I needed to work on my stress levels. Each time that I wrote one of these songs, I listened to it over and over to see how it affected me. The only songs I put on the album were ones that relaxed me and lowered my blood pressure. This album's only intent is to have the listener relax. Other records Of mine have different themes and sub-themes. Sax Meditations is simply to slow your life down, slow the thoughts down, slow the breath down. And that is different from other walter Beasley works.
JazzReview: Still, to my ears, this is still very recognizable Walter Beasley. While these tracks, collectively, do not resemble any other Walter Beasley record, every one is very much Walter Beasley.
Walter Beasley: True. It's the sound of Walter Beasley that carries this record. When you strip away the rhythm section, strip away everything else - that's when you can really feel an artist, that's when you know you can really move someone or you can't. This is the opposite of what's happening in the industry now, where you have a lot of mediocre performers with a whole bunch of frills because it's not about the sound. What I'm doing here is taking away the frills and it's just me. You know, we do a couple of these songs live. When we play Her Presence we usually get a standing ovation. We've closed the show a couple of times with Her Presence, because it's just so haunting, it gets people into this collective trance. It's just a beautiful piece.
JazzReview: Does Sax Meditations represent a shift in direction for you, or do you just consider it a side project?
Walter Beasley: I'm not sure. I know now that I will always make Sax Meditations records (I'm writing for Sax Meditations 2 now), But, at the same time, this allows me to appreciate the faster stuff and harder stuff as well. It really speaks to my ability now to still be able to play soft well, to play loud well, to play groove music well, to play changes well. I'm starting to really feel comfortable as a complete saxophonist, and I think it took Sax Meditations to bring that out.