Rich Lowenberg
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Rich Lowenberg

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"New Rotation Interview"

“I really don’t enjoy electric stuff. All the stuff I listen to is acoustic. Maybe I’m an acoustic snob, but I just think it requires more strength and energy. Playing electric is like typing at a keyboard: it feels like I’m not actually making the sound.” Rich Lowenberg follows that statement with an off-hand grin, displaying the disarming casualness of his comfortable stage presence.

We’re sitting in the Rivoli and in a half-hour he’ll be onstage with his acoustic guitar, thumping out a palm-muted, rhythmic, and anguished tune to the appreciative audience. And while you could debate whether playing acoustic requires more strength and energy, it is a fact that a Rich Lowenberg tune demands strength, energy, technical finesse, and a boatload of the aforementioned semi-restrained anguish.

Lowenberg is cast from the broken-heart-on-his-sleeve folk-rock singer-songwriter mould, with a subtle difference. “I’ve got a weird guitar from other people and do weird things, different rhythms,” he explains. In fact his sound is an even interweaving of his disparate influences: Ani Difranco’s technical prowess, Jamiroquai’s groove, and Prodigy’s rhythm.

He began his career at the tender age of 13, having just arrived from England to live with his dad in Canada. “My dad had a guitar sitting in the house. I took lessons for a year or so, but it wasn’t fun so I stopped,” he tells me. “But I met people in highschool who actually played for fun. And I started out writing songs. Funny songs and then I moved on to serious songs.”

When I ask if he still writes funny songs, he confesses that “Point A”, his debut CD, isn’t his debut CD. “For Christmas one year I downloaded a bunch of instrumentals off Napster and sang over them, Elvis-style,” he laughs. But if you’re looking for copies of “A Rich Lowenberg Christmas”, you’re out of luck – the entire run was given as gifts that Christmas. You can still get copies of “Point A”, Rich’s public debut CD, a five-song tribute to his pared down songwriting style and heartfelt lyrics; which also started out as a Christmas gift. The deadline “makes you kick your own ass and record something,” Rich reveals, “but I was really happy with it so I released it.”

The disc was recorded “all on 70’s analog equipment and all live-off-the-floor,” Rich informs me. “No overdubs, which is fast,” he adds. The recording environment was Lowenberg’s own tiny Toronto apartment, with roommate Jamie Tanner doing production in his homemade studio, known as Integrity Studios. “There were three people crammed into that room sometimes,” Lowenberg recalls fondly. The recording is a solid translation of the talented musicianship that went into the arrangements, but sometimes fails to capture the full dynamic of Lowenberg’s restrained-to-release vocal style.

Besides penning and recording the songs himself Lowenberg, a successful web designer by day, also designed the packaging and the accompanying website (www.richlowenberg.com). “I’m doing the whole multi-genre artist thing,” he jokes, “but I can’t draw, which sucks.”

It seems to be about the only thing he can’t do. When I ask about his future plans he answers: “Live radio things, writing, and recording. I’m two or three songs away from a new CD. And sending out press kits. Really cool press kits, with wicked 3D things.” He smiles with that off-hand grin again, and half an hour later, with the same casual candor, he grabs the audience and quietly rivets them to their seats as he begins his first song.
- New Rotation


"Webzine Interview"

I make plans to meet Rich at a local café, and while he's punctual, I'm late as usual. He accepts my rushed apology graciously, although I can tell that he's very hungry and would rather look at the menu than listen to my babbling. We settle down on the plush couches and Rich starts telling me about his day. He's funny, charming, and totally relaxed, and soon I'm laughing and having a great time.
If all rock stars were like this, there would never be a bad interview.

The first time I saw Rich perform at a local bar in Toronto, I didn't quite know what to expect. He looked too preppy to be rock, too young to be folk, too unconventional to be pop. And then he stepped up on stage and sang So I Can Leave, and I threw all my misconceptions out the window. On stage, Rich is confident, aggressive, and anguished. Off-stage, he's friendly, amicable, and dare I say, a little goofy. But his mannerisms, his tone, it's all Rich. He talks with an introspective, unpretentious air that is littered throughout of his songs. And he's got a cool English accent.

Raised in England, Rich began his foray into the music world almost unintentionally. He began guitar lessons at thirteen, but it never took off until he attended high school in Toronto. He describes his high school days at Harbord as "incredibly relaxed, like a big party," which allowed him to hone his artistic skills with other students who were also musically inclined. The music bug hit, and soon he was making his first CD, a full-length Christmas album entitled "A Special Christmas With Rich Lowenberg." It was comprised of eleven songs, which were downloaded from Napster and sung over Elvis-style.

His first original song was called Beer, and in a stroke of genius, the chorus went something like "Beer, beer, beer, beer." "I remember writing home and being so happy because I found a real band who learned the guitar parts," he laughs. "Of course, it was very simple back then - two chords, and it was sung in a rehearsal space."

In December of 1999, Rich, along with three other friends, formed Half Full. Soon they were performing at local venues with other bands. Before that, Rich had only performed in front of his peers. So, was he nervous? "I don't specifically remember being nervous," he recounts. "I used to get, not bad stage fright, but I used to definitely get nervous until we did one show with an audience of 10,000 and it was like a sea of heads. And ever since that show, nothing really makes me nervous."

Eventually, Rich decided to go solo, and he and Half Full parted ways. "[When I left Half Full] there was a lot of tension. I left for a number of reasons. There was an ego clash between the guy writing the songs and the girl singing them," he says, referring to himself and the lead singer of Half Full, Helen. "We were both kind of unwilling to back down on a lot of things. I didn't feel appreciated at the time. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's true that I wasn't appreciated. I think my logic was a little skewed at the time, but that was the major reason why I left." Still, he and Half Full remain great friends, and are thinking of collaborating in the near future.

He cites Jay-Jay Johanson, a Swedish singer, as one of his biggest influences. He was the first male vocalist that Rich enjoyed listening to, and after a while, he noticed that his voice had risen and become much stronger. "Before that, I had Helen on lead, and I didn't have to do anything [with my voice]." He also cites Jamiroquai as a funk influence, Prodigy as a rhythmic influence, and Ani Di Franco as a song writing influence. With a newfound confidence in his vocal skills, Rich embarked on the next natural progression of his career: the release of his first serious and career-minded CD.

"Point A is called Point A because firstly, it represents the entire CD…Point A is like going back to the beginning," he says, explaining the concept behind his release. "Basically, the CD is themed around dysfunctional relationships," he continues. "And the idea is that the first four songs and most of the fifth song are just general anger - and right at the end, the last lines of the CD, I say, 'So if you let me try again I'd change for good. I swear this won't repeat.' And that's apologizing for the whole CD…apologizing for the bullshit that I've caused on the CD. Most of the songs I'm being antagonistic of the whole situation, so it's apologizing for everything I've said. So the idea is that you apologize, and then you go back to square one. That's like dysfunctional relationships a lot of the time. But nobody's got that, though! Nobody realized that if you've got the [last] song on repeat, it's the intro to the first song…maybe because nobody puts the CD on repeat."
Point A plays like a haunting melody, a tune you once heard and can't forget. In this five-song release, Rich bares his soul unabashedly while his guitar accompanies his fervent words, sometimes twanging quietly in the background, sometimes screaming things that he cannot say. On You Will Never Even Know, which sounds like a Shakespearian sonata, Rich sings, "You're probably sitting right here in this room/Tapping your fingers, enjoying the tunes/Watching and listening, and still unaware/Each word I've been singing I wrote about you." The first time I heard him perform this song, everyone in the room literally turned in their seats, wondering if he was singing about them. The words are poignant, the melody soft. And yet, when he performs You Will Never Even Know, it resonates across the room. Being the inquisitive reporter that I am, I just had to ask the question: did he write that song with someone in mind? "That's not a question I answer," he laughs. "I get asked that a lot. The part of the point is that it's very ambiguous. I think if you knew the answer, it would spoil it." Damn.

So I Can Leave, a song about dysfunctional relationships, is also a personal favourite. In the chorus, Rich sings, "The only time I want you is when you're with someone else/When you're seeing some new guy…if you only knew my anger…baby come back/So I can leave." This is the type of song that makes the hairs on your arm stand up. He's doesn't just sing the song - he performs it. But not all the songs are about love. Tightrope, the second song on the CD, is all about politics. "I wrote [Tightrope] because that's what I was thinking about at the time. I strongly believe in self-expression instead of propaganda. And if it's genuinely self-expression I got no problem. But as soon as it starts being propaganda, I get sick."

When we start discussing the recording process of Point A, Rich's eyes light up. The project took two weeks to finish - everything was recorded in one week and mastered the next. "Everything was recorded in exactly the same room, at the same time…there was no corrective editing, no overdubbing. With this, it's very natural and you can hear the interaction between the musicians and you can hear the drum stool squeak every so often. It's much more down-to-earth." Indeed, listening to the CD is almost as good as seeing Rich live, although the CD doesn't quite encompass the passion and jaded yearning that his live shows provide.

By day Rich is a web designer, and sometimes manages photo shoots through his website business. He was responsible for the inception and concept behind his CD, but admits that he always comes back to music. When I ask Rich how he would classify his music, he's quick to correct me. "I think it's totally natural to classify music," he says thoughtfully. "[But] to classify something suggests that you can just encompass it in the same theme that you can encompass a shitload of other stuff. For me, I can't do that because I know everything that's gone into it."

What's his fondest childhood memory? "I bit right through my tongue. I was kicking a soccer ball onto the roof of my house, and it would fall back down. And my knee hit the bottom of my chin, and my tongue was between my teeth, and it all swelled up and I could only eat ice cream for a week. I had a fantastic time," he smiles.

So what's next for this young singer/songwriter? "Maybe try something different…a comedy thing?" he says playfully. "Create different sounds. Electronica maybe. I'm eager to experiment in different styles." And you know, with a talented artist like Rich, something different will always equal something good.



- Happygrrls.com by C.Ho


Discography

- 2006 (upcoming full length debut)

- 2003 Point A, a 5 song EP.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Rich Lowenberg: A first hand experience

I’m Rich Lowenberg’s ex-girlfriend. I’m writing this bio for him because he’s in Africa right now and he doesn’t have the time to write his own bio what with saving the children and all. Why is his ex-girlfriend writing the bio you ask? Well I’m living in his apartment while he’s gone and I’m the only one with the patience to update all this stuff.

Plus he paid me.

Plus even though we’re broken up I still think he is one of the most talented people I’ve met and truly deserves to be seen and heard.

Ok here it goes:

When I met Rich he was performing at the Free Times Café open stage. Long story short…I fell completely in love with his music. Never had I seen someone with so much raw passion in their songs, I HAD to know this guy. Through some slick e-mail trickery I was able to get him to go on a date with me. By the time we actually got together I didn’t even remember what he looked like and I didn’t care, I just wanted to know the person behind this amazing music. I’m not kidding.

Being a musician myself I was so inspired by everything he did. His guitar playing is unlike anything I’ve heard and you won’t know what I mean until you see the live show. I didn’t even know acoustic guitars could make those sounds? I’m not talking about any kind of pedals either! He puts his whole body into it, you can’t even see his hands most of the time because they’re flying so fast…and yet he’s not at all a show off and probably one of the most humble people I’ve met (at least when he’s in public, behind closed doors the ego seeps out a bit).

When Rich plays with his band (consisting of drums, trumpet and cello) that is when the sound really comes together. The vibe at his shows are amazing, it’s something that can’t be bought, taught or explained…it just is or isn’t there. He’s got “it”.

The energy of his live show also transcends to the recordings, because they are recorded live off the floor without any over dubbing. To some that might sound silly what with today’s technology or impossible what with today’s lack of real talent in the industry but I find it completely admirable.

I won’t waste anymore of your time. This is a case where the music really does speak for itself, so take a good listen!

- E