Nathan Speir - Pianist, Multi-Instrumentalist & Composer



The Sounding Board - Zone Music Reporter

The Emotive Leaf
By Nathan Speir
Released 1/5/2015
A Leaf For Every Season
Like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant world, pianist and composer Nathan Speir offers up his double album, The Emotive Leaf. Following in the tracks of noted pianists such as David Lanz, Heidi Breyer and others, Nathan gives us two discs of the same compositions, one with solo piano and the other with light ensemble, and both are remarkable. Although this 21-track album presents contemporary music at its finest, there are roots of classical music secreted in the compositions. The music exudes a gentle passion that is strong for its melody, yet intricate in its design. On the ensemble pieces, Nathan played all the instruments making him a talented multi-instrumentalist, but he is an equally talented solo player. 

Nathan Speir's musical biography dates back less than ten years, but he has been playing and creating music since he was twelve years old. He has degrees from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and he produced his first album,Between Earth and Sky, back in 2006. He has released several more albums and after listening to The Emotive Leaf, it was obvious to me that his dreams have been his muse all his life.

Disc 1 – Ambient Chamber

Mindfulness of Your Pain is a beautiful ambient tune featuring delicate flute and placid piano. It is a reminder of the pain of the earth as we continue to ignore her (him) and damage her on every level. How many millennia did it take the planet to establish ecological balance, only to have it tilted in a few hundred years?

A synthesized background wafts behind the tune A Little Fear and the tune is a bit stormy. It has a blustery melody replete with wind and rain with just a touch of darkness. I could feel my umbrella collapse and the rain dampened my clothing. Home seemed so far away and that was my greatest fear, not reaching home. 

Telescopic is an elaborate tune full of mysterious nuances. Doors unopened, questions unanswered and emotions undiscovered are found in the notes of this cascading melody. The tune is sparkling in tone and furtive in structure. Sometimes in life we look through the wrong end of the telescope and become confused. This is the time to turn things around.

Disc 2 – Solo Piano

I hear influences of Erik Satie in the music whether it is intentional or not, especially on the title tune The Emotive Leaf. It has that drifting, dawdling movement to it that gives me a sense of an unhurried journey. What the music does is set me at ease, relaxing me and making me receptive to thoughts and emotions that are just on the edge of consciousness. For some reason I felt that the ensemble version had more movement, as if I was walking and the scenery came over the horizon rather than me drifting in a tiny boat along a river. Strangely, both songs reminded me of a 1960s film called Paddle to the Sea, based on a book by Bill Mason.

The echoing tune Ambition is slower than I thought it would be. It is as if the mood is more pensive, but it does not lack drive. It just seems even-tempered, unhurried and focused. It has a beginning and an end, a destination sought and a goal achieved.

Where No Words Can Reach starts in a minimalist tone, but gathers momentum. It has a somber tone, perhaps representing a place in the psyche that cannot be accessed by mere words. Sometimes complex ideas and thoughts have a language of their own. Nathan proposes that music might be the key that unlocks this door.

The album takes a brighter turn with the final cut called Dreaming As It Should Be. There are elements of the East in the mix, but it does not overpower the main theme. It is sunny and light hearted, a fitting end to the album of serious emotion and thought provoking themes.

Bonus track: Bicycle is the longest cut on the album at over six minutes. It is a musical journey really, a trip that took two human-powered wheels and lots of carefree days to chronical. As the landscape goes by, the mind takes the snapshots that later will become stories and then change into vivid memories.

Nathan Speir is on the right track for composing music that delights and inspires. The emotive leaf that spiraled gently from that old tree in the front yard in late autumn keeps going even after the cold wind of winter blows into next spring. Highly Recommended.
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 6/5/2015

Triad Arts, 88.5 WFDD Public Radio


Pianist/composer Nathan Speir draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources including late and modern classical and jazz composers, New Age artists, minimalist composers and sacred Byzantine music. His new album which was just released last week captures the essence of his journey through life and lessons learned along the way. It’s titled The Emotive Leaf.

Nathan shares his reasoning behind his title track, the way in which music can promote empathy, and his fascination with space and astronomy.

Winston Salem Journal - Relish

Electrician about to relase sixth album

Nathan Speir started learning piano when he was 8, and by age 12 he’d completed his first fully written composition, according to his website.

On Monday he will release his sixth album, a two-disc set that begins with ambient chamber music and transitions to a re-interpretation of the tracks in solo piano.

“I look at this album as an emotive novel put to music and summed up on a leaflet, thus the name ‘The Emotive Leaf,’” he said in his press release.

Speir received his bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition from Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2004, and in 2006 he released his first electronic instrumental album.

Originally from Southern California, Speir, 34, and his wife and children live in Winston-Salem. He is a licensed electrician and works as a full-time maintenance electrician at Forsyth Tech Community College.

For more information, click here. His CD is available at CdBaby, iTunes and Amazon.

Q: Describe your music in general and your CD in particular.

Answer: I am a pianist and composer, and I try to avoid the title as a “new age pianist.” “The Emotive Leaf” is a truly heartfelt ambient chamber and solo piano album. I try to produce music, or any art for that matter, with a higher purpose in mind. “The Emotive Leaf” is an ambient piano music diary about introspection and the noetic heart.

Q: What media do you prefer?

Answer: I prefer as much real acoustic instruments as I do electronic instruments.

Q: How did you develop the material for this CD?

Answer: These songs were initially composed over the course of 2013. By 2014, I had enough material to seriously begin recording and producing the way I felt best ... and in a way my resources would allow, at the same time. I did everything at my home studio and digitally recorded, mixed and mastered the album through my computer.

Q: What did you enjoy about this project?

Answer: I was so moved by the initial composition process — that special space of time and feeling during those euphoric moments is arguably the peak of the whole production. I also enjoyed the lessons learned, as usual, from the whole production process. If that wasn’t enough, I was ecstatic to see the physical disc printing 100 percent funded on Kickstarter ... what a blessing!

Q: How have you evolved as a musician?

Answer: I have been learning a lot about studio recording, mixing and mastering. I have to say that those are really arts in themselves. I feel like the way I write and play music has always had an improvisational approach, even after formal music school in college. What continues to evolve is my command over my playing and writing.

Q: Who has influenced you?

Answer: John Tavener, George Winston, Keith Jarret, Pat Metheney, Patrick O’Hearn, Steve Roach, Harold Budd, Carlos Nakai, Chopin and Erik Satie, to name a few music icons that have influenced my music.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

Answer: My biggest challenge is balancing my time and resources for producing music. I wish it could be full time, but it is not full time for me. Independent artists like me wear all the caps to successfully release professional music for the public ... and keep their day job(s) at the same time.

Q: What does your music do for you?

Answer: It perpetuates my need to create. It teaches me many lessons in life. For heights and depths no words can reach, music is the soul’s own speech.

Q: What do you hope your music does for the listener?

Answer: I hope that my creations enhance the ambience in the listener’s life, and, in doing so, the listener holistically benefits. This kind of music lends to thinking and reflection (aside from relaxation), and I believe that’s a more serious and personal territory for some people. Some don’t like to go there at all. However, I believe that serious things can bring great joy.

The Emotive Leaf                       
Nathan Speir
2015 / Nathan Speir
Disc 1: 44 minutes   Disc 2: 49 minutes
The Emotive Leaf is pianist/composer Nathan Speir’s sixth album and is scheduled for release on January 5, 2015. The 2-disc set features piano-based ambient chamber music on the first disc and a solo piano re-interpretation of the same pieces plus one on the second. Often very dark and somber, this album takes listeners on an emotional  journey that each will interpret somewhat differently. Speir explains: “I look at this album as an emotive novel put to music and summed up on a leaflet, thus the name The Emotive Leaf.” Relating to the experiences that inspired the music: “Even though the essence of those experiences are untouchable, I know that I was able to capture the energies of those experiences into the music because I had to wipe the tears off after performing each piece during the recording.” Deeply personal yet universally understood via the language of music, Speir has created a poignant reminder that even though we have very different life experiences, we all share a similar emotional journey through life.   
Disc 1 begins with the title track and features piano and strings (especially cello), drawing the listener in with beauty and grace. “Mindfulness of Your Pain” goes deeper and darker with piano, native flute, and cello creating a hypnotic, atmospheric sound painting. “Ambition” is a haunting and powerful mystery. I really like this version of “A Little Fear,” which begins with a more orchestral sound that gradually becomes a guitar and piano duet with other instrumental effects added here and there. Somewhat lighter than most of the other music, it offers rays of hope. “Tears That Heal” begins in a very dark place, gradually becoming somewhat lighter as healing takes place. Mostly a piano piece, strings and ambient sounds add sonic color to the music. I also really like “Accepting the Medicine.” Very dark and somewhat more dramatic in places, it promises that things will get better (my interpretation). “Telescopic” is the liveliest of the ten pieces, swirling and dancing all over the piano keyboard with background strings trying to keep it grounded. “Dreaming As It Should Be” ends the disc with sunshine breaking through the clouds, offering a fresh start. Piano, strings, guitar, and light percussion end this disc with warmth and renewed optimism. 
Although the second disc is a re-interpretation of the same songs, the tone is somewhat different, being solo piano. Quite a bit of it seems more peaceful, but it also seems more  vulnerable and stark. I love the way the deep bass of the piano sings in “Ambition,” making a deeply personal statement. “Tears That Heal” beautifully expresses a very raw emotional experience that gradually lightens. I really like the piano version of “Accepting the Medicine,” too, and the raw, personal quality it has - very in-the-moment. “The Bicycle” is a lively piano solo that keeps moving throughout. “Where No Words Can Reach” is perhaps the darkest of the pieces, and I think this is especially true of the solo version - a nightmare set to music. The solo version of “Dreaming As It Should Be” also brings a return to hope and sunshine, ending the disc with warmth and gentleness.
The Emotive Leaf is available for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes and will be released officially on January 5, 2015. Check it out!
Kathy Parsons

A Day of Poetry 
Nathan Speir
2012 / Nathan Speir
51 minutes
A Day of Poetry is pianist/composer Nathan Speir’s fourth album, but a first for me. Also a visual artist, Speir’s music tends toward darker tones and shadings, and is most often on the ambient side. Some of the nine pieces are solo piano and others are piano accompanied by synth strings; three are two-piano duets with the parts recorded separately and mixed together. My ears aren’t often fooled by electronic instruments, but Speir did an excellent job of making these instruments sound like the real thing - including the piano itself. Although the music is on the darker side, it is not at all mournful or despairing. It is introspective, reflective and heartfelt, allowing us to get a glimpse into the artist’s expressive soul. Speir began playing the piano at the age of eight and wrote his first piece at twelve. He went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Music Theory and Composition in 2004 from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Previous recordings have included solo piano, electronic with piano, and an ambient Christmas album. A Day of Poetry is an exceptional listening experience - either with full attention or in the background. Fans of ambient piano and chamber music would do well to check this one out!
The soft and dreamy two-piano duet “Morning Duo” begins the album gently and with a cozy warmth. “A Little Sanctuary” introduces cello and violin with the piano, creating a peaceful ambiance that is soothing and restful. As the title suggests, “A Stream of Thought” flows where it will, unrestricted and undefined. That isn’t to say that the music rambles or makes no sense - in Speir’s very capable hands (and mind), it’s a very beautiful and fascinating piece. “Photopositive” is another of the piano duets and has a somewhat livelier rhythm on one piano while the second part is much more spare and free-form - a favorite. “Shades of Hue” is a gorgeous ambient chamber piece for piano, cello, and violin. With a full palette of rich but muted sonic colors, it expresses a wide range of emotions that easily flow from one to another. I love “Mysterious Perspectives,” another ambient chamber piece that this time stays very dark for its almost nine-minute duration. Piano and cello create feelings of suspense and intrigue without danger or fear - extremely effective! “Legend of the Pelican” is another favorite. Graceful and almost melodic, piano and strings tell a story without words that is compelling and from the heart. 
A Day of Poetry is a very beautiful and evocative album, and I look forward to hearing more of Nathan Speir’s music! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
Kathy Parsons

Ariel Publicity

California-born and based in North Carolina, Nathan Speir adds another dimension to contemporary instrumental piano music with colorful ambient sound-scapes and genre-bending, new age, classical, and jazz idioms.  Brighter Days is a fourteen-track release that incorporates solo piano with synth, percussion, and fluid musical melodies that are serene and contemplative throughout.


“New Horizons” opens with a delicate, sweeping piano melody that echoes with cheery luminosity that is broken up by a few metallic bell sounds.  Atmospheric washes of noise fill the background with vibrant soul and a multi-layered sound with thick textures.  The ambient washes decrease, as the piano sounds flutter wildly.  The soft piano tones are relatively reserved with a minimal musical range, as many of the notes are repeated for a dreamy effect.  The lack of much variation is not particularly off-putting.  At any rate, the song is a fitting introduction to the rest of the album.


“The Fresh Air” opens with a fluid, metallic bell sound that persists with some background percussion and flute-like, synth noises.  The airy flute cuts out, as the light, jazz-focused percussion fills in the remaining sounds.  The piano also appears to add some texture to the song. This is a fairly textured song with piano, percussion, synth flutes, metallic bells, and atmospheric washes.  The crystalline and metallic bells permeate the song with fluid music that is never too ho-hum.  In fact, the flute stylings and harmonious array of sounds near the end of the song provides an energetic listening experience. 


“Quiet Hours” begins with a clang of a bell and a faint hint of muted percussion sounds.  There is little in the way of additional instrumentation.  The muted crystalline tones resemble East Asian gongs to a point and the whole set-up is rather rudimentary and avant-garde.  The instrumental tune is only two-minutes long without additional piano sounds.  The end of the song features cymbal-like sounds.


“Remission” opens with a soft, piano melody without much additional instrumentation, until symphonic ambient washes of cinematic sound fill in the background.  There are instances of metallic clinks, sparkles, and whirrs, too.  However, the plaintive piano melody is most evident, as it is very serene and calming.


“Cusp of Twilight” opens with a few light piano-like tones and twinkling of metal.  A deep, atmospheric wash is steady, foreboding, and all-encompassing.  The metallic chimes and piano offset each other with a fine interplay that is very delicate and precise.  The piano-like tones change from fairly clear and bright to slightly muted, as the atmospheric elements bridge everything together.  Overall, the song is relatively slow, but highly-contemplative. 


“Give Thanks” opens with an airy synth sound, light percussion, and tabla-like drum sounds.  The atmospheric waves of sound brighten the instrumentation.  There are hints of tinny cymbals, whooshes of electronic sound, wood blocks, piano keys, and swishy percussion.  The music is best described as light electronic dance music.  The instrumental tune is a spacey version of Enigma’s dance elements, but it is still inherently unique, experimental, and most of all—enthralling.  By the end of the song, the percussion is a little more active and rock-like elements appear—only for a moment.  There are touches of jazz, new age, world, and avant-garde, which create the most diverse track on the album. 


Nathan Speir’s latest, Brighter Days, is an album of extreme virtuosity on the piano, synth, and percussion.  The album is relatively reserved; except for a few upbeat tracks.  The ambient sound-scapes on many of the tracks suggest a strong new age and electronic presence, which still retains some world beat and jazz foundations.  Overall, Brighter Days does not suffer from any deficiency.  


Artist: Nathan Speir

Album: Brighter Days
Review by Matthew Forss

Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)


Born in California and based in North Carolina, Nathan Speir reinvents new age and contemporary piano music with solemn pieces of splendor and contemplative tunes of magical joy.  The instrumental work, A Day Of Poetry, is a nine-track release than incorporates solo piano with some sampled string accompaniment.  In this case, Nathan’s piano textures are fluid, inspirational, and relaxing in a very poetic way.


“Morning Duo” opens the set with very delicately-played piano notes that sparkle with morning sunlight and echoing beauty of sonic resilience.  However, the song is rather short and void of vocals or additional instrumentation.  Nevertheless, Nathan opens the album with a very poignant song that is rich with inner and outer brilliance.


“A Little Sanctuary” begins with piano notes and the low drone of an electronic string instrument.  The higher violin tones permeate the primary instruments with heavenly beauty.  The higher tones appropriately offset the sparkling piano tones and low cello-like accompaniment perfectly.  The music is instrumental and meditative, but there are more instrumental effects on this track than on others throughout the album.  The pizzicato effects even appear near the end of the song, before the high shrill of the violin sounds signal the end of the song.


“Mysterious Perspectives” begins with a pensive piano melody and low, reverberating electronic string accompaniment.  The cello-like sounds make the song eerie and dark; especially with the lower piano register.  However, the piano notes reach a higher climax and the string sounds brighten in unison.  Both instruments seem to wander about almost aimlessly, but that is not necessarily a negative attribute.  In fact, the manner in which the song is composed creates an experimental approach that is different with each repeated listen.  Specifically, something new is discovered with each listen.


“Floating” begins with a few quick piano notes that ambulate slowly throughout the entire song. This is one of the slowest compositions on the album, but that does not make it entirely boring or negative.  In fact, the song is an instrumental ode of poetic beauty with plenty of room to think, dream, and reflect.  The spacious song is something Hearts of Space would welcome or fans of new age piano.  Do not let the spacey description deter a listen, since the main title of the song suggests a light, airy, and simplistic musical masterpiece, which Nathan delivers admirably.  


“Legend Of The Pelican” opens with wispy piano notes and an electronic string sample that resembles low cello tones, but the piano becomes more pronounced.  The pizzicato sounds interrupt the piano and cello-like sounds, but they provide a more Enya-esque quality that is serene and beautiful.  The different musical tones provide a more textured song that glitters with classical, new age, electronic, and easy listening moments suitable for any occasion.  Near the end of the song, the electronic strings resemble the higher notes characteristic of a fiddle or violin, which seem to move in and out of varying timbres.  The result is a very emotive piece; especially near the end of the song.


Nathan Speir’s impressive new release, A Day Of Poetry, is an instrumental wonder on contemporary piano and a few other electronic strings.  The music is void of vocals and percussion, which is not a negative.  The music moves in different directions weaving a tapestry of aural sounds into enticing packages of musical candy for listeners of new age, instrumental, classical, experimental, and ambient music.  There are no worries here, as the music is intelligently-composed and deliciously-delivered with heartfelt intentions.

Artist: Nathan Speir

Album: A Day Of Poetry  
Review by Matthew Forss

Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)