Artist Spotlight with musician Neal Cranston

A Western student and musician with many talents 

Natalie Dean | Entertainment Editor

While majoring in history and minoring in geography at Western, senior Neal Cranston has still been able to build himself a strong audience for his music over the years. Cranston taught himself how to play the guitar, harmonica and has continuously developed 14 years of experience with the piano. He regularly explores different areas of music, but the piano is his favorite instrument to play. Cranston said he learned to “train the ear to play what you hear;” he admits it’s not the most traditional route to go when mastering instruments, but it’s kept his passion for music alive because of its organic roots.

He first found his passion for music in the third grade, where he began teaching himself to play piano by ear. He was first drawn to music on his own and spent time at home in Canby, OR ⏤ where he trained his ear to pick out melodies and practiced his piano skills. After he started honing his talents in different music genres and gaining more experience, a family friend encouraged him to take lessons and explore the scales on the piano. 

The years of his hard work have paid off, with his talents booking him in-person gigs at restaurants, weddings and wineries. Cranston described one of his favorite experiences which occurred last December. He was playing Christmas music on a beautiful grand piano at a winery and saw CJ McCollum from the Portland Trailblazers in the audience. 

When he isn’t playing for venues or famous basketball players, Cranston works on his own music, and even released his first single, “Make it Without You,” this September on all streaming platforms.

With help from some friends, he was able to record and produce this single that incorporates old school rock with a modern vibe. He wrote the lyrics in a few days and crafted the rest of the song for a few months before releasing it, taking time to make sure the song stayed true to his rock roots and live band feel, while also taking influence from modern music.

Along with developing more albums and EPs, Cranston is also curating music that highlights his strengths in piano and other instruments. He hopes to release more music that incorporates raw human feelings and experiences, as he believes that “there’s a lot of power inside the human aspects of music.”

These days, Cranston can be found performing socially distanced shows at certain local restaurants and venues, like Wayward Sandwiches in Canby, OR. If he’s not performing in person, he’s probably developing his website, or posting more music on his YouTube page, Neal Cranston. Make sure to keep up with new songs, shows and interactive posts on his Instagram @neal_cranston_music.

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