“Just keep doing it as long as you feel you have to. And only do it if you really have no choice but to do it. Do it for the music. Give up any aspirations of making a living at this, so that if it ever happens it will feel like a gift.”
Check out the interview with Rich Krueger exclusively on Skilly Magazine Online.
Where did this all start? Tell us about your journey in the entertainment business.
I started writing songs in 1985 with the goal of performing as an opening act for an improv comedy troupe that my friends founded, called Cardiff Giant…all brilliant and very funny performers. Eventually, I became a regular opener for the group, sort of a “fifth Beatle” to that group, and I wrote music for some of their scripted shows. This improv group later spawned performers in The Second City, The Annoyance Theater, and the authors of the Tony Award-winning show, “Urinetown The Musical.”
What would be your biggest piece of advice for the young kids out there trying to do what you do?
Just keep doing it as long as you feel you have to. And only do it if you really have no choice but to do it. Do it for the music. Give up any aspirations of making a living at this, so that if it ever happens it will feel like a gift.
What are some of the hardest challenges and tasks in your position?
Finding the time to write. It can be hard and frustrating to deal with all the disappointments and all the jerks who show you the door and/or their asses. Remember always it is about the journey not about the destination. And that if the music you are making is genuinely new, you will be ahead of your audience, and it will take time for them to catch up to you. Stick to your guns. Man the battlements.
We all know the entertainment business is very tough, but what do you find is the best way to promote and advertise your music?
Early on when I was just beginning to write songs and performing them where ever I could, I once met Tom Waits late at night on a Chicago El train, a real hero to me. It was the year his masterpiece album “Rain Dogs” came out. He was willing to talk to me when I told him I was a songwriter. He asked me what I wrote about. One thing he said that stayed with me that is absolutely true. He said, “music gives back to you everything you give it.” I think if you give everything you can, music will give back even more.
If you want your music noticed above the vast sea of music released continuously, there are only three possibilities. First, a good friend or family member is somebody in the business or knows someone in the business. Dumb luck. Two, you are lucky enough to get discovered by someone who can and are willing help you. The likelihood of this is also dumb luck, a crap shoot. However, the possibility of this is more likely the more you play out. Finally, you can hire a professional who does this for a living. It is also a crap shoot if you get someone worth their salt. And hiring these folks costs real money.
Success has a little to do with raw talent and perseverance, but it also has to do with being lucky to be in the right place at the right time. That’s just a fact.
Frankly not everybody worthy of “making it” will “make it.” But I also like Steve Martin’s opinion that if you want to succeed, you need to do something great… whatever that means.
But if you remember you are only doing this because you HAVE to do this, and you make the music you want to make, then by just doing it you are already succeeding.
Tell us about your city. How are the artists and the fans?
Chicago is a great place to play and meet other musicians. There are all kinds of players many with enormous virtuosity. And there are several great critical mass communities of different genres in different parts of the city.
Audiences are good, but I think that for whatever reason, folks have forgotten how to go hear live music, and actually listen. Probably due to all the “free music” out there, so that great live music is now not valued the way it should be. And that so much of new music that is on commercial radio is largely unworthy of the time to listen to it. But hey that’s my own opinion.
Where do you see yourself a year from today?
Writing songs, hopefully, better songs. Playing my songs for folks, some of whom may actually listen, wherever the opportunity presents itself. Recording my songs as I can. And working a full-time, or more than full-time, straight gig to support this advocation.
Who and what were your biggest inspirations? Who do you look up to in today’s world?
That’s easy. I write songs because I was exposed as a child to the songs of the Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, or more specifically the translations of them by Mort Shuman and Eric Blau. There is nothing in the world like these songs. Genius. Gut Wrenching. Life-affirming.
Besides that I remember when I was just three years old, hearing the Beatles for the first time on a old fashioned booth-side jukebox. And hearing The Drifter’s “On the Boardwalk” as a baby sitting on the seat of my family’s station wagon.
But I am heavily indebted to so many great writers, Randy Newman, Ray and Dave Davies, Pete Townsend, Loudon Wainwright III, John Prine, Captain Beefheart, The Holy Modal Rounders, Michael Hurley, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Lennon/McCartney, George Harrison, The Glitter Twins, and countless others.
How do you feel about the music coming out today? Do you like it?
“There is only two kinds of music. Good Music and Bad Music” – Louis Armstrong
There is a lot of great music being made these days. It is just not the majority of the music, and its harder to find the good stuff because there is so much music out there. Keep your ears open. BE open minded. Go listen to live music as often as possible. Listen to your friend’s music. Trust your own ears.