My earliest recollection is playing the piano at home and listening to my dad’s 78 rpm records. I still have some of his record collection: the musical hall humour of Felix kept on walking by Harry Fay, Does the spearmint lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight? by the Two Gilberts, plus great voices such as Paul Robeson, Richard Tauber, and coming from an Irish heritage the fun of If we’re Irish and romance of the Mountains of Mourne. My dad passed on his love for Handel’s Messiah to me through his records. He loved music. At school we developed our own Top Ten classical lists alongside listening to Top of the Pops on the radio. Big hits for me were anything from the Shadows (e.g. the Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt, Apache), The Animals, moving on to Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Loudon Wainwright III, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, James Taylor. Which means I love singer songwriters with something to say and great guitars! I was on the fringes of the music world as a performer: auditioned for a choir school, participated in piano festivals, was the whole of the choir in the village church, tinkling always on the piano but never dedicated enough to put in the hard work (a lot of my spare time was spent as a long distance runner instead). So it was 30 years before I got back into any form of performance (as a tenor in Eclectic Voices) and another decade until I “became” a singer songwriter. Life is full of surprises!
2 – Who did you grow up listening to, and does that impact on what you create now?
Having grown up listening to the great classics as well as the 60s singer songwriters with something to say that has probably pushed me in that direction. I’ve started with the lyrics, as it’s what I do best and find the easiest (I fancied myself at limericks when young) and the tune/rhythm seems to emerge quite naturally from the pace and meaning of the “poem”. With the help of brilliant musicians a great group of musicians and producers – Bruce Knapp, Richard Sadler, Tony Shepherd, Matt Knapp – I then develop them as close as I can to being an enjoyable musical experience, and one that I enjoy. Selfishly that’s a good place to start but I hope others like it too! Callie Howard and Christine Axelle provide a real zip and depth with their supporting vocals. As with almost everything creative we all owe a huge debt, knowingly or otherwise, to those who have come before. The challenge is to create something which makes your own contribution.
3 – How long have you been playing/writing?
After a lifetime at the fringe of music, actually writing my own songs came out of the blue in May 2009, in Spain. I was with Eclectic Voices, the choir I’ve been singing in since 2000 (the whole of this Millennium!!), in A Coruna, and literally on the famous road to Santiago de Compostela, the classic pilgrimage route, (driving not walking) I starting writing some lyrics and the pen never stopped. By the new year I was in a studio with the band putting down the first tracks. And it still comes, often in bursts. Long may it last.
4 – How often do you play live (include details and links for any upcoming gigs)?
Right now I am totally focussed on writing and recording, with the occasional foray into open mics with friends. The only formal performances are singing other people’s music with Eclectic Voices. I seem to be going the opposite way to the music industry which plays live more and more and then records. But if I get round to organising a gig you’ll hear about it!! Meanwhile to help reach as global an audience as possible I love putting together videos with the songs, which is yet another way of trying to communicate and entertain – and maybe it’s going to be a big part of the future .
5 – What has been your favourite moment in music?
Here’s my provisional Top Ten
- Listening to the band create and play great music for my songs;
- Concerts with Dylan, Leonard Cohen (especially London July 1976 when he was “at his funkiest and wittiest according to Melody Maker), Loudon Wainwright III;
- Hearing the opera Simon Boccanegra for the first time;
- Discovering the French singer Serge Lama, and Tom Waits;
- Rediscovering Françoise Hardy;
- Hearing the sound of Eclectic Voices echo back from the dome of a Turin concert venue in Italy;
- Daniel Barenboim’s complete Beethoven sonata performances in London a couple of years back;
- Seeing Flanders and Swann in Coventry in 1963;
- Hearing Loudon Wainwright III’s “I am the Way” for the first time: so funny, so neat
- Hearing a new singer especially when I wasn’t expecting anything special.
6 – Where is the best place to find you online?
For buying, iTunes, CD Baby and all good online stores
For listening do go my website www.richardrhysobrien.com for my videos for Cloud on the Horizon and Choice (would be a fine thing)
Reverbnation, Soundcloud for all the tracks
Youtube for my latest single for Musical marriage
And more videos will come over the summer for my new album Anguneau sunset