Park City’s Rich Wyman remembers friend Eddie Van Halen
October 10, 2020 by Scott Iwasaki - The Park Record
Tuesday’s loss of Grammy-winning musical innovator Eddie Van Halen after a long fight with cancer hit music fans all over the world, and one of those who acutely felt the blow was Parkite Rich Wyman.
Wyman’s connection with Van Halen is personal. Not only did the Park City-based pianist, singer and songwriter know the Van Halen family — including the guitarist’s son Wolfgang, ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli and Bertinelli’s photographer brother David — the guitar god appeared on and co-produced four songs on Wyman’s 1996 album “Fatherless Child.”
So, when news about the death hit the airwaves, Wyman went into a state of shock, although the two hadn’t talked in 20 years.
“I had set my phone down that day so I could sit at the piano and do some improvising,” Wyman said. “I took a break from the jamming and saw all of these texts from people I knew in Europe and across the United States on my phone. When I read them, I replied, ‘What the?’ and when I read Wolfie’s post, I broke down and cried.”
Since then, a “movie of memories” has looped nonstop in Wyman’s brain. The memories range from Wyman being the best man at David Bertinelli’s wedding to recording sessions for “Fatherless Child” to just hanging out with Van Halen and laughing together at the Jerky Boys prank-call comedy act.
“While those memories bring me down, I’m happy to have them,” he said. “I’m so happy I was able to share so much time with him, not just in a musical sense, but also a familial sense. He really took me into his family.”
Wyman, who performs with his Wife Lisa Needham in the duo Park88, met Van Halen on March 17, 1992, a day after Wolfgang’s first birthday.
“David told me Ed and Val were going to be in Park City and asked if I wanted to have dinner with them,” Wyman said. “The night of the dinner, David called me, because I had written the wrong time down. So I was an hour late.”
To make matters worse, Wyman had to leave the dinner early to play a gig at Pop Jenks, which is now Flanagan’s on Main.
“So much for first impressions,” Wyman said with a laugh. “But I asked them if they would like to come see the show, and they said yes.”
Wyman pulled aside Pop Jenks owner John Jenkins and asked him to save a table for the Van Halens.
“I told him to keep it quiet, because it was during ski season, and I didn’t want to cause a scene,” Wyman said. “But within 15 minutes word was up and down Main Street and the place was packed.”
A few minutes later, David Bertinelli walked in and gave Wyman the thumbs up.
“I knew we were on, because I would have felt really dumb if they hadn’t showed up,” Wyman said.
Wyman said he gave the performance of his life.
“I played as if it was the last time I would ever play,” he said. “There was such an energy and so much love. I even threw in an Elton John set, because I knew Valerie liked the Rocket Man. And when I got done, Ed grabbed my head and slapped a kiss on my lips.”
After that, David and Wyman would take monthly and sometimes weekly trips to Los Angeles.
“Since David was a photographer, he would set up shows and do some promotion,” Wyman said. “Then we’d hang out with Ed. We would sit at the piano and play or watch some funny videos.”
During one of the piano sessions, Van Halen and Wyman informally began preproduction of “Fatherless Child.”
“One of the things I learned from Ed was how to trim the fat off my songs,” Wyman said. “I like complicated pieces with different sections, and when I played he would say, ‘You have three songs there.’ So, he helped me cut the excess so we could get to the meat.”
Although Van Halen never asked Wyman to play keyboards with his band, he offered Wyman a production deal in 1993.
The deal included recording sessions at Van Halen’s own 5150 Studios with famed producer Andy Johns, who is known for engineering albums by Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and producing Van Halen’s 1991 album “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.”
“Eddie told me to pick the musicians, and I picked the best musicians from New York, where I had lived before I moved to Park City,” Wyman said. “I even picked a guitarist, because I didn’t assume anything.”
During the record sessions, the band laid down the tracks for a song called “Blinded by Pain.”
“After we did that, Ed asked if he could try out a guitar solo for the song,” Wyman said. “It was incredible to me that he asked, and I said yes as soon as I could get my mouth to talk again.”
Van Halen asked the band to wait outside while he worked out the solo.
“We didn’t even have to put our ears to the wall because he played so loud,” Wyman said with a laugh. “It was during that time I really learned how much of a perfectionist he was. I mean, he spent hours and hours playing, replaying, picking, cutting and punching, until he was happy with it.”
Van Halen’s perfectionism wasn’t just for himself. He set the same standards for the band, which touched Wyman.
“I’d sing something, and he’d be like, ‘No,’” Wyman said. “I would say, ‘It was just like the one before,’ and he’d say, ‘No. I know you can do better. Do it again.’ And we would do it 100 more times, until he said, ‘That’s it.’”
When Van Halen said, “That’s it,” Wyman knew he nailed it.
“Ed had integrity, and there was no BS,” Wyman said with emotion in his voice. “He said what he meant and meant what he said. Every cell in his body was down to earth, and you could count on him. I know whether he was famous or not, he would still be the same guy. He was just Ed.”
After hearing the news of Van Halen’s death, Wyman wrote a song about his friend.
The yet-untitled song includes some of Van Halen’s catch phrases, according to the songwriter.
“When Ed wanted to turn things up, he would say, ‘Turn it up top!’” Wyman said. “And another thing he would say was, ‘throw some cheese on that,’ when he wanted the engineer to put some effects on a solo or guitar track. So, I threw some of those lines, as well as, ‘Do it one more time,’ in the song.”
Wyman will perform the song during a Facebook Live performance at noon on Sunday, Oct. 11.
“I’m happy I was able to write it,” he said. “I want to make Ed proud, because he was such a giving guy. I’m very lucky and honored that I got to be his friend, know his family and be one of his musical collaborators.”
"I'm blown away by his songwriting and performing."
Eddie Van Halen, Los Angeles, California
"The most incredible piano playing I've ever seen. He plays with everything from his head to his toes."
KCLR FM Radio, Ireland
"A voice like a hurricane, John Hiatt after a shot of anabolic steroids."
Oor Magazine, Holland
"Rich Wyman is one of the most respected musicians on the local scene."
The Salt Lake Tribune
"One of Utah's hottest artists."
Fox 13 News Utah
Scott Iwasaki - January 28, 2019
It's been a busy few months for local husband and wife duo Park88. Last summer, pianist-singer Rich Wyman and singer Lisa Needham filmed videos for their songs "Soul Like a Flower" and "The Fearlessness," and toured with the Gypsy Kings. Next week, Park88 will perform Tuesday night at the Access Film Music Showcase at the Spur Bar and Grill, and wrap up the week on Friday playing the ASCAP Music Cafe as part of the Sundance Film Festival. The Access gig will also feature country singer Alice Wallace. Access Showcase curator and producer Michael "Chicago Mike" Beck, a longtime friend of Wyman and Needham, set aside a three-hour spot for Park88 to play.
"We had been working with a consultant and agent, Jonathan McHugh, whose wife signed Alice to a record company, so we asked if Alice would be interested in playing at Access," Wyman said. It so happened that Beck had heard Wallace before Wyman approached the organizer about her. "It was crazy because I wanted her play Access, and then Rich told me about her," Beck laughed. In addition to Wallace and Park88, the night will feature singer-songwriter Priscilla Renea, who has written songs for the likes of Madonna, Rihanna and Kelly Clarkson. Wallace will open the show at 9:30 p.m., Renea, who is also scheduled to play the ASCAP Music Cafe Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, will play at 10:30 p.m. and Park88 will go on at 11 p.m.
Park88 will also showcase their band whose members come from far outside of Utah, Wyman said. Drummer Eric Munoz is from Puerto Rico, and percussionist Ricardo Romeo is from Mexico. The bassist, Rehan Jacob, is from Pakistan. "I had the idea of putting the band together without guitar," said Wyman, who has worked with Edward Van Halen. "This way Lisa and I really are in the forefront, and I really wanted to have the most solid rhythm section behind us. When these guys play, they really lock together a full sound that isn't overpowering."
Needham hopes the band helps fill the room. "While I love playing with Rich solo, I'm excited to play with the band," Needham said. "We're hoping this moves us into a bigger sound." The duo's ASCAP Music Cafe performance, meanwhile, will be at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1. "The offer for the Music Cafe came in early December through Jonathan, who got us the Gypsy Kings tour," Wyman said. "He called and said he got us the ASCAP Music Cafe gig at Sundance. Then he asked, 'how long have you been trying to get that,' and I said, 'it's been decades.'"
Wyman has been a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers since 1991. And while he has won 10 ASCAP songwriting awards, he hasn't been asked to play the prestigious Music Cafe until this year. "It's so great that we're finally going to perform there after all of these years," he said. The gig, like the one at the Access Film Music Showcase, will be performed with the band. "It's another step for us getting to perform for the people who need to hear us," Needham said.
Two days after the ASCAP Music Cafe gig, Park88 will fly to New York to kick off a tour that will also take them through Connecticut and Vermont, before heading north to Montreal, Quebec to play the Access Film Music Festival at the Folk Alliance International Convention. Park88 played Montreal on the Gipsy Kings tour and fell in love with the city, Needham said. "I think Montreal will be a good connecting point for us, because Jonathan will also be at the festival and he asked Rich to speak," she said.
Scott Iwasaki - January 24, 2019
The ASCAP Music Cafe is officially old enough to drink. For the past 21 years, the event, run by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, has teamed with the Sundance Film festival to present free concerts performed by ASCAP-affiliated artists. Past performances have included Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, Rachael Yamagata, Lenka, Brett Dennon, Guy Clark and Sting. "It's been such an incredible road," said Loretta Munoz, ASCAP assistant vice president of membership. "Every year at this time, I will pull up and review the different artists who have played, and it's pretty stunning."
This year's concert series, which will run during the film festival from Friday, Jan. 25, through Friday, Feb. 1, at the Rich Haines Gallery, 751 Main St., is set to include Claudia Brant, Patrick Martin and MILCK. The mission of the ASCAP Music Cafe, which started at the Elks Lodge, before moving to the Star Bar and a tent on Main Street, before landing at the gallery, is to expose ASCAP artists to the filmmaking community.
"While our mission is to collect royalties and get distribution for our artists, we also work with our members and try to create new opportunities for them," she explained. "Sundance elevates filmmaking by giving voices to artists in different areas including composing and producing. That's what we're doing, and it's worked out very well." Munoz is looking also forward to presenting seasoned artists — Deana Carter, Everlast and Patty Griffin – this year. "I like to call these artists jewels in the crown, because their music is sustaining and still affects us throughout the years," she said. "We have been trying to get (rapper) Everlast out for quite some time, but the timing never worked out. So we're excited to have him come this year."
Munoz likens Americana singer Griffin's lyrics to poetry. "Her voice is like tears in the snow, and those can be tears of sorrow or tears of joy," she said. "I'm blown away by all the music we were able and still are able to present." Munoz remembered when the lineup included Rufus Wainwright, Joe Jackson and Judy Collins, back in 2006. "When I get the artist on stage, I like to crawl back into the crowd to hear some of the sets, and . when we had Judy Collins, people told me when they first saw Judy or that this was their first time seeing her after hearing their parents talk about her," she said.
Local music fans will recognize the name of Park88, an act new to the series that will make its Music Cafe debut. Park88 is the husband and wife duo of pianist Rich Wyman and singer Lisa Needham, who have lived in Park City since 1991. Last fall, the two embarked on a tour with the Grammy Award-winning Latin-music band, Gypsy Kings. Wyman, a multi-ASCAP Songwriting Award winner, has worked with artists such as Van Halen and producer Andy Johns. Needham, a local singer, recently sold her yoga studio to join Wyman in the duo.
"A good friend of ours, Jonathan McHugh, told me about Park88, and I didn't put that together with Rich, whom I have known for years through his solo music and music blogs," Munoz said. "When I did connect the dots, it made sense to have them play, because it's also a nod to Park City."
CALIFORNIA ROCKER AWARD-WINNING ONLINE MUSIC MAGAZINE -
By JOHN DALY August 2, 2018
PARK88, the talented duo of piano player Rich Wyman and singer-songwriter Lisa Needham, have released a new video, “The Fearlessness,” which premieres exclusively here at CaliforniaRocker.com.
The modern Americana-style twosome and their bandmates are preparing to release their debut EP, also named The Fearlessness, on Aug. 31.
PARK88 Teamed In Music and In Life
PARK88’s Wyman and Needham have plenty of stories to tell. They’ve traveled the world — and through life — together as husband and wife. The former NYC-based bicycle messenger and singing waitress teamed up to create innovative and modern Americana-flavored music accented with their refreshing taste for adventure.
Wyman and Needham Making Fans and Friends
Wyman and Needham have fans of all kinds. They were invited to Park City, where they made friends with Eddie Van Halen, who was so impressed, he invited the couple to his studio in Los Angeles. It’s there that they worked on a range of songs with Van Halen and renowned mixing engineer Andy Johns.
Scott Iwasaki, The Park Record, December 22, 2017
A new kind of crowd threw a party the Tuesday after Thanksgiving at the No Name Saloon. Instead of the rowdy whiskey shooting, beer swigging types, this group came in with film cameras, sound equipment, a full band and a lot of attitude. The ringleaders were husband and wife team Rich Wyman and Lisa Needham, who took over the bar to film their new video "Soul Like a Flower," one of the singles from their new album "The Fearlessness."
Wyman — a winner of the ASCAP Award, a music-publishing accolade — dreamed of shooting "Soul Like a Flower" at the No Name because of the venue's festive aura. As Lady Luck would have it, No Name's principal owner Jesse Shetler, greenlit the shoot. "Jesse and his staff were awesome," Wyman said. "I want to thank them so much." It also helped that Wyman and Needham shot the video with cinematographer and producer Erik Hutchins during the bar's downtime, around 3 p.m.
Hutchins, who is the producer of UTopia, a local TV series that focuses on environmental issues in Utah, has shot other videos for Wyman, and has also worked with Steven Spielberg and jean-Michel Cousteau. "Erik is a dear friend of ours, and when we played him our new album, he jumped on 'Soul Like a Flower,'" Wyman said. Although Needham has appeared in a couple of her husband past videos, "Soul Like a Flower" is the first one that focuses on her. "It was great," Needham said. "I really enjoyed the acting part of it." "Lisa worked hard to make sure she knew where she was going to be and what she was going to do," Wyman said. "She blew everyone away."
The "Soul Like a Flower" video starts with Wyman and Needham kissing goodbye and then switches its focus on Needham. "Erik shot Lisa singing the whole first verse in one fluid shot," Wyman said. "And he did the same thing with the second verse." The video included nearly 40 local extras."We tried to get a colorful crowd for the video to work," Wyman said. "Everyone dressed in more muted colors at the beginning of the song, and then after a saxophone solo, we go back to the crowd who is following Lisa and everyone is dressed in brighter colors."
Wyman and Needham recruited Katrina Kmak for the sax solo segment. Kmak, who not only sings with the Park City Treble Makers, but also performs with the Park City Follies and is the youth and Spanish services librarian at the Park City Library, was the perfect saxophonist, Needham said. "We talk about lip syncing, well, she sax synced, and nailed every note," Needham said. "She had played the sax for two years in seventh and eighth grade, so she was familiar with the instrument." The Utah Conservatory provided the saxophone, Wyman said. "Katrina took it home for a couple of days and listened to the song over and over again," he said. "When she came back for the video shoot, she was ready and nailed it."
The whole shoot took about an hour, Wyman said. "It was funny because Erik did a few takes and then it was all over," he said. The video will premiere in early January, and it will serve as one of the primers for the album's release. "We want to release four or five singles with a video every few weeks," Needham said. "After the fifth or sixth song, we'll release the album."
"The Fearlessness" will be released as an MP3, a CD and on vinyl, Wyman said. "We recorded the album in New York last January," he said. "We recorded 12 and put 11 on the CD. But when it came to making a vinyl album, we had to cut one more song, which was sad and hard because we liked the songs." The duo is already thinking of the next video. "We are starting to reach out to people to help," Needham said.
Scott Iwasaki - January 6, 2017
Husband and wife duo Rich Wyman and Lisa Needham have wrapped up a series of performances at Molly Blooms.
The concerts not only entertained fans, but also prepared the couple for its next step — recording a new album.
"Lisa and I have been together for 29 years and she's always sang on my albums and she has sang at my shows and sometimes I'll back her up on piano," said Wyman, a 10-time ASCAP award winner. "She put together the Park City Divas Show at the Egyptian Theatre. She's performed at the Riverhorse, the Eccles Center and with the Utah Symphony. While I've put out 10 solo albums, this will be the first one that we are doing as a duo."
The idea of making an album together isn't new for Wyman and Needham.
"Nearly 10 years ago, we decided to make [one]," Wyman said. "We put together a band from Salt Lake, rehearsed and went into the studio."
That's when Needham, owner of the Park City Yoga Studio, found how expensive making an album can be.
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"We never finished it and it got put on the back burner," Wyman said.
After raising two sons, the couple decided to give making an album another try.
"We're empty nesters now," Wyman said. "We've had time to collaborate and write new songs, and Lisa also has some songs that we didn't finish for the first [attempt]."
When the songs started coming together, Wyman contacted his friend Kevin Hupp, a longtime producer and drummer in New York.
"He's toured with a lot of people from Edgar Winter to Rick Derringer, and, most recently, with Iggy Pop," Wyman said. "He played with me back when I was doing shows in New York in the 1980s and he was the first guy I called when I worked with Eddie Van Halen."
Wyman told Hupp he and Needham have been saving up to do the album.
"So, Kevin put together an A-list line-up of musicians including a guitarist, bassist and a horn section, and got a friend-rate at one of the top recording studios in New York," Wyman said.
The couple will fly out next Wednesday and will be in New York for almost two weeks.
"We'll spend the first day at Kevin's house doing some pre production," Wyman said. "We'll go over the songs and decide on what instrumentation we want and he'll probably have some ideas as well."
While there are two songs that were written solely by Wyman, most of the songs' lyrics were written by Needham.
"Lisa writes a lot of poetry," Wyman said. "She'll hand me what she wrote and then I'll sit down at the piano and create the music that is inspired by her lyrics.
"Sometimes when she hears something she likes, she'll yell across the room and ask, 'I like that. Can I have that?'" he said. "Sometimes she has more definitive ideas, but I'm more of the music creator for her songs and she writes the lyrics."
After spending a day on preproduction, the next three days will be spent in the studio.
"We'll lay down the basic tracks with the band and that will include the drums, bass, guitar and piano," Wyman said. "We'll bring in the horn section in on Sunday."
Wyman knows what he wants the songs to sound like.
"I told Kevin that I want to go for a raw and simple sound," he said. "I want to hear real musicians playing from the heart, but will not spend all day working on the sound of the snare drum. I don't want a poppy, over-produced and sterilized production."
After the basic tracks are done, Wyman and Needham will head to another friend's house and record nothing but vocals.
"By the end of the next few days, I hope to have the recording done," Wyman said.
The couple will then spend time playing shows and saving money to pay for mixing the album.
"When that's done, we'll save up for the mastering," Wyman said. "Then we'll save for the manufacturing and distribution."
Wyman and Needham want to see if they can pay for the album themselves. But if they have to, they do have the option to crowd source.
"I used Kickstarter on my last album, and we may go that route," Wyman said. "But we don't have to do that right now for this part of the recording."
The live performances at Molly Blooms these past couple of weeks helped Needham and Wyman tighten up the songs.
"That worked out great for us because we needed to play these songs for an audience," Wyman said. "I always tell musicians that they can practice until their fingers are bleeding and they can take lessons and become as knowledgeable as can be, but nothing takes them to the level of perfection and professionalism than being on stage."
In addition, Wyman recorded every show.
"We listened to the recordings and made notes and then rehearsed with the notes and played the next show with the improvements," he said. "It was a great way to tighten up and elevate the songs, so by the time we get to the studio, we'll have our stuff together so we can concentrate on creating the album."
To help the musicians understand the songs, Wyman sent them recordings and lead sheets that contained lyrics and chords.
"That way when we meet up we'll have all of this creativity flowing and try out ideas as a group," he said.
So far, the couple is calling their project Lisa and Rich.
"We'll call ourselves that until a bolt of lightning hits us with a surefire name," Wyman said.
RICH WYMAN Ready to Sing from the Rooftops!
Scott Iwasaki, The Park Record
Rich Wyman gets into a song during a live recording session of his new album "Live from the Heart 2." (Joseph Voncken)
Back in 2002, pianist, singer and songwriter Rich Wyman released a live album called "Live from the Heart." The album was recorded in Holland and his fans loved it, especially his Dutch fans.
"I have a lot of fans there from when I signed to a record company back in the late 1990s and early 2000s because of the work I did with Van Halen," Wyman said during a Park Record interview. "In 2010 and 2011, all the fans who loved that album, asked if I was ever going to make another 'Live from the Heart' album. They were emphatic, so I knew I had to do another one."
On Saturday, Aug. 8, Wyman will play a CD release party for "Live from the Heart 2" on the roof of the Boneyard, 1251 Kearns Blvd. The concert is free and open to ages 21 and older.
Rich Wyman shows his appreciation to a sold-out audience who attended one of two recording sessions for his "Live from the Heart 2" album. (Joseph Voncken)
Wyman will be joined by his wife Lisa Needham for the performance.
"The Boneyard is a great place and the idea of playing on the roof seemed like fun and more of a party, rather than playing in a dark venue," Wyman said. "I think this will be more fun and festive."
The are many differences between "Live from the Heart" and "Live from the Heart 2," according to Wyman.
"The main one is that 'Live from the Heart 2' was actually recorded in a real recording studio," he said. "I hooked up with a recording studio called Soundvision Studios in Arnhem in the Netherlands that was close to the German border in 2011. I got to know the owner, George Konings and he was interested in doing this and we recorded the songs during two shows, one in the morning and one in the evening.
"'Live from the Heart 1,' on the other hand, was recorded in three performances over three nights in a makeshift studio," Wyman explained. "The record company turned a big room into a studio, added a piano and hooked up microphones and ran wires down to the other end of the building where the actual studio was."
Also, the audience who attended the sessions for the first album stood around the piano, while the audience for 'Live from the Heart 2' sat in chairs, like a regular concert.
The "Live from the Heart 2" CD was recorded in a studio in Amsterdam last year. (Album cover photo by Marcel Kolenbrander)
"It was a beautiful set up with lights and wonderful microphones," Wyman said. "The one I sang into cost a $20,000 microphone and the ones they used to record the piano were all pre-World War II RCA mikes."
In addition, Wyman financed "Live from the Hear 2" on his own.
"Once George and I agreed on a price on how much it would cost to record, I asked my webmaster how I could promote this thing and sell tickets to the show through my website," he said. "My webmaster referred me to Eventbright.com and I created two web pages, one for the morning show and one for the afternoon show.
"One of the things I didn't know was the a lot of people in Holland didn't use Visa or MasterCard," Wyman said.
Rich Wyman and his wife Lisa Needham will play a CD-release concert on the roof of the Boneyard on Saturday. (Courtesy of Rich Wyman)
"There is a Dutch equivalent called Ideal, so, I had to set up four more web pages so they could use that. But it all worked out and I raised enough money to cover all the costs, including manufacturing the CDs."
"Live from the Heart 2" was originally going to contain only 10 songs.
"However, I talked to a couple of people in the music business in Holland and they said, 'just fill up the CD,'" Wyman said. "So I did. There is 79 minutes of music, including a little story called 'Ship Story,' on the album."
When selecting which songs to record, Wyman knew he wanted to keep away from those that are on the first album.
The only pieces that are on both albums are "So What!" and "Not for the Money."
"'So What' was a Top 40 hit in Holland, so it had to be on there, and this is a better version of 'Not for the Money,'" Wyman said. "I feel like my piano chops are better on this recording and my voice is a little more raspy than the last one."
The pianist wanted to throw in a couple of songs that haven't been recorded before, so "Who U Are" and "Chivas on Ice" made their recording debuts.
"'Who U Are' is a new song that hasn't been on any albums and 'Chivas on Ice,' while it's been a live standard of mine, hasn't been on any album either," Wyman said.
In addition, Wyman added a couple of covers.
"On the first 'Live from the Heart' I recorded 'Romeo & Juliet,' by Dire Straits, which is one of my live standards and I wanted to do more," he said. "Last year, I started playing Bruno Mars' 'When I Was Your Man' and Christine Aguilera's "Say Something.' So, I chose these two for 'Live from the Heart 2' because they seemed to fit within the album.
Those songs were culled from two, 24-song performances.
"The next day, Sunday, we went back into the studio and listened to all 48 songs with the engineer," Wyman said. "We found the ones that were fine the way they were and the ones that needed a little fixing and the ones that just wouldn't work."
Wyman tweaked the songs that needed to be fixed and the engineer mixed them.
"It's not flawless, but I like to say, 'When I make an album, I do the best I can with the resources I have to work with,'" Wyman said. "I put the budget, the people, the songs and the location together and do the best I can."
Scott Iwasaki - December 17, 2013
For the past few months, Park City resident Rich Wyman, an award-winning singer, songwriter and performer, has played public and private shows in Nashville, Austin, Chicago, Denver, New Mexico, Salt Lake City and Billings, Mont. He also just returned from a summer-long stint as the lead pianist in a show at the Venetian in Las Vegas. So he’s looking forward to doing a couple of concerts in his home town over the next two holidays when he performs on Christmas and New Year’s Eve at Canyons’ Hyatt Escala bar and restaurant. The pianist is scheduled to perform on Christmas from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and on New Year’s Eve from 6:30 p.m. until 12:30 p.m. Wyman’s wife, singer Lisa Needham, will perform with him on New Year’s Eve.
"I love playing in that place no matter what the audience situation is," Wyman said during an interview with The Park Record. "It’s in the bar and restaurant and has great acoustics. The walls are made out of cork or something and it really soaks up the sound. And I just zone out. "There are certain rooms where I play and think to myself that I would love to set up a bunch of microphones and record," he said. "This is one of those rooms."
Wyman has performed at the Hyatt Escala many times in the past few years thanks to his relationship with general manager Claudia Wattenberg. "I met her at a party a couple of years ago right when she had taken the job at the Hyatt," Wyman said. "And since then, I’ve been playing there a lot." He started the winter of 2011 and then played more shows the following summer. "They reached out to me, depending on their situation, and asked if I can play some dates," Wyman said. "They called me earlier this year about New Year’s Eve."
Although Wyman had received offers to play on the road that time, he really wanted to stay in town for the holidays. "So I said, ‘Yeah. Let’s do something,’ and we made a deal," Wyman explained. "After we got the New Year’s Eve show set, they asked if I would like to play Christmas Day. Since I’m Jewish, playing on Christmas wasn’t a big deal to me," he said. "So I said, ‘Sure.’" These two performances marks the first time Wyman will play at the Hyatt Escala since 2012. "It’s been a year and a half," he said. "And I’m glad to be back for Christmas and New Year’s week to play in a room that I like to play. Hopefully the locals that have been missing me will come up."
One of the reasons Wyman has not been able to perform locally was the Venetian show in Las Vegas he did this past summer. "It was like I was born to be there," he said. "It was all entertainment all the time and I’m an entertainer." Wyman was the lead pianist out of three who performed Thursdays through Sundays. "I switched off with another pianist, who worked Monday through Thursday," Wyman said. "We also had a violinist come on and musical-theater singer." The concerts took place in an atrium. "It was the most beautiful stage I’ve ever played on," Wyman said. "The stage was built at the foot of the waterfall in an atrium and they had scaffolding covered with ivy, fruit and grapes."
Above the musicians was a chandelier that was suspended from a 70-foot-high ceiling. The ceiling was about 70 feet high. "We played between 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. in half-hour intervals," Wyman said. "We finished early enough that I was able to go see show shows, check out some bands and restaurants. "So I got to get to know the local musician scene so well," he said. "It was like a working vacation."
The only drawback was the summer heat. "The average temperature was 110 degrees," he said. "My condo was just a few blocks away, but I found myself driving to the venue because it was so hot. But I would love to play Las Vegas again." In the meantime, Wyman is happy he will play a few shows locally. "It’s nice to be close to home for these shows," he said.
REVIEW - GOOD COMPANY
Rich Wyman’s album, Good Company, is a delicious slice of piano-ballad pie. I know it’s cliché, but I can’t help but think of Elton John ’s work when I listen to these tracks—they have that same bounce and those wide-open choruses. The production on the album is truly excellent, with each instrument doing its part to support Wyman’s fantastic piano and vocals. It certainly helps that he worked with some of Utah’s finest musical talents, including drummer Van Christensen and guitarist Terence Hansen , to complete each composition. Wyman got it right—this album is “good company” to get your day started right, in the car or on your back porch with a beer. I definitely recommend it! – Ischa B.
Piano man Rich Wyman heading to Las Vegas
Scott Iwasaki, The Park Record - November, 2011
Every musician has a bundle of influences that includes compositions, lyrics or musicians that inspired them.
Rich Wyman's list includes everyone from the Beatles, Peter Gabriel, David and Bob Dylan to John Hiatt, James Taylor and Joan Armatrading.
In honor of his musical mentors, Wyman recorded "Songs I Wish I Wrote," that was released in Europe over the summer, to critical acclaim.
The CD, Wyman's eighth, but first of covers, also features songs by Mark Knopfler, Elton John and Eric Clapton, will have its official Park City release party at Molly Blooms Nov. 25 and 26.
"Whenever I play a cover during one of my shows, I always say, 'This is a song I wish I wrote,'" Wyman told The Park Record. "It became an easy title for a CD, and told the story because the songs I chose for the CD have been in my repertoire for years."
The disc kicks off with Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" and ends with Dylan's "Hurricane."
"I've been doing 'Solsbury Hill' for ages and I've always been a fan of Peter Gabriel," Wyman said. "I chose 'Hurricane' to close the album because it's such an epic tune."
In between, listeners hear the likes of the Beatles' "Come Together," Bowie's "Life on Mars" and Armatrading's "The Weakness in Me," among the tracklist.
"The other songs are timely for me because for the last two years I've been playing at Keys on Main in Salt Lake City, so 'Come Together' is a song I play there a lot," he said.
"It's got a great chorus and I just let the audience belt it out."
"Life on Mars" is more personal for Wyman.
"I had two older brothers, so when I was six and seven, I was listening to David Bowie and the Rolling Stones while my friends were still listening to the Top 40," he said. "My brother Jay was a huge Bowie fan. I heard that music constantly in my house while growing up and 'Life on Mars' is a compositionally amazing song.
"When I finished my recording of it, I sent an MP3 to my brother, because if he didn't give his thumbs up, I wasn't going to include it on the CD," Wyman said. "He emailed me back the most flattering email, which is unusual for him. He was over the top and said I did it justice."
Armatrading's "The Weakness in Me" has another personal connection.
"Not a lot of guys cover Joan Armatrading, but that song means a lot to me and I'll never forget where I was the first time I heard it," Wyman said.
When he lived in New York 30 years ago, he and a group of friends were in a car in the Bronx.
"I was in the back seat and all of us were making a lot of noise and that song came on the radio," he said. "I heard it and basically told everyone to shut up.
"In my mind, I was thinking to myself, 'What is this song? It's gorgeous,'" Wyman said. "It took my breath away."
The song stuck with Wyman all these years, but he didn't start playing it a lot until the late 1990s.
"Every time I'd play it, I'd get more requests to play it, because people wanted to know what it was," he said. "It's not a song that people hear a lot, but when they do, they love it.
"I think they love it because it's such a brutally honest song," he said. "Joan isn't afraid to take off the Band-Aid and take a hard look at the scars and write about them."
Wyman chose other songs such as James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" and Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" due to the large amount of requests he receives during his weekly gig at Keys on Main in Salt Lake City.
"I never played 'You're So Vain' until I started working there, and it's the same with 'Fire and Rain,'" he said. "These songs have resonated with me and I put my own little twist on them."
"Songs I Wish I Wrote" was recorded in the showroom of Baldassin Pianos across the street from the Rio Grande train station in Downtown Salt Lake City.
"They are the Western United States' largest dealer of Fazioli pianos," Wyman said. "I drop in the store from time to time and play this particular model, called an F308. It's one of the most amazing pianos that I have every played, and I even rented it a couple of times for shows."
Wyman approached the store's owner Rick Baldassin about recording a CD in the showroom and Baldassin agreed.
"I called my friend Derek Keith who is an engineer and we went into the store and set up this dream piano and recorded for six hours," Wyman said. "We set up a bunch if microphones and he set up his computer and ran a bunch of wires back there."
Wyman and Keith recorded 19 songs.
"I threw eight of them out, due to slight imperfections and mistakes," Wyman said. "Of the remaining tracks, I threw a few more out because they didn't fit with the genre I was going for."
The vocals were recorded separately at Keith's DK Studios in Ogden and the recordings were mixed at George Kelly Studios, in Salt Lake.
"He's got a nice little mixing and mastering room to put them all together and he didn't have to do too much to them because the piano sounded great and the vocals were good, but we ran into a problem," Wyman said. "Because the piano was so huge, we're talking an 11-foot grand piano, it was a chore trying to match its sound with the voice."
When Kelly brought up the voice to match the piano, Wyman would cringe.
"I have a gravelly voice and it didn't sound good in the mix," he said. "So we had to, sadly, pull down the piano so it was on an even keel with the voice. It took us four or five mixes to get it right.
"It was difficult because the recordings were so naked just piano and vocals and you can't hide mistakes because everything is exposed," Wyman said.
Apparently, the mix was done right because when "Songs I Wish I Wrote" was released in Europe over the summer, it became the CD of the week on National Radio in the Netherlands and DJs and music critics gave it five stars, Wyman said.
"People liked it, which meant to much to me," he said.
Now, that' he's home, Wyman wants to give the disc a proper Park City release.