Sometimes it takes a musical artist an album or two (or three) to break through commercially. This was certainly not the case for Richard Marx. His 1987 self-titled debut yielded four Top 5 hits, including “Don’t Mean Nothing” and “Hold On To The Nights,” while his 1989 follow-up, Repeat Offender, continued the winning streak. Remember the No. 1 hits “Satisfied” and “Right Here Waiting?” Along with his solo hits, he remains a highly coveted songwriter/producer having worked with the likes of Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Keith Urban, Chicago and Luther Vandross over the years. On June 23, fans can hear Marx play his hits when he returns for a performance at the Boulton Center in Bay Shore.
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Looking back, what are the pros and cons of enjoying commercial success right off the bat?
The caveat was I was 23 when I had my first hit, so it’s not like I’m complaining that I languished for years looking for success. That said, it was not an overnight success. I started really pursuing a record deal and a career when I was 17/18 years old. And I really worked myself up. I did a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff and got rejected by every label for years…I was rejected by every label based upon songs that became No. 1 songs. There was definitely my own personal version of struggling and frustration.
It was a little bit of an adjustment from the attention standpoint or celebrity standpoint…I’ve always been a pretty private person. To this day, people don’t really know much about my private life. I’ve always kept it that way, and I want people to be interested in the music and what I’m writing about. I’ve tried to be as engaging and fun to watch on stage. But there’s always been a “man behind the curtain.” I think it’s helped to keep me somewhat sane, just to have a life that is completely not about the public eye.
It really was one of those things where on a Monday afternoon I could go anywhere and no one knew who I was, and then Tuesday, MTV played “Don’t Mean Nothing,” and Tuesday afternoon I went to the mall and 10 girls were like, “Oh my God…it’s the guy from MTV!” There’s no handbook for dealing with becoming a public person; you just have to navigate it. And some people navigate it really well and some people navigate it really badly. For a little while, I think I handled it pretty well, but it still was an adjustment. To this day, I’m not completely comfortable with it. But it’s like anything else—it’s something that you want to assimilate and work out for yourself.
Your last studio album came out in 2014. Are there plans for a new one?
I think the short answer is yes, but I’m not sure what form it’s going to take. It may be just putting out a bunch of tracks. I have been working on a project that seems to have a thread of continuity…It’s a hybrid of what I do and modern country, which kind of makes sense because in the last 10/15 years, I’ve worked with a lot of country artists.
I’ve got a bunch of stuff that I’m almost finished with and I’m about to mix. And then, I’ve got all these other songs that I’ve written and recorded. It’s so schizophrenic. I should do a whole package and call it Sybil. There’s a bunch of pop songs, there’s very modern electronic meets pop tracks, there’s rock tracks, there’s modern country things—it’s kind of all over the map. And, a couple of months ago, I wrote a song with Burt Bacharach that sounds like a standard from 1970. So, I don’t know; it’s a really good question as to how this stuff is going to get disseminated. Your guess is as good as mine, but there will definitely be a bunch of new music out towards the end of the year.
What can people expect at the upcoming show in Bay Shore?
I’ve done shows at Bay Shore several times. That gig for me in Bay Shore has become like a friend, that whenever I’m in town, you go have dinner with that friend. Whenever I’m in the neighborhood, I stop into the Boulton Center and hang out with that group of people. I always look back at the set list from the last time and change it up a little bit and throw in a couple of songs that I haven’t done there or change the order. But at the end of the day, I know what people want to hear. They want to hear the songs that they know and they’re totally cool to hear unfamiliar songs, but they really want to hear hits. I get it because I’m kind of the same way as a concert-goer. And the good news is, I love playing these songs, some of them I’ve been playing for 31 years. And when I do “Should’ve Known Better” or “Don’t Mean Nothing,” especially in the solo acoustic show, it’s brand new for me.