Reviewing Fiona Joy; a New Age Pianist with a Global Following

Fiona Banner Photo

Taking a closer look at Into the Mist and Story of Ghosts recorded by Blue Coast Records

Writer | Becky Roberts

“When I get feedback from the listening audience that I’m touching their lives and in some way making a difference, that’s the most important thing. That’s what fills me back up,” Fiona Joy, formerly known as Fiona Joy Hawkins, told me when I interviewed her recently. “It doesn’t fill me up to win awards or go to awards presentations.” However, Into the Mist, her second solo album on the Blue Coast Music record label and released last June, has been deservingly nominated for multiple awards and was a finalist for the Independent Music Awards, Best New Age Album, the Zone Music Reporter Radio Awards, Best Piano Album – Solo and an instrumental song from the album was nominated last year for the International Acoustic Music Awards.

“I can’t believe the reviews it’s had. It’s been amazing,” Fiona says of the critical acclaim this album has received. And, if you search for the album on the Internet, you’ll immediately see what she means. “I live in Australia in this little village of 830 people, so I am so removed from all of that,” she says. And, from her home in New South Wales, she really is a bit removed and swears she can see sheep grazing on the hillsides near her house and has to watch out for the chickens crossing the road when she goes into town.

A Love Affair with the Piano and Writing Music

“One of the brightest lights in the contemporary instrumental genre, Fiona Joy is poised to move into stardom,” said Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill Records. Her love for the piano began when Fiona was 8. Her grandmother moved in with her parents to help care for her and brought with her a very old and beautiful piano. “I just fell in love with that piano, and it was like my best friend,” Fiona says. That love affair with the piano is the passion she credits for keeping her going and inspiring her to sit down and write more music. “I know some people will sit down with a pen and paper or paint or in some way put down their thoughts and emotions. For me, it’s always been at the piano. It’s my meditation and my communication.”

When she writes music, she sets aside a period of time, blocks everything else out, drinks a lot of coffee, walks around a lot and does that ‘whole creative thing’. What comes out is often very related, exploring certain themes and expanding on certain motifs that she particularly likes.

Into the Mist

Into the Mist cover
Fiona usually works backward from a set recording date, and most of her albums have a story or concept that ties the tracks together. Into the Mist is an exception because it doesn’t have a central concept. “Into the Mist came just from recording a group of 10 songs that I really love, and it’s the only album [by her] that doesn’t have some kind of dramatic story to tell,” she says.

Recorded on a beautiful 7-foot Steinway grand piano that dates back to 1885, this album evokes images of everything from children playing in a park on a warm summer day to mist rising over a lake on a moonlit night. “Through Clouds” is my favorite track, and it has a lazy, dream-like quality that reminds me of lying on my back and staring up at the sky as the clouds float by. “Feeling Sunshine,” the next track on the album, picks up the tempo with energy, joy and the innocence of childhood. “I guess if there is a uniting theme on the album, it’s water or mist,” Fiona says.

Combining a masterfully-tuned piano, Fiona’s talent as an exceptional pianist and the superb recording capabilities of Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records has produced an album that I can imagine listening to time and time again. It is a luscious experience of elegant, peaceful and emotionally involving piano pieces, and I highly recommend it

Story of Ghosts

Story of Ghosts cover

This is Fiona’s third solo piano album recorded by Blue Coast Records, and it has just been released this week on Spotify and the Blue Coast Music store as digital downloads. The SACD will be available in June. Fiona says this is the hardest album that she has ever done. “I was channeling a very hard year where everybody I knew died, got sick or went insane, and that’s why it’s called what it is. It’s the story of insanity, ghosts and angels, and it’s much more classical and very connected to my roots.” The music on this album is from a much darker place emotionally, but it is provocative and hauntingly beautiful.

After writing the music for this album, Fiona says she asked her friend, Will Ackerman, ”What will happen to me if I ever get happy? Will the well of creativity dry out?” His response was, “No, you will start writing happy music. It’s the ups and downs in life that create the stories.”

I’ll be watching to see what other reviewers think, but to me, this is a beautifully executed album and a worthy addition to your collection if you like solo piano music.

Recording with Blue Coast Records

Fiona has recorded for only two labels, Little Hartley and Blue Coast Records. As you may know, Cookie Marenco, founder of Blue Coast, worked as a producer for Ackerman at Windham Hill and produced her first recording there.

“I like to know that people who sit down and hear my music, hear it the way that I played it and not watered down,” Fiona says of her choice to record audiophile-quality albums. As she explains, even CD quality is nothing when you’ve heard DSD or SACD, especially when played on a high-end system. The official launch party for Into the Mist was at the Los Angeles Audio Show last year. Look for her to be premiering the Story of Ghosts album at this year’s show on June 8-10. 

Where to Find Fiona’s Music

Fiona usually spends 2 to 3 months out of the year in the United States over 2 or 3 visits; it really is a long trip from Australia to the US. She will be in New Orleans in May for the Zone Music Reporter Radio Awards and on tour in New Orleans, Seattle, and Northern California, and then at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. She will also be in the studio recording for Blue Coast Records just prior to the LA Audio Show. And, the SACD of the Story of Ghosts will be released in June. Check her website for tour dates to catch her in person with the band, FLOW (Will Ackerman, Fiona Joy, Lawrence Butt and Jeff Oster), where she not only plays the piano but also vocalizes. And, late breaking news, as I was about to post this article, we learned that FLOW won the Independent Music Award for the Best New Age Album for 2018. Congratulations, to this talented group!

You can download Fiona’s solo albums from the Blue Coast Music store in multiple digital formats and resolutions. You can also purchase SACDs of Into the Mist now and pre-order SACDs of Story of Ghosts, which will begin shipping in June.