From the time he appeared on the musical landscape in the late 1980s, Richard Marx has remained embedded in our collective consciousness. His early hits — particularly “Don’t Mean Nothin’,” “Should’ve Known Better,” and “Right Here Waiting for You” — are beloved pop classics.
But Marx isn’t content to rest on his laurels. His first album of fresh material in five years, Limitless, will be available on Feb. 7, just six days ahead of his appearance at the Clyde Theatre.
Marx is happy to still be making new music so long after he first burst onto the music charts.
Right here waiting for you
“I had some songs that I really wanted people to hear,” Marx said in a recent phone interview with Whatzup. “I’ve played a few of them live already and could have just put out a new track here or there, but I still love offering a collection of recent work. I had three or four songs and thought, ‘If I write six more, then I can put out a full album.’ Some of the songs have been around for years, and I hadn’t finished them. But they still hold up. Once I had 12 songs that I loved, I decided to go ahead with the album.”
He found new collaborators this time around as well. He collaborated on one new song, “Let’s Go,” with his wife of four years, Daisy Fuentes.
And the father of three grown sons also worked with one of them on two songs on the new album.
“Stylistically the songs are all over the map,” Marx said. “The album could be called ‘Sybil’ because it’s so schizophrenic. The common thread is my voice, but the music is country, pop, rock. My son Lucas lives and breathes today’s pop music, so he helped to make sure that nothing sounded outdated. Some of the songs sound like some of my older stuff, too. Look, I have no delusions that the world is waiting for a new Richard Marx album, but I think my fan base will enjoy it.”
His decision to record an album in the contemporary music business which doesn’t reward artists for doing so was vindicated by a surprise encounter at a recent dinner party.
“I went to dinner at a friend’s house recently,” Marx recalled. “It was six people —three couples — and Chris Martin was one of the people there. I had never met him, but I’ve been a huge fan of him and Coldplay for years. We started chewing the fat, and I told him I was recording a new album and that I wasn’t sure what it meant anymore to record a new album.
“The conversation took another direction, but he caught up with me later and said, ‘I want to pick up that conversation we were having a little while ago. You said you don’t know what it means anymore to record new music, but you know, it means everything. You still have songs that need to be heard. Think about why you started writing songs in the first place. You didn’t now if there was an audience for them or not, but you wrote them and recorded them for a reason.’ And I thought ‘Dammit, he’s right.’ I was so grateful to have had that conversation with him.”
Staying on the road
One reason Marx hadn’t been as active in the studio is that he continues to tour regularly, sometimes solo and sometimes with a band. The show he brings to the Clyde on Feb. 13 is something slightly different than either of those.
“I’ve been doing a solo acoustic show for about seven years now, and I do all the same songs but acoustic versions,” he said. “This show is a little different for the month of Valentine’s Day when I’m focusing more on the love songs than the rock songs. I’ll still be a goofball like I usually am in between songs, but the show will be a little bit different musically.”
For those who haven’t observed Richard Marx as a goofball, check out the Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band Tour 2006 DVD. Marx was among many big names on that tour which also included Billy Squire, Sheila E., Edgar Winter, and Rod Argent of the Zombies, and the on-stage banter and behind the scenes interviews capture what was obviously a fun tour for all.
Although it happened many years ago now, Marx still relishes talking about the experience.
“It was amazing, and the only reason I haven’t repeated it — and he has invited me to several times — is that I always have a conflict. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had never played in someone else’s band.
“We decided immediately as a band that it was not about us even though we were each going to be playing some of our songs. We wanted to be the best band we could be for him, and working with Billy Squire and Rod Argent was fun. I had known Sheila for a while but had never worked with her. It was just a great six weeks.”
Marx said that the best part of the tour was establishing a lifelong friendship with Starr with whom he has worked a couple of times since.
But before he revisits the Ringo experience, he has a new album to promote and a lot of touring in his future.
“I’m pretty much touring all year,” he said. “We have the love songs tour through February then we’re heading to Europe for five weeks. The current show will feature a few of the new songs and some others that people know that have been stripped down. I’m not one of those people who don’t want to play the old songs anymore, but the new ones that I’ve been doing have gotten a great response, too.”