Winston Hall: Sun Studio Recording
Article in Southern Hopsitality Magazine Winston Hall: Shreveport's Own Piano Man If you have ever stepped foot in Superior's Steakhouse Piano Bar on a Saturday night, then you've already met Winston Hall - and he is quickly becoming known as one of Shreveport's best entertainers. Hall's love of music began at the age of five when his mother introduced him to the piano. He says he owes his piano career to his persistent mother. "She never let me stop practicing," Hall said. "She would set the kitchen timer for thirty minutes and I had to sit at the piano no matter what, even when I was five years old and my feet didn't reach the floor yet." While studying to become a journalist, he moonlighted as a piano bar entertainer. "I was eighteen when I got my first real piano gig," Hall said. "It was at a Chinese restaurant in San Angelo, Texas, and a man came up to me and requested 'Piano Man.' When I told him I didn't know it he gave me this look of complete disbelief that I'll never forget. I went home and learned it that night." After earning a journalism degree in 2004, Hall moved to San Antonio and then Nashville, where he came close to abandoning his piano forever. "I remember once in Nashville, I booked a gig downtown and when I showed up the night of the gig they had double booked and told me to go home. I remember standing on a lonely, dark, side street, just like in a movie scene. I was ready to quit right there. But when I came to Shreveport, it really felt like genuine entertainers and creativity were embraced here. It was refreshing." When Winston first arrived in Shreveport, local casting agent Brinkley Maginnis introduced him to the steakhouse and suggested he play the piano there. "From the moment I met Winston, he made me smile," she said. "Winston is one of those rare men that truly has heartfelt emotion, passion, and caring, and is not afraid to share it with you in life and in his songs. His spirit and charm always capture an audience and keep them coming back for more." In 2007, when Hall first relocated to Shreveport, he also began working in the film industry. His experiences, he says, will last a lifetime. While working on his first film, Mad Money, Hall had a unique experience with acting legend Ted Danson, an experience that inspired him to keep pursuing music. "That was a really funny night," Hall said. "Ted's apartment flooded and I got sent over to help him move his stuff. While we were working, we chatted about life and music and he shared his wisdom with me. It was kind of surreal because when you grow up in Gatesville, Texas, you never think at any point in life that you'll be having a heart to heart with Ted Danson." Nowadays, Hall focuses almost entirely on being an entertainer. Luckily, Nashville's entertainment loss is Shreveport's gain. After playing Superior's Steakhouse Piano Bar over 100 times, not to mention hundreds of hours playing the piano at venues all the way from New Orleans to Nashville, Hall has created an entertaining style all his own - and that style comes with avid fans. "Winston Hall is such a talented musician," said Bishop Porter, a Shreveport local who first heard Winston perform at Superior's Steakhouse. "He's a natural entertainer and really lights up the stage and draws in the audience. You can tell he loves what he does and it comes across when he's performing. That's what makes it so fun to see him play and hear his music." Hall recently released a self-titled EP, which is garnering attention and has received radio play in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Hall combines the influences of great artists who inspired him like Billy Joel and Ray Charles with his own soul and creates a style uniquely his own. His lyrics examine his own struggles in show business, his nights in smoke-filled blues bars, and the revelations he has had sitting behind a piano almost his whole life. "I'm always looking for a bigger stage," Hall said. "Being successful in music is like trying to surf a wave. The biggest challenge is catching the wave in the first place. But lucky for me, I really feel like I've caught the wave here in Shreveport." Because of internet play and because he has performed live in front of thousands of people, Hall has fans all over the United States. When he's not doing solo performances, Hall performs routinely with his band. The band includes the legendary Shanks brothers, Tim and Jimmy, who have backed Hall since he was in college. "Winston Hall has a smooth, soulful voice that is complimented by his expertise in 'tickling the ivories,' said Vicki Lybrand, who lives in North Carolina. "Closing your eyes...it's easy to imagine that you are in the presence of a young Billy Joel or the bluesy John Legend. You owe it to yourself to seek out where Winston is playing...cozy up to the stage and get lost in his performance." Hall is not only an amazing pianist, songwriter and singer --- he is truly an entertainer in every sense of the word. For now, Shreveport's own piano man will continue to entertain crowds whenever and wherever possible. Where does he see himself in ten years? "Playing the piano and still making music!" Hall said. Q: Who has inspired you the most as a piano entertainer? A: Well, there are the obvious ones like Ray Charles and Billy Joel, but I am really inspired by just about anyone who finds a way to be successful doing what they love. Q: What's the funniest thing you had happen to you while playing the piano? A: Oh, gosh. Where do I start? I got a bloody lip once from a microphone stand being shoved into my face accidentally. I had a lady leave a five dollar tip in my drink. The occasional fight has broken out on or near the piano and every now and then someone spills a drink on me. Once in a blue moon someone tries to crawl on the piano and do a dance, but that never turns out well. Q: You recently released a self-titled EP. Tell us about it. A: I've always wanted to record some of my own songs and it's a project I'm really proud of. Rob Brazzel at Precision Digital Audio did the recordings for us and they turned out really well. The songs come from a deep, profound place. For example, the first track is called "Nashville, California" and examines the struggles of trying to be successful in the film and music industries. I have a whole pile of songs and hope to record a full length studio album soon. But time is money and a project that large is always financially ambitious. Q: What are your other interests besides music? A: I really enjoy writing. When I dove into the film culture here it inspired me to try screenwriting. I chronicled some of my piano adventures in a screenplay that I fittingly titled "Piano Man." Q: What advice would you have for young musicians? A: Overnight success takes about ten years!