Steve Siu is a popular pianist specializing in original interpretations of oldies, familiar favorites, and current pop music. He was born in Hong Kong and he began his career at age 16 as the youngest pianist ever to be hired to perform at Nordstrom's department stores. Currently Steve serves as the featured pianist at the Montage Resort and Spa in Laguna Beach, CA, and he has recorded 13 CDs to date.
This interview was conducted by email from April 15, 2008-January 22, 2009. For more information and to purchase his music, please visit pianoreimagined.com.
Amy Gold: Tell us a bit how you first got started in music.
Steve Siu: When I was little I would hear songs on the radio and play them back by ear, and that speciality of mine enabled me to play professionally in High School, working as a pianist at Nordstrom Stores when I was 16. It was also my first job of any kind. Ever since, I have made every single dollar I've ever earned in my life playing piano exclusively. I never taught piano or held another job of any kind to this date.
AG: At what age did you start playing the piano?
SS: Don't remember when I started. Probably between 5-10.
AG: What was your favorite type of music growing up?
SS: Top 40 on the radio.
AG: Where were you born and raised?
SS: I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I came to US when I was 13.
AG: Tell us a bit about how you got your start in the music business. How did you get your first job? Did you have an agent?
SS: When I was in High School (about 16 years of age) I was invited to perform at the Nordstrom Store and after I played the manager came and asked me to fill out a job application (It was also my very first job of any kind) and the rest was history. Ever since I have earned every dollar I have ever earned playing the piano exclusively. I put myself through college at USC working as a pianist at a restaurant as well as various Nordstrom stores, not to mention countless private engagements and concerts. Currently I log in an average of 50 hours a week of piano playing at the Montage resort and spa in Laguna Beach, CA, where I perform 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Every Sunday I do a marathon on the piano - 1p.m to 11p.m. (sometimes to midnight!). And no, I have never worked with an agent exclusively.
AG: What was your major at USC?
SS: Music Industry, which ironically had absolutely nothing to do with piano playing at all. I did not take one single piano lesson at USC!
AG: When did you start taking piano lessons? Are you classically trained?
SS: I honestly do not recall when I started to take piano lesson. It could have been between the age of 8-10. And yes, I was classically trained, but not for long! (only for about 4 years)
AG: Tell us about your music - your repertoire, your favorite musical styles and genres. I understand that your main passion is interpreting and arranging popular songs of all types, e.g., oldies, show tunes, country, love songs, wedding music?
SS: My repertoire consists of an eclectic mix of popular music styles, from popular classical to the Great American Song Book to the most up to date Pop 40 hits and everything in between. One of my of specialty, and also my favorite thing to do, is to interpret music that no one would have thought of as a solo piano piece and make it sound good. For example, Britney Spear's "Toxic" (Yes, I play lots of Britney Spears on the piano) and Guns and Roses "Sweet Child of Mine". I am not partial to any specific genres or musical styles, I love to interpret songs with a beautiful melody, regardless of its genres or styles. it is as simple as that. So it is completely normal for me to play Beethoven, Cole Porter, Henry Mancini, Scott Joplin, Elton John, Sinatra, Coldplay, U2, Bon Jovi, Guns and Roses, Aerosmith, the Cure, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Fergie, Norah Jones, Journey, Michael Buble, Jobim, Micheal Jackson, the Beatles, Neil Diamond, Goo Goo Dolls, Ben Folds, Five for Fighting, Christina Aguliera, Andrew Loyld Webber, all in a set!
AG: When it comes to interpreting and musical arranging, are you mostly self-taught?
SS: Absolutely. I have never had a single lesson in my life when it comes to arranging, interpreting, or improvising. I have literally played everything by ear since day one and it comes as natural as that. I have never had to sit down to "figure things out" on the piano. It's just like the movie "Good Will Hunting" where Matt Damon tried to explain his ability to do math but can't. It's the same for me. When I sit at the piano, I can "just play it". In fact, it feels like the fingers just move by themselves without me consciously thinking. It's hard to explain that feeling. It's a God given ability and I'm very appreciate of it.
As a matter of fact, because of this, I do not have any sheet music for my song arrangements on my site www.pianoreimagined.com. Everything is done by ear and played directly onto the piano. I've been asked by many of my fans to purchase sheet music for my song arrangements but I do not have any.
AG: Tell us about your recording career. When did you put out your first CD? How many CDs have you released to date? Do you have any plans for future CDs?
SS: I recorded my first CD, "The Most Requested Collection Vol. I," in 1999. It contains my interpretations of some of the most beloved melody of all time. I have released 13 CDs so far, "The Most Requested Collection Vol. I, II, III, IV.," "Modern Love Songs," "Tribute to Elton," "Tribute to the Legends," "Cinema Paradiso," "A Moment Like This," "At Last, From This Moment On," and two Christmas Album. I am currently working on a Frank Sinatra Tribute.
AG: Steve, it was a real pleasure interviewing you, and thank you.
SS: You're welcome.