Following on from our review of Rich Chambers’ single, ‘High School Can’t Last Forever’, Lisa took the opportunity to speak to Rich and ask him about his life, his music, and his upcoming single, ‘I Wonder’.
Hi Rich! Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to us!
Thanks for having me!
We love your style and we love your song, ‘High School Can’t Last Forever’. You’ve got a new single coming out on November 29, ‘I Wonder’. Could you tell us something about that?
Firstly, thank you so much for the compliments about ‘High School Can’t Last Forever’. I am so glad that you like the song! And secondly, I would be happy to talk about my next single, “I Wonder,” which will be coming out on November 29th. This song is the result of a joint writing effort from a few years ago with my band, Half-Hour Late. We were rehearsing one night, and in between songs we started into chatting about all things and everything, as was always the case amongst the five of us, and for whatever reason, I started into the basic chord progression that constitutes ‘I Wonder’. There was nothing flashy about it. It was, and is, a very basic three chord progression, but there was something about the way I was playing it and the sound that I had going that inspired our bass player Todd to just declare ‘I Wonder’. From there Sean, Jim, and myself started a gang sing along of that same phrase. Jeff kicked the drums in and Todd started screaming lyrics to answer the rest of us gang singing the ‘I Wonder’ phrase. A minute or two later, Sean broke into the descending guitar riff that is featured predominantly throughout the song and we then knew we had ourselves something pretty cool. There is not a lot to this song other than it is a bit of a musical guilty pleasure and simply a lot of fun, which is pretty darn okay as far as I am concerned!
We’ve seen your musical style described variously as, “soft rock”, “retro rock”, “indie rock”, “punk rock” – even “80s rock”! How do you describe your sound, or do you prefer not to be put in a box?
This is a great question and one that in some ways is both hard and easy to answer. I will illustrate why it is hard by highlighting the difficulty I have had getting my songs onto radio. I have approached many country stations that say I am too rock. I have approached rock stations that say I am too country. I’ve approached retro rock stations that say I am too modern and modern rock stations that say I am too retro for their playlists. I have also been told I am too blues or too punk by other stations, while the blues and punk stations will often say I am too rock. This sort of thing doesn’t happen all the time, but it has happened more than enough times to tell me that my sound and music sits right at the crossroads of so many different genres and styles, which I absolutely love, mind you! It makes a lot of sense though given the many different artists and styles of music I have loved and been influenced by, but it does make it hard when people want me to give a very finite and definitive description of my music.
On the other hand though, from another perspective, I actually find my music and sound very easy to define. I have always believed that rock n’ roll in its basic and raw form is made up of a little bit of every genre of music I have just described, so in keeping with this philosophy, when people ask me to define my music, I will simply say, with no qualifiers and/or preceding adjectives, “Rock n’ Roll.”
We’ve seen that you’re seriously on the ball when it comes to social media. How important do you think it is for artists? Do you maintain a close relationship with your fans through this? Can it be a double-edged sword at times?
Thank you for the kind words regarding my social media presence. It truly means a lot! When I started this huge and serious music push approximately 18 months ago, I knew that social media was important, but I was a complete neophyte and had no idea how to utilize it. I kind of dove in head first and started posting whatever content I could think of. I then started researching every way in which I could make social media work for me and took close looks at what other bands and musicians were doing. I started to explore the various social media platforms, testing out and sampling what I could and could not do. I then heard about Facebook and Instagram ads and began utilizing this avenue as well. As time marched on, my posts started becoming more relevant and more engaging. I went from a guy who 18 months ago barely batted an eye at Facebook to someone who is extremely active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube every day. I also love that as I am acquiring new fans from around the world, social media allows me to connect with them first hand. It is amazing to be able to thank someone who lives in Brazil for liking and streaming my song. That kind of access is the ultimate beauty of social media, in my opinion!
And yes, very simply, social media is SUPER important for artists today!!!
Can it be a doubled-edge sword? Oh, for sure…if you let it. All things social media can become big rabbit holes that one can easily fall into. They are great for connecting with fans and getting one’s music out there, but they aren’t everything. It is only one aspect of marketing, albeit a big one, but still only one aspect. If an artist gets too fixated on social media they run the risk of neglecting the importance of print media, radio, and playing live. Social media can also be an all-encompassing time thief, so it is important to maintain perspective and keep social media in its proper place.
What was your high school experience like, and why do you think High School can’t last forever?
My high school experience was very stereotypical. I had a lot of great friends, worked a part time job, didn’t study as much as I should have, spent weekends looking to hang out with friends, etc. It was a lot of fun! But more than anything, when I look back on it now, I realize how out of touch I was with the simple innocence and beauty of that time. Like a lot of kids in high school, I sat somewhere in the middle of not quite being a kid anymore, but yet not quite being an adult yet either, and the wonderful sensibility of all of this was completely lost on me.
High school is a moment in time, and most of us, as we get older, make sense out of this as we start to realize that life is really just made up of all kinds of different moments—but some people never do. Those that don’t, never quite make the jump from being a “kid” to being an “adult,” and they somehow stay trapped in that “limbo” that is represented by high school and that time in our lives. These are the people that I sing in the song as being “lost to the bitter hope for a different time.” They have never evolved past those high school sensibilities and they long for the innocence and the “anything is possible” mantra that high school represents. But the moment that is, and was, high school, like all other moments in our lives, passes on. It cannot last forever and wishing that it could is only going to spiral one into longing for something that can never be attained. But what can last forever is the hope and innocence that high school represents. None of us really saw this while we were going through high school, we needed to take the leap into becoming an “adult” to truly see this and appreciate it. It is almost like we needed the experiences we gained as adults to see the true nature and beauty of the innocence we had in high school. And with that experience comes the realization that innocence is, more than anything, a choice or perspective—or, “innocence is just a state of mind.”
How do you come up with your songs, and what’s the songwriting process for you? Do you have to be in a particular mood or do you find you can write in any situation?
I love this question! I have two songwriting processes actually. The first is what I like to call the “wow, I can’t believe that just happened” process. That is where my single ‘Summer Looks So Good On You’ (released July 2021) came from. It is when everything seems to align, for whatever reason, and a song comes out of me fast, quick, and easy. I love it when this happens, but unfortunately it only accounts for maybe 20% of my song catalogue.
The other 80% of my songs come from the second process, which is the “hard work” process. This process is approximately 10% inspiration and 90% hard work, which consists of a lot of trial and error and experimentation. I’ll start with a melody, guitar riff, or guitar chord combination and work it through many different iterations to find the best combination. If I can’t find something that “sticks” in my head, I will leave what I am working on for another day. As a result, I have had some ideas kicking around for years before they actually become full songs, which is what happened with my latest single, “High School Can’t Last Forever” (released September 2021). That song had been percolating within for 25 before I finally sat down and completed it.
As far as mood is concerned, I have found that I can write pretty much whenever I want to. There is no question that a pile of my songs are inspired by a mood or an emotion I may be feeling at a particular moment. These songs come from deep within me during very emotional moments, both positive and negative, and are usually my most personal songs. But I have also written a lot of songs that were the end result of me just sitting down and deciding “I am going to write this type of song today.” These songs are never quite as personal as my other group of songs, although they often possess a certain insightfulness that my personal songs lack, or, they end up simply being toe-tapping, feel-good, musical guilty pleasures benign of any deep meaning, other than the fact they are there to simply have fun.
What advice would you have now, for you when you were just starting out? Similarly, what important things have you learned would you tell someone who’s just starting out in music?
This is a great question. I have often said I wish I could go back in time with the knowledge I now have. Wouldn’t that be nice? But what I would love to say to my younger self is, “Rich, lose the attitude, and remember that the world exists well beyond the scope of your own self. Remain openminded and always remember that you can learn from everyone and anyone!”
For someone just starting out in music, I would say pretty much the same things to them that I would say to my younger self, although I would say it a little less harshly and a little more diplomatically. I would also tell them to get ready for two very important things. 1. Get ready for a lot of “no’s” and rejection; and 2. Don’t let the “no’s” and rejection get you down. Hold true to your belief and passion and keep on persevering.
What are the top 3 songs on your playlist at the moment?
I have so many songs and artists that I listen to and love! The list is huge actually, so I am going to stick to directly answering your question.
The number one song on my playlist currently is Pete Droge’s ‘If You Don’t Love Me’. Years ago I bought the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ soundtrack on CD for another song and discovered this one. I love the guitar sound he has on the song and the unique but fitting vocal delivery of a well written and catchy rock tune.
The number two song is Freddie King’s ‘I’m Torn Down’. Freddie King is an absolutely brilliant blues guitar player! He cut this track in the early 60s. Not only does it have his stellar guitar over an awesome blues shuffle, but it has a set of lyrics that are so quintessential “blues” it isn’t even funny. Here is my favourite line: “I went to the river to jump in, my baby showed up and said ‘I will tell you when.” Hell, the song is about a guy that is so p-whipped that he can’t even off himself without his wife’s permission. If that ain’t the blues, I don’t know what is! Lol!
The number three song is Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Glory Days’. It’s not my favourite Boss song, although it is up there, but there is something about it that draws me to it every now and then and has me playing it continually for a few days before letting it rest for awhile. It’s simply a great all-around rock n’ roll track with a cool storyline that we all can relate to in some way.
Finally – and this question I ask of everyone I interview – what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer?
Okay, I love this question because by its very nature, it has never been asked before! Lol! I have never been asked what I am currently reading and who my favourite author is. A lot of us musicians are also avid readers. I don’t read as much as I would like, but when I do, it is an experience I fully embrace.
I am currently reading a biography on Vincent Van Gogh by Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh. What a fascinating read! Van Gogh was a brilliant artist but also one messed up dude. It is a shame that in the late 19th century the concepts of mental health and mental sickness simply did not exist as they do today. It is interesting to think that if Van Gogh had been properly treated for his mental illnesses would he have lived longer and created even more great art, or would it have stifled his creativity? Was his mental illness actually a conduit, or a kind of fuel, for his art?
My favourite author is Ernest Hemingway. Years ago, on a whim, I picked up a posthumous release of his, “The Garden of Eden.” I was instantly enthralled with the story and his often simple, yet provocative, efficient, and thought-provoking use of language. I was fascinated with how an author could say so much while saying so little. I then devoured some of his more known works such as “For Whom the Bell Tools” and “Farewell to Arms” and became hooked. I have reread of few of his works now and am getting more out of them each time through. Yep, I definitely am a huge Hemingway fan!
‘I Wonder’, by Rich Chambers, is out November 29.