Rich, you have such an interesting background of being a musician, songwriter and author. Can you share more information about how you developed all three talents?
Music came first, and was the result of a tragedy. When I was twelve, my father died suddenly and violently. I was with him at the time and blamed myself for his death. One of the main ways I grieved his loss was through music. I taught myself to play guitar and piano shortly after he died, and I’ve been playing ever since. I remember spending whole days learning songs by ear at a piano or playing guitar until my finger blisters wouldn’t allow me to continue. The writing started when I was in college. I had a professor who saw potential in my writing and offered to teach me how to write novels. I was broke at the time, so I opted to make some money instead. But I continued to write on the side, and about four years ago I left corporate America to write full time.
Did both writing and a musical ability come naturally to you or was one or both more difficult at first?
Playing music came pretty easily to me. With that said, writing my first album and writing my first novel were equally difficult. Both are much different than writing say a single song or a short story. So part of the difficulty was around learning my craft as a songwriter and novelist, and part of the difficulty was about doing a large piece of art for the first time. My follow-on albums, and my second novel, The Big Wide Calm, and the novel I’m working on now, The Beauty of the Fall, were not nearly as difficult for me.
When you were in college and The University of Notre Dame, you wrote and recorded your own original songs. Have you written any songs since?
Yes, I write songs all the time, and put out three albums over the years. I have a recording studio in my house. I’ve published many of my songs on Soundcloud. You can check them out here: https://soundcloud.com/marcellorich
How would you describe your musical style? I like many different types of music—folk, rock, alternative, classical, jazz. Pretty much anything. When I write a song these days, it tends to start with an idea around conveying some form of emotional intimacy. That can be in the lyrics, a single line, or even a chorus hook. I build the songs from there. So, my style is first and foremost around invoking a feeling from the listener. Musically, that sometimes takes the form of a folk song or a rock song or something in between, depending on what I’m trying to convey.
How has music impacted your life? For sure. It’s central to my life and always has been. When I was young, it’s not an exaggeration to say that it saved my life.
I think what many young people can learn from you is that you can have a passion for music and can build a career around it without actually being a musician. What advice would you give a young person who wants a career in music?
First, to find your voice. Every musician has a unique musical contribution they can make to the world, but to do that, they have to go deep inside, to that place I call The Big Wide Calm, and create from there. If a musician learns to tap into that place, he or she really can create lasting art. After that, start in the middle and explore all avenues. By that I mean it’s impossible for any of us to know what’s the right path for a career in music. Sometimes, a dead end pans out. Sometimes, it doesn’t. I’ve seen musicians, or writers for that matter, do nothing as they wait for the perfect path to emerge, mostly because they’re afraid. If instead, a musician can start wherever he or she is, and explore all paths with curiosity instead of fear, something unexpected and positive will eventually happen.
Lets talk about your new book, The Big Wide Calm. Where did your inspiration for writing it come from?
About four years ago I got an idea to write three different novels about everything I believe about love. The first, The Color of Home, was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press. The third, The Beauty of the Fall, will be published in 2015/2016. The Big Wide Calm is the second of three. It’s a millennial coming of age story where the heroine, a twenty-five year old singer-songwriter named Paige Plant, learns to truly and deeply love platonically.
What was the process like writing your second book? How was it different than writing your first, The Color of Home?
I was very fast. I caught a wave and wrote the first pass in three months. Then I spend the next year editing the book and refining it. I’ve learned enough about writing songs or novels or poems, that I know waves like that are rare. When a wave comes, it’s best to drop everything and ride it to its conclusion. During those three months, all I did each day was write. It’s almost like I was channeling some divine gift and my job was to get it down on paper. I’m really proud of how it turned out. The Color of Home was much slower. There I was trying to write down everything I believed about romantic love, so there was a fair bit of honing down what I believed and letting it sit for awhile before I committed it to paper.
What would you say is the biggest message you are trying to get across in, The Big Wide Calm?
That if two people truly and deeply love, if they ignore all of the stereotype out there about what a love should or shouldn’t be, that it can change the world.
Why the title, The Big Wide Calm? I believe there’s infinite well of creativity, of energy, that we all have the ability to tap. That’s what I call The Big Wide Calm. There are many ways into it – almost any emotion can get you there if you learn to go into feeling. With that said, humans have a hard time finding TWBC. Actually, probably for fear-based reasons, they do everything they can to avoid it. During the course of the story, Paige slowly learns how to tap into The Big Wide Calm, how to use flip negative energy to a positive and use it as a way in. My hope is that readers will resonate with what she goes through, and in some small way, the book will help them take their own step toward The Big Wide Calm.
Where can we go to buy your book and receive updates on any upcoming releases and book tours? A good place to start is my website, richmarcello.com