Career reinvention, the Marxian way
Richard Marx writes for others now but still sings his old songs.
By Courtney Devores
Special to the Observer
Posted: Thursday, Oct. 07, 2010

Richard Marx is in the midst of a solo acoustic tour that comes to McGlohon Theatre on Saturday.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St.

TICKETS: $29.50-$39.50.

DETAILS: 704-372-1000;

During the ’80s and early ’90s, Richard Marx unleashed a string of hits – “Should’ve Known Better,” “Don’t Mean Nothing,” “Right Here Waiting.” Since that momentum slowed, he’s focused on crafting hits for artists such as Lifehouse, Daughtry, Keith Urban, NSYNC and Luther Vandross. He’s now in the midst of a solo acoustic tour that hits McGlohon Theatre on Saturday.

He describes the intimate, story-filled concert “like having you guys over to my house.” The father of three spoke to the Observer last week about his career, his family, and his friends on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Q. Some artists tire of their hits. How do you feel about yours?

I haven’t really found that phenomenon of being sick of singing one of my songs… Last night in Englewood we closed the show with “Right Here Waiting.” It sounds so silly, but I was really moved. Something in the room was really emotional. It happens with more than a few songs. “Endless Summer Nights” – I think about making the video. My mom and dad are in the video.

Q. How did you get into writing for others?

A lot of people think I dropped off the earth… In 1996 – it wasn’t just me, it was every white male singer-songwriter – that was it for us. Our turn was kind of up. Instead of going into a corner and pouting… a great fortune came my way with NSYNC and Luther Vandross and Barbra Streisand.

Q. Is slipping from genre to genre fun?

It is the most fun part of this phase of my career. My only fear now is if this career ran into trouble. I don’t think of having another hit as a singer. I write with a lot of young bands making their first records. I produced Josh Groban’s first song, and I like being on the ground floor. Artists that are making first records are kind of fearless. The other thing is I find myself getting to work with people who are on my iPod.

Q. Tell me about your son getting into acting.

My son Lucas, who is 18, on a whim asked me if I could help him find an agent in Chicago, where we live. He wanted to start putting some money away. I found one. He went down and they loved him. His first audition he got a State Farm commercial. Now he’s got a role on a Fox midseason show called “Ride Along.” He’s the son of the main character. I said, “Dude, this is just bizarre. You’ve had an agent for eight minutes and you got a TV show.”

Q. Are you and your wife (actress/singer Cynthia Rhodes of “Dirty Dancing”) keeping up with Jennifer Grey on “DWTS”?

Cynthia and Jennifer got back in each other’s lives because of Patrick (Swayze’s) death. She and her husband had us over for dinner in the spring. As soon as we knew she was doing (“DWTS”), Cynthia knew she would take it. I’m friends with Michael Bolton and felt bad how that went. You could not pay me enough to put on dancing shoes.

Q. Many musicians from your era have had problems with drugs and alcohol. What was different for you?

When I moved to L.A., there was a lot of cocaine around me. I remember having this fear that I can’t disappoint my parents and it was a fear that I would love it. I wasn’t some puritan out there. Pot was never an issue. I was never going to smoke anything because I was afraid what it would do to my voice. The other stuff looked like fun, but like the kind of fun I couldn’t stop. Also instead of meeting the right girl at 40 or 30, I met the right girl at 21. I had a family of my own that I wanted to be proud of me.

I’ve struggled with my own demons. I’m no different from anybody else. Luckily for me it’s never been played out in a public way, because I’ve never embraced that. Way more people know my songs than know me.

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