Pianist George Winston discusses his latest album and songwriting

George Winston will perform at the Fairfield Theatre Company on Nov. 3.

George Winston will perform at the Fairfield Theatre Company on Nov. 3.

Todd V. Wolfson / Contributed photo

Respected pianist/composer George Winston has 15 piano albums under his belt, including his most recent, “Restless Wind” (2019) that features his meditative original compositions, transporting the audience far away from their cares and busy lives. His shows also feature his signature renditions of works by renowned musicians like Sam Cooke, The Doors, Stephen Stills, George and Ira Gershwin. A tireless performer who is on the road much of the year, his current tour brings him to the Fairfield Theatre Company Nov. 3. Those attending are invited to bring canned goods to the show, which will be donated to Operation Hope in Fairfield.

Andrea Valluzzo: Is this concert just from your newest album, “Restless Wind,” or will you have some favorite songs from earlier albums also?

George Winston: I think there will be one song from the album. I don’t play many songs from the records. The songs for the records are for the records. The concerts are a whole other thing but there will be some things from the seasonal albums, some of Vince Guaraldi’s “Peanuts pieces, some up-tempo stuff and quite a bit of folk piano melodic recordings.

AV: Vince Guaraldi is a favorite of yours when coming up with music arrangements?

GW: The three composers that I try to do every one of their songs are Vince Guaraldi, New Orleans pianist, Professor Longhair, and The Doors.

AV: You have had several mentors then?

GW: I’m very fortunate with the mentors I’ve had. It really speeds up your evolution. I probably would have gotten to what they are doing but it might have taken decades instead of going ‘That’s what I want to do.’

AV: What is the process like when you adapt an artist’s song for the piano?

GW: The piano lends itself to being played in certain ways. When I interpret a song, it’s actually three things that go on. It’s the original piece, then the piano and what are the limitations and strengths of the piano. A lot of things don’t work on the piano. And then who am I? What do I want to do with it? Those three all go on at the same time.

AV: Why do you prefer not to mic your piano when on stage?

GW: I don’t prefer that sound. If you are being a player, it has to be the sound that you want. You know the way guitars always tweak their amps 20 times every song. It’s like that. I don’t prefer the sound of a mic’d piano. Guitar or harmonica when I play those — and there are usually a couple of guitar songs and a harmonica song in the show — it does not change the sound much; the piano it changes too much for me.

AV: Do you just sit down and compose a piece?

GW: If somebody said compose a piece, I would say I have nothing. It has to just happen. One out of ten things I come up with stays around. It’s really kind of a spontaneous process that serendipitously happens once in a while. It’s nice when it does but when it doesn’t, I have a lot of things I am working on.

AV: What is it about the seasons that they have become a central theme in your compositions?

GW: The seasons are the biggest inspiration for me overall. Growing up in eastern Montana, seasons were always so extreme. Whenever I ever heard a song I liked, it just reminded me of a season. If the song resonates with me, I get a picture of a season in a certain topography or place, that’s just kind of what happens to me when I hear something. Everybody is different, some people sing or dance when they listen to music. If I’m listening to a song, I’m analyzing the chords. That’s not the way most people listen but that’s what natural for me. I don’t even hear the lyrics, I just hear the chords.