Tom Brislin

Last updated
Tom Brislin
Background information
Born (1973-10-05) October 5, 1973 (age 50)
New Jersey, United States
Occupation(s)Keyboardist, songwriter, singer, producer, writer
Instrument(s)Piano, keyboards, percussion, vocals

Tom Brislin (born October 5, 1973[ citation needed ]) is an American keyboardist, songwriter, singer, producer, and author. In December 2018, American progressive rock band Kansas announced Brislin as the group’s keyboardist; his playing, vocals, and prominent songwriting contributions are featured on the band’s most recently released studio album, The Absence of Presence (2020). [1] [2]



Early Life

Brislin was born and raised in New Jersey, the youngest of five children in a musically inclined household [3] in Dunellen, New Jersey. [4] His older siblings provided his first exposure to music, which consisted of album-oriented 1970s rock acts such as Foreigner, Yes, and Led Zeppelin. [5] As a young piano student in the 1980s, he drew inspiration from pop acts such as Prince, Men At Work, Duran Duran, and The Police, as well as keyboardists like Keith Emerson and Herbie Hancock. [3] Brislin formed his first bands with childhood friends at the age of 10; by 12, he had cemented his aspiration to be a professional musician. [6]


Brislin graduated from Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey, and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2016. [7] He went on to study classical and jazz piano performance at William Paterson University under the tutelage of notable musicians Harold Mabern, Norman Simmons,Rufus Reid, and others. During this period, Brislin performed in a variety of venues and styles, ranging from solo piano, jazz quartets, rock bands, church music, and dance bands. [6]

Late 90s-2001

As an undergraduate at William Paterson, he formed a recording project with fellow student musicians which evolved into the live band You Were Spiraling. With Brislin as frontman, keyboardist, and songwriter, the group performed throughout the New York City metro area and toured nationwide as a supporting act for They Might Be Giants throughout the late 90s and early ‘00s. Brislin produced 3 recordings with You Were Spiraling, including a self-titled EP distributed via the Hello Recording Club (a subscription record label launched by TMBG’s John Flansburgh) in 1997. [8]

In 1996, Brislin also played keyboards for fellow New Jersey resident Glen Burtnik (formerly of Styx). Burtnik connected Brislin with Meat Loaf (through musical director Kasim Sulton), which led to him joining the singer's band as keyboardist for three years (1998-2001). His tenure with Meat Loaf encompassed concert tours of Europe, the United Kingdom, and the US, as well as numerous television appearances, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, and a 1999 episode of VH1 Storytellers. Brislin’s piano work is featured on the artist’s 2003 album, Couldn’t Have Said It Better . [6] [9]

During this period, Brislin released 30 Day Keyboard Workout, published by Alfred Music in 1999. Positive reviews for the book in Keyboard Magazine led to his contributing a monthly column entitled “Keyboard Basics” and working for the publication as a senior correspondent and contributing editor from 2001-2014. [10]

Prog Rock Notoriety & Spiraling (2001-2009)

In July 2001, Brislin came to notoriety within the progressive rock sphere as keyboardist for Yes, joining them on their YesSymphonic tour in support of their nineteenth studio album, Magnification . [11] The tour covered North America and Europe, and ran from July to December 2001. [12] Two performances featuring Brislin on keyboards were recorded at Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam and released as the 2002 DVD and 2009 CD Symphonic Live . [11] [13]

As his time with Yes and Meat Loaf concluded, Brislin resumed the helm of You Were Spiraling. The group solidified its longest-lasting four member lineup (with Marty O'Kane on guitar, Bob Hart on bass, and Paul Wells on drums) and shortened its name to Spiraling in 2002. [3]

The band independently released its first full-length album, Transmitter , in 2002. The New York Times praised the album for “show[ing] off [Brislin’s] talents on synthesizer in 80's-flavored modern rock numbers like ''The Girl on Top of the Piano'' and ''Lightning Twice.''” As the album gained traction with national college and commercial radio airplay, The Aquarian Weekly hailed the Transmitter as “an instant classic.” In support of the album, Spiraling played to nationwide audiences, often as an opening band for acts such as OK Go, They Might Be Giants, and The Violent Femmes. [14] [15]

Through his work with Yes and Keyboard Magazine, Brislin was drafted as the keyboardist for English progressive rock band Camel for select dates of their Farewell Tour, with Spiraling as support act on selected dates. Brislin’s time with Camel culminated in the band’s headlining performance at NearFest 2003. [16] [17]

In 2004, Brislin was a member of the house band featured on the pilot of John McEnroe’s short-lived CNBC talk show, McEnroe . The episode also included bandmates Glen Burtnik and Patti Smyth, with guest star Sting lending backing vocals to the group. [18]

In August 2004, Spiraling released its sophomore recording effort, Challenging Stage, marking its launch at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey. The album was listed as the #1 indie album of the year by multiple press outlets, including Upstage Magazine, The Courier News, and Aquarian Weekly. [19] [20]

Brislin spent 2007 serving as musical director and keyboardist for Deborah Harry during her supporting turn in Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors concert series, followed by her own headlining Necessary Evil concert tour, both encompassing North America. Spiraling alums Hart, Wells, and guitarist J.P. Doherty collectively joined Brislin on the road as Harry’s backing band. [21]

Spiraling’s 2008 album, Time Travel Made Easy, was to be the band’s swan song to date. The Daily Vault praised TTME’s “audacious” directive of “[capturing] an audience with an extended narrative of...pop songs”, describing it as “a fairly aggressively uncommercial album, full of smart, challenging...ideas that force the listener to...think and appreciate the larger vision of the artist.” [22] The band quietly disbanded months after the album was released. While they did regroup to play a handful of benefit shows, no formal announcement of the band’s breakup was made. Brislin continues to play material written for Spiraling in his solo live shows. [23]

Brislin began the latter half of 2008 as a member of the reformed lineup of prog rock outfit The Syn. His stint with the band ran through recording one studio album, Big Sky, and a brief US tour that ended with The Syn’s performance at Rosfest on May 1, 2009. [24] [25] Brislin subsequently went on to perform with Syn bandmate Francis Dunnery, appearing as pianist/keyboardist on Dunnery’s 2009 double disc release, There’s A Whole New World Out There. [26] On November 6, 2009, Brislin and the members of Dunnery’s band shared the stage with Robert Plant at The Walls, Owestry, UK. [27]

In 2009, progressive rock band Renaissance announced Brislin as a member of its new lineup for their 40th anniversary commemorative tour, filling the role of recreating the orchestral element the band had gradually infused into its style. He toured with this incarnation of Renaissance throughout 2010, then returned to the band from the fall 2014 to the spring of 2016. [28]

Solo in Nashville (2010-2013)

After relocating to Nashville in 2010, Brislin wrote and recorded his debut solo album, 2012’s Hurry Up and Smell the Roses, which he independently funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. [21] The album, which Brislin describes as "Cinematic Pop", was written, produced, performed, and recorded by Brislin, and features guest contributions from guitarist and platinum songwriter Clint Lagerberg, vocalist Annie Haslam of Renaissance, and Theremin synthesist Shueh-li Ong. [29] In 2013, the album was released in Japan on Powerpop Academy/Thistime Records. A vinyl edition of the album was released at the end of 2013 on the Plane Groovy label. [30]

Around the World (2014-mid 2018)

Brislin spent a portion of 2014 as a guest faculty member at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music outside of Chennai, India. [31] In 2015, he traveled to Sweden to play keyboard for the Jon Anderson (Yes)/ Roine Stolt (Flower Kings) collaborative album Invention of Knowledge . [32] [33]

He briefly rejoined Meat Loaf’s band on tour in 2016, filling in on piano/vocals for Justin Avery. [34] Later that year, he co-founded a program called Accessing Music Promoting Success with musician/occupational therapist Karen Kowalski. As technology director of the project, he and Kowalski developed a system for individuals with disabilities which provides an adaptive, high-tech system that allows them to successfully play music and engage with others, regardless of experience, training, or ability. [35]

In April 2017, Brislin announced that he would be joining ex-Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung for a handful of shows, filling in for John Blasucci. [36]

That same year, Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold (also of The Flower Kings) both approached Brislin with the idea of forming a group. The trio had previously worked together in the studio for Anderson/Stolt’s 2015 release Invention of Knowledge. With the addition of singer Daniel Gildenlöw (of Pain of Salvation) and drummer Marco Minnemann, The Sea Within formally announced its formation in December 2017. [37] Their self-titled debut album was recorded in Livingston Studios in North London and released by InsideOut records in the spring of 2018. The band’s inaugural performance took place at Night of the Prog in Lorelei, Germany on July 14, 2018. The self-described “art rock collective” also shared billing with Yes and Steve Hackett on Cruise to the Edge in early 2019. [38] [39]

In 2018, Brislin began a songwriting collaboration with a handpicked group of musicians, including Randy McStine (guitar, bass, vocals, Daniel McGowan (guitar, vocals), Rajendra Sharma (drums), and David Anthony (percussion). That October, the newly formed group took the stage at ProgStock under the name Gold Rotation, performing songs from Brislin’s solo album as well as a selection of newly composed material. [6] [40]

Kansas (Late 2018-Present)

After seeing him perform with The Sea Within at Night of the Prog in July 2018, InsideOut label head Thomas Waber recommended Brislin to American rock band Kansas as a replacement for departing keyboardist David Manion. Months later, Kansas drummer Phil Ehart asked him to join the band. [21] Kansas officially announced Brislin’s addition to their current lineup on December 19, 2018. His first performance as a member of Kansas took place on the Rock Legends Cruise in February 2019, after which Kansas resumed its Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour. [41]

Brislin’s lyric, compositional, and vocal contributions figure heavily in his studio debut with Kansas, 2020’s The Absence of Presence , with writing credits on seven of the album’s nine songs and a turn at lead vocals on the album’s closing track, “The Song The River Sang.” [42] According to American Songwriter Magazine online, The Absence of Presence “takes the band even further into the progressive rock arena while still maintaining the classic Kansas sound.” [43] The album reached the following positions on various Billboard Charts: Album Sales, #10; Current Album Sales, #10; Tastemakers, #12; Independent Albums, #32; Rock Albums, #31; Germany Albums, #7. [44]

On May 28, 2021, Kansas released their sixth live album, Point of Know Return Live & Beyond. The album features 22 songs selected from 12 shows recorded in 2019 and 2020 during Kansas’s Point of Know Return Anniversary Tour, Brislin’s first tour with the band. [45]

Kansas resumed their touring schedule on July 30, 2021 in Maumee, Ohio. [46] Their Woodstock, Illinois show on August 7, 2021, marked Brislin’s 100th live performance as a member of the group. [47] They are currently scheduled to tour the United States throughout 2022. [48]

Brislin appeared with Kansas on an episode of The CW’s Walker, which aired on April 14, 2022. [49]

On December 9, 2022, the three disc compilation Another Fork In The Road - 50 Years Of Kansas was released to commemorate the band's 50th anniversary in 2023. Included on it are various tracks from all 16 Kansas studio albums, and features a new 2022 recording of "Can I Tell You", co-produced by Brislin, Phil Ehart, and Richard Williams. [50]

On June 2, 2023, Kansas began their 50th Anniversary Tour "Another Fork in the Road", continuing through 2024. Starting with this tour, Brislin was named the band's Musical Director in addition to keyboardist/vocalist. [51]


As solo artist

With You Were Spiraling

With Spiraling

With Meat Loaf

With Yes

With Kansas

With other artists

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transatlantic (band)</span> Multinational progressive rock supergroup

Transatlantic is a multinational progressive rock supergroup consisting of Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, Pete Trewavas and Mike Portnoy. They formed in 1999 as a side project to their full-time bands, but disbanded in 2002. They then reunited in 2009.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Flower Kings</span> Swedish progressive rock band

The Flower Kings are a Swedish progressive rock band formed in 1994 by guitarist and singer-songwriter Roine Stolt. The group began as Stolt's touring band to support his third solo album The Flower King. They continued performing after the tour and have gone on to become one of the most prolific studio recording units in progressive rock, having released over twenty hours of music spread across fifteen studio albums. Their music is similar to early symphonic progressive rock groups such as Yes, marked by sharp dynamic changes, polyrhythms, heavy bass, vocal harmonies, abstract and occasionally nonsensical lyrics, and extended song lengths.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kansas (band)</span> American rock band

Kansas is an American rock band that formed in 1973 in Topeka, Kansas, and became popular during the decade initially on album-oriented rock charts and later with hit singles such as "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind." The band has produced nine gold albums, three multi-platinum albums, one other platinum studio album (Monolith), one platinum live double album, and a million-selling single, "Dust in the Wind." Kansas appeared on the US Billboard charts for over 200 weeks throughout the 1970s and 1980s and played to sold-out arenas and stadiums throughout North America, Europe and Japan. "Carry On Wayward Son" was the second-most-played track on US classic rock radio in 1995 and No. 1 in 1997.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Neal Morse</span> American rock musician

Neal Morse is an American singer, musician and composer based in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1992, he formed the progressive rock band Spock's Beard with his brother Alan and released an album which was moderately successful. In 1999, he joined Dream Theater's co-founder and then drummer Mike Portnoy, together with Flower Kings' Roine Stolt and Marillion's Pete Trewavas they formed the super-group Transatlantic. In 2002, Neal Morse became a born again Christian, left Spock's Beard and began a Christian rock solo career, releasing many progressive rock concept albums about his new religious faith. In the meantime, he continued to play with Transatlantic and formed three new bands with Portnoy, Yellow Matter Custard, Flying Colors and The Neal Morse Band.

Peter William Brockbanks, known professionally as Peter Banks, was a British guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer. He was the original guitarist in the rock band Yes, Flash, and Empire; he was also a guitarist for The Syn. Banks has been described as "the architect of progressive music".

The Sea Within are an international rock supergroup founded in 2017, formed by Swedish guitarist and singer-songwriter Roine Stolt, bassist Jonas Reingold and guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw, German drummer Marco Minnemann, and American keyboardist Tom Brislin. Their self-titled debut album was released on 22 June 2018.

Spiraling is a New Jersey-based pop-rock quartet. The band was formed out of a previous incarnation called You Were Spiraling by keyboardist/vocalist Tom Brislin.

The Syn are an English band that were active from 1965 to 1967, and then reunited as a progressive rock band in 2004. The band was founded by Steve Nardelli, Chris Squire, Andrew Pryce Jackman, Martyn Adelman and John Painter. Chris Welch, in his book, Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes wrote, "The Syn were very similar to Yes in fact. It was very much a precursor of Yes."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kaipa</span> Swedish progressive metal group

Kaipa is a Swedish progressive rock band.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francis Dunnery</span> Musical artist

Francis Dunnery is an English musician, singer-songwriter, record producer and record label owner.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marco Minnemann</span> German musician (born 1970)

Marco Minnemann is a German multi-instrumentalist and composer who primarily plays drums.

This is a timeline of artists, albums, and events in progressive rock and its subgenres. This article contains the timeline for the period 2000 - 2009.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hasse Fröberg</span> Swedish rock musician

Hasse Fröberg is a Swedish guitarist, composer and vocalist, currently one of the vocalists and guitarists of The Flower Kings. He fronted a handful of hard rock bands before joining them and currently has his own solo project, Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dave Kerzner</span> American musician, producer, sound designer

David Nathaniel Kerzner is an American musician, songwriter, producer, and sound designer as well as founder of the sound sampling development company Sonic Reality Inc. Along with Simon Collins, Kerzner is the co-founder of the band Sound of Contact. He is also the co-founder of the band Mantra Vega. His debut solo album, New World, was released in December 2014.

<i>Kaleidoscope</i> (Transatlantic album) 2014 studio album by Transatlantic

Kaleidoscope is the fourth studio album by progressive rock band Transatlantic. It was released on January 27, 2014.

<i>Invention of Knowledge</i> 2016 studio album by Anderson/Stolt

Invention of Knowledge is a studio album by Anderson/Stolt, a musical collaboration formed by singer-songwriters and musicians Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt. It was released on 24 June 2016 by InsideOutMusic. The project originated in 2014 after Anderson had performed with Stolt on a progressive rock-themed cruise, and the two decided to record an album. The recording process involved Anderson recording ideas in demo form in California and sending them online to Stolt in Sweden, who would develop music based on them. Invention of Knowledge was recorded in Sweden by several musicians, including Tom Brislin, Daniel Gildenlöw, and members of Stolt's band The Flower Kings.

<i>The Absence of Presence</i> 2020 studio album by Kansas

The Absence of Presence is the sixteenth studio album by American progressive rock band Kansas. The album was originally due to be released on June 26, 2020, but due to manufacturing delays the release date was postponed to July 17, 2020. It is their fourth studio album without founding member, lead vocalist and keyboardist Steve Walsh, who retired from the band in 2014; the other three being 1982's Vinyl Confessions, 1983's Drastic Measures and 2016's The Prelude Implicit. It is Kansas' first album to feature keyboardist Tom Brislin, and the last to feature both guitarist Zak Rizvi and violinist David Ragsdale.


  1. "KANSAS Announces New Keyboard Player – Kansas Band | Classic Rock Band | The Absence of Presence". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  2. Trevelise, Steve (August 20, 2020). "Kansas' new album contains a lot of New Jersey". New Jersey 101.5. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  3. 1 2 3 "ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS SPIRALING". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  4. Hicks, Robert. "Spiraling gets its music to the masses with technology", Daily Record , March 16, 2005. Accessed December 10, 2022, via "Brislin hails from Dunellen but now lives in Piscataway."
  5. "What Was it Like Playing Keyboards for Yes? A Conversation with Tom Brislin". 26 April 2016. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "Tom Brislin, keyboardist with Kansas and Yes: Something Else! Interview". Something Else!. 2019-02-06. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  7. Kuboski, Terry. "Immaculata High School inducts Hall of Fame Class of 2016". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  8. "You Were Spiraling - TMBW: The They Might Be Giants Knowledge Base". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  9. "Meat Loaf - Couldn't Have Said It Better". Discogs. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  10. "Notes From the Edge - Conversation with Tom Brislin [NFTE #256]". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  11. 1 2 "Magnification – Yes". Yesworld. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  12. "YesSongs - YesSymphonic Tour". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  13. "Issue 2002-024 • CD & DVD Reviews •". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  14. Gorce, Tammy La (2003-11-16). "Success Stories In New Jersey Rock: The Un-Springsteen". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  15. "spiralingfans - Profile". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  16. "The Nature of the Beast". 2003-06-08. Archived from the original on 2003-06-08. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  17. Camel – Nearfest 2003 (2004, CD) , retrieved 2021-04-29
  18. Patti Smyth - "Goodbye to You" on McEnroe (CNBC), archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2021-04-29
  19. "Friday, January 7th...Tom Brislin's Spiraling at NYC's Mercury Lounge". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  20. "Spiraling | Interview". Chorus and Verse. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  21. 1 2 3 "Feature Interview - Tom Brislin". Feature Interview - Tom Brislin. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  22. "Spiraling: | Daily Vault". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  23. "Music Street Journal - Music News & Reviews". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  24. "Somewhat Yes-Related: Now What? The Syn on Tour?". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  25. The Syn (2015), Live Rosfest, Umbrello, retrieved 2021-04-29
  26. Francis Dunnery – There's A Whole New World Out There (2009, Three-fold cardboard sleeve, CD) , retrieved 2021-04-29
  27. Tom Brislin with Robert Plant & Francis Dunnery - Calling To You, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2021-04-29
  28. "Renaissance » Band" . Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  29. "Tom Brislin – Hurry Up and Smell the Roses – Record Dept. Music Reviews" . Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  30. "Hurry Up and Smell the Roses, by Tom Brislin". Tom Brislin. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  31. "Tom Brislin & Friends [July 12,2014]". NJProghouse Progressive Music Series. 2014-06-18. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  32. "The Progarchy Interview: Tom Brislin of The Sea Within". Progarchy. 2018-06-08. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  33. "YES legend -Jon Anderson & Roine Stolt of TFK - "Invention of Knowledge" - Digipak - Feat. Tom Brislin, Jonas Reingold, Michael Stolt etc". HOME OF THE FLOWER KINGS. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  34. "Neverland Express". In and Out of Hell | The Meat Loaf Story (in Dutch). 2016-09-26. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  35. Muscavage, Nick. "New programs unveiled at The Arc of Somerset County". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  36. "Tom Brislin Music". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  37. Ewing, Jerry (7 December 2017). "Roine Stolt Launches New Supergroup The Sea Within". Prog Magazine. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  38. "The Sea Within among an impressive list of acts added to Cruise to the Edge 2019". The Prog Report. 2018-05-15. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  39. "Lineup 2018". Night of the Prog Festival. 2017-08-31. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  40. "ProgStock 2018". ProgStock 2018. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  41. "Kansas Announces the Addition of Acclaimed Keyboardist Tom Brislin". 19 December 2018. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  42. "Tom Brislin Joins Legendary Rock Band Kansas". New Jersey Stage. 24 July 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  43. "Stellar Musicianship Drives New Kansas Album 'The Absence Of Presence'". American Songwriter. 2020-05-13. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  44. "Kansas". Billboard. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  45. "Kansas Announces Live Concert Album Point of Know Return Live & Beyond to be Released May 28 – Kansas Band | Classic Rock Band | The Absence of Presence". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  46. "Log In or Sign Up to View". Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  47. "Log In or Sign Up to View". Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  48. "Tour Dates – Kansas Band | Classic Rock Band | The Absence of Presence". Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  49. Highfill, Samantha (April 13, 2022). "Jensen Ackles on directing 'Walker' and finally getting to work with Kansas". Retrieved 2022-04-14.
  50. Scharf, Natasha (October 14, 2022). "Kansas celebrate their half-century with Another Fork In The Road – 50 Years Of Kansas". Loudersound. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  51. Williams, Wheat (June 7, 2023). "Celebrate 50 years of Kansas at Embassy". Whatzup. Retrieved January 26, 2024.