About the artist
Raphael is a guitarist
He picked up the instrument as a youth and never set it down. His latest album is ‘Star Lullaby’. A fascinating tour de force and a display of Raphael’s acoustic guitar artistry and talent, Star Lullaby is a unique approach to instrumental music. Presented as a two-disc set, the first disc holds fourteen solo guitar pieces played with grace and intimacy, while the second disc offers the same recordings with the addition of stellar guest stars on a variety of accompanying instruments. The resultant contrast turns Star Lullaby into an exploration of two musical landscapes; one of more subtle and personal solo works followed by expanded textures as other instruments are added to the mix on the second disc. Disc two also showcases Groten’s versatility; featuring his steel and nylon string guitars, ukulele, percussion, clay whistle and voice. The list of guest artists reads like a “Who’s Who” of contemporary instrumentalists: bassist Michael Manring, cellist Eugene Friesen, flutist Ron Korb, violinist Charlie Bisharat, percussionist Jeff Haynes, vocalist Noah Wilding and Will Ackerman on guitar. Star Lullaby was produced by Grammy winner Ackerman, Tom Eaton and the artist. Eaton engineered, mixed and mastered the album.
Where did this art come from?
Behind the music
Acoustic guitarist Raphael Groten waited four years to release Star Lullaby, his follow up album to 2015’s Journey Home. Many artists might rush to embrace the recognition that Groten achieved with his debut, but he chose to allow the critical success to gestate, to develop into his next step in his recording pantheon. This perseverance was borne of his commitment to personal spiritual growth and to use his talent for the wellbeing of others on a broad scale. In the four years since the release of Journey Home, the artist worked diligently to record its follow-up, his second with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton. The original guitar tracks for this album were recorded at the end of 2015. The featured musicians were added over the last three years. Star Lullaby is, indeed, a culmination of efforts from across the country over the course of four years’ time.
Raphael Groten was born in Philadelphia on Christmas Day, 1973, into a true music-loving environment. From happy times as the family sang during long car trips, to his father’s period of harpsichord study, to the ubiquitous presence of multiple guitars during holiday gatherings, there seemed to be something musical going on at all times. In addition, his father’s sizable jazz and classical vinyl collection, with a particular emphasis on Bossa Nova and Latin jazz, was central to his childhood experience. Raphael began with the saxophone as his chosen instrument, starting with alto sax in the 4th grade and graduating to tenor through grades 7 to 10. He moved on to guitar at age 13, learning basic chords and fingerpicking from his mother and sister, and as they say, the rest is history. While still in high school, he became immersed in folk music, composing over 100 songs with friends who collaborated on lyrics. In 1992, Raphael moved on to formal studies at the University of Vermont, where he majored in Philosophy and minored in Music. After his graduation, he launched his ten-piece Latin/jazz/funk ensemble, Saudade. The group performed extensively during the late ’90s in Burlington, Vermont, and released two albums of Raphael’s own compositions.
Even as he was experiencing success with his band, something began to stir inside him; some part of him wanted to affect positive change in the world. In 1993, while taking a holistic health class, he met his first shamanic teacher, Susan Grimaldi. She re-entered his life as a healer and teacher in 2002, after his four month old son was involved in a near fatal accident. Raphael first experienced the healing power of sound during that first night in intensive care, as he played guitar for his son, and the following day when a therapeutic harpist played for his family in his son’s room. It was in this moment that Raphael had an epiphany – his life calling was to compose, perform and eventually record intentional healing music. Shortly thereafter, he began shamanic studies, first with Grimaldi and later with Zacciah Blackburn in the fields of Sound Healing and consciousness. After years of intensive study, Raphael became a practitioner, offering individual sessions, group work and apprenticeships, using voice, medicine drums, rattles, crystal and brass bowls, gongs, flutes, guitars and more. As an extension of his involvement with sound and consciousness, Raphael enthusiastically enjoys his work as a preschool music teacher and private guitar teacher.
Groten credits the beginning of his recording career to his intuition. During his nightly meditations, he was guided to email his song “Black River” to Will Ackerman, Windham Hill label founder and owner of Imaginary Road Studios. He did so, asking for assistance in producing his first recording of solo guitar for healing. Ackerman responded the next day and a working friendship was formed. Three months later, Journey Home, was recorded at Will’s studio. The experience left a huge impact on Raphael, as he states “I would be remiss in not mentioning the enormous presence of Will Ackerman in my life… I now see, first hand, Will’s influence and heart in supporting the music he loves”. That is why Groten returned to Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios for his second album. And it shows in the continued rapport that the Grammy-winning Ackerman has with the relative neophyte, Groten.
The artist’s two-disc release, Star Lullaby, displays the special relationship between Raphael and Ackerman in abundance. It will almost certainly grow his following as one of the most promising acoustic guitar instrumentalist composers and performers in the genre.