I was contacted by Matthew – producer of Calming Music Weekly in Australia asking me if I would allow them to use some of my music in their programming. Of course I was delighted and readily agreed. Later, he contacted me and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed to which I also agreed. I would like to share that interview with you as I believe it gives some good insights into how I see music. I hope you enjoy and are blessed.
Interview with Steve Rees
Every now and then I am fortunate enough to hear some music and say, “Wow! Who is THAT!!” And I need to find out more about this person, if only to hear some more of their music. Steve Rees is one such musician. His Calming Harp is soothing, inspiring, and instantly makes the listener want to stop to hear more. And so, may I present international Harpist, Steve Rees.
CMW – Steve, can you tell us about your musical history?
SR – My music career with the harp started fairly late in my life. When I was 7 or 8, I took piano lessons for 3 years but it was not a good experience for me. I made mistakes in my recital pieces which made me terrible hesitant and unable to play through mistakes to the point that I finally quit. It wasn’t until I was 45 years old that I finally came back to music. I have always enjoyed music. I enjoy singing harmonies and doing rhythms with hand drums, but I never mastered any instrument. I could pick up an instrument and play something on it in short order, so it was very apparent that I had a good ear for music, but I just couldn’t settle down. I have always enjoyed Celtic music and the harp is very integral to the Celtic repertoire and finally in 1998, I mustered up enough courage and money to buy a harp kit and made my first harp. I never took a lesson, I just played around with it started to figure out how music worked on it.
I am a Registered Nurse and performed Hemodialysis treatments that took about 3 hours so I started taking my small harp in to play for the patients as they received their treatment. I always asked permission and was never refused, so it started out to grow and become a music therapy program. I finally did my first CD recording called “Healing Harp” so that the hospitals could use them and people could take them home upon discharge.
From there, my wife and I have developed a traveling ministry that offers Harp music and Biblical storytelling programs that have been very well received. I have also developed teachings on music therapy and since 2006 have been researching how to unlock the music that is embedded in the Hebrew text of the Psalms of David. We are currently based on West Coast of the United States and see very little of our home since we travel most of the time.
CMW – You are a fantastic and very talented musician. What is your main instrument?
SR – My instrument is the harp. I have tried and modestly succeeded playing other instruments, but I am most comfortable and able to express myself musically on the harp. I made my first harp and I continue to make harps for myself and custom harps for people who ask me to make them one. I believe that to make an instrument and then play it gives me an intimate knowledge and feel of the instrument. I have a good ear to play music that I hear without sheet music – I can read music, but I tell people that it gets in the way. The harp gives me the freedom to experiment with harmonies and variations as I “sense” or “hear” them, instead of having it worked out on a sheet of paper in front of me.
CMW – Your calming music style is beautiful and you are well known for this particular style. Can you give us a little bit of background about how you got involved in calming music and what led you to become such an expert?
SR – I made my first recording in 2001 upon request of several people that I played for to have something they could take home and listen to when they wanted to relax. As a nurse, I saw the physiological effects of the harp music on people first hand. I saw blood pressures come down; oxygen saturations go up, and pain medicine that wasn’t working, start working. I began to realize the “power” of this music and its benefits and decided I would dedicate myself to making it available to as many people as possible. It wasn’t until 2 years ago that my son suggested that I start a website to make this music available to a larger audience. That has had some amazing results. I have been viewed in over 120 countries and am closing in on 30,000 hits. I give a lot of free sample music on the site so many people are writing me from around the globe telling me they couldn’t sleep before but now they are sleeping with this music playing.
I have also included many articles on the website that give scientific proofs of the effects of music on many aspects of our lives. I guess you could say this has grown into my life pursuit. My work in the Hebrew text of the Psalms has lead me to my understanding of the 528Hz frequency effects and healing qualities and has lead me into further study and teaching in this area as well as developing compositions that include chord progressions that come from the Psalms. I am getting amazing feedback on this music that leads me to believe that there is a direct connection between these chord progressions, the 528Hz frequency and the healing restoring qualities of this calming music.
CMW – What is your definition of calming music, relaxing music, meditation music, and/or your style of music?
SR – I would say that calming music is music that you can play in the background without necessarily paying any attention to it. Usually it doesn’t have words to it. It facilitates a restful state, removes stressors, and aids in sleeping. Many Cancer patients use it to help break through pain thresholds for better control. I have a friend that plays my CDs all day – every day and I asked her if it didn’t get boring. She told me her days went so much better with this music in the background. None of my music has words to it so I think it frees the mind to not have to think too much and be more at rest. The rhythm is slow; close to our pulse rate so it just helps us to relax and synchronize with our body rhythms. This is also very effective for meditation, because it frees the mind to focus on the meditation instead of other words. Also, the music is not recognizable as a modern or traditional piece, so the mind is not busied with trying to follow the music according to expectations. It is free to just take it in.
CMW – Do you record by yourself, do you work with other friends or musicians? Are you going to be a rock star when you grow up?
SR – I will never be a rock star. My music is unique and I don’t want to change that. I will probably never have a large following but that’s not what I am after. If I can help a few people relax and control their pain and sleep, then I have succeeded. I do most of my recording myself. I have recorded with a cello. I have recorded and played with many friends and groups. The harp is easily lost when you get more instruments going so it really is best when it is by itself as far as recording goes. I have a friend that has a studio and most of my recording is with him. We have two mikes to get the full range of the harp and he uses Mac Pro to do the editing and mastering.
CMW – Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have any musical influences?
SR – I have to say – and this may sound strange – King David is my inspiration. The Psalms have become one of my greatest influences. As I read the words of these Psalms, and then gather the chord progressions form the Hebrew text of the words, I am always amazed at the variety and intricacy of David’s work.
I have also been influenced by Patrick Ball, who was the first harpist that I went to hear. He was self-taught and unknowingly encouraged me to not be so hung up on form or style, but to dive in and see what happens.
Shoshana Harrari from Israel also encouraged me in that direction as well as my pursuit of unlocking the music of the Psalms.
I think my love for Celtic music instilled in me how much fun music can and should be. The Chieftains are one of my all-time favorites.
CMW – In your opinion, what is so good about calming and relaxing music? What are the benefits to the listener?
SR – I think it is good because it slows us down in our busy lives and gives us time to be restored. It even slows down our heart rate, lowers our blood pressure, and assists in our DNA repair, among other things.
I believe it adds years to our lives and if there was one thing that could possibly help bring world peace, I think it would be Calming Harp music. One of my life ambitions is to help get more people playing the harp – that’s why I have started offering free harp lessons on YouTube.
CMW – What are the top 3 things someone should know in order to become a successful musician in your genre?
SR – First is to know your instrument – feel comfortable with the range of sound it can produce. Second is to hear harmonies – not just playing the regular notes of the music, but hear the other harmony notes that go with them. Third, is to develop your ear and your mind so that you hear the music inside your mind before you bring it out to the strings. This takes a lot of playing around on your instrument. I tell my students – “Don’t practice – Play!” Have fun with it and be inventive. One of my problems as a kid taking piano lessons was that I would always “fix” the music to make it sound better to me. That wasn’t accepted by my teacher. I encourage people to “fix” the music they are playing. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
CMW – What other styles of music do you enjoy (if any) – both playing and listening?
SR – I am very eclectic in my taste for music. I enjoy Bluegrass, folk, Celtic, Worship, World, Reggae, some country, Classical, – many others; anything that has good harmonies and good musical talent displayed. I prefer acoustic over electric – it has a more pure sound to me. If I gave you a play list, we would be here all day – it is always changing!
CMW – It is well known that calming music such as yours relaxes the mind and the body. How do you stay balanced, or relax and unwind?
SR – My relaxation is to put on music I enjoy and get comfortable. Believe it or not, some of my relaxation is just sitting around and talking with people I meet as we are on tour. I think doing something you find fulfilling and enjoy really helps you to relax. Sometimes we think of relaxing as just inactivity, but it can also be found in the middle of activity. I enjoy hiking, photography, outdoor activities. Sometimes a good cup of coffee and a great conversation is relaxing. I try not to get too rigid in how I see relaxation.
CMW – What other “strings to your bow” do you have? Is music your only or main source of creativity or income ?
SR – Music along with the storytelling is our main source of income. We have been on the road for 8 years now and we feel like this is our calling. It is both enjoyable to us and we fill it is a ministry that we have been called to that effects the lives of many people in a positive way. Many people look their whole lives for something like this and we have found it and really enjoy it.
CMW – If someone were listening to you for the first time, what song, on your album, would you recommend they listen to?
SR – That is difficult to answer – I find that I get feedback from many people on different songs. Different people are touched different ways. One of my first compositions from the Psalms was Psalm 23 which I named “Green Pastures”. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from that one.
CMW – What do you think music offers to the world?
SR – I believe we were created to be musical and to appreciate music. I cannot think of a culture that does not have some form of music. Music speaks to the spiritual component of each one of and is almost like food to our physical component. Music allows us to express things we could not express any other way.
CMW – How do you market your creative endeavors ? How do you make your music (and other products if applicable) available to the world?
SR – A lot of my marketing is by personal appearance. Once people hear me play the harp, they usually want a CD to take home with them. I only started to market on the internet a couple of years ago. I now use Facebook, YouTube, and my website to make my music available to a wider audience.
CMW – Why do you do what you do? What makes you get up in the morning?
SR – I have a thirst to discover even more about the music I am working with and expose even more people to the wonderful effects of it. I never thought I could enjoy something so much and make a decent living at it.
CMW – What is your proudest moment? When have you stood back and said to yourself, “you know what, that’s really good”?
SR – I think the proudest moment happens when I get an e-mail from someone in another part of the world and they tell me they were suffering from sleep deprivation until they started listening to my music and now they are sleeping all night; or that their loved one did so much better on the chemo therapy once they had the music to listen to. When I see people being touched that I never met it really gets my attention.
CMW – What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
SR – Chocolate!
CMW – Do you have any words of wisdom or quotes that you live your life by or that inspire you?
SR – Socrates once said, “Know Thyself”. I think that this may sound trite, but if you think about it, you have to know what you can do and what makes you happy and then find a way to put those together to live a fulfilled life.
CMW – Where can people find out more about you?
SR – I am on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/peregrinnatti
My website – https://calmingharp.com
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/peregrinnatti
Soundclick – https://www.soundclick.com/paypal/default.cfm?albumsOnly=1&bandID=1280602
Steve has made many of his songs available to his listeners on his website. One of my favourites – “Green Pastures”. Thank you in Steve for taking the time to answer these questions and thank you once again for allowing me and the readers of this Calming Harp music blog to listen to some of your beautiful music!!!