Michael Pollack wants to be a piano man.
It's a dream the 19-year-old from Roslyn had long before his encounter with Billy Joel at a question-and-answer session at Vanderbilt University went viral on YouTube, long before he ended up accompanying Joel on the piano for "New York State of Mind."
And now, he's hoping to use that moment of serendipity as a launchpad to make his bigger dreams come true, selling his own songs, "Chances Are" and "Get Well," on iTunes and gearing up for his first major performance -- a 40-minute set opening for "X Factor" runner-up Carly Rose Sonenclar at Best Buy Theater in Manhattan on Saturday.
"It's been a wild year," says Pollack, who will return to Vanderbilt this fall. "I have real songs. People buy my music now. That is wild."
How did this concert with Carly Rose Sonenclar come about?
My music was put in front of her, and she was interested and asked me. I would never turn that down. She's an incredible talent. That voice is unreal ... And this opportunity ... I've never had an entire 40-minute set to myself. I've got songs already picked out -- originals, some surprise covers...
Will there be a Billy Joel cover in the set?
I'm not sure yet....The Billy influence will be there, whether or not one of his songs is played. He's definitely been an inspiration for a long time. I grew up listening to his music and dreamed about the opportunity of playing with him. Now when I Google his name or look up his music on YouTube, I see myself, which is absolutely surreal.
There are a lot of female singer-songwriters playing the piano these days -- Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor -- but not a lot of piano men.
There aren't many. Some are in bands like Rob Thomas in Matchbox Twenty and Chris Martin in Coldplay. And I listen to Gavin DeGraw and Jamie Cullum ...There aren't really many Billy Joels and Elton Johns anymore. I kind of feel like I can fill that niche.
Was it hard to focus on school after the video went viral?
Definitely hard. I've always been one to procrastinate. Now when I procrastinated, I was able to pop on YouTube and watch my dream reappear. It was definitely distracting.
WHOMichael Pollack (opening for Carly Rose Sonenclar)
WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, Best Buy Theater, 1515 Broadway
INFO $45; 888-929-7849, axs.com