Rick Altizer – “Untitled”
Rick Altizer is a recording artist and producer who lives in Nashville with his wife and 2 sons. He has several albums under his belt and has also produced music for other artists. Of course if you have internet access you probably already know this much about Rick.
Well, Rick, how to begin? I guess at the beginning maybe. Where were you born and what are your earliest recollections from childhood? ie. pretty happy childhood?
I was born in Knoxville, TN. My parents got divorced when I was 14 and it wasn’t a happy home. Childhood was a little rough, but that was then and this is now.
How did music play a part in your life as a youth?
Music was an escape for me. It gave me an opportunity to put my imagination in other things that were more positive than the anger that was in my home. I pretty much listened to music for most of my free time.
Can you recall the first 45 or album you purchased?
I recall getting Led Zeppelin 4 and thinking that was such a great album. Black Dog, Kashmir, Stairway… what a classic.
Oh yeah Led Zeppelin. Pretty heavy stuff to start out on. Incidentally Kashmir was actually on Physical Graffiti, but hey I only caught that because I checked the spelling! Take me through your musical influences at various points in your life.
I started out on the Beatles from my parents. That’s the point of convergence for all things for me. From the Beatles I went to Bowie, Dylan, Kinks, Blur. But McCartney pretty much rules supreme in my influence category.
I see you are a fellow “anglophile” like myself. I just don’t think the domestic artists for the most part (Dylan excluded) can hold a light to the British. You play most of the instruments on your cd’s. Tell me about your musical training growing up. Self taught or lessons? Did you take “band” in high school?
I am completely self taught. No lessons and no high school band. I play all the instruments because I’m cheap. I don’t like paying somebody money and thinking, “I could have done that.” Also, playing the instruments myself I can get the songs recorded faster, so when the inspiration is striking I can go with it and finish a song in a matter of hours.
How did you come to be a staff writer in L.A.? How long there and was life in L.A. as “otherworldly” as people say?
I had a manager who got my stuff to a producer by the name of Richard Perry. He had put a couple of my songs on hold so my manager immediately went to Warner/Chappel and got me a deal. Of course, the producer decided to NOT record my songs. HOWEVER, I already had the deal.. HA HA!!
Touche! If you’d care to share, what happened with the Sony deal falling through?
They were very interested but they had just signed someone similar to me and I think they were afraid of promoting two artists that were basically the same.
So you moved to Nashville. Reasons for relocating there?
Nashville is a music town. The Christian music industry is located here and I was born in Knoxville. I wanted to get my family out of L.A. It was the best thing we ever did. We LOVE it.
Tell me about KMG Christian music and how you came to start your own label Fuseic Music.
Buddy Killen was a very successful publisher in Nashville. There is a street named after him here. He wanted to start his own label so that’s how KMG was started. I was their first artist. That was cool because all the ads promoting the label had me on them, since I was their only artist at the time. I got a lot of marketing dollars put in to my first record becuase of that. The president of the label, Kent Songer, and I really hit it off and he was thinking of hiring me to do A & R for the label. Unfortunately, the label went out of business. Kent and I decided to start our own company, Fuseic Music, and have been working together for the last 6 years.
I imagine there’s a large amount of satisfaction that comes with composing and producing music your way, on your terms without any outside interference.
There is personal satisfaction from doing my own music, but that has never resulted in commercial satisfaction. I made a choice to do music for me and not money. Some of the other projects our label has done have been to meet a particular need in the market place and were not neccesarilly music I would do for me. BUT those projects did result in commerical success. The moral of the story: Do music for yourself – don’t sell records. Do music to meet a need – sell records.
Very good words of advice for any anyone trying to break into the music business. How hard is it to be a Christian and work in the music industry?
Very easy. If you are good at what you do you can work. It doesn’t matter what your personal beliefs are. There also is a large Christian community of musicians in Nashville and they are very supportive. I have found it very easy to do.
I noticed from your website that you’ve played in Holland. Anyplace else other than the states?
I’ve been in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, England, Belgium, and New Jersey.
Hehehe “Joisey” is a place like no other. How did you finance your albums?
My first record was self financed. After that, there have been budgets from a record label. I still make records for me and that’s all done in my home. I’ve got all the gear, a computer and I play everything… so there really is no need for financing. Just time.
Who does the art work on the albums?
Glenn Swietzer did the artwork to the first 3 albums. John Scarpati was a big help on those as well. I did the artwork on Pop Symphonies. Also, Doug Powell helps me out when I need it (which is usually).
In 2001, you wrote and produced Soul Lift: Soundtrack For The Soul with various artists including one Johnny Cash. How was that whole experience?
That was a great experience, but frustrating. The label didn’t really know what to do with it. They basically sent out an email and that was the marketing campaign. Johnny Cash is on the record, but no one has heard it. I don’t even know if it’s still in print.
Wow! That might just turn up as a collector’s item especially since Mr. Cash’s passing a few years ago. Tell me about the hugely successful Worship Jamz and Jamz2 and reaching a children’s audience.
We saw a need for worship music that reached out to the tweener market. At the time, no one was doing worship music for them. It was all 30 year olds and up. We make the record, then filmed a commerical. Razor and Tie picked it up and it was their most successful DRTV campaign. They did a fantastic job and 80% of our CD’s were sold in Target and Wal-Mart. The Christian market only purchased 20% of our records. There are 3 volumes of Worship Jamz, a Christmas Record, and two compilations – Worship Jamz Red and Worship Jamz Blue.
In 2004, Lynne Me Your Ears, a tribute to Jeff Lynne of ELO fame was released. You contributed your rendition of Boy Blue, which happens to be one of my favorites. How did this all come to fruition?
My good friend, Doug Powell, put the record together and asked me to contribute a song. I did that in a day and sent it in. Again, when you play everything, you can go faster. I don’t have to try to explain what I’m thinking to anybody else. The drawback to that is I miss out on the colaborative effect. The music would be much different if I were able to collaborate with other musicians. But since I’m broke… that’s the way it goes.
Where did the idea behind Scripture Memory – Pop Symphonies come from?
I was doing a lot of kids music and was starting to lose my mind. I had to do something creative. That was a record I made to give away to my friends. The cool thing about that record is that people started buying 25 at a time and giving them to their friends. One person bought 100 and gave them out. That was a surprise. There is a local Christian radio show that comes on every Sunday morning here in Nashville. They have played a song from that record every Sunday for 3 years now. That’s pretty cool.
I’d say so. Tell me about balancing your home/personal life with recording and producing.
Well, since I pay our bills now from recording and producing it’s much easier to balance the home and work life. When it was a hobby, it was harder with the wife. I would have to have a music night (Tuesday night) and after dinner I would go to the studio and no one could bother me. Now it’s something I can justify since it’s how we buy our food. My wife is much more supportive of me making music now that it generates income. Funny how that works.
To find out more about Rick and what’s happening in his world, check out his website at www.rickaltizer.com.