Grammy star likes to keep his secret in the closet

DANIELLE NOHRA meets a Grammy-award winner who calls Canberra home, well half of the time.

Grammy-award winner Tony Rich… “Canberra is very enriched with creativity, music and art but it’s missing some components to showcase the talent.”

GRAMMY-award winners often talk about keeping their gramophone-shaped achievements on display in their homes, but that’s not the case for Canberra’s own Grammy-award winner Tony Rich.

Tony, who lives half the year in Canberra and half in America, says his Grammy is sitting in the closet in Harrison.

“I don’t feel the need to have it on display,” says Tony.

The 46-year-old won the “Best R&B Album” award in 1996 for “Words”, which had his hit single “Nobody Knows” on it.

But Tony doesn’t describe his music as R&B and says there was no R&B songs on the album.

“I never charted on any R&B charts and never played on any R&B stations,” he says.

“So it was strange.”

And what seems even stranger is his choice to make Canberra his half-home, but, he says, his seven-year-old son likes to say he lives nowhere.

He’s one of four of Tony’s children, who are the main reason he’s back in America every second month.

“I move around in America [too]. I have a place to stay in Atlanta and a place in Los Angeles but I’m never there long enough to call either of them home,” he says.

Not having a permanent home is part of the reason his Grammy is sitting in a closet in Harrison but also, Tony says, he doesn’t want to look at it while creating music.

“I appreciate it, but I don’t make music in the hopes of getting it,” he says.

Tony’s move to Canberra is often questioned but it’s a simple boy-meets-girl story.

“I met someone on Facebook and really, really liked her and wanted to see her, so came out,” he says.

“I liked it so I just kept coming back. It’s kind of like America but a little bit better.”

As he moves around a lot, Tony says meeting people on Facebook isn’t out of the ordinary and he takes advantage of certain platforms where he can form friendships and social connections.

Because he had two mutual friends with his now current partner, Tony came up in her Facebook suggestions so she added him and he said “hi”.

“I always say ‘hi’ [when people add me on Facebook] but people don’t usually believe it’s me,” he says.

“Two or three of my best friends I met on social media.”

Tony’s since formed a real love for Canberra, but he says its music scene needs work.

“Canberra is very enriched with creativity, music and art but it’s missing some components to showcase the talent,” he says.

“I would love to see Canberra really have a thriving music and art scene.”

Creativity has always been a big part of his life and it was as a nine-year-old, growing up with musicians such as Prince and Stevie Wonder, where he developed a “flame” for music.

“I would mimic people singing songs and my older brother would tease me and say I sounded like a country singer,” he says.

“When I was 15 my band teacher at high school said: ‘What are you going to do?’”

Tony told him he wasn’t going to go to college and said in the time it takes his classmates to finish college, he would be a professional musician.

“We all graduated high school in 1989 and all my classmates were set to graduate from college in 1993,” he says.

“In March, 1993, I moved to Atlanta and was signed to a label.

“I actually achieved it before they finished college.”

After moving to Atlanta, Tony saw the opportunity to pull his brother into the situation and told LA Reid, the co-founder of LaFace Records, that they produced records together (even though they didn’t).

His brother, Joe Rich, ended up writing his hit single “Nobody Knows”, which has since been covered about 20 times.

Tony, who mostly writes his own songs, didn’t have a clue it would take off like it has and says he put the song on the album because he wanted his brother to have a part in it.

“Making an album is really personal to me,” he says.

“The inspiration comes from anything that moves. It could be a location, it could be a place, a person, a situation, a relationship – all kinds of things.

“Then the talent comes out when you’re able to communicate a message from that inspiration.

“You have three to five minutes to say something. The talent comes from taking limited resources and making something that sounds original.”

 

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