UP TO SOMETHIN’
Other musicians are usually the first to know when there is someone rising through their ranks that is especially gifted, someone with a unique voice and a singular vision for communicating universal truths to their audience. Those are the artists who break from the pack and find their own place in the spotlight. Steve Richard is that caliber of artist.
With his new CD, Up to Somethin’ releasing on October 18th, music aficionados everywhere are discovering the talent that has already earned Richard fans among Nashville’s best, including Big & Rich’s John Rich, acclaimed Nashville producer Phil O’Donnell and other industry insiders. A “singer’s singer,” Richard has earned the respect of his peers with a compelling voice that resonates with honestly and boasts an edgy intensity that draws listeners into his songs.
Up to Somethin’ is a well rounded collection of country tunes that echo Richard’s values and his upbeat approach to life yet also richly reflect the diverse musical influences that have shaped his artistry.
Namely, the first single from the record, “Invisible Hand,” a poignant song about God’s sovereignty and a catchy summer tune with deep meaning and encouragement, is already gaining traction at Christian radio.
Born in Providence, R.I., Richard spent most of his formative years in New Jersey before migrating to St. Louis. “My father was a businessman. He got transferred a lot and we went wherever he got transferred,” recalls Richard of his nomadic upbringing.
However, music was a constant presence regardless of the family’s address. “I grew up listening to folk music a lot, including Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan and what was called folk rock at the time like the Byrds. Then I discovered Gram Parsons and that’s what really led me into country music,” says Richard, who began soaking up Waylon Jennings, Porter Wagoner and Buck Owens, and also developed an affinity for the soulful sounds of Stevie Wonder and the Temptations.
As a young musician, Richard honed his chops performing in clubs in the Northeast including Boston’s well-known haunt, The Rathskeller and New York’s legendary Bitter End. Though his early days were spent primarily playing rock music, he eventually migrated back to the country sounds he fell in love with, and it was his ability to combine the two forms of musical expression that led to gigs opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, Dickey Betts, Allman Brothers, Montgomery Gentry and other high octane acts.
His self-titled debut album caught the attention of fans and radio programmers with the single, “Everything Beautiful to Me,” dedicated to his daughter Marion, born Valentine’s Day 2007. The song is one of five tracks on the album co-written and produced by John Rich of Big & Rich. The album also yielded the hit “Stomp,” which was turned into a video game, and “Make It Into Heaven,” which found a home on both mainstream country radio and Christian stations. Such broad exposure helped earn Richard the Best New Artist honor at the 15th annual Inspirational Country Music Award Show.
In recording Up to Somethin’, Richard teamed with Phil O’Donnell. “We’d been out on tour with Craig Morgan and Philbilly is his producer,” says Richard. “My manager arranged for us to have lunch and after meeting with him I said, ‘That’s who I want to produce the new album!’ He is a Christian, so he knew what I’d want to be singing about and not want to be singing about, and he made sure that the arrangements were good for my voice. Phil has great ears and access to great players who can get their ideas down fast while it’s fresh.”
O’Donnell also brought his keen song sense and an impressive cache of tunes by Music Row’s top songwriters to the sessions. “I picked all the songs on the album and they are all songs that mean something to me,” says Richard, who cites “Heaven’s Up to Something” and “I Ain’t Givin’ Up on Jesus” as his favorites, while the picturesque “80 Acre Church,” which paints a vivid image and life story of a farmer and an outdoor cathedral, is finding fans at mainstream country radio. A songwriter since his teens, Richard also contributes two of his own compositions to the project—“Love, Anyhow” and “Truly Beautiful Girl.”
“I definitely wanted to make an album that the lyrical themes would fit well with listeners who are Christians, but also we perform in arenas, state fairs and places where the audience may consist of a variety of beliefs,” Richard says of his broad fan base. “I have a big audience to reach that needs to hear that they can change their life in a way that is really going to help them, because so many of them are often going through lots of trouble and pain and my hope is to offer them something that will help bring healing to them all.”
Steve Richard knows the true healing power of music and though he never misses an opportunity to encourage other believers, he feels especially compelled to shine a light for those battling the darkness. “I grew up knowing God and really turned away from him in my teens and got involved in drugs and alcohol,” he admits. “I was probably very close to dying when I met some musicians who were Christians. I knew that they had something that I definitely didn’t have.”
He rededicated his life to God and his world turned around forever. He married his wife, Rachelle, welcomed daughter Marion and began pursuing his music with a renewed passion. “I just do this hard-driving, rockin’ country music and I have a little bluesy thing going on too, so it’s a little different for some of the Christian audience,” Richard concedes with a smile, “but I don’t want to put Jesus in a box.”