Saturday, June 15, 2024

Recommendation: You Should Check Out The Music Of My Good Friend Singer-Songwriter-Multi-Instrumentalist Rich Marr

I'm about to release a new album, but I'll post about that later.  In this post, instead I want to tell you about a guy named Rich Marr.  He's a cool dude I've known since he was a kid when I used to party with his older sister Kirsten in high school, and we became friends several years later while living the ski bum life in Colorado.  That's when we bonded over writing songs.  We're both back in home state Michigan now and still hang, usually making a road trip to Elderly Instruments in Lansing and then getting a Flint-style coney.

I probably wouldn't be a guy with over 150 publicly released original songs and 12 full-length studio albums if I didn't have my good friend Rich Marr in my life.  I've told some other friends, family and acquaintances over the years that I have this friend with whom I share the hobby of songwriting.  However, I've never really formally, publicly or officially acknowledged it though, until now, and it's probably overdue.  I may have thanked him in some liner notes once, but he deserves more than that.

So the deal is that we wrote a handful of songs together back in the early 90s, and they sucked, but we loved it.  We would enjoy hanging out, drinking and smoking, and then after getting buzzed, would get out acoustic guitars and a tape recorder and make up crazy ad-libbed "songs" that were intentionally funny and ridiculous about really terrible controversial subject matter with explicit lyrics.  We cracked each other up.  I'd been writing songs for a few years before that, and he was just starting out with guitar and songwriting, but suffice it to say we were both self-taught and had no idea what we were doing.  We had a lot of these living room jam sessions, and after listening back to the tapes, we agreed some aspects of some songs had potential, and some almost sounded like real songs.

We did a handful of "gigs" as an acoustic duo, some of which were actually paid, and we also ventured out to quite a few open mic nights at bars and coffee places where we sometimes got applause from mostly drunk audiences, while calling ourselves Lake Effect, Driftwood, and Acoustic Jones among other "band" names.  Since then, although realizing we weren't really all that compatible as co-writers or as an acoustic duo musical act, we each gravitated to becoming solo artists rather than being band members due to lack of confidence and being loners by nature, with him more of a performer and me more of a recording artist, but in doing so we each kept up with the songwriting hobby that we helped each other get into.

We lived in different states or cities for many years that followed, so we occasionally sent each other cassette tapes in the mail and mailed back critiques of each others' songs.  Initially, we were really harsh with each other, which could be devastating at times, but it also gave us confidence.  Eventually, I realized that positive-only feedback is best, and the negative or constructive part can be inferred from what is left out.  We evolved to swapping home-burned CDs and using email, and now all digital.  After a while, I evolved to not wanting any feedback from anyone ever, but sometimes he still volunteers it anyway, which I tolerate due to the history.  I've learned I only care if I like my songs or not, but my trust in myself and my judgement is hopefully improved from knowledge and experience.

We had a non-serious, friendly competition of sorts with reviewing each other's songs, like Lennon/McCartney did, and I'm sure it provided motivation and made us each better.  He has surpassed me on many levels since our early days.  Rich, who also goes by the monikers Ora Music Trax, Hatt Guyy, and Ora Marr, has probably written more songs than me, has a way better natural singing voice than me, invented a unique signature style of guitar playing unlike anyone I've ever heard, also a unique self-invented way of playing piano, and also taught himself mandolin, ukulele, banjo, and harmonica, and has recorded in Nashville.  He's also a music video producer, artist, decorated marathon runner, former music journalist, and published poet/author.  He convinced me to attend a songwriter retreat once in northern Michigan too.  So, hearing pros talk about songwriting for a week, and hearing Rich talk about songwriting for a few decades no doubt helped me get to where I am now.

Not saying I'm any good, but I've been prolific.  I was going to do it anyway, and I've had other things that have kept me interested.  I know it's been a passion of mine since 1989 when I first got a guitar, and I was probably hooked from the beginning to have songwriting be a hobby in my life, and I've of course learned from free info about songwriting I found on the web.  Buying myself other instruments and recording equipment helped spur on the mad scientist aspect as well.  But having someone to talk to about a creative hobby with who understands the struggle and occasional joy makes you less likely to give up.  Misery loves company I guess.

Now whenever we get together, like always, our conversations inevitably turn to music and songwriting.  We still have the occasional jam session, but it rarely lasts more than a few songs, usually includes a 12-bar blues in the key of E, and always ends with continuing to just talk about music stuff.  We talk about songwriting, and email each other about songwriting.  Obviously, it's a passion for both of us, and the biggest mutual interest.  In retrospect, having support from someone like that in my life for 30+ years who is also an introvert like me, and also in a place that is far from being a music mecca has been valuable.  So, thanks Rich for the considerable impact on my "career" in music!

Although our styles are quite different, you might like to check out his music.  It would make sense if fans of my music were also fans of his, and vice-versa, especially now that you've read this backstory.  He has gone out of his way to compliment and recommend my music, and not being much of a social media user or social person in general, I haven't returned the favor much...until now.  I am probably more familiar with his catalog than anyone.  Trust me when I tell you he's written hundreds of great songs that I previously reviewed favorably, that hardly anyone has ever heard because he hasn't posted them publicly yet, but I'll keep encouraging him.  A few of my favorite songs of his right now that are currently available are Forever Air, Spray Cheese, Surfin Tha Blue, Disconnected, and Flint Water Blues.

Some links:

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