Cover to cover, Rich Wyman records a CD of favorites
Every musician has a bundle of influences that includes compositions, lyrics or musicians that inspired them.
Rich Wyman’s list includes everyone from the Beatles, Peter Gabriel, David and Bob Dylan to John Hiatt, James Taylor and Joan Armatrading.
In honor of his musical mentors, Wyman recorded "Songs I Wish I Wrote," that was released in Europe over the summer, to critical acclaim.
The CD, Wyman’s eighth, but first of covers, also features songs by Mark Knopfler, Elton John and Eric Clapton, will have its official Park City release party at Molly Blooms Nov. 25 and 26.
"Whenever I play a cover during one of my shows, I always say, ‘This is a song I wish I wrote,’" Wyman told The Park Record. "It became an easy title for a CD, and told the story because the songs I chose for the CD have been in my repertoire for years."
The disc kicks off with Gabriel’s "Solsbury Hill" and ends with Dylan’s "Hurricane."
"I’ve been doing ‘Solsbury Hill’ for ages and I’ve always been a fan of Peter Gabriel," Wyman said. "I chose ‘Hurricane’ to close the album because it’s such an epic tune."
In between, listeners hear the likes of the Beatles’ "Come Together," Bowie’s "Life on Mars" and Armatrading’s "The Weakness in Me," among the tracklist.
"The other songs are timely for me because for the last two years I’ve been playing at Keys on Main in Salt Lake City, so ‘Come Together’ is a song I play there a lot," he said. "It’s got a great chorus and I just let the audience belt it out."
"Life on Mars" is more personal for Wyman.
"I had two older brothers, so when I was six and seven, I was listening to David Bowie and the Rolling Stones while my friends were still listening to the Top 40," he said. "My brother Jay was a huge Bowie fan. I heard that music constantly in my house while growing up and ‘Life on Mars’ is a compositionally amazing song.
"When I finished my recording of it, I sent an MP3 to my brother, because if he didn’t give his thumbs up, I wasn’t going to include it on the CD," Wyman said. "He emailed me back the most flattering email, which is unusual for him. He was over the top and said I did it justice."
Armatrading’s "The Weakness in Me" has another personal connection.
"Not a lot of guys cover Joan Armatrading, but that song means a lot to me and I’ll never forget where I was the first time I heard it," Wyman said.
When he lived in New York 30 years ago, he and a group of friends were in a car in the Bronx.
"I was in the back seat and all of us were making a lot of noise and that song came on the radio," he said. "I heard it and basically told everyone to shut up.
"In my mind, I was thinking to myself, ‘What is this song? It’s gorgeous,’" Wyman said. "It took my breath away."
The song stuck with Wyman all these years, but he didn’t start playing it a lot until the late 1990s.
"Every time I’d play it, I’d get more requests to play it, because people wanted to know what it was," he said. "It’s not a song that people hear a lot, but when they do, they love it.
"I think they love it because it’s such a brutally honest song," he said. "Joan isn’t afraid to take off the Band-Aid and take a hard look at the scars and write about them."
Wyman chose other songs such as James Taylor’s "Fire and Rain" and Carly Simon’s "You’re So Vain" due to the large amount of requests he receives during his weekly gig at Keys on Main in Salt Lake City.
"I never played ‘You’re So Vain’ until I started working there, and it’s the same with ‘Fire and Rain,’" he said. "These songs have resonated with me and I put my own little twist on them."
"Songs I Wish I Wrote" was recorded in the showroom of Baldassin Pianos across the street from the Rio Grande train station in Downtown Salt Lake City.
"They are the Western United States’ largest dealer of Fazioli pianos," Wyman said. "I drop in the store from time to time and play this particular model, called an F308. It’s one of the most amazing pianos that I have every played, and I even rented it a couple of times for shows."
Wyman approached the store’s owner Rick Baldassin about recording a CD in the showroom and Baldassin agreed.
"I called my friend Derek Keith who is an engineer and we went into the store and set up this dream piano and recorded for six hours," Wyman said. "We set up a bunch if microphones and he set up his computer and ran a bunch of wires back there."
Wyman and Keith recorded 19 songs.
"I threw eight of them out, due to slight imperfections and mistakes," Wyman said. "Of the remaining tracks, I threw a few more out because they didn’t fit with the genre I was going for."
The vocals were recorded separately at Keith’s DK Studios in Ogden and the recordings were mixed at George Kelly Studios, in Salt Lake.
"He’s got a nice little mixing and mastering room to put them all together and he didn’t have to do too much to them because the piano sounded great and the vocals were good, but we ran into a problem," Wyman said. "Because the piano was so huge, we’re talking an 11-foot grand piano, it was a chore trying to match its sound with the voice."
When Kelly brought up the voice to match the piano, Wyman would cringe.
"I have a gravelly voice and it didn’t sound good in the mix," he said. "So we had to, sadly, pull down the piano so it was on an even keel with the voice. It took us four or five mixes to get it right.
"It was difficult because the recordings were so naked just piano and vocals and you can’t hide mistakes because everything is exposed," Wyman said.
Apparently, the mix was done right because when "Songs I Wish I Wrote" was released in Europe over the summer, it became the CD of the week on National Radio in the Netherlands and DJs and music critics gave it five stars, Wyman said.
"People liked it, which meant to much to me," he said.
Now, that’ he’s home, Wyman wants to give the disc a proper Park City release.
"I don’t get a lot of opportunities to play in Park City, but Keys on Main gave me the weekend off and Molly Blooms had an opening," he said. "What I also like about that is Molly Blooms is a restaurant, so all ages will be admitted."
Rich Wyman will play a CD release concert of "Songs I Wish I Wrote," at Molly Blooms, 1680 Ute Blvd., at Kimball Junction, on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 25 and 26, at 9 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.mollybloomspc.com or call (435) 645-0844.
Next week The Park Record is sending me overseas to cover the retelling of Utah’s greatest export in recent memory — the Gwyneth Paltrow trial. I’ll be traveling to Pleasance Theatre, a small performance venue in the heart of London. There, the “harbingers of queer chaos” production company Awkward Productions will be debuting their latest show, “Gwyneth Goes Skiing.”
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