What makes a hard working union man in Pennsylvania suddenly decide to chuck everything aside and head to Texas? That’s one of the things I made sure I asked Rick Hornyak when we spoke. A singer/songwriter with a great gift for lyrics, Hornyak is currently embarking on one of several short tours planned for 2012 in support of his new CD, “Marigold.” I recently talked to Rick about his music, his passions and, of course, why Texas?
Mike Smith: How long had you been writing songs before you decided to pursue music as a career?
Rick Hornyak: I guess I started writing songs when I was about 19. I used to work in a steel mill and that kept me pretty busy so there weren’t a lot of songs from age 20 to 27, when I finally had a dozen or so that I was kicking around. When I was 27 I moved to Austin (Texas) and I’ve written a lot more since. So probably when I was around 19 or 20 years old was when I started coming up with original songs.
MS: How was it adjusting from quiet, sleepy Pennsylvania to wild and crazy Austin?
RH: I have to tell you it was really terrifying for the first six months. I really am from one of those middle-of-nowhere, one traffic light towns in Pennsylvania. I was afraid of the city. My parents had lived in Pennsylvania as did their parents and we grew up thinking that the city was dangerous. I was always afraid I would end up in the bad part of town or that something was going to happen to me. But as soon as I learned the names of a few main roads I discovered I could get where I needed to go. I’d have to say it was terrifying, but exciting, at the same time.
MS: “Marigold” is your first full length CD. Is there a deliberate tone to the album? You have a nice collection of ballads mixed in with some up-tempo tunes.
RH: We actually sent around a pre-release survey to friends and family and people we already knew who were familiar with the band. We sent them mixes of the songs and tried to get an idea of the order to put the songs in…what were their strong points. We went through about 30 of those. I’m so happy that people took the time to fill them out. To listen to the songs and fill them out. The song “See This Through” was a very popular one. Another song that people were really leaning towards is “Right in Front of Me.” As for any kind of theme, I’ve recently just discovered that I was reaching a kind of inner peace when I was writing. I fell in love again after ten years of sort of being single and a little bit bitter. My life was starting to get a little more stable. I wanted to start taking care of my body more…to be a little less self destructive. So that’s really the kind of general tone…it captures a time of my life when I did a lot of reflecting.
MS: I’m glad you mentioned “See This Through.” It’s one of the songs that I really took notice of on the CD. I’m a fan of great lyrics and that song definitely fits the bill. Were there any musicians that influenced you when you were growing up…made you say “Wow, this is what I want to be!”
RH: I have a really diverse music sense because I listened to everything growing up. When I was a kid I listened to 50s and 60s pop records that my parents had. I’ve loved music, as I’m sure you have, probably since I was 5 years old. It made me want to dance around the living room. I grew up listening to Tommy James and the Shondells…the Supremes…the Beatles. Those were my parent’s records. I don’t know how much of his actual style I picked up, but Bob Dylan, when I was in my early 20s, he showed me the power of what a songwriter could be. The way that somebody else’s words can make you think that song was written just for you. I’ve had people tell me that about a couple of my songs and it’s so flattering. The song we were just talking about…”See This Through”…a friend of mine was inspired by the song to put her bar up for sale and move to Hawaii. She gathered enough money for a couple of months, got an apartment and got a bartender job. She let her employees run the bar until it sold. I kind of got off the question (laughs)…I’d definitely have to say Bob Dylan was a real influence.
MS: You’re on the first leg of several short tours this summer. Do you have any plans to record again soon?
RH: I’ve got some songs in the works. All of the new candidates are here. A few that are done and about a dozen or so in the refining process. That’s something that’s tough to do when you’re on the road and touring. You’ve got so many things to do that you often lack that three hours you need to go in and try to write every day. But that’s what I’m doing in my free time. I’m trying to make sure that I’ve got a lot of new material ready. I feel I need to push myself. I want to top my next record in my own head. That’s how I felt with “Marigold.” I felt I had taken a big step. That I was getting better. I could hear it and that’s a great feeling for a song writer.
Rick concludes this leg of his 2012 tour with a stop Sunday night, May 13, at Ernie Biggs in Kansas City. For more tour information, or to order his new CD, go to www.rickhornyak.com
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