Jason Lyle Black made a name for himself on social media and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” as The Backwards Piano Man, playing the piano with his hands behind his back. Many of his YouTube videos also went viral, featuring self-arranged compilations of “Frozen,” “Up” and Taylor Swift songs.
But Black’s new album, “Piano Preludes,” is all original.
“The cool thing for me is to have people that don’t listen to piano music tell me they love the album,” Black said in an interview with the Deseret News.
“Preludes,” which was released May 6, recently debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top New Age Albums chart. According to Black, the honor is rare for an artist’s first album and a testament to Black’s producer, Paul Cardall, and record label, Stone Angel Music.
The album-writing process came about fairly quickly for Black. Though he has played the piano for over 20 years, it has been in the last year and a half that he decided to leave the corporate world and devote his time — and career — to music.
“It was just a matter of months before my YouTube channel exploded,” Black said. “I had released YouTube videos before, but I finally found my ‘secret sauce’ that made the videos viral. That’s what happened with the ‘Frozen’ video. A lot of artists have worked for years, but the music industry is tough. People don’t realize that until (musicians) hit that chord that resonates.”
After he garnered attention with his “musical story” videos on YouTube, Black started performing a parody act with The Piano Guys. Soon after, Cardall approached him about writing an album for Stone Angel Music.
“Paul understands how to reach people," Black said. "As I go back and listen to some of my earlier music and ‘Piano Preludes,’ I can hear the maturity now that Paul’s helped me to develop. He’s been able to help me put that out there in a way that’s more powerful. That increased power, especially with this album, often comes with silence and pauses. He really encouraged me to go to a spiritual place to write this music.”
Black, a native of Provo, wrote “Piano Preludes” as easy listening for bedtime, studying, Sunday afternoons and healing. "Preludes" departs from the pop-driven hits on Black's YouTube channel and exposes audiences to his softer side. The result is a collection of peaceful songs, embellished with strings and effects, that can provide background music or just as easily stand on its own when turned up.
“This album is for a worldwide audience," Black said. "It’s meant to reach the soul and reach the heart. Obviously for me, because of my LDS faith, that was a big source of inspiration for writing the music. I thought of spiritual and scriptural themes, but it's designed to reach an audience of any background.”
The album features violinist Jenny Oaks Baker as well as orchestration by Marshall McDonald.
“Piano Preludes” is available on DeseretBook.com, iTunes and Amazon. Black will perform a free concert with guests Logan Shelton of Brigham Young University's Vocal Point and The Piano Gal on July 6 at the Sandy Amphitheater.
“I hope people get a feeling of peace,” Black said. “I feel like those words are a little bit cheesy, but really I just wanted to relax people. It’s soothing.”
If you go ...
What: Jason Lyle Black concert
When: July 6, 8 p.m.
Where: Sandy Amphitheater,1245 E. 9400 South, Sandy
How much: Free admission; prizes are available for those who RSVP on Facebook.
Jason Lyle Black: 'Dueling Piano Siblings'
Jason Lyle Black's "Dueling Piano Siblings" includes a mashup of songs from "Frozen."
'Champs-ÉlysÉes' from 'Piano Preludes'
"Champs-ÉlysÉes" from Jason Lyle Black's "Piano Preludes" and features violinist Jenny Oaks Baker.