Richard Marx, the Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer who owns the distinction of being the only male artist in history to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 on the Billboard charts, is currently on tour promoting his 13th album, Songwriter, and will perform at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on Nov. 12.
Marx first exploded on the music scene in 1987 with his self-titled debut album that went triple-platinum and his first single, “Don’t Mean Nothing,” reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Between 1987 and 1994, he had 14 top 20 hits, including three No. 1 singles.
Marx has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and his latest crosses over four different styles of music including pop, rock, ballads, and country featuring impressive tracks cowritten with some of music’s greats, plus his son, Lucas, on three tracks.
Before Marx performs at Patchogue, the Press spoke with the superstar.
At 17 an audiotape of your songs ended up in the hands of Lionel Richie, who helped you break into the music business. Did you ever find out how Richie got hold of your tape? It was mind-blowing how it got to him. It began with a high school friend who was a year older and in college. His roommate knew a guy who knew a guy who worked with the Commodores, Lionel’s group at the time. So it was four people removed. They said, “We’re going to get your tape to Lionel Richie.” And I said, “Yeah, right, good luck with that.” But sure enough, I get the call. I can’t believe Lionel took the time to listen to that tape and then actually called me!
Who did you listen to as a kid? I listened to The Monkees, The Partridge Family, Elvis, and then at 11 or 12, I got into the singer-songwriters like Billy Joel, Elton John, Queen, and the Eagles. Around 14 or 15 I became obsessed with Earth, Wind & Fire and I loved Sam Cook, Otis Redding, and Black R&B singers. Those were my favorite singers — I always thought they had the best voices. When I was in high school, I got into Earth, Wind & Fire, the Brothers Johnson and The Spinners. I was a big Commodores fan so when Lionel made that call it wasn’t that he was a big star, it was someone that I really loved.
In your latest album, Songwriter, why did you decide to cross four genres of music? It was the pandemic and I was thinking of what to do next. I have worked with so many artists and as a songwriter I never had to stick with one thing. I’ve written rock, country, beautiful ballads, and pop songs; pretty much everything. So, why not embrace that as an artist and a singer? It’s a pretty ambitious thing to do and I don’t know if anyone else has ever done it.
Why did you choose to make this a collaborative album? I wanted to collaborate with the legends like Burt Bacharach and the great artists like Keith Urban, Darius Rucker, and Chris Daughtry to my kids and some other younger songwriters. I continue to learn from young up-and-coming creators and it was a blast to make this record.
How did your collaboration on “Always” with Burt Bacharach happen? It was a real bucket list for me and he literally texted me an hour ago. We’ve become really great friends. He’s 94 so I’m always checking in on him. The great thing is that we got to write a song that I am so deeply proud of being part of. Just spending time with him, he’s so full of wisdom and humor, but I had no idea that it was going to be the basis of a great friendship that I will cherish forever. He’s an American treasure!
What is your process when you are writing with another composer? We finish a piece of music together then I write lyrics to it or if it’s someone who also writes lyrics, we hash it out together. The only thing that I’ve never done before is write lyrics first, but I had to do that with Burt. He writes only music but to an existing set of lyrics. So, I had to write lyrics with no music. It was really intimidating. I wrote a poem about my wife, Daisy, put a twist on it, and hoped Burt would like it, and he loved it.
How does this process differ from the process you employ when you write solo? Music first. When I sing, I hear the whole record in my head. I hear what the drums, bass and guitar are doing, so I can envision what it’s going to be. It’s a magical, mystifying process. To this day when I finish a song I stand there and say, “Oh, my god! I wrote a song!” It’s still so exciting that a minute ago there was nothing and now there’s something.
Richard Marx on Tour, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 East Main St., Patchogue, patchoguetheatre.org $89-$119. 8 p.m. Nov. 12.