Fireworks Magazine Online 52 - Interview with Richard Marx

RICHARD MARX

As a hugely successful singer/songwriter Richard Marx has sold over thirty million albums in his twenty-five year career, winning a handful of Grammy awards, and having the distinction of being the first solo artist to have his first seven singles hit the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.A. In recent years he has become more known as a song-writer for other artists, but returned to these shores in 2010 after an eighteen year absence with a series of acoustic concerts, and now he is about to release his first full-blown Rock album in Europe for quite some time, the excellent ‘Inside My Head.’ Ant Heeks wasted no time in phoning Richard to find out more…

So the last time we spoke was on the day of your comeback show in London in 2010, and then about six months later you returned for another series of shows in the U.K. Have you now realised that there is still a big audience for you over here after eighteen years away?

Well, I tell you what I have realised, is that the rumours of the loyalty that exist in the U.K is not exaggerated. The fact that I was away that long and there was anticipation at all for those gigs, let alone for them to be as successful as they were, it was humbling for me. When my agency came to me and wanted to put the Shepherd’s Bush show on sale I was really nervous, I said ‘it’s been almost twenty years, they’ve moved on.’ And in fact I didn’t think we could top Shepherd’s Bush, but the Albert Hall show was very different, it was a different configuration, but it was equally exciting in a different way. Those two nights were the two highlights of my touring life for ages, maybe those two shows are in my top five ever!

Is there any likelihood that you will do any shows with a full band rather than the acoustic shows?

Yeah, I think we probably would because I played the solo acoustic shows there. It wouldn’t make any sense overseas, but what I’ve been doing in America is playing three or four dates with the band, then sending the band home for a week while I play some solo shows, in cities that I haven’t played yet with the acoustic shows, so it makes it harder having the band sitting around in Europe or Asia, but I think it were up to me I would push for band shows for the next U.K. tour, because the solo shows had a good run there, so it’s time to bring the band back.

And with a new album to promote that is very Rock orientated, the songs need a full band backing.

Yeah, well we kind of did a little bit of that at the Albert Hall show, the first hour was just me with a string quartet, then the band joined me for rest, and I really loved that. I don’t think I would ever do a band show anywhere now where I didn’t break it down and send the band offstage for a few songs, just because there’s a connection I can make with the audience when it’s just me that is impossible with a band. Not that you don’t connect enough and it’s not huge fun, but it’s a different level of communicating with an audience. I kind of like the idea of having a show that encompasses all the ways that I perform, you know?

Absolutely, and it makes it more involved for the fans too. Now onto the new album ‘Inside My Head’, how did you get involved with Frontiers records, as you had previously stated that you didn’t want to get tied down to a record label again?

Well this is really just distribution, I’m not like an artist who’s signed to their label, there’s no real creative interaction, it’s just they’re fans of what I do, they love the songs that I wanted to release, and it was way of funnelling the music, it was a way of easily getting music out there, other than doing it completely independently, which would be problematic as you can imagine. I’m still pretty set in my ways, the idea of a record deal is something that makes no sense to me. I would even encourage younger artists to not do it if they can help it, because there’s really nothing that a record company can offer you other than just distribution, and if push came to shove you can even do that on your own. But they just came along and had some conversations with my management, and it just sort of made sense, because I had these songs that I wanted to get out, especially in Europe, and have a brand new product out there, and the timing just turned out right. But there’s no long-term relationship, we’ll just kind of see how it goes.

The album is a compilation of sorts, with tracks from your website-only release ‘Emotional Remains’, some bonus tracks from ‘Stories To Tell’ and some brand new songs. Did you have a lot of say in selecting the songs?

Yeah, completely, I just played them some songs that I was nearly finished with, and they said ‘great, we love every song, just finish it and we’ll put it out’, so it was completely my song selection. With ‘Emotional Remains’ because it was never a proper release, it’s not even on my website anymore, but it was one of those things, I had this collection of songs that I really loved, and there were plenty of distribution deals that I could have made, but none of them really made any sense, nothing lined up how I wanted it to be, so I just said ‘screw it’, and put it on my website and just let people follow what I do. And somebody from Amazon contacted us and offered to put it out digitally, but unfortunately it was never the proper album release that I wanted it to be, so this is sort of a compromise, where I took a handful of tracks I really loved and paired them with some new tracks. I made one singularly, more solid record.

Were the new tracks written specifically for this release, or have you always got a pool of songs written that you can just call on at any time?

I do, I always have material that’s in some form of completion, and that’s one of the things that’s sort of good news and bad news, because I sort of slowly but surely accept my place as a coming up on fifty-year-old recording artist, I have to abandon the idea of centring so much focus and attention on an album. First of all, I still buy albums, but people don’t listen to albums the way they used to, nobody I know has time to sit for seventy minutes just listening to music, they’ll have it on in their car or as background music, or in their office while they’re working, but that sort of focused attention that I gave to so many albums in my lifetime, I don’t think that’s a common practice anymore. So it’s really just people listening casually, getting a free track here and there or whatever. The bad news for me is that I feel that’s an era that has passed us, I’m sad to see it go. But the good news for someone like me who’s so prolific, my new attitude is just I want to keep putting music out constantly. You can’t keep putting out albums because it’s like overkill, it’s over-saturation, but I do love the idea of putting an album out of maybe ten or eleven songs, and then a few months later saying ‘here’s a couple more tracks for 99 cents apiece’ or whatever. For someone like me that’s such a great outlet. I’ve got something up my sleeve for the beginning of August that I really wanna put out digitally everywhere, and it’s just a total departure for me musically. It’s just a couple of tracks, but I don’t want to sit on them because I’m afraid if I don’t get them out there I’ll get bored with them, and people won’t hear them, and sometimes I’m the worst judge, I’m the guy who didn’t wanna record ‘Right Here Waiting!’ [laughs] So I’m not a good judge of my own material, and if I’m excited about something now, the sooner I can get it out the better.

Read the full double page interview with Richard, where he discusses his new album in detail, along with his upcoming DVD and much more, in Fireworks #52!


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