Road To Chiang Mai
(Ponder Dust Music)


Texas-based New Age music composer Bill Wren returns in fine form with his 2016 CD Road To Chiang Mai. For those who don’t know, Chiang Mai is a major city in Thailand, and fittingly, the music here is quite adventurous and quite exotic sounding. The album was recorded at the studio of Hans Zimmer so the sound is quite dramatic and first rate. The music borders on soundtrack sounds and while, there’s no movie yet, the musical scenary of Road To Chiang Mai makes for a fine imaginary soundtrack. Speaking about his sonic mission on the album, Bill tells, "The production approach to Road To Chiang Mai was similar to that of a film or television soundtrack. There is usually a demo that is recorded, then an arrangement is written and scored, followed by the creation of an orchestral mock-up. Finally, live musicians replace or enhance parts of the mock-up. All musicians on this record are highly accomplished. I would encourage you to Google their names as many of them have a a big digital footprint." The music on Road To Chiang Mai was composed by Bill Wren and his collaborator Frank Rallswith the latter also adding in drums, keyboards and orchestral programming. Also on hand are a range of players including Micah Gilliam (guitars) and John Gibson (bass). Topped off with first rate CD mastering by renowned studio expert Bernie Grundman, Bill Wren’s Road To Chiang Mai is a masterpiece of cinematic New Age music. presents an interview with

: Tell us where you’re from originally, where you live now and what you like about it. What other cities and countries do you like to visit or travel to?

Bill Wren: I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas 1951. I live in Rockport, Texas. Rockport is a coastal town we recently built a house right on the bay. The thing I like about where I live is it's close to the ocean. I visited most of the Caribbean countries from Mexico to Panama and Canada, Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia.

mwe3: It’s interesting that you call your new CD The Road To Chiang Mai. Did you always have a desire to travel to exotic Thailand and have the interest to record an equally exotic sounding New Age album with Asian overtones? What were your impressions of Thailand and how easy was it to put those images and memories into musical form?

Bill Wren: My future wife signed on to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was intrigued and signed on as well. So we embarked on a whirlwind trip to Thailand and Cambodia, the latter where we also visited the ancient temples at Ankor Wat.

It did not take me long to fall in love with the sights, sounds and most of all the people of Thailand. I was totally impressed with their kind and gentle spirit and the simplicity of their manner of life. It was very easy to put my experience and memories to music… it came quite naturally.

mwe3: What are your earlier albums and how does The Road To Chiang Mai further your musical mission so to speak? Are your early albums still in print? Many listeners are finally getting a chance to hear your music thanks to your new album.

Bill Wren: In 2007, I began composing my first award-winning album, One Day In A life, which was released in 2009. The recording hit #1 on FM New Age radio stations worldwide and I was nominated for Best New Artist Of The Year. Additionally, several songs from this album received airplay on Sirius XM satellite radio, Dish Network and Direct TV.

My second album, Journey Around the Sun- A Mayan Odyssey was released in 2011. It also went to #1 on the Zone Music Reporter ( radio charts and was also nominated in the categories of Best Album Of The Year, Best Contemporary Instrumental Album of the Year and Best Cover Art Of The Year. Both albums are still in print and are being sold. All 3 albums are very different but I like each one of them. I have no favorites. Each one is a part of me and a window into my life events.

mwe3: Tell us about your working with Frank Ralls, who adds drums and keyboards. How do you and Frank collaborate when making music together? Are you playing instruments too or did you mostly compose and orchestrate the music on The Road To Chiang Mai album? How did you meet Frank, where does he live and would you consider more music with him in the future?

Bill Wren: Frank is indispensable to the success of music. He is one of the most talented people I know. I send him my compositions in a demo form and let him know my thoughts on direction and we work together until the song is finished. I do not play any instruments on the finished product. We have become good friends over the ten plus years we have worked together. We have also started a publishing company called Ponder Dust Publishing, LLC based here in Texas. When we met, Frank lived in Florida and he now resides in California. We are a team and plan on working together in the future.

mwe3: I know you’re a big Beatles fans so who else would you consider to be among your early music influences and when did you venture into soundtrack and New Age instrumental music? Was progressive rock and jazz a big influence on your music? Do you feel New Age instrumental music is finally getting the full attention it deserves?

Bill Wren: In 1972 I went to a Moody Blues concert and that is when my music direction changed. I fell in love with the way they fused rock/blues and orchestra music together. Because I love those genres, I strive to bring my music more into a contemporary instrumental format. I also love the music of other countries so a World Music genre sometimes is in the mix.

New age music needs to be broke up into different categories in my opinion. Smooth jazz, easy listening, instrumental, and others is not the same as New Age meditation or Zen music. When it is all lumped together I believe some of the genres I just listed suffer. Because a lot of people think New Age is “woo woo” and never listen to New Age channels.

mwe3: How was the music on The Road To Chiang Mai built in the studio? Were there a lot of overdubs? Tell us about some of the other players and string musicians on the album.

Bill Wren: The production approach to Road To Chiang Mai was similar to that of a film or television soundtrack. There is usually a demo that is recorded, then an arrangement is written and scored, followed by the creation of an orchestral mock-up. Finally, live musicians replace or enhance parts of the mock-up. All musicians on this record are highly accomplished. I would encourage you to Google their names as many of them have a a big digital footprint.

mwe3: I also read that you recorded the album in the studio of Hans Zimmer. What was that like and do you consider Zimmer an influence on your own music? It’s also interesting that Bernie Grundman did such a fine job on the album mastering.

Bill Wren: Recording at Hans Zimmer’s studio was a privilege to say the least. The atmosphere is quite electric and inspirational. His style and sound have had a huge influence on so many of us. Mastering is an art form in and of itself. There is no substitute for a good mastering engineer. Each mastering engineer is like a musician - no two are alike.

mwe3: How were the strings recorded on The Road To Chiang Mai? They really add some amazing touches, especially on track 6, “Harmonia”. I think you’ve created a new musical genre all on that one track. Are orchestral strings more challenging to work with compared with synth strings and vintage keyboards sounds?

Bill Wren: The strings were recorded as a section of 6 players. We recorded numerous takes for each song. Once we found that take we liked, we doubled those takes 2 or 3 times. While there are incredible options out there for sampled strings, there’s nothing like the real thing. However, there are times when one might desire a specific unique sound that can only be achieved by manipulating layers of vintage synth and sampled strings. This is where you cross over into sound design and production. Road To Chiang Mai certainly has a lot of that from start to finish. We like to keep things unique, original and enjoyable...

mwe3: What’s been the reaction to The Road To Chiang Mai among the press and critics are you happy with the response from the public? How can you make further inroads into having your music heard by the music audience in general? Have you been thinking of other new directions to go in next regarding your upcoming music plans?

Bill Wren: The new album is doing rather well. You can see some of the reviews at this link. There are also other reviews and they have all been positive. I have done 3 radio campaigns and two press releases so far. I'm also very active with the Grammy awards, where I'm also a voting member. The album, the video “Enchanted Kingdom” and Frank Ralls as a producer have been submitted this year for nominations. To be honest, I don't have any thoughts on what's next. I just wait and see where life takes me...


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