10 Questions with ... Richard Marx
February 1, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
As a performer, songwriter and producer, Richard Marx's nearly three-decade-long career has had innumerable of highlights. The Chicago native has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, starting with his self-titled debut which went to #8 and spawned four Top 5 singles, including the chart-topping "Hold on to the Nights," with "Don't Mean Nothing" earning him a Grammy nomination for "Best Male Rock Vocal Performance." The follow-up, 1989's "Repeat Offender", was even more successful, hitting #1 and going quadruple-platinum with two #1 singles in "Satisfied" and "Right Here Waiting." When both "Rush Street" (with two #1 AC hits in "Keep Coming Back" and "Hazard") and "Paid Vacation" (with its #1 AC hit, "Now and Forever") went platinum, Marx achieved a seven-year string of triumphs that rivaled any in pop-rock music history.
To this day, he is the only male artist in history to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 on the Billboard charts.
For most artists, that would be impressive enough - but Richard Marx didn't stop there, launching a second, very successful, incarnation as a songwriter and producer, with songs like "To Where You Are," the first hit single from Josh Groban's debut album, as well as the NSYNC smash, "This I Promise You." He went on to earn a 2004 "Song of the Year" Grammy for co-authoring Luther Vandross' "Dance with My Father." Across all formats, Marx has scored an amazing total of 14 #1 singles (including Keith Urban's #1 smash "Long Hot Summer") both as a performer and songwriter/producer, making him a true multi-talented threat who continues to challenge himself and his fans. He has also written with Jennifer Nettles, Sara Bareilles and Vince Gill. Marx holds the honor of being one of a handful of artists who have had a number one hit in each of the past four decades.
1) Hey there Richard! How are you? What's on the agenda today besides our interview?
Hey, Nicole! I was just going to have some coffee and beat my servants for a bit. Typical day.
2) Richard, with a successful career spanning over 30 years in music and as a Grammy Award winner selling over 30 million albums worldwide, AND the only male artist in history to have your first seven singles reach the Top 5 on the Billboard charts...take us back to the early days of living in Chicago for a minute ... who or what was the catalyst for you to want to live the life of a musical gypsy?
Both my parents were in music. My dad was a very successful jingle composer-producer-arranger and my mom sang on all the stuff he did. So, I knew I wanted to be in music pretty much from day one. But I started writing songs at 14 to impress a girl I had a crush on, and I knew then that I wanted to write songs the rest of my life.
A couple years later I got a call at home from Lionel Richie who had heard my first demo tape, encouraging me to move to LA. Talk about a mind-blowing fucking phone call! So, I graduated from high school and moved to LA where he hired me as a backup singer on his first solo album, and then recommended me to Kenny Rogers who I ended up writing a number one song for, and I was kind of off to the races.
3) You have written chart-topping songs for the likes of Keith Urban ("Long Hot Summer"), Josh Groban, Luther Vandross (which won several Grammy awards for the song "Dance With My Father"), Ringo Starr, NSYNC, and most recently Vince Gill's new single, "Take Me Down". How was that been switching gears writing, producing and/or collaborating with these other artists?
Well, I never get bored that's for sure. I love that my songwriting resume looks like Sybil. It's all over the place. And I love all kinds of music so it's been a blast.
4) You continue to write for other artists across a wide variety of genres and most recently spent some time in the studio with DJ/EDM artist Kygo. How was that?
He's a talented young man. Very chill. He had a cool track that I wrote melody and lyrics to. Not sure what will happen with it but I really like it.
5) What did you learn between previous albums and collaborations that you felt you wanted to infuse on your latest album, Beautiful Goodbye?
I wasn't really intending to make an album. I was just going through some songs I'd written the year before and found a few had a similar vibe, and I wanted to continue it.
I wanted to make a really sexy record. Not so much "romantic" which I've done quite a bit. But sexier. Musically, lyrically. Songs less about "forever" and more about "tonight."
6) You recently exposed your comedic-side and natural acting skills, which are clear in your hilarious Funny or Die video. How did that all come about? Did you have some creative licensing in the dialogue etc.?
It actually began with Chelsea Perretti bringing me an idea for FOD, but we couldn't really pull it together, and I had my own idea which became the clip we did. I wrote it and their team tweaked it and made it happen. Pretty fun afternoon!
7) Nowadays, everything is so instant...you push a button and its yours ala Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes etc. What was the first album you saved up your money as a kid and bought for yourself?
I remember I was about seven and it was the soundtrack to Elvis' '68 Comeback Special. But the first big impact album was Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years." It made me want to become a songwriter.
8) Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
It's all over the map. Bruno Mars, Ellie Goulding, Bebel Gilberto. I love Tove Lo. My wife and I created a few great Pandora stations and there's always music playing in our house. Mostly newer stuff. She always knows every new track out before I do.
9) What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
Shit, man...I don't remember. My mom said when I was two, I was obsessed with "Hang On, Sloopy".
10) What's on tap next for you, Richard? What are you most excited about for this year?
Beating my servants some more. No, I'm definitely psyched about all the shows coming up this year, and maybe I'll have some new material out. I'm always writing new stuff with other artists, too. But mostly I'm excited to be wherever I am at any given time. I'm a lucky man. Life is really good right now.
* Special thanks to All Access Music writer Nicole DeRosa for conducting this interview.