Bradley Joseph has many irons in the fire these days.
He just released his ninth CD, “Piano Love Songs.” He’s in the midst of composing new arrangements for several popular songs. He’s laying plans for his next recording.
And, for the first time in more than five years, he’s returning to his hometown of Willmar for a concert on Feb. 17.“It’s been awhile and I don’t play that much anymore,” Joseph mused in phone interview last week from White Bear Lake, where he now lives and runs his own business, Robbins Island Music.
Two decades into his career as a songwriter and musician, Joseph has settled into a niche that’s his.
“I’m my own boss. I can do what I want. I can change directions,” he said.
Joseph, 41, has been continually evolving. He wasn’t long out of high school when one of his demo recordings caught the attention of New Age artist Yanni, who hired him sight unseen.
For five years, 1990 to 1995, Joseph toured and recorded with Yanni, appearing in the triple-platinum album and video, “Live at the Acropolis.” He also spent four years as a keyboardist and co-musical director for Grammy winner Sheena Easton.
In 2003 he reunited with Yanni for a tour of 60 cities that included most of the major venues — Madison Square Garden was one — in the United States.
All this time, Joseph also wrote his own music, issuing his first recording, “Hear the Masses,” in 1994.
He spends most of his time nowadays writing songs, composing arrangements, making recordings and publishing and distributing his music.
Reviewers have praised his New Age recordings as “exquisite,” “irresistible” and “extraordinary.” Several of his songs have made it to the New Age top 100 radio playlist.
His recordings are distributed through nearly 400 retail outlets across the United States. He also sells his CDs via mail order and through his Web site, www.bradleyjoseph.com., to fans around the world.
It’s a combination of musicianship with business know-how that helps give him staying power in the notoriously competitive world of music, Joseph said.
When aspiring musicians ask him what it takes to be successful, Joseph says he asks them: Do you want to be a musician or do you want to be in the music business?
“A lot of musicians don’t learn the business,” he said. “You just have to be well-rounded in both areas. You have to understand publishing. You have to understand how you make money, what’s in demand, what helps you make the most out of your talent.
“I’ve come to realize, as the years have gone by, that it’s not like being an athlete. You can be great and no one will ever know you. You start to realize you need some kind of compromise.”
Being a composer and arranger as well as a performer has given Joseph an edge in a market crowded with contenders.
When he steps onto an elevator, he sometimes hears one of his own arrangements being played on Muzak. Through a licensing arrangement, his music is featured on a recently released DVD of Isle Royale National Park. One of his songs can be heard on a commercial for a new cancer drug.
“I couldn’t license my music if it wasn’t mine,” Joseph said. “It has allowed me to create CDs. It separates you from the million other great players.”
Joseph, who was named one of Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans by the Minnesota Jaycees in 2004, manages to visit his hometown once or twice a year. His parents, Chuck and Helen Trochlil, still live in Willmar part of the year and one of his brothers, Steve Trochlil, is a music teacher in the Willmar School District.
He also maintains close ties with high school classmate Tony Horning, who designs all his CD covers.
Joseph’s rural Minnesota roots often figure prominently in his music. One of his original songs, “Wind Farmer,” was inspired by childhood visits to a relative’s farm near Olivia. His company, Robbins Island Music, is named after the city park in Willmar.
Joseph said he often reaches back into the past when he names his songs.
“I listen to it over and over and usually it brings back a memory of something. A lot of my titles reflect those times,” he said. “A lot of music stems back from when I was growing up in Willmar.”
For his Feb. 17 concert, billed as “An Intimate Night of Music,” he plans to play many of the original songs from his recordings.
“I can play in front of 30,000 people with Yanni but I’m more nervous when I come back to Willmar,” he confessed. “I’m just going to have fun with it and put on the best show I can.”