​The Piano Guys strike a chord

The members of a one-of-a-kind music group are striking a chord with devoted audiences. Lee Cowan shows us how they do it:

There's no easy way to describe what The Piano Guys do. There's no point in trying to label it, either. No genre really quite fits.

"I like to say it's familiar and unfamiliar at the same time," said Steven Sharp Nelson.

"There's no rule book, there's no specific music theory that we stick to," said Al van der Beek.

Jon Schmidt perhaps puts it best: "We just know when it feels right, you know?"

If you haven't heard of The Piano Guys, you haven't been on YouTube lately. Their music videos are more like travelogues. They've been viewed well over a half-billion times.

And yet, as Internet sensations go, The Piano Guys consider themselves a little less than hip.

"We're not rock stars," said Nelson. "We're the farthest thing from it. Nobody is putting pictures of Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson on their wall, in their lockers, right, and enshrining us. Nobody is doing that because we're old, we're dads, we're not good looking, I mean, come on, let's be honest!"

Besides Nelson on the cello and Schmidt on piano, The Piano Guys consists of two others -- their producer, Al van der Beek, and cinematographer Paul Anderson, the man behind those extraordinary YouTube videos.

"You have to do something different that people haven't seen before in order for them to want to share it," Anderson said.

And for them, being "different" is all about piano placement, like hoisting one on top of a thousand-foot cliff in Utah.

"We basically just wrapped it in these cables and shrink-wrapped it," said van der Beek.

Anderson admitted they had no idea what they were doing.

"Yeah, you can't go to Home Depot and ask for helicopter-to-piano tether cables, right?" said van der Beek. "But it made it!"

They managed a mini-concert at Iguazu Falls in Brazil, and moved a piano by hand along the Great Wall of China.

"Basically they built some kind of contraption where they could rest sticks on their shoulders," said van der Beek. "They went up probably around 200 stairs up the Great Wall of China. Crazy!"

Those kinds of stunts have earned them a pretty hefty Internet following, The Piano Guys now have nearly 4.3 million YouTube subscribers, with about 5,000 new ones every day.

"Isn't that crazy?" said van der Beek. "I don't want to sound nonchalant about it, but I mean, it's like selling a concert hall every single day."

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Sony Music

Yes, they do play live, too, as they did recently at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.

They've released several albums as well, the most recent a live album out this month.

Their fans are as hard to categorize as their music. They're young and old, male and female, rockers and not so much.

"We can't pretend like we've made our career; they've made our career," said Nelson. "So it's fun to play to them, and even to a small extent pay 'em back a tiny bit for all of the support they've given us."

"We remind each other all the time, you know, guys, don't let this get to your head," said van der Beek. "This can all be taken away as fast as it came. I don't ever want to get used to this feeling of the miracle that brought us together."

Not a day passes when they don't give thanks for it all; faith and family matter most. They're all devout Mormons. They record not in L.A., New York or Nashville, but in the basement of a modest home in Salt Lake City.

"Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- you feel like a lot of people misunderstand you, and that causes a lot of frustration," said Schmidt.

"Look, we're Mormons -- we don't have horns on our heads!" said Nelson. "We don't have multiple wives, we're not crazy. Well, some of us aren't crazy!"