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Tell me A little Q&A

Pianist Jim Brickman has embraced the challenge of soothing the stressed not only with New Age music but with books, too. He has written "Love Notes" and "Simple Things," both of which advocate taking time out to relax.

Which is pretty funny, because romance and relaxation are two things that Brickman, judging from what he told The News, has a hard time with.

Brickman, who will be playing a Christmas concert at 8 p.m. Saturday in Shea's Performing Arts Center, admitted on the phone, with touching candor, that he has sleep problems. His stop in Buffalo is the penultimate concert in a whirlwind 33-date tour that began in early November. He is single, which seems to be a result of his constant travel. "It's hard to be with someone who's in a different city all the time," he confesses sadly.

Because he failed to call The News at the agreed-upon time, we had to get his cell number and bug him. Charmingly, he apologized profusely, and, as the conversation unfolded, he couldn't have been nicer.

>You got your start writing jingles in Cleveland, your hometown. What was that like?

I mostly did regional stuff, for grocery stores and banks, the Ohio lottery. I thought it was really fun. It made you really adept at doing styles of music really well. One day it could be a reggae thing, the next day country. It honed the creative skills of writing on demand. It also honed my skills at writing melody. I took to it.

>Who were your early inspirations?

I was pretty mainstream. I was really into singer/songwriters, like Carole King. And I was an Eric Carmen fan, because he lived in Cleveland, was sort of breaking at the time. Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, the singer/songwriters of the '70s. It was a great era, especially if you were of a suburban, pop sensitivity. Cleveland is a rock 'n' roll town. I was really a very suburban, pop, mainstream kid. I wasn't a jazz aficionado. Once in a while I went to the symphony, but my parents weren't that into music.

>Folks listen to your music to relax. What do you listen to when you want to relax?

What makes me feel the most comfortable is standards. I like songs, great singers. I'm a fan of Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra.

>What qualifies you to give advice to the stressed?

Part of it is, because my life is. I am one of those people, I have a very difficult time with it. I have trouble saying no, chilling out.

>What saves you?

One, having people around who are like family to you. That way you're not always trying to be someone you're not.

The other thing is sleeping. Whenever something happens to me, the reason always seems to be lack of sleep. Sleep is something that I really try to push for.

>Is there anyone you're dying to perform with?

I always wanted to work with Burt Bacharach. I've left notes in his dressing room. I really want to work harder to make it happen.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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