INTERVIEW: Singer – Songwriter Richard Schroder

Can you talk to us more about your song “Drivin”?

Drivin’ is a song that I worked for almost 5 years. It started as guitar riff that came to me in the middle of the night, and the original title was “Tryin’ To Be With You.” I recorded a scratch take on my iPhone one morning followed by a studio recording, but in the end, the first version of Drivin’ just wasn’t right.

One night in the studio my producer (Brian Charles) and I were trying to come up with other options for the hook. I had been playing around with the “drivin’” concept in my head, and we came up with the hook: “Yeah I’ll keep drivin’, cause I’m dyin’ to get back to you.” The hook lead us to a new concept which was a musician at the end of a tour pining to get back to the woman he loves. It totally clicked, and I pretty much wrote the first draft of the lyrics within 45 minutes.

Months later, after dozens of rewrites, I was still struggling with how to make the hook stronger. In a writing session with my songwriting mentor (Steve Seskin), we were pushing to come up with a stronger setup line. We had multiple options on the table, but I came up with, “I’ll keep drivin’ til the midnight sky turns blue, Yeah I’ll keep drivin’ cause I’m dying to get back to you.” We really liked that a lot as it symbolized the musician driving back home late night after a gig.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Well, I’m a self-proclaimed weary traveler. I’ve done some touring for my music and travel for work often, and to be honest, I get lonely on the road. In this song, I went to the well on the feeling of just wanting to get back home to those you love. I decided to express this through the narrative of the musician going home after a tour, and though I know not everyone is a musician or knows what it is like to tour, I think of Drivin’ as a love song. I think more people than not know what it feels like to want to get home to someone they love – that’s what this song is going for.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

It’s possible. We have shot a video for another song on the album, but I am considering doing one for this song. We do have a lyric video for this song.  Link below:

The single comes off your new album Drive – what’s the story behind the title?

I strive to write songs that you can listen to in your car with the windows down. My car is the main place where I listen to music so that’s a special relationship to me. There’s something kind of liberating about that feeling. Also, there are a couple of songs on the album that involve cars (Drivin’ and Backseat Love) so it seemed like a good title. One a more philosophical note, this album took real personal drive to complete, and that is something I am proud of.

How was the recording and writing process?

This process was a real learning experience. I actually recorded the album twice. I finished the album the first time and had it mastered; it was ready to be released. Right around the same time, I joined the Nashville Songwriter’s Association. I sent the songs to Nashville and got some feedback from top songwriters. It very quickly became apparent that the album was not finished. I had a lot to learn. I spent another two years learning about songwriting, spending time in Nashville, and rewriting all the songs and getting them into better shape. It was hard work, for sure, but I learned a lot in the process, and I’m a much better songwriter now.

You brought some special guests – did you handpick them or how did they come on board?

Brian introduced me to the best players in Boston. I wanted to work with the best players I could including guitarist Duke Levine (Peter Wolf, Aimee Mann, Roseanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter), keyboard player Jamie Edwards (Sara Bareilles, Michael Bublé, Lori McKenna), bassist Annie Hoffman (the Field Effect), and drummer Steve Chaggaris (Amy Fairchild, Ken Clark Organ Trio). Everybody on this album is a better musician than me. They raised my game. Not only are they incredibly gifted musicians, they are all amazing people to be around and collaborate with.

What did they bring to the table?

They brought a lot to the album. It was really inspiring to see how each song can really take off when you bring in the right players. My goal was to give them the very best songs to work with and it was fun to see how they could take them to the next level. Players like that can really make anything sound good, but I think when you have the songs in the best shape possible it really sets the stage for them to elevate things quite significantly. I worked really hard on all the forms and parts in the songs. I wanted to create an album of perfect economy so to speak.  So I stripped away everything that was not necessary for the listener. We labored over each bar, each second of the songs so that when we brought the players in there was no fluff for them to compensate for. Every second on the record had been thought through in advance, and I’d like to think that I got the most out of each player because of that.

What role does Nashville play in your writing?

Nashville has had a huge impact on me. I’ve been spending more time there, and the people and the culture down there are very inclusive. I learned so much from associating myself with true professionals and with people that want to help me become a better songwriter. Nashville gave me a framework and a structure that I could write within and hone my creativity; I really needed that.  Prior to working in Nashville, I was really in the dark in terms of the creative process. I know there is more for me to learn and I look forward to that, but I know enough now to understand how songwriting works and how things play together.

How has Blake Shelton and Keith Urban influenced your music?

I would say I’ve been influenced by them indirectly. My mentor (Steve Seskin) does a lot of writing for a lot of the top names in Nashville, and I was definitely influenced by him. I’m always trying to learn as much as I can from Steve so I think that’s where the comparable comes from. In my early music career, I was a rock musician, but I’ve fallen in love with country music over the last five years. I love the connection between the song – the lyrics – and the listener. The storytelling, the imagery, and the connections told through country music are special.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I wake up often with a song in my head. Sometimes the same song may reappear often enough that I sit down to write it. It’s hard because with so many things going on in life I don’t have time to capture each and every one as they come about. So I need to be selective and work on the ones that I think have the most potential. Usually the songs come to me during the night and when I wake up in the morning, but I tend to sit down and work on them in the evening when the house is quiet. That said, I’m a guitar player at heart. That’s how I started in music. Then I learned to sing, then write songs. So the nice thing is that a lot of my songs start with some sort of guitar riff or idea. I can usually get the guitar feel that I want on an idea pretty quickly. The melodies come to me as well. The lyrics are the hardest part for me, and they can take dozens of rewrites and sometime years to finish.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes, we are planning a radio tour later this year to support the album release.

What else is happening next in Richard Schroder’s world?

The next step for me is getting this album out there for people to listen to. I’m excited to hear what people think. I’ve been writing and working in the studio for a long time so I’m really looking forward to playing the songs to live audiences and making those connections. I’m also working on new songs, and my plan it to always be writing and releasing music on a more consistent basis.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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