If you’re ever driving in Los Angeles and hear someone blasting a Richard Marx hit, don’t be surprised if it’s actually Richard Marx! The prolific singer-songwriter, whose first book, Stories to Tell: A Memoir, was released in July, gets a kick out of the reaction he sometimes gets.
“If I’m with one of my kids or Daisy [Fuentes] and one of my songs comes on, we crank it up!” he says with a laugh. “I love being at a stoplight and cranking up ‘Should Have Known Better’ and have somebody look over and say, ‘Wait, what is happening now?’”
It’s taken many years for Richard, 57, a Grammy winner who has written 14 No. 1 songs, to start enjoying his accomplishments. “I think it was a combination of feeling like if I celebrated my success, I was going to jinx it, and also you don’t want to come off cocky about
it,” says Richard, whose biggest solo hits include “Don’t Mean Nothing,” “Satisfied” and “Right Here Waiting.”
“The one thing I denied myself up until I met my wife, Daisy, was the permission to celebrate all the good fortune I was having. There is an elegant way to walk that line.”
Did you ever doubt you’d go into music?
No, never. From the time I was old enough to make a sound, I was singing. My parents noticed when I was really little that I was singing in tune. I’m sure I get that from my mother, who was a lifelong great singer. The songwriting stuff, in terms of creating melodies, I got that from my father. So, no, I never had a moment in my entire life where I thought, “What am I going to do?”
Who were your earliest influences?
A wide range: Sam Cook, Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, the Doobie Brothers, the Eagles, Carly Simon. Probably, most of all would be Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice White, who was the lead singer, may be my favorite singer of all time.
How did success change your life?
There’s no TED talk or handbook for becoming a public person. I was young, 23. I remember on a Monday afternoon being at a 7-Eleven and nobody would look twice at me. Then the next day, I was in a shopping mall and I had a bunch of people following me because they saw my video on MTV that day. If you’re a private person and a little shy, it’s a culture shock that takes some time to navigate.
How did you get used to it?
I made a concentrated effort. I remember really early on saying to myself that if somebody comes up to you, you want them to walk away happy that they came up to you. I’ve seen some of my peers treat fans in a way that I found to be disrespectful or dismissive, and I see it on [the fans’] faces and my heart breaks. I don’t want anyone to ever come up to me and regret it.
Why did you decide to write your memoir now?
It was never an intentioned idea. I started doing these solo acoustic shows about nine years ago. I would go into small theaters armed with only a guitar and piano. I needed stories. If it’s just me up there playing songs, you can just listen to the records. So I collected stories to tell because I’ve had so many funny, crazy things happen to me, both with other artists and behind the scenes. I finally realized at some point that it was a book.
What will people learn about you?
I think the No. 1 thing I hear from people who don’t know me is, “I didn’t think you’d be funny.” I have a very dark, sarcastic sense of humor, mostly self- deprecating, and I enjoy a laugh. I think humor is everything. And I hope that people — whether they are fans or not — will take away my sense of gratitude. I am one grateful SOB.
You’ve worked with or written hits for so many of the greats: Luther Vandross, Natalie Cole, Josh Groban and Keith Urban among them. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you’d like to?
Not really anymore. I’ve gotten to work with so many of my heroes, and almost every experience has been great. I’d still love to write a song for Rod Stewart. I had a lifelong desire to write with Burt Bacharach, and we made it happen a couple of years ago. He’s still incredible at 93.
You have three adults sons. Did they inherit your musical genes?
Yes, they showed their talents very early on. All three of them are really great, exceptional singers. And little by little, I saw them start to become musicians and songwriters.
Were you worried about them entering the music business?
Initially, it was exciting, but then the music business really started to change and making a living in it became much more difficult. It became: “Three sons and not one doctor, not one scientist, not one lawyer!” [Laughs] So part of me is concerned because it is a tough road, but they are all very talented and they have to follow their passions.
Do you ever perform together?
Sometimes all three of them will come on the road with me. I always make them come up on stage and sing harmonies. The audience loves it, and I love every second of it.
You’ve been married to Daisy since 2015. What’s your secret for a happy marriage?
Separate bathrooms! [Laughs] I feel that when you meet someone later in life, the way we did, you have a better sense of who you are and what you want. We have a lot of common interests. We hike at least three or four times a week. I’ve taken up tennis again, and I love that. Daisy and I don’t spend much time at all in front of a screen watching movies or TV. We talk, interact and love each other. We don’t want to watch life go by. We want to be part of what’s going on.
What’s still on your bucket list?
They are all things that are not career-oriented. Instead of being driven to accomplish, I’m really just open to surprises. There are places in the world I want to see and things I want to learn. I’ve got to learn Spanish. I want to get into yoga. I want to do more things that are life-fulfilling instead of career-fulfilling.