Paul Richards & Arlen Roth New Album: “Fine Tuned”

I recently had the opportunity to speak with local musician Paul Richards about his latest album with Arlen Roth called “Fine Tuned.” In today’s mini-interview, Paul takes us deep into the story of his life’s pursuit, which he describes as “Chasing the Boxer.” Enjoy!

Paul, right now, approximately 120,000 songs are released each day on the major music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple. There are eleven numbers on your new album, Fine Tuned. That’s a mere .01 percent of just one day’s deluge. Why do you think some people are saying that your songs stand out?

Well, if a few people I admire are saying that my songs stand out a little, that’s humbling. My various musical collaborators tell me that they joined this project because of the sheer quality of the songwriting, combined with the diversity of the songs and the way they are woven together to tell original stories. The album comes from one single song I heard many years ago, which was a lament. This album is not a lament. It’s a love song wrapped in life’s many crosscurrents. It’s islands and oceans, beauty, adventure, and love.

Fine Tuned is a singer-songwriter’s collection of guitar and piano-oriented pop compositions. All of them are my original songs, ranging in influence from rock, folk, country, and a touch of soul. Crucially, they’ve been co-interpreted by one of the great guitarists of the last fifty years, Arlen Roth, who does a truly stunning job of bringing these very unusual stories to sonic life.

Arlen has backed Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel for decades, supporting them in the studio and in concert, alone and together. Arlen toured with the Bee Gees and James Taylor, among countless other greats. His version of “When a Man Loves a Woman” is legendary and award winning. While appearing on Saturday Night Live, he was instrumental in the creation/formation of the Blues Brothers.

I met Arlen when I performed with him in a benefit concert in the Bay Area for my brother and lifelong musical partner, George Bowen. George is a wonderful musician and world-class luthier.

Both Arlen and I play Bowen guitars. Arlen backed George and I on “The Boxer” at that concert, a song that Arlen had performed with Simon and Garfunkel literally thousands of times.

Doing that song with George and Arlen was a thrill, considering that “The Boxer” had a huge, huge impact on me. It changed my life from the time I first heard it at the age of 16.

We got hold of an advanced promo copy of that single before it was released in 1969. We really, really wanted to know what it would be like to create something even remotely comparable. That song is about persistence and endurance and what lies beyond hope, exhaustion, and fear. Thinking back, the story of my life might well be titled: “Chasing the Boxer.”

Chasing The Boxer has been a constant for me. Not just in the field of music.

Back in 1972 George and I recorded our own version of Boxer, and won a KGB Radio talent search, which resulted in our being brought into professional studios and getting many months of airplay. We eventually became session players in Los Angeles and put out an album produced by Randy Wood, who had nurtured famous 1950’s and 60’s artists. We also wrote songs published by Elton John’s Rocket Records and Chappell Music.

During that period, Clive Davis, the great hitmaker, was walking down a corridor at Arista Records and heard one of our songs playing in somebody’s office. He stormed in and demanded, “Get those guys in here!” He set up a songwriting school constructed just for us, run by Billy Meshel, the head of publishing.

“Heart in Chains,” the song that Clive heard that day, is on the Fine Tuned album in homage to Clive and Billy.

Throughout the seventies, we played with musicians as diverse as Sneaky Peter Kleinow of the Flying Burrito Brothers and Johnny Best, from Glen Miller’s band, who played on Moonlight Serenade.

Later on, we spent time working in The Record Plant studio, with famous engineer Bob Merritt, who had done so many hits, among which was “The Spy Who Loved Me.” In the adjoining studio, Fleetwood Mac was recording Tusk in the next studio over. What an inspiring exposure!

We went on to make an album with Jim Keltner, who is, notably, Ringo’s favorite drummer. Jim had played for each of the Beatles individually, and for just about everybody you can think of. He is just simply an amazing person and a fabulous musician.

Years later, we chased “The Boxer” more literally than ever before. George and I attended a Simon and Garfunkel reunion concert. There was Jim, up on stage, backing them up on “our” key song.

We left professional studio work in the early 80’s because of the advent of disco, which swept through the industry and really changed the atmosphere.

Individually, we kept up with the Boxer pursuit of excellence. I became an aerospace executive and engineer and worked with members of the original Apollo moon-landing team on projects like the Space Shuttle and the Keck Telescope, and a Mars Lander. It is amazing to realize that hardware I personally built is sitting on the surface of Mars at this moment. Recording music and making spaceships are actually very similar pursuits. You find the same creativity and extreme attention to detail, the same desire to go the extra mile (or million miles), and to never let up.

I left the space industry to open a consultancy with my wife Patty, promoting the inclusion of energetic concepts and observations familiar to martial artists. We apply them to a very wide range of fields and applications (I am a Shotokan Karate instructor with over fifty years immersion, and Patty is a former Nurse/Midwife and Nurse Practitioner).

As life’s challenges built up, “The Boxer” took on new meanings. I kept writing and recording.

Jim Soldi, a famous Nashville guitarist who backed up Johnny Cash for years (and who Johnny named as “the best guitarist in the business”) jumped into my project as it progressed. Just moved to be involved. Results: I grew.

My longtime partner George Bowen paused from his intense guitar-making efforts and contributed guitar, bass, and vocals to Fine Tuned. Two great Julliard-trained Ashland musicians, Michal Palzewicz on cello and Cecily Macrory on vocals, added lovely, irreplicable textures.

As soon as Arlen heard a couple of my tracks he was instantly “in.” The record became a lovely, synergistic collaboration.

The last crucial member of the team is producer and Grammy-nominee Alex Salzman. Alex worked on a range of Disney film soundtracks, including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. Alex co-produced and co-engineered Fine Tuned, also contributing bass and percussion. Alex mastered the album, and introduced me to Dan Cipriano, who’s masterful sax and flute lines rounded out the project.

When you chase something as sublime as “The Boxer,” it helps to have wonderful partners in crime. Fortunately, I did. I think that’s why Fine Tuned stands out.

Finally, this month, it feels as though we might be catching up with “The Boxer,” just a little bit. Arlen thinks so. If you loved S & G’s stunning lament, you might well enjoy Fine Tuned and its singles, “The Waterman” and “Jumbie Man.” The Waterman single is now streaming on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, and others.  The  CD is available to purchase right now, and the album begins streaming everywhere this week. – CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

Available on DistroKid

My final thought: You never know how long a journey like this will take, or where it may lead. If you don’t happen to be chasing The Boxer, I hope you are chasing something.

Show More

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button