Fireworks Magazine Online 43 - Richard Marx

Fireworks Issue #43 has a two page feature interview with multi million selling singer/songwriter Richard Marx, discussing his new album and tour with Ant Heeks. We present an extract from interview here:


Richard Marx has had an extremely rewarding career, with over 30 million albums sold and a wealth of hit singles to his name. Although in more recent years he has become more well known as a writer and producer for other artists, he has still been recording and releasing his own excellent albums. His latest offering is ‘Stories To Tell’, which is a collection of acoustic re-workings of some of his finest songs, and his own versions of some of the songs he has written for other artists. With Richard playing his first concert for a very long time in the U.K. at the O2 Academy in Shepherd’s Bush, Ant Heeks grabbed the opportunity to have a chat with one of his all-time favourite singers before the show.

How do you feel about being on stage completely on your own, and not having a band behind you?

It frightened me to death the first couple of times! You know, I’m a musician that plays my own songs capably, sometimes not even that! Last night we played in Paris and overall it was really fun, and the audience was incredible, but I played this one new song and I must have hit five wrong chords in it! I mean I wrote the song, it’s not like I can say ‘well I’m still learning it,’ I wrote the damn thing! So sometimes I make completely boneheaded mistakes on stage, but you know what? With the nature of the show, nobody cares. It’s like we’re just hanging out together, me and the audience, and I really think the show is what happens between the songs, and it’s really just like an intimate hang between me and the audience. So it frightened me at first because I was so wrapped up in the ‘well I’m not that great a musician, people are gonna think that I’m lame’, but the first show even really changed that for me, and I realised that I didn’t need to rely on another musician or a band, because my team-mate in all of this is the audience. They’re singing along with me and they’re yelling stuff out, it’s a remarkable experience for me. I don’t know about them, but I’m having a great time!

Is there a song that you’ve ever written for somebody else that you wish you’d kept solely for yourself?

No, I’ve never had that experience. When I write something for someone else or with someone else for them it’s clear from the get-go that that’s what it is, and I think that the real delineation for me is that if I write a song that lyrically is personal then I’m not gonna give it to anybody, and when I write songs with other artists, if I sit in a room with Keith Urban for example, it’s not my job in that role to say what I wanna say, my job in that role is to help Keith say what he wants to say. So it’s never a question of ‘I should hold this song for myself.’ First of all I don’t think I’m a vehicle for a hit song anymore, I think my days of having hit songs on the radio are far over. I still love to sing and I love to do the shows, but the artists that I’m writing with, they’re the vehicle for a hit song, so I’m just trying to help them say what they wanna say, and so it’s never a quandary at all, the songs that I record are clearly songs that I’m holding onto ‘cause they are things that I wanna say.

Going back to a point you just made about hit songs, is there not a market for you as a singer in the U.S. now?

No, I don’t think so. I certainly don’t try, so I have don’t have any delusions or expectations. It doesn’t mean I don’t record and put out music because I know that I have a certain fanbase that wants to hear new music from me, and I’m a songwriter so writing new material is very important to me - I always put new songs in the shows that I do. Like on this tour I’m probably doing four or five new songs, and for the most part they’re getting equal reaction to the other big hits, and that’s the most gratifying thing that I could possibly ask for as a songwriter, is that people are connecting with something I wrote six months ago, let alone twenty years ago. But no, in answer to your question, I don’t think there is, I mean I don’t really pursue it. It’s not that I’m not interested in it, or that I’m dismissing it, it’s just that I really feel like I had my turn. For ten years I had a lot of hits on radio and sold a lot of records, and I’m very grateful for that time, but the music business is supposed to be cyclical, and I’m grateful that I have these young artists that want me on their team and wanna write songs with me, and want me to help them do their thing, and to me that’s my future, collaborating with other artists.

So is there anybody that you would really like to work and write with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?

I mean there are people that I’m a fan of that I think that maybe I could contribute something good to, I mean Chris Cornell comes to mind, I’m a big fan of his and I’d love to write a couple of songs with him, because I feel like I could bring something to the table with him. I’m a huge fan of Pink, I’d love to write a song with her, but you know what? The truth is Anthony, that historically speaking every time I’ve tried to go after a project or collaborative relationship it’s either not happened at all, or it’s happened and it’s been really unrewarding for whatever reason, and every success I’ve had has found me, every success has fallen in my lap, it’s never been something that I’ve pursued. So I kind of think I’ve finally learned from that, and yeah I’d love to write a song with Pink but I’m not gonna call her managers or anything like that, I know from experience that it has to happen organically, and if it does then maybe it’ll be a great thing, but I’m busy enough, you know? The stuff that comes to me turns out to be stuff that I’m glad came my way, and I just sort of wait for stuff to find me.

Why did you decide to release it on your website rather than through a label?

Well number one I don’t know that there’s a label that would wanna put out a record of me, and number two if they did I probably wouldn’t be too game for it because my experience of record labels is that I have more disdain for them than anything else. I just think that generally they’re run by the least musical and least intelligent people in the world, and the business is so different now that I think that there’s just another way to go. Y’know maybe it’s a relationship with a distributor, somebody that can just get the record in stores, or where it needs to be, but the idea of just signing a record deal, I just have no interest in that at all. And fortunately I don’t need somebody to give me money to make a record, I can do that whenever I want. Y’know, like a lot of bands and artists over the years I like being in charge and in control of my own music, even if it means it reaches fewer people it’s reaching them on my terms, and I don’t feel like I’m part of some corporate machine that’s clueless, (laughs) As you can tell from my whole tone of voice I’m not a fan of record companies. The business is ever changing, it’s getting smaller and smaller, I don’t think we’ll even have record companies in five years, I think they’ll be completely extinct.

What sort of direction do you think your next album is going to take?

Polka! (laughs) I don’t know…Y’know, the writing and producing of other people has made me have the possibility of creating music of all different genres, but I don’t know if I’d do that as an artist. I mean there’s a part of me that would love to do a Country-ish record, a modern country record, there’s a part of me that would love to do an Earth, Wind & Fire kind of horn-based R’n’B record, there’s a part of me that just wants to do a real bare bones Rock’n’Roll fun party Summertime kind of record, there’s a part of me that wants to do a beautiful orchestral record. So I don’t know, I guess I could do all of those things, and I might over the next five years, but one thing I’ve learnt is to not make too many plans, just see what happens.

Read the full double page interview with Richard, including him discussing his past albums, working with other artists and more, in Fireworks #43.

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