Yanni Bio: In His Own Words – Video Exclusive, News, Photos
Yiannis Chryssomallis, or Yanni, as he is better known by his stage name is a composer, keyboardist and producer of Greek origin. His new age musical style is a blend of classical, jazz and rock music, popularizing the use of a classical orchestra and electronic synthesizers. Yanni continues to be an extremely prolific artist, with multiple albums making it to the top of the Billboard charts and a couple of Grammy nominations.
Yanni: Early Life
Yanni was born on the Greek island Kalamata in 1954. He exhibited his musical talent at an early age and started learning how to play the piano at the age of 6, which he did at his own pace without formal training. His family didn’t object to him learning how to play an instrument, but he also wasn’t encouraged to pursue music as a professional career, as he shared with uInterview. In 1972, at the age of 18, Yanni moved to Minnesota, where he attended college, majoring in psychology. “After I got my degree in psychology, I decided to try music for a year and see how I liked it. And I was the happiest I’ve ever been, and that’s how I knew music was going to be the only thing I was going to be doing for the rest of my life,” Yanni told uInterview exclusively.
Yanni: Early Music Career and Recognition
In 1977, Yanni worked alongside drummer Charlie Adams in the Minneapolis-based rock band Chameleon for the next couple of years, which made several self-released albums and toured extensively. After leaving the group, he relocated to Los Angeles where he hoped to write film music and compose as a solo artist. Yanni’s first major success came in the early 1980s with the release of his first studio album Optimystique, which was re-released twice by Atlantic Records in 1984 and by Private Music in 1989. The latter label released Yanni’s third album Out of Silence, after which he set out on his first major tour. In the late 1980s, he devoted himself mostly to writing music for TV and motion pictures.
It was in 1989 that he met and started a long-term relationship with actress Linda Evans, which would last well into the late 90s. Evans starred in the 1990 film She’ll Take Romance, for which Yanni wrote the score. His relationship with Evans earned him extensive visibility in the early 90s. He appeared alongside his partner on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in People magazine, but at the same time he was an extremely prolific and tireless music artist which earned him well-deserved fame beyond his relationship with the celebrity. In the early 1990s, Yanni was at the peak of his early career with two Grammy-nominated albums — the 1992 Dare to Dream and the 1993 In My Time.
Yanni: Life at the Acropolis and World Performances
The artist’s growing popularity led him to one of his most outstanding performances — the Live at the Acropolis concert, filmed in September 1993, which took place in the more than 2000 years old Herodes Atticus Theater at the Athenian Acropolis. To promote the event and the subsequent audio and video records, Yanni made a risky investment of $2 million from his personal finances. The concert at this iconic venue became one of the best-selling concert films, second only to Michal Jackson’s Thriller. It was also broadcasted by PBS in more than 60 countries and is one of its highest ranking programs in terms of views.
The recognition earned through the Acropolis concert, brought new opportunities for Yanni to play at similar historical locations around the world in addition to some of the world’s most prestigious stages like the Royal Albert Hall. In March 1997, Yanni became one of the few Western artists ever allowed to play at the Taj Mahal in India. A couple of months later, he also performed in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, making him the first Westerner to do so. The footage from both of these performances comprises the live album and video recording titled Tribute, which Yanni released in November of the same year.
Unfortunately, the pressures of his world touring and newfound fame as well as the end of his 9-year relationship with actress Linda Evans in 1998 caused Yanni to take a two-year hiatus from his music career. During this time he disappeared from the public eye, reuniting with his family in Greece and traveling the world.
Yanni: Reinvented Sound in the 2000s
Yanni’s absence from the stage allowed him to gain a new perspective on his artistry and approach his compositions in an innovative way. He returned in 2000 with his first studio album in 7 years, titled If I Could Tell You, which debuted at No. 20 on the Billboard charts, making it his highest-ranking debut. This was his first release with Virgin Record, and it’s a markedly more personal in its compositions. The cultural influences of Yanni’s travels are most clearly reflected in the consequent 2003 album Ethnicity, which sonically represents the diversity of a multicultural society.
For the next 6 years, Yanni made scarce appearances until 2009, when he launched his own label — Yanni-Wake Entertainment. In the same year, he released the album Yanni Voices both in English and in Spanish, in which he collaborated with vocalists for the first time in his career. He reimagined his classic songs with added vocals, which proved to be well-acclaimed and resulted in an extensive tour.
Yanni: Recent Projects
In the past few years Yanni has gone on to release several albums with varied content, inspiration and sound. The 2011 Truth of Touch was his first album with new material since 2003 and it showed his return to his instrumental, electronic roots as well as his willingness to experiment with new genres and crossovers. The album topped the Billboard new age category and went on to become the highest-selling new age album of 2011. On his consequent album, Inspirato, released in 2014, Yanni once again explored vocal music through collaborations with some of the most iconic classical vocalists, including Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Russell Watson and Vittorio Grigolo among others. Yanni’s most recent and also his 18th studio album, Sensuous Chill was released on January 29, 2016. He describes it as “consistent” and also his “favorite album right now.”
Yanni: Life Beyond the Music Stage
Yanni’s career has been greatly aided by his collaborative efforts with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which has helped him distribute his live performance work globally. Many of his performances have been centered in politically and economically troubled areas around the world in an effort to bring support and awareness of the issues surrounding those places. He played in Tunisia after the terrorist attacks in July 2014 and in Egypt after the Egyptian Crisis.
In February 2003, Yanni published his autobiography, Yanni In Words, co-written with David Rensin. The book quickly became a New York Times non-fiction bestseller and eventually rose to No. 14 on the New York Times bestseller list.
Beyond the stage, Yanni has been involved with the conservation efforts of the World Wide Fund for Nature (the World Wildlife Fund, WWF), including a $50,000 guaranteed donation to the “Panda Adoption Kit” program, and he has recently become a spokesperson for NASA.