For many of us, music is so important that our favorite songs form the soundtrack of our lives, but Kitt Wakeley has taken his love of music even further by composing his own deeply personal scores. M&F caught up with the Grammy-nominated musician and fitness enthusiast to find out how he found harmony through music and fitness, and we soon discovered that he could balance the emotional highs and lows in his personal life through artistic and physical expression have had serious success.
Kitt Wakeley, award-winning composer, songwriter and musician, tours the world and collaborates with the likes of Joe Satriani and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, but he enjoys performing at the squat rack just as much as he does on stage. For Wakeley, the gym has long been a quiet place where he can escape the pressure of writing the next big hit to take a break from showbiz and work on his physical and mental health. "The gym is a safe place," Wakeley says. "You're navigating through the actual production of a project and all the people involved, traveling to London or LA or whatever, and you're excited to see if it's going to be successful, and then you have the shows. So, that hour or hour and a half at the gym is a chance to hit break and have some time to myself. The gym is a great place to reset every day.”
Kitt Wakeley finds harmony through music and fitness
Critics have called Wakeley's 2021 concept album Symphony of Sinners & Saints, which includes epic tracks like Conflicted, a masterpiece. The highs and lows in his compositions offer listeners both a moment to reflect and a chance to grab the beat and use the tracks for a perfect workout playlist. "Symphony of Sinners & Saints" reached #1 on the Billboard Classical Crossover and Classical charts, but success hasn't necessarily been an easy road for Wakeley, who was inducted into the Oklahoma foster system alongside his sister when he was just 5 years old old. The siblings were then separated for nearly 40 years before incredibly finding each other via Facebook. At one point, he'd been told his sister Tasha had died in a car accident, only to find out she lived a mile away.
In a remarkable turn of events, Wakeley and his wife Melissa adopted three siblings to ensure they could never be separated in the way he was with his sister, and the emotion of such an uplifting story influenced works like the track. Adoption Story" in a way he could never have imagined. The tune itself, now nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Compendium, was recorded at the famed Abbey Road Studios, where the likes of The Beatles and Aretha Franklin have graced the mixing desk.
Adoption Story is a magical ride of a tune that exudes feelings of innocence and hope, encouraging us to believe that even the darkest of stories can have a bright, happy ending. "Music is such an escape," says Wakeley. “And I equate that with my fitness world. They give you the opportunity to express things when sometimes words fail you.” And with a total of seven children, the musician needs to be fitter than ever to stay in the groove. Luckily, his fitness lifestyle provides the answer.
The composer says he loves to take his work to the gym as a workout playlist when developing demos. "When they're more aggressive or euphoric, I turn it up, and when it excites or motivates me, I know I'm on the right track. Believe it or not, I was accidentally on the treadmill listening to the quieter stuff and I got a vibe and was pretty happy with the direction the project was going. I have a lot of friends at the gym who listen to my aggressive songs, and then I have a lot of friends in the music business who talk to me about maybe starting going to the gym. I think both things are starting to work together and benefit from each other.”
Kitt Wakeley forgoes missing training sessions
Going to the gym offers Wakeley a way to break up the sedentary moments in his life, like sitting at a desk while he works on his music, and fitness sessions also prepare him for those high-energy moments when he's performing on stage and having to choose -all the time. "After that you're just wiped out," he shares. Even the studio recording process can take several hours, so this composer needs to keep his pulse low and stay on track. "You don't want to mess anything up. You don't want to disappoint your colleagues. I'm amazed at how physically demanding this is and I'm very blessed to exercise and take good care of myself."
A true fitness warrior, Wakeley aims to fit in a session at least five days a week. These sessions tend to be focused and don't have to last all day, but he's been known to hit the gym for a whole month without a day off. "Every day I hit a big body part," says the Maestro. "Something like a compound movement, whether it's chest, shoulders, legs or whatever. After that, I do 45 minutes of high-intensity interval training. So I can do those big, heavy, lower reps and after that I can get into that conditioning and it works really well for me.” It's just a good thing that Wakeley has strong arms because more awards and trophies are sure to come .