We’ve written about Rich Wyman and Lisa Needham a few times now, most recently about their song, ‘Forgiveness‘. As the pair are partners in life as well as in music, it struck us that it might be good to take a more in depth look at their relationship, and how they come together as a team in music as well as life.
Hi Rich and Lisa, thanks for speaking to us today!
We’re loving your new track and video, ‘Forgiveness’, there’s a lot of chemistry between you on screen, which shouldn’t be surprising as you’re a couple – is it as easy as it looks making music together, or are there times when you really aren’t in the mood to do it anymore, to go it alone musically?
Rich: Just like anything, there are times when it’s more challenging than others, AND there are times when we’re in the “flow”, and it’s easy and can sometimes last for a long period of time. I make music every day, whether improvising, doing my daily finger exercises on the piano, writing, or playing solo performances, etc. When Lisa and I are in that flow and are working together on a song, it’s really good, we are pretty compatible and enjoy working together.
Lisa: We both do a lot of different things. Writing and performing together is just one of them. We really do love when we’re in that flow that Rich talks about, though. It’s full of creativity, inspiration, and has an interesting capacity to “fill” our relationship cup. I like to call it “creativity foreplay.” Haha….I just made up a phrase!
What’s your greatest inspirations, both in music and in life?
Lisa: Barbra Streisand was probably my greatest influence. Oh, and Bette Midler. Anyone who could sing and act tickled my fancy. I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s where variety shows were booming. Shows like Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie, the Smothers Brothers, and of course the Dean Martin show. I was always into acting, more so than singing. I saw my ability to sing as a fallback if the “acting thing” didn’t work out.
I was also influenced by Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Annie Lennox, Rickie Lee Jones. My voice is multidimensional and I have a 3-octave range so I get somewhat bored just singing one style. There is a huge jazz/blues component to my voice and when I was very young, I was surrounded by the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin…I LOVED THIS MUSIC. I loved the way that their voices were like water, or clay, that it could be sculpted around each note, and then move around all over the place as if in a dance. I spent A LOT of time emulating these singers…the style comes so easily to me.
Rich: Growing up in Allentown, my single mother was an inspiration to me. She played the piano, sang, and did summer stock musical theater. She got me started on the piano and violin and encouraged me to pursue creative endeavors. Once I started listening to music as I grew older, I gravitated towards rock, plus I had two older brothers and I listened to what they were listening to. So, when I was very young, I was listening to Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. A lot of British artists and what is now called classic rock. That all had a huge impact on me. Then there was jazz. I was playing George Gershwin from a young age and I bought a jazz fake book early on and started playing songs out of that. I continued playing jazz in high school at Performing Arts School in big bands, small groups, and solos. I continued playing classical music too, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were the big three for me. I still play them every day to keep my technique up, that and finger exercises and scales.
In life my biggest inspirations growing up were the protests of the 1960s and 1970s and the people who led causes and took a stand like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Bob Geldof.
‘Forgiveness’ is quite an inspirational track – there’s a lot of healing to be had in forgiveness, both for the wrongdoer and the one wronged against. How did you come up with the song? What was the inspiration behind it?
Similarly, how do you forgive someone when you are cut to the core? How do you break through the pain and see your way to forgiveness?
Rich: Lisa and I had a disagreement and I was slow to understand her point of view. It took a while and I felt terrible. I knew she was upset with me for something I had done and saying “I’m sorry” just wasn’t enough. We had to work our way through what happened, how it made Lisa feel, how it made me feel, and then we had to work our way through the healing and learning processes. I think men are wired differently than women and we need to learn how to grow together so the relationship can grow. Lisa teaches me that disagreements, while not always pleasant, are opportunities for our relationship to grow and up level.
Anyway, in the middle of our argument Lisa left the house so we both could have our space and I sat down at the piano and wrote the whole song in about one hour. I came up with the funky groove and chord changes and just started singing. The words came freely and easily. I stayed in the zone until I felt I was fully expressed, and I intentionally left the song simple. When she came home, I played it for her. She loved it and it helped us continue the conversation and eventually make up, which is the best part.
Lisa: For me, the intention is to always begin with forgiveness which then lends itself to understanding. In order to understand, you have to see it from all angles, not just your own. There needs to be a space where both parties can express themselves fully, to get it all out and sometimes that comes with a lot of yelling… AND sometimes writing a song 😊 The next step is to take responsibility… BOTH of us. We always end up apologizing to each other. Being in a relationship isn’t a one-sided deal. If we’re both slinging arrows, there’s always something to apologize for.
How did you get into music in the first place, and what made you realise you could make beautiful music together?
Rich: I began banging on our grand piano when I was still in diapers. I loved it! My brother Michael is two years older than I am and he started taking piano lessons. My mother tells the story that she would hear him practicing and making mistakes, then there was a pause and she would hear it being played better. She peaked around the corner and saw that I was sitting at the piano playing. This led to fights with my brother. I was too young to remember any of this. My mother started me on violin lessons when I was five and a few years later my brother quit the piano, so I studied piano and violin after that. I quit the violin a few years later and just immersed myself in the piano. My mother encouraged my singing and dancing too. I began writing my own songs when I was eight and I played my first nightclub when I was 14. I started playing in bands and recording in studios when I was 15. Relationships with girls and my parents bitter divorce were my first big inspirations for songwriting.
When I met Lisa, I had been living in New York City for five years and had my own band and was playing with great musicians all over the city. We met at a party and started dating right away. We knew we had something very special. One day early in our relationship I was singing and playing my keyboards in my apartment. Lisa just started singing along and I was blown away with her voice and the harmonies she came up with. I had shows booked around the city, so Lisa became part of the band or she would join me on a solo show. I loved singing with her. When it came to make my first album Lisa sang background vocals on it. Her harmonies were so unique and incredible. She sings on all my albums that I have produced. When I worked with Eddie Van Halen, Eddie loved Lisa’s voice and our harmonies so much that he insisted that Lisa sing on the tracks the he was producing.
Lisa: I had always studied acting first and singing second. I knew I had a good voice but acting was my passion. I wanted to be on Broadway and knew if the acting thing didn’t work out, I could always become a singer. Fast forward…1987. I met Rich, fell madly in love with him, moved into his apartment with him in Hell’s Kitchen and that was all she wrote! I absolutely loved his music and his ability to be in constant creativity mode, writing music every day. We worked a lot together back then, but in a different way. I would take the songs he had already written and sing background vocals to them. I’ve always had a knack for harmonies so I was constantly coming up with creative ways of vocalizing behind his lead lines. It was easy and our voices were like magic together. He performed with his band around the city, New York city was where we met, and he started bringing me up on stage with him to sing. It was a completely different stage and audience than I was used to in the theater but I loved it and wanted more of it.
Rich has always had a solo career and I would join him on stage whenever I could when he was on tour. We moved to Park City, UT, started a family, and Rich often toured solo in Europe so there were long stretches of time when we didn’t sing together. Then, just about 7 years ago, I brought a poem that I had written to Rich and asked him to put it to music. I changed the poem up a bit so it read more like lyrics to a song than it did a poem and he loved it. He sat down and wrote the most beautiful music to it. That was “Behind My Disguise”, off our first album. After that I just kept bringing my poems to him and it went from there. We actually found that we were a good writing team. Then we became empty nesters and we had the crazy idea of becoming a duo and touring together. It’s been an amazing partnership ever since.
What’s next for Rich Wyman & Lisa Needham? What can fans expect?
Rich & Lisa: We have lots of new music written. We have two more completely produced recordings of new songs that are already mixed, mastered, and ready to release. They will be coming out soon. Plus, we have written more great new songs that we are excited to get into the studio with our band and record so we can put a whole new album out soon. Most of the new songs we are working on are upbeat and have great grooves but we also love a slow song once in a while too. We will keep recording and putting out new songs, videos, and albums over the coming year. Keep your eyes open for a solo album from Rich and a blues album too, and a solo jazz standards album from Lisa and her one-woman theatrical show. Our goal is to tour and bring our live shows around the world.
Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
Rich: What are your interests and hobbies outside of music? I am always reading so I would say reading is important to me. I love mountain biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. We live in Park City, Utah, We have the greatest snow on earth and the best biking trails in the country. I love traveling and when I am not on concert tours I love going to foreign countries and experiencing other people, cultures, and nature. I love visiting micro-breweries all over the world. I love spending time with my wife and sons.
Lisa told me to tell you that she does not have any questions she wishes someone would ask, but she says, “Thanks for asking.”
Watch the music video for ‘Forgiveness’ below and find out more about Rich Wyman and Lisa Needham and their music online on their official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
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