Richard Marx & Yacht Rock Revue
2022 marks Richard Marx’s thirty-fifth year as a recording artist, and his thirty-eighth as a professional songwriter. 1984’s “What About Me,” released as a trio by Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes and James Ingram was co-written by Richard and became not only his first song recorded by an artist, but his first number one as a writer. On September 30th, Marx will release his unique and ambitious new album, simply and appropriately titled Songwriter.
Songwriter contains twenty tracks crossing four different musical genres. Five pop songs, five rock songs, five country songs and five beautiful ballads. “I’ve had such an amazing opportunity in my songwriting career to write all kinds of songs with, and for, all kinds of artists,” says Richard. “It finally occurred to me that there was no reason not to record an album of my own that touches on multiple genres I love.”
While he included a few existing songs that were written in the recent past, the bulk of Songwriter was created over the past year. “For instance,” Richard says, “I wrote a modern rock song a few years back called “Just Go” that I really love but I didn’t feel it fit the vibe of my last two albums. The band and I played it live a few times and people seemed to really love it, so I’m happy to finally get it out there.”
While several of the songs on Songwriter were composed by Richard alone (as on all of his previous albums) collaborations make up the majority of the tracks, including some co-written with various music superstars. “One Day Longer” was written by Richard and his longtime friend, Keith Urban, who has taken previous collaborations by the two (“Better Life” and “Long Hot Summer”) straight to the top of the country charts. “Breaking My Heart” was co-written with Darius Rucker and former Evanescence founder, David Hodges. “My Love, My Enemy” is a gem of a rock song written by Richard and another longtime friend and collaborator, Vertical Horizon’s Matt Scannell. “One More Yesterday” was composed with Chris Daughtry and Lifehouse’s Jason Wade. And a new ballad, “Always” is the creation of Richard and one of his lifelong heroes, the legendary Burt Bacharach. “The experience of sitting in a room and writing a song with Burt is something I consider one of the greatest thrills of my life. That we wrote a song we’re both so deeply proud of and in love with makes me all that much more grateful. Plus, we’ve become really good pals. Burt is ninety-four and all he wants to do is write more great songs. He’s such an inspiration.”
Additionally, Richard collaborated with two of his sons, both singer-songwriter-producers in their own right. “Shame On You” and “We Are Not Alone” were written with Jesse Marx (whose debut EP under the band name Mark This Hour was recently released) and Lucas Marx co-wrote and produced three songs, including the album’s first single, “Same Heartbreak Different Day”.
Songwriter is another chapter in not only a long and illustrious career, but the latest project in a recent flurry of creative endeavors. In February 2020, Richard released Limitless, an album which spawned a top 15 single and hit #2 on the iTunes pop albums chart. In 2021, Richard’s memoir, Stories to Tell became a national bestseller and its soundtrack went top ten. The paperback edition of Stories to Tell was released in July, 2022.
Yacht Rock Revue
What is left for Yacht Rock Revue to prove? This top-notch group of musicians has already rocked onstage with John Oates, Eddie Money (RIP), and both versions of the band Player. They’ve trademarked the term “yacht rock,” both metaphorically and literally (U.S. Registration Number 3834195). From humble beginnings in a basement, touring in partnership with Live Nation and Sirius XM, they now headline sold-out shows across the country, from Webster Hall in New York to the Wiltern in L.A. While rising from bars to amphitheaters, they’ve ticked every box on the Rock Star Accomplishments bingo card. Except for one: Writing and singing their own songs.
Yacht Rock Revue’s first original record is ten songs inspired by the smoooooth sounds of the Seventies and Eighties. They’ve brazenly titled it Hot Dads In Tight Jeans – forgive them for bragging, but that’s what they are – and it returns Yacht Rock Revue to their roots in original music. “I had a midlife crisis. That’s why we made this album,” says Nick Niespodziani, the group’s singer, guitarist, and spiritual leader. “Everyone in the band is a dad now, so we needed to make this happen, before we become grandpas. I’ve sung ‘Escape’ by Rupert Holmes at least a thousand times, and if that isn’t paying your dues, I don’t know what is.”
It’s rare that musicians in their 40s chase their rock star dreams. You’d have to be crazy to try. YRR knew they were underdogs, but resolved to take one more shot at the Top 40, and maybe even become a Cinderella story of midlife fulfillment.
Yacht Rock Revue began in the least-yachtiest of states, 2,000 miles from breezy Marina del Rey. Niespodziani and Pete Olson met in the fourth grade in suburban Indiana, went on to Indiana University in the late Nineties, formed the band Y-O-U, then escaped – Rupert Holmes reference intended – to Atlanta. One night, Y-O-U tucked their tongues deep in their cheeks and played a show of Yacht Rock songs. The rowdy (a nice way of saying drunk), sold-out crowd loved it.
When the club owner asked them to do it again, Niespodziani didn’t want to. But the club owner had an ace up his sleeve: money.
Over the years, YRR (there’s also a Dave, a Greg, and literally three guys named Mark) have turned themselves into human wine spritzers, playing 120 to 150 shows a year, mastering Yacht Rock’s slick chords and mellow grooves, and partying like it’s 1979. What began as a joke among friends soon put a ripple in the zeitgeist, starting a national trend through YRR’s concerts, lauded as “unabashedly joyous affairs” by Entertainment Weekly. They accumulated an extensive wardrobe of white belts and polyester shirts. Yacht Rock Revue were revered and well-compensated! Their life was a tenor sax solo! This is what every musician wants.
But even as YRR was sailing the smooth seas of tribute-band superstardom, and the band members all became dads, Niespodziani was still writing original songs. These new tunes had the spirit of Yacht Rock, but were more modern – akin to Phoenix or Air, the hip bands that adapted Yacht for a younger audience. They brought the songs to a hot producer, Ben Allen, who’s worked with Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective, and Neon Indian. Allen gave the songsa lustrous shine, for both new audiences and their ever-loyal fans, the Nation of Smooth. Niespodziani and Olson even co-wrote a song, “Big Bang,” with Yacht Rock master Matthew Wilder, famous for his massive 1983 hit “Break My Stride.”
“Step,” the record’s first single, is a peppy number replete with falsetto and bumping bass, a cross between the Bee Gees and Steely Dan’s “Peg.” It’s also the mission statement for the album in a way, because it’s about deciding who you want to be, and making space for that in your life. The seven-piece band display tight chops, and the songs incorporate Yacht Rock Revue’s sense of humor, especially on the funky, pro-margarita “Bad Tequila,” the flute-fired “Another Song About California,” and opening track “The Doobie Bounce,” where Niespodziani brags, “I used to sleep on couches/Now I sleep on nicer couches.”
Hot Dads In Tight Jeans is as plush and shiny as Kenny Loggins’ beard. And YRR are already dropping these new songs into their sets, to great response from longtime fans who are thrilled to hear new smooth. While others in YRR’s position stick with the tried-and-true, Niespodziani hopes the album will let them welcome aboard new fans, too. To paraphrase a notable mariner... they’re gonna need a bigger yacht.
“Here’s how I see it,” Niespodziani concludes, sliding into a waiting limousine. “We have only one fewer hit than Player did, and Player is immortal. We built this Yacht Rock thing on the power of memories and good vibes. None of that is changing; we're just gonna make a few new memories as well."
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