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Now playing, Robert Deason on the piano

Robert Deason grew up in north suburban Gurnee and could see Six Flags Great America amusement park from his family's backyard, and boy has it been a wild ride for him playing piano.  Dating back to third-grade, when his mom won free piano lessons in a raffle and asked if he'd be interested in learning.

Robert Deason :: robert deason
Robert Deason 
credit :: robert deason
At that point, Deason's biggest motivation was, admittedly, his arch-nemesis.

"She was taking piano and always got to go up and play duets with our teacher during music.  Naturally, I wanted to show her up," Deason said, smiling.

Now 33 and living in Andersonville, Deason is a dueling pianist for Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos, and has been with the company for more than five years.

"I was lucky to have a teacher (who) saw a lot of potential in me and pushed me to study music I was really passionate about," he said.  "I played a lot of pop, rock, and musical theatre growing up.  As I got older, I started to have more of an appreciation for classical music.

"I've always had a pretty decent ear for pop music, which comes in handy every time I play a show.  Knowing a ton of different styles makes playing dueling piano shows a lot more fun and exciting."

Deason, who has lived in Chicago for the past 12 years, also plays alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone, is a percussionist, and recently picked up a ukulele on a trip to Hawaii.

He has been a dueling pianist for 10 years, first answering an ad looking for dueling piano players at a bar in the suburbs.  "My best friend and I sat down for about four hours, and worked on about 10 songs that we could audition with.  On our first night, I don't think we played a single song that we had rehearsed.  We just went with the flow of the audience and had a blast.  From that point on, I was hooked."

Deason now duels every Thursday night at Roscoe's Tavern in Boystown, and has been part of a weekly show there for about three years.  Roscoe's, he said, "is absolutely one of my favorite places to play.  Our fans are amazing and Roscoe's has the most incredible employees.  I'm always excited to go to work there."

Deason said his favorite part about dueling pianos is the ability to defy an audience's expectations.  "We can literally play every style of music," he said.  "Over the course of a three-hour show, you hear everything from Elton John to Kardi B.  That's what makes what we do so exciting – no show is ever the same as the last."

The most challenging part is, obvious – when someone requests a song that Deason has literally never even heard of, which, he admitted, does happen from time to time.  "If I'm able, I try and listen to a clip on Spotify, and replicating a portion of it, to the best of my ability," he said.  "It's always challenging, but those moments can be the most successful parts of a show."

Deason added, "My motto always is, 'If I can hum it, I can play it ...or at least part of it.'    If I've truly never heard a song before, I'll try and do a different song by that artist."

Deason's strong-suit is '90s music.  Third Eye Blind is one of his favorite bands to cover.

"I find myself doing a lot of female pop songs, along with a decent amount of rap and R&B thrown in," he said.

At The Bar With ...Robert Deason

Recent Mash-up of note:  A combination of 'Don't Stop Believing' by Journey and 'Flawless' by Beyoncé.  "It was literally one of the most amazing on-stage experiences I've ever had."

Life at the piano:  "I'm lucky enough to make a career as a full-time musician.  Getting to travel across the country doing what I love is an incredible feeling, and I'm insanely grateful to have so many opportunities to make music for people."

Improving as a piano player:  "I've learned to let go and not worry about playing everything perfectly.  Being vulnerable in front of a room full of people is scary, but it's one of the things that makes our show so incredible.  If you screw up, the audience is right there with you to laugh about it and move on to the next song."

Cheers:  He drinks vodka soda with a splash of cranberry.

Favorite Chicago Restaurant: Arami

Favorite TV show:  "I'm a huge Netflix binger.  I just started a series called 'Dark' and can't stop."

Favorite musical group: The Beatles

Favorite concert ever attended:  "My mom took me to see The Beach Boys when I was 7 or 8, and John Stamos come out as a guest musician.  The first concert I went to on my own was, Jimmy Eat World, when I was in high school."

One Celebrity You'd Like To Meet: Sara Bareilles

Dream Vacation Destination: Greece or Thailand

Pizza Toppings:  "Anything and everything.  I'm the least picky eater you'll ever meet."

(Complete this sentence):  I'm Better Than Most ...  "At remembering random quotes from movies and TV shows."

(Complete this sentence): Even my close friends will be surprised to learn ...  "Sometimes, when I'm cooking at home, I'll talk to the camera like I'm on The Food Network.  It's so lame.  I even cut to commercials.  True story."

Boxers or Briefs:  "Briefs!  I do so much bouncing around on the piano that I need to keep everything locked down."
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