Jim Chappell was born and raised in Michigan, USA across the street from a beautiful spring-fed lake and miles of empty woodlands that he regularly explored from a very early age; often alone. His experiences with nature and the freedom he was allowed to have helped create the inspiration he would later draw upon for the relaxing, uplifting, somewhat introspective sound he is so well known for.
He began studying keyboard at 6 years old, and even at that young age, he said he knew what his calling was. Jim's early musical influences were the popular movie themes his parents often played on the stereo, along with his own fascination with the Beatles, Chopin, Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach, and various pop music of the late sixties and seventies. He began composing his own songs in his early teens and formed a trio with bass and drums, playing standards at various dinner clubs around the Detroit area. After spending the better part of his early adult years traveling across the country while exploring different residences, he settled in Nashville and became a fledgling songwriter attempting to get artists to cover the vocal pop tunes he was writing at the time.
He eventually started to find that pitching "commercial type" songs to publishers was unfulfilling, and that the songs he was trying to create “didn't capture the soul of [his] music,” he says. “It was then that [he] realized that the free-flowing music [he] played when [he] came home after meeting with publishers was what [he] should be doing full time.” Chappell recalls, "It just felt more original; more me." This led him to relocate to California, where he found work as an improvisational piano/percussion accompanist for the modern dance department of UCLA and other major colleges in the Los Angeles area, while also working on solo compositions for an initial planned studio album of original material.
Chappell's first album, Tender Ritual, was a collection of piano solos released in 1985 on his own Unspeakable Freedom Music label. In 1986, Chappell was signed with the newly formed Music West Records. That same year, Chappell released Dusk, another collection of piano solos. It would be the first of Chappell's albums to appear on a Billboard chart, peaking at No. 19 on its Top New Age Albums chart. "Gone," an emotional heartfelt track from the Dusk album was also very successful in the Philippines, after being broadcast on the nightly news there for weeks during the aftermath of a devastating volcano that hit the country. The attention that "Gone" received there had Chappell booked for multiple sold out concert tours of the islands.
With his third album, Jim's records started to include small-ensemble accompaniment and (on 1990s Saturday's Rhapsody) full orchestration. His three albums in this style—Living in the Northern Summer (1989), Saturday's Rhapsody (1990), and Nightsongs and Lullabies (1991)—all appeared on the Billboard Top New Age Albums chart.
In 1992, Chappell switched to the Real Music label, where his music became more contemporary jazz-oriented. There were four such albums—In Search of the Magic (1992), Over the Top (1993), Manila Nights (1994) and The Earthsea Series, Volume 1 (1994). On the latter three, Chappell was backed by HearSay, a jazz quartet. The first of them, Over the Top, appeared on Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and climbed to #1 there.
Chappell's final album with Real Music was Laughter at Dawn (1994). It saw Chappell returning to his original style of solo piano.
Chappell moved to Gallery Records in 1996 and recorded one album there, Acadia, which was music he composed while spending time in Acadia National Park in Maine. In an interesting side note, the album took off on various television programming in Japan for many years. He released nothing further until 2002, when he began releasing albums on his own Unspeakable Freedom Music label; the first being Serenity Rush, one of his bestsellers to date. Other more recent album releases include Coming Through, Honey Wind, Rise, Comfort Songs, A Morning Full of Mood, Into The Fresh Beyond, Something To Turn To, The Best of Jim Chappell (Solo Piano), Moonlight in Madrid, Center, and his latest- April Dream.
Along with composing music for the Blake Edwards feature film comedy "Switch" his music has been nationally broadcast on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, The Voice, MTV, The Summer and Winter Olympic Games, Say Yes To The Dress, NBC, and Fox Sports Specials. Gold medal figure skater Brian Boitano skated to Jim's beautiful piece "Gone" in a nationally televised Thanksgiving day broadcast presentation.