Interview with ThePianoGuys - KSL-5 TV

Uploaded by thepianoguys2 on 18.01.2013

And he said ok well, um, so I think we're going to have the number one
YouTube channel in the world. And I said, "I am sorry who is this again? Paul oh Paul
Anderson that's right so what are you talking about? You know I mean really? Are you serious?
I mean you're a piano store right?" It was a website to sell pianos, that's what it was
all about. I had no idea that it would evolve into this I thought it was just cause I was
in another full time job and I was doing music on the side and I though,"Oh this is a fun
project, you know, put it up on YouTube see how it does." Where everything just went crazy.
It went viral. And it just kind of uh, caught on fire. It has been surreal, um, because
everything has happened so fast. That was the start of something amazing! Kind of created
a foundation for us just to jump on and just grow really fast. I'm with ThePianoGuys, the
latest YouTube sensation. 140 million views in fact. You are rock stars! *Laughing* Kind of.
Well this is kind of cool my next guests are making their first national television
appearance. They are five dads from Utah who became internet sensations from their self
made music videos. Hi I am Steven Sharp Nelson and I am the cello guy. Yah I am Jon Schmidt,
I am the piano guy. I am Al van der Beek and I am the music / studio guy. I am Paul Anderson
and I am the producer / video guy. Hi I am Tel Stewart and I am the editor and video guy.
And we're ThePianoGuys!
About fifteen years ago I was doing a concert in Saint George and I needed to practice so
I went to the local piano store and I met Paul who owned the place. I had a piano store.
We were franchised with The Piano Gallery, it's a Utah franchise piano store. Right from
the get go he was like a brother. Being in Saint George I didn't really want to send
our local market up to The Piano Gallery website so that is why I thought of the name
Pretty soon he was providing pianos for everything I ever did in Saint George. At that time I
was very interested in YouTube and social media and Facebook and so I started studying
how are these YouTubers getting millions of subscribers and people following them and
lots of views. And I was like, "I want to think of a way to advertise our website"
I came across a video with Jon and Steve, they had done a music video "Love Story meets
Viva la Vida. And the music to it was just amazing. I was like taken back by it. It was
inspiring, it got my I was studying Youtube and Facebook I was like, If these
guys would keep putting their own classical music to...and mix it with the pop, that
would be such a huge YouTube channel. It would go viral. I mean it would just be awesome.
I didn't think much about it until the next time, maybe a year later, Jon came walking
into my store and he was going to be practicing for a show out at Tuacahn. And so at that
time I remembered the video he had done. And he started to want to promote his online marketing
for his piano store, which was a channel called ThePianoGuys on YouTube. And he said Jon just
you know come in and play some tunes and we are going to put it on my channel. We were
such good buddies you know it was like yah, anything for Paul. These early songs, they
didn't do so well. But then I think it really took off when we involved a cello player named
Steven Sharp Nelson. So when Jon was approached by Paul Anderson to start making videos he
said, "You know we ought to involve Steve." And so the first official Piano Guys video
which was "Michael meets Mozart" involved Jon and me and Al van der Beek.
Steven Sharp Nelson happens to live on the same street as Al van der Beek, who has an
in home studio. And he is an amazing engineer, like one of the best in all of Salt Lake.
He introduced me to Jon Schmidt as far as just a studio side and I helped produce one
of our, well our first track that really launched was with Michael Meets Mozart. And we wrote
the tune together and it involved this new electric cello which I was just still getting
used to and learning how to play.
And we put everything into it, we got all of our fan base to go help us launch that
onto YouTube. And suddenly it was at millions of hits. The video was just basic performance
video and they were in just a room, which was nice I mean, it didn't matter what the
video was. And I always dreamed about putting pianos in crazy locations and up on cliffs
and on the Great Wall of China and stuff like that and take pictures or video. And so it
started with Jon and I said, "If you'll just keep writing keep writing this type of music
I'll help film you, Tel and I, cause Tel was working with me at the store who was going
to school in video. Still doing, you know, my productions on the side. We all started
doing all of our projects, at Al's house because of the friendship of Steve and he,
they are both in the same ward. And then Tel Stewart who is one of the best videographers
in the state just happened to be going to film school and working part time at Paul's
piano store. And so that's how it all kind of all came together.
Back when I was in biology a long time ago I heard that the human body is mostly water.
But if you took a cross section of me, Steven Sharp Nelson, you would probably find that
I am mostly music. I mean it is who I am, I feel like I was born to do music and when
I am playing music, performing it, writing, listening to it I feel like I am in my natural
habitat. And for me it is about my heritage. My parents, their parents before them, most
of them are musicians and were musicians. And I met my wife through music. All of the
deepest friendships I can think about off the top of my head are either because or as
a result of music, or sweetened by music. So music is just the common thread that seems
woven through every single aspect of my life. You know music was something that was in my
home. My parents moved here from Germany when it was 1950. And they were bit classical music
lovers, my father was an opera attic tenor. And my older sister was a concert pianist,
quality pianist. And I used to, I was the youngest in the family so I grew up listening to music
my whole life. Especially her accompanying my father singing and I was exposed to just
really amazing music.
I love music because, mainly because of the
way it makes me feel. I love how music can help you feel the spirit. I love how music
can make you cry, I love how it can make you feel happy. I just love the emotion and the
imagination that music can bring. I mean it's like, I couldn't imagine watching a movie
without music or any media without music.
My musical background was more based out of
high school and a little bit of college. The foundation of it was always trying to impress girls.
I've just seen how people respond to music and it's uh, its s thrill. It's so great
to be able to be part of that.
Music is very powerful. Video is very powerful.
The two together I think is unstoppable.
First and foremost, to me the music is the most important. That's what's long lasting
and how the music makes you feel. I mean that Love Story meets Viva la Vida is what inspired
me. It got my mind going on a million different things what we could do with that with video.
Half of what we are doing at least is classical music, we are throwing classical melodies,
we are using classical nuances of stylistic nuances. And then putting this fun spin on
it again to build that bridge. You know there is this funny disease we call, it is sort
of a disease that we call orchestra face. And that's when you are just sitting in the
orchestra playing and you are like this... You know and it's kind of like, well I can
see why people are like, "Well that doesn't look very fun." So a lot of what we do in
our music is make sure that there in an energy associated with it. I smile when I play music
and it's because I'm loving it. I'm in my habitat, you know my natural habitat. And
I hope people can see that and say, "Oh ok, you can enjoy it and you can see the joy side
of music." And so one of the things that we always try to do with the video is to compliment
it. Make sure we're not distracting or taking away from the music. The challenging part
has been that, because we're just kind of making things up as we go we're trying new
things all the time. And so I don't know if we have always accomplished it but it's definitely
been fun. Our main priority is to make sure the music can stand on its own, can sell on
its own, is inspiring on its own. But then we use the music to create visually what we
see in our minds. I wanted the videos to be high quality, high definition, good sound
just for me, cause I don't like watching videos that have bad sound or that look bad. Being
a piano store, those videos, they had to be cool. They had to be fun and exciting. I thought
with the social media we'd use it as a backdoor, take the back door approach of marketing.
Instead of saying, "Hay this piano is for sale!" We'd always had a Yamaha piano in the
shot. Showcase that Yamaha name. And then at the very end of the video we'd have
In May when we released our first video we only had like five thousand subscribers on
YouTube and we had maybe a thousand Facebook followers.
What happened is after we had done Michael Meets Mozart we got put in a contest and was
put on the front page of YouTube. Which that kind of took us off and launched us.
With YouTube what it got me excited and Facebook is they are free. All is we had to do is put
out videos and because I love videography I thought, "Well this is fun!" So I didn't
mind the money I was putting in towards top of mind awareness, I started just dumping
into the videos instead because it was fun and enjoyable.
I actually went in debt doing all these videos. And it was starting to get to where it was
affecting how I could even stay afloat and keep the piano store alive. It was like ok,
I've either get my focus back onto doing pianos or if we are gonna to keep going forward we
got to raise some money. And so we came up with the founders program in November. People
all over the world they just stared helping us out you know and we wanted to give them
something in return not just have them give us money but give them a CD, t-shirt, phone
calls from the guys you know just anything to be able to raise this money. By the time
December hit all of us were able to quit our day job and do this full time. And we have
been going full time ever since. And I had to shut down the piano store, I had to make
a decision to do one or the other because things getting really busy with
the video and it was so much fun. I get a little... I get a little flack you know, we're
called ThePianoGuys but, "Hey you're not a piano guy you are a cello guy!" Well I came
late, that's the first part of the story, you know. They were working with Jon and a
couple other pianists and putting up just piano videos. And it was already called ThePianoGuys
before I even came aboard so that's the...that's the boring part of the story. But I think
the more exciting part of the story it that we've been doing our genealogical research
and we have found that the piano and the cello do share a common ancestor...the tree...
so I think we are ok, you know I mean if we go far back enough the cello and the piano
are essentially from the same family. So I think we are ok on that.
When we release the video we get instant feedback. We find out if the people liked it, what they
liked, what they didn't like, and if it's sharable so we know on our next video what
to do differently. And so because have a... as we've been growing and getting more followers,
when we do release a video, those first two days are really important and how a video
is gonna do. And so the more people instantly seeing that and watching it and sharing will
depend on how well it does in the future.
It's funny because we have this um...this
marketing professor say, "You guys are brilliant!" We said, "What? Well what do you mean? What?"
"Well you call yourself ThePianoGuys, but then a lot of your stuff has to do with cello
and orchestration and also different ideas and creativity so it sticks with people. Because
they're like, "Why are you called ThePianoGuys if there is a cello in it and it's cello piano?"
And he said...he used some term and I can't even remember what the term was it was like,
deviant...something or other... and of course we just faked like we knew what we were doing,
you know, "Oh yah well heh! Yah we had that one planned way out!" You know, "Lets call
ourself ThePianoGuys but have cello and piano so people will remember us." No I just...
it just's like everything with ThePianoGuys it just kind of came about and that's the
way it naturally happened. And so I think it's funny because it sticks with people you
know, that is one the number one questions we get asked, "Why are you called ThePianoGuys?"
And it opens the door for us to explain who we are and what we are about.
So many memorable moments. It's hard pick the most memorable moment. But I think the
one that comes to mind immediately is when we were doing Somewhere Over the Rainbow and
Simple Gifts on the beach of Hawaii and the Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii.
Well what I like is I just I love putting pianos and now cellos in just crazy locations.
I get excited about thinking, "Ok where can we put a piano next?" And like The Great Wall
of China. It's gonna happen that's going to be a place. And there's places around the
world, I'd love to go to the seven wonders of the world and put a piano on the pyramids
or Chitsa Nitsa you know, Mexico you know, just all these really cool places
around the world. We were half hour away from shooting a video in Southern Utah we were
just going to do it on the side of the road somewhere in a canyon, find a cool spot. And
Paul calls us and says, "Hey my buddy can get us a helicopter! And we're gonna lift
the piano up on top of this thousand foot cliff." And we were like, "Are you kidding?
Are you serious Paul? You're not serious right?" And it just all happened last minute.
We tried to figure out how to hook the piano up with ropes. We...oh it's just it was
on a wing and a prayer literally. And when the helicopter lifted up into the air we were
like, "Wheu, it worked!" You know, that was an amazing day. And working with Alex Boye,
and being able to drive down five hours with that guy and just, what an amazing person
he is. That was a really...that day I was thinking to myself, you know, as I was flying
around in that helicopter and going all these fish tales and bank turns and I was thinking to myself,
"Man I am glad my mom made me practice the piano." We look at what the journey we've
been taken on, we often marvel and say, "You know what, this stuff that's happening with
us, there's a reason for it and there is a responsibility that we feel. It's all just,
it's just a bunch of little miracles that have happened that have just have tied this
whole thing together. You know stuff like this doesn't just happen I don't think you
know I think there is always a reason. Somebody wrote one time and they said, "Everything
piled up on me this week. I had so many things to wrong in my life, but I am listening to
your music and it's just making me realize it's all going to work out." If you were to
take away all off the success and the, you know, whatever financial things that it might
lead to and so fourth, that is the thing that is most exciting to us. I think it all really
comes down to, It's fun because we are all together. When the five of us are together
it's everything is fun, everything...any difficult situation can be worked out. There
must be some sort of purpose behind it. And when we read the comments that come in on
our videos there is something that is very clear and that is that people... I think the
videos make life better for people. I love that our music crosses generational gaps.
We had a woman that emailed us just recently and she said, "I've got this eighteen year
old, you know, teenage son. He comes to me and says, 'Mom! You've got to see this on
YouTube!'" And this mother emails, "I was really nervous. I don't know if I want to
see what my eighteen year old son wants me to watch on YouTube. And he turns on this
video and it's this guy playing a piano and a guy playing a cello on a thousand foot cliff
and with classically influenced music on a Coldplay tune."
And she said, "I can't tell you how excited I was that he wanted to show me this. How
wonderful it was that he and I could experience this together." To me that's a miracle to
connect families even more through this music. You know stuff like that keeps us going.
It's what is't all about for us.
That was gentle? Yeah...wasn't it?}