Interview with David and Steve Gordon in New Leaves 2003

by Jenise Morgan of New Leaf

David and Steve Gordon in 2005
David and Steve Gordon, 2005

JM: Let's start from the beginning. In reading about your background, I discovered that you both took an early interest in music. Where did that musical influence come from? Did you grow up thinking of it as a career path, a spiritual path or some combination of both?

There was a lot of music in our house when we were growing up. Our parents liked to play and sing folk songs on guitar and played records. But I think what influenced us choosing music as a career was more about the interest in meditation and eastern spirituality we both developed after high school.

The development of our musical pursuits was always connected with our desire to experience higher levels of consciousness. We both studied yoga, spiritual philosophy and music, as we attended college and after that we attended the Dick Grove Music Academy,.

JM: You grew up in Southern California and often found peaceful respite in Sequoia National Park. What led you to retreat to nature? Did your music influence your love of nature or did the love of nature influence your music.

From the time we were teenagers we started heading up to Sequoia National Park as an antidote to the experience of living in LA. We found great inspiration there, which in turn fueled our artistic expression in music. I would say that going to the mountains did create more space in our lives for creativity allowing the music to emerge.

JM: Misty Forest Morning and Peaceful Evening were released during a time when New Age music was emerging. Were you surprised by the success of the albums or did you already realize there was a growing market for your distinct music.

It was on one of these early trips to Sequoia that we got the idea to record the nature sounds there, birds, streams, lakes, and bring them back to our studio to create music with them. It seemed we could hear elusive melodies in nature, which we felt that we could "bring out" by composing music. At the time, there was hardly anyone doing much new age music, so we called our first couple releases "Environmental Music," since we felt that these recordings could provide city people with a way to connect with the peace and beauty which we had felt in Sequoia National Park. When we released Misty Forest Morning and Peaceful Evening we did so mainly because we were interested in the idea of ambient music, having been inspired by both Sequoia as well as the early Brian Eno recordings of ambient music.

When we released them, we were surprised and pleased to see that there was a growing community of retailers and listeners who understood and embraced what we were doing. Misty Forest Morning and Peaceful Evening became so popular that we continued to release more albums with music and nature blends for many years, in fact we still do. Our next release for June 2003 is called Heart of Peace and it has a soothing combination of music and nature sounds.

JM: Over the past 20 years, you've done remarkable work, offering the world some outstanding recordings. Is there a piece of music, a particular project that has been the most satisfying? What has brought you the most joy? The most cause for reflection.

Since we have become known for two kinds of music, I have two choices to mention. For our meditation music, Garden of Serenity, really was a very satisfying experience for us. This hour of music really came from a very deep meditation, and you can hear it in the music. It has been a bestseller for almost 15 years!

The other kind of music we do is Native/World music and for that, the first one we released in 1994, Sacred Earth Drums is something we are both very proud of. When we created Sacred Earth Drums it was before New Age music had any world music genre within it at all. We had been attending drumming circles for a few years, and decided we wanted to create an album that had the peaceful energy of these drumming circles, with the soothing atmospheres of the meditation music we had been doing.

Once Sacred Earth Drums came out, it quickly became an instant #1 seller with all of our distributors and the best selling release of our career. So far it has sold over 350,000 units! It stayed #1 for over 2 years and remains a good seller even today, 9 years later. Since it came out, the whole genre of new age/world music has exploded, and we feel like we have been very influential in helping that to happen. We followed up Sacred Earth Drums, with Sacred Spirit Drums. After that we released Drum Medicine, which received the COVR Record of the Year, Best World album and the NAV Native Heart award.

JM: What is your creative process? On a light note, do you experience sibling rivalry? Which brother is older and which has the most influence about musical decisions.

I suppose we have our share, but the fact that we continue to make music together after 20 years says a lot for the strength of our musical connection and our relationship. David is older by a couple years. Neither one of us has more influence about musical decisions, we both pretty much play what we want and then work that into something we both like. Having said that, it was very satisfying for me to create an album of my own last year, Drum Prayer. This gave me a chance to really shape a sound according to my own internal compass which is uniquely my own. It has the same world drums which I have been doing with Dave, but I also included Sanskrit, Lakota and Tibetan chants and ambient dance grooves.

I have been very pleased that Drum Prayer has been received so well by retailers and listeners. It is also on distributor best seller lists now just like the records we have made together. Drum Prayer features many great guest artists such as Jaya Lakshmi on vocals. She is lead singer with the techno-tribal dance band, Lost at Last and her Sequoia Debut release Ocean of Mercy will be released in April of 2003. It is a beautiful blend of devotional Sanskrit chant, flamenco guitar, tabla and sarod. It has some great piano work from David as well.

While I was doing Drum PrayerDave produced the new release from Sophia, Chakra Healing Chants. This album has gorgeous meditative chants with instruments from India and features special guests Hans Christian of Rasa, Shakie Roth, and Raphael. David is now working on his first solo record which will be a new combination of meditative piano and early folk melodies from around the world.

JM: You have referred to your trademark sound as the "Music of Earth and Spirit.'' Has your musical mission and scope changed over the years? If so, how has it evolved.

When we started, our vision was simply to provide ambient music and nature sounds for meditation, massage and the healing arts. Then around our 10th anniversary, we enlarged the vision to include the newly emerging genre of contemporary world music, which is why we called it "Music for Earth and Spirit." Now that we are into our third decade, we are expanding our vision once again in two ways; we are now including within our vision of healing music. With the release of Sophia's Chakra Healing Chants, Jaya Lakshami's Ocean of Mercy and our new release, Yoga Moods we are off to a great start. We also have a new chanting artist on the horizon, who I will be doing a collaboration with.

Also, we have started a sub-label called "Sequoia Groove." This label will be releasing "downtempo/chill-out" music which is a newly emerging genre that we are very exited about. It has been popular in Europe for sometime and is now started to develop here. It combines the atmospheres of new age and contemporary world music with subtle techno-dance grooves. This is a wonderful new kind of music, which provides people who are on the spiritual/healing path with music for entertainment, parties, socializing, and for pure enjoyment. There has been a real need for this and we are pleased to be a part of this new movement.

Our first release on Sequoia Groove was last year's Buddha Lounge which had a set of some of the best downtempo/chill-out sounds from Europe, along with a couple of these kind of tracks from Sequoia artists. This release was so successful, that we are releasing Buddha Lounge 2 in April. People who loved Buddha Lounge will really love Buddha Lounge 2. It's a great chance to hear all the best downtempo/chill-out from Europe all on one CD. In June we will be coming out with our third Sequoia Groove release, Cafe de Luna which has even more tasty downtempo world grooves to chill with.

So to encompass our new directions of Yoga and Sequoia Groove, we now have expanded our motto from "Music of Earth and Spirit" to "Music for Body and Spirit."

JM: You are considered "stars" in the metaphysical/conscious living marketplace. What are your feelings about that? What are your thoughts on reaching people on a more mainstream global level.

It has been very gratifying for us that people all over the world have heard our music and benefited from it. We get emails from people all over the planet, such as one we got from a Russian radio DJ the other day. There is nothing more fulfilling to me, than to know that people are receiving inspiration, nourishment, enjoyment and healing from our music.

As far as reaching people on a global level, while it is true we already are doing that, the idea of reaching even larger numbers of people is one of our goals, because we feel that our music is contributing to the healing process of this planet. But our focus is more on creating music for people who are on the healing/consciousness path, than it is in just reaching more and more people. We just create the music that we feel inspired to make and hope that people will connect with it. I do feel that more and more people are becoming aware of this music, and that it is needed now more than ever with what is going on in the world today.

JM: We hear so much about how the world has changed since Sept. 11, 2001. War appears to be imminent now and many people live with dread and fear. Is there something that speaks to you musically at this time about the state of the world today? Is there a special message that you believe is important to share.

Of course, healing music is needed now, more than ever before. Chanting is particularly good during times like these. There is something very comforting about hearing the sound of the divine names and having them resonate in your mind during times of uncertainty. This is why we released the Sophia title,Chakra Healing Chants, and why we signed on Jaya Lakshmi. She is poised to become the leading female Kirtan leader in America. She tours the country performing at yoga studios to packed crowds. There is so much healing, loving energy which flows through her when she sings. People are coming out in large numbers to experience her devotional chanting right now because it is so comforting and healing.

JM: What's next on the horizons for the Gordons?

Right now we are working on compiling the tracks for our June Sequoia Groove release, Cafe De Luna and putting the finishing touches on our David & Steve Gordon release for June, which is called Heart of Peace. David and I have created what we feel is the ultimate music for Yoga, Spa Treatments and Massage. It has soothing music and ocean waves which really work perfectly for healing sessions. It is the first in a new series of healing music called, 'The Art of Healing Series'. In the fall, we will be releasing a new title from Gary Stadler, who has created the popular series of Fairy titles (Fairy of the Woods), plus Enchanted Journey the debut release of a wonderful new group called Everstar. Their first album is music inspired by The Lord of the Rings. David is busy composing his new release which combines early folk music with soothing ambient-dance grooves and I am starting to record my follow-up to Drum Prayer.

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