Joseph flourishes under Foster’s care
By STEPHEN COOKE Entertainment Reporter
While Phoenix pianist William Joseph’s first trip to Canada was a hectic one, driving across country in a van while opening Josh Groban arena shows, his latest jaunt opening for the poperatic quartet Il Divo at the Halifax Metro Centre on Saturday will likely come with a few more amenities.
A musician since the age of four, Joseph had one of those fairy tale starts to his career as a major label artist when he learned Canadian uber-producer David Foster was coming to Phoenix to conduct the orchestra for a fundraiser with Rod Stewart and Reba McEntire. A friend got him in to meet Foster during soundcheck with the simple aim of saying hello and handing him a CD, but it turned into something much more.
“In between Rod and Reba, I was introduced to him, and my friend asked if I could play his piano,” says the Reprise Records instrumentalist from his hometown. “So David said, ‘No, not at all, come on up!’ He’s very spontaneous, so he took me up in front of this world class band, and David looks at me and says, ‘Play something.’
“I immediately felt the cold sweat come over me, and I played this song I had written, which is the title track of my CD, Within. After about 20 seconds, David motions to the drummer to join in. All of a sudden the whole band joined in, I’ve got David Foster conducting over me, and I’m thinking, ’Please, please don’t mess up!’ Right after I finished, David gave me a high five, everybody in the room started clapping, and he said, ’What was that song?’”
Foster invited Joseph to come back that night and open the show with his song. The pianist quickly phoned his wife of just one week and asked, “Honey, do you have a nice dress?”
Joseph’s performance that night, and the standing ovation that followed persuaded Foster to produce his debut album Within, which features a blend of Joseph’s originals, familiar classics and even orchestral versions of rock anthems like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir or Kansas’s Dust in the Wind featuring Quebec star Garou.
“Garou is the man!” exclaims Joseph about the singer best known for playing Quasimodo in Luc Plamondon’s musical Notre Dame de Paris. “I had never even heard of him, but we were in the studio working on Dust in the Wind, and it was missing something, we couldn’t make it sound how we wanted it.
“Garou just happened to be in the next studio, so David walked over and brought him back. At first we thought we’d just have him sing the chorus, but as soon as he started singing, my jaw dropped. I forgot ‘just the chorus,’ we had to have him do the whole thing.”
Besides getting him a major label deal and producing his debut CD, Foster’s influence has also helped Joseph get prestigious gigs like opening for Barbra Streisand, and performing at a birthday party for Maria Schriver, a.k.a. Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Arnold called — I guess I should call him the governor — he called David looking for someone to perform. I’ve actually played at three different events for him, but this was a very intimate party, there were only 40 people there, like Tom Hanks and other high profile people, just at his home.
“I’ve watched a ton of his movies as a kid, and it was so fun to be there. He was behind me in this buffet line and I just wanted to arm wrestle the guy. So when he asked me, ‘So Villiam, how ahld vere you ven you stahted playing da piahno?’ it was hard to keep from laughing. I couldn’t believe I was having a conversation with this guy in his house.”