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Brickman loving success as romantic pianist

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Pianist Jim Brickman's schedule is so full, the man barely has enough time to breathe.

"There really isn't a lot of downtime for me lately," Brickman said during a phone call from his home in Los Angeles, Calif. "There's really not a balance for me. But to be honest, that has a lot to do with who I am. I'm the type of person who can't say no, and I'll end up doing a 5 a.m. interview."The interview with the Deseret News was not an early morning one. But it was a challenge to hook up with, as his fans call him, "America's New Romantic Piano Sensation."

Since his breakthrough album "Picture This" was released two years ago (he has recorded four albums altogether), Brickman has been constantly on the go. Concerts, video shoots, studio work, collaborations, more concerts, interviews, radio tapings and promotional appearances have been a regular part of Brickman's life during the past 26 months.

"The trick is trying to keep focused and making it a point to stay on a constructive path," Brickman said.

The pianist's path will wind through Salt Lake City Saturday, March 7, when he performs at Abravanel Hall. The music will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are available by calling ArtTix at 355-ARTS (2787).

Brickman said his success is a comfortable one. There haven't been a lot of jarring surprises. "It's been pretty steady. It was nice and slow from the start, and a very positive experience.

"But most of that comes from positive attitudes that emit from the people I'm around. And the fact that the nature of the music I play can account for a lot of things."

Brickman, who began his musical career writing songs for "Sesame Street" and television commercials has found a niche with piano in-stru-men-tals and easy-listening country.

His songs "Valentine," featuring Martina McBride, and "The Gift," with Collin Raye and Susan Ashton, have made the pianist a regular on Country Music stations around the nation.

But to Brickman, although he is happy that the public has embraced those songs, the vocals are harder to write, and they do create a dilemma. "I feel the pressure when writing a vocal. It's different when I sit to do an instrumental. But when I write for vocals, I write with a purpose.

"But having vocals in songs leaves me in a position of whether or not I should venture away from that style and return to it later on in my career. But right now is a very interesting time for me. I'm under the magnifying glass and have a lot more baggage than I did when I was first starting out. More is expected of me. So, I've got to look at my options and make decisions - with my management team - that are beneficial to me."

Still, Brickman's decisions have been easy since his record label, Windham Hill, which is going through some changes by adding some jazz and Americana artists to its roster, considers him a top priority.

"I'm lucky these days," Brick-man said. "I'm kind of on an island. And what's even better is the fact that the music I'm creating and playing is what I want to do and write."

As for the future, Brickman said he's still looking at his past accomplishments for guidance.

"I think it would be unwise to shake things up a bit now," he said. "I do know that I would like to do some other things later on. But for now, as I said before, I'm doing what I like."