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Big in the Netherlands

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

Gert Jan Gjaltema has seen 80 of Rich Wyman’s performances in the Netherlands.

Gjaltema began listening to the Utah piano man’s music because he heard Wyman sounded like Bryan Adams and Jimmy Barnes. He has since been a devoted supporter of Wyman’s music. Gjaltema works at Vanderveen’s, a department store in Assen, which has sold 500 copies of Wyman’s album, "Where we stand" a number that has trumped the typical top-selling album sales in the store.

A lot of it had to do with Gjaltema, who says he recommends Wyman to his customers when they ask him about new artists. Gjaltema says that he and other fans in the Netherlands appreciate Wyman’s intensity and his versatility on stage.

"In the 21 years I’ve been working at Vanderveen’s, there has not been an artist that has struck me like this," he writes in an e-mail to The Park Record. "His music transcends ages, races and is very universal He’s probably one of the reasons I’m still in the music business. It’s people like Rich who make it worthwhile. When music has passion, it’s something that sticks to the audience. You can’t fake it."

Wyman’s bon-voyage celebration this Saturday at the Sidecar is in honor of his 50th tour of Europe, one that will include several stops to play in cities like Utrecht and Ridderkerk in the Netherlands, and a visit (his fifth) with Gjaltema in Assen.

The tour will promote "Embrace," Wyman’s July CD/DVD release, which incidentally works nicely with his anniversary. The album and video footage are compiled from Wyman’s live performances since 2000, including one filmed in high-definition at the Salt Lake City Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

The lyrics of his songs are about love, but also get political. When Wyman sings he doesn’t seem to disassociate the two. The music shows Wyman’s range from lithe classical piano in his song, "Weird Man’s March," to the rock songs and ballads he and hard rock guitarist and keyboardist Eddie Van Halen wrote together.

The first time Wyman toured Europe to play piano, he lost his voice singing back-to-back concerts in Switzerland. That was in 1988, Wyman was 24, fresh out of the Manhattan School of Music and New York University and one year after he met his wife, Lisa Needham, whom he often sings with.

Nine years passed before Wyman toured Europe again. He moved to Park City to

Perform nightly at a piano bar on Main Street, polishing his distinct, raspy pipes. Through friends in town, he met and collaborated with Van Halen, who, incidentally, was born in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Wyman returned to Europe again to promote his second album, "Fatherless Child" in Ireland. Wyman calls the 18-day trip from radio station to radio station by cab and by train a spiritual awakening.

"I looked out of the window of this taxi and said under my breath, ‘I feel like I’m home,’" he remembers. Most of his songs to that point seemed to be about home wanting it, finding it, leaving it. His birthplace was Allentown, Penn., but Ireland inspired him in a new way.

"It was the first time I saw success as my life, rather than a pursuit," he says. "I realized success wasn’t something you achieved, it’s something that you are Ireland opened a floodgate."

Wyman says most of his success since then has been in the densely-populated country of Holland, where Gjaltema has cleared a portion of a wall in his music store for all things Wyman, dressing it with posters Gjaltema enlarges himself, using his photographs from concerts.

Wyman first toured the country in the fall of 1997, months after touring Ireland. He worked and ultimately signed with a Dutch record company, which called him to Europe and helped him to produce two top 40 hits: "Little Things" and "So What." At Park Pop in the Hague, Wyman found himself playing to a crowd of more than 350,000 people.

In an industry where musicians like Madonna, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are successfully breaking from their traditional path, Wyman has likewise changed his course. More and more, he is involved behind the scenes, maintaining an artist’s creativity, while exercising the business side of his brain. Since his fifth album, "Factory," all of his albums have been on his own label, Auspicious Records, which he founded in 2004.

In part, Wyman enjoys the freedom to write and sing about what he cares about, without censorship from an overriding company. Wyman takes his rights seriously and has been a political force in Park City. He helped to found the Coalition of Resident Renters, Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth and recently, Park City For Peace. One of his best performances was not in the Neatherlands, but in Salt Lake, when he played to a rally during President George W. Bush’s visit in 2006. One of the songs, "Gonna Get Him Daddy," was written for the occasion. "Two countries went to war," begins the song. "The rich stayed home, they sent the poor."

"It was 5,000 people, totally amped for two songs," he remembers. "Of all the times I’ve played, I really wish I could have taped that."

Wyman is happy with "Embrace," but looks forward to getting back in the studio, with plans to release a new album this winter that will include his new single, "Colors," currently available as a digital download on iTunes and Rhapsody.

Rich Wyman’s 50th European Tour sendoff performance

Who:Pianoman/singer-songwriter Rich Wyman, performing with special local guests including his wife, Lisa Needham, and Park City Mayor Dana Williams.

When: Saturday, Nov. 10. Doors open at 6 p.m., the performance begins at 10 p.m.

Where: The Sidecar, 333 Main Street, Second Floor.

Why: In honor of Wyman’s CD/DVD release, "Embrace," and his 50th tour of Europe.


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