When Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Richard Marx set out to write his memoir, "Stories to Tell" (Simon and Schuster, $27), he vowed that his would go all in. "If you're just going to phone it in, then what's the point?" Marx said in a phone interview.
In writing "Stories to Tell," Marx said, he took his cue from his friend Rick Springfield. "He wrote a really great autobiography," Marx said. "When I read it, I texted him and said, 'You're either the bravest guy I know or the dumbest.' He wrote about stuff I would never have talked about. But I applauded him. He said, 'I'm only going to write one of these and I'm going to put it all out there.' "
The book comprises anecdotes from Marx's 40-plus-year career, stories he honed as part of his solo acoustic shows. One of his favorite early reactions to the book came from his son, who exclaimed: "You got held up at gunpoint in Taiwan? You never told me that."
Here's what else he had to say about "Stories to Tell."
I remember listening to your 2019 appearance on Gilbert Gottfried's "Amazing Colossal Podcast." You told great stories, and I thought, "He should write a book."
How did you find your voice in how you wanted to tell your story?
One of my favorite things to do if I haven't seen someone in a while is to sit down over a martini or tequila and go, "Dude, I have the funniest story to tell you." I come by it honestly because my dad was a really good storyteller. He turned things that happened in his life into really entertaining stories that I never got tired of hearing. Whenever somebody new came into our fold, I would say, "Tell them about …," and I would sit there and enjoy these stories I had heard a million times.
Where were you when you first heard your first single "Don't Mean Nothing" on the radio?
I was driving in L.A. to an interview, and I was listening to KLOS, the rock station. They had just put the song on their playlist. I was on Santa Monica Boulevard, and it came on, and I couldn't wait for it to end because I wanted to hear the DJ say my name. I hear the Joe Walsh [guitar] solo fading out and the DJ comes on and says, "And now a word from Velveeta."
You've collaborated with legendary musical artists. Did watching how they dealt with their fans influence you in how you deal with yours?
I'll give you the perfect example. It was 1986. I had just gotten my first record deal and was about to go into the studio. I was obsessed with Peter Gabriel and his "So" album. I was in a restaurant in L.A. when Peter Gabriel walked in. I summoned up the courage to approach his table, and when there was a lull in their conversation, I said, "Mr. Gabriel, I'm so sorry to bother you. I just want to thank you for making music." He stood up, walked over to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Man, what a nice thing to say."
He spent three minutes making me feel really glad I went up to him. I remember thinking, "That's the way I want to be."
You tour prolifically and are scheduled to return to the road in August. You write that the success you've had is enough for you, which is a healthy response to internet trolls. Is this something that evolved, or was it a struggle for you?
I could torture myself sitting around and comparing my career to others, but that's just ridiculous. So, I just finally found peace with it. If anything, I'm more self-deprecating than people who love me wish I was, my wife [Daisy Fuentes] being one. For a while, I'd walk into a room and I'd go, "Is it cold in here, or is it just my career?" You have to have a healthy attitude.
There are great stories in the book, and you're very candid, but there is very little dirt. Was that a conscious decision?
Don't tell anybody that; we want to sell books! [laughs] That was a conscious decision. This is my side of the story. But I also find it so inelegant, especially when it comes to love affairs. It might be true and honest, but I find it tawdry.