We were lucky enough to catch up with the supremely talented singer/songwriter Ron Hamrick. Read his wonderful, insightful interview below.
Hi Ron, Thank you for sparing some time for us today. For those who not know about you, tell us about yourself?
I have been a musician for many years. I grew up in Michigan, and I started taking classical music lessons on the piano when I was five years old. By the time I became a teenager though, I was very into the popular music of the time, and I formed my first band at 14 years old, performing at local teen dance venues. In 1964, along with millions of other people in the U.S., I watched The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and when I saw the audience reaction to their songs, I decided to also become a songwriter and began reading everything I could find on songwriting. In 1966, I became a founding member of a band called The Sixth Generation, and we became very popular very quickly in the local region. In 1967, we recorded a song I co-wrote that got picked up by some major radio stations in Chicago, Detroit, and Windsor, Canada, and it became a #1 hit. The song was eventually named a Legendary Song by the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. The band’s fame spread rapidly, and we performed at popular teen venues across the Upper Midwest of the U.S. until 1970 when it became too much to do along with university studies.
Forty years later, after raising families and having careers, the members of The Sixth Generation decided to get together for a private weekend reunion of reminiscing and playing old songs. Although it wasn’t advertised, we were very surprised when about 50 or so old fans showed up at the reunion. A great time was had by all, and we were encouraged to reform the band and start recording and performing again.
So we did, and over the next seven years we released many new songs I wrote, and we performed at many major venues across the U.S., including multiple performances at prestigious venues such as the National Mall in Washington, DC and Grant Park in Chicago. We also did a tour in the U.K., including a performance at the world famous Cavern Club in Liverpool. Among the songs I had written for the band was one that made it to #2 on Billboard (only behind the 50-year anniversary re-release of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”) and another that was considered for a Grammy nomination. The Sixth Generation continued performing and releasing songs I had written until the summer of 2017 when all the traveling became too much for the other members. At that point, I continued releasing songs and performing as a singer/songwriter, and I have been doing so since then. I’ve released more than 30 songs as a singer/songwriter, and have enjoyed substantial streaming of them on music sources such as Spotify. In fact, my songs recently exceeded 200,000 total streams, and I have gained avid listeners on all seven continents.
What is your songwriting process?
I write almost every day. As I go through each day (and sometimes even in the middle of the night), whenever an idea for a song occurs to me from my thoughts and experiences, I jot them down into my phone. When I sit down to write, I do it at a piano. I start by fleshing-out one of the ideas and then start forming lyric lines. As I write the lyrics, I hear the melody in my head, so the lyrics and music happen basically at the same time.
What is the best gig ever played?
I have performed at thousands of gigs and in front of tens of thousands of people at some of them. I think the most exciting though was at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, simply because of the history and world fame associated with it.
Wow! Tell us about your latest release?
My latest release is a song called “Time” (just released 25 September). It’s an easy-flowing song with a gentle melody and a bit of nostalgia in the lyrics, reflecting how time seemed to go a lot slower as a youngster. Prior to release, it was played by several radio stations in the U.S. and U.K., and the response has been phenomenal. It’s a universal theme to which almost everyone can relate. One listener in England summed up the general sentiments of listeners everywhere very well, “It’s a masterpiece. It immediately captured my attention with the pretty melody and the imagery of childhood, and it really had me thinking about the different perceptions of time by the end of the song. Brilliant lyrics!”
And what is your funniest gig moment?
Although there have been many over the years, I think the one that sticks in my mind the most is from The Cavern Club performance. As I was setting up my equipment for the performance, the stage manager mentioned to me that I could get a mic stand from a bin just off the stage. But, when I grabbed one from the bin he very urgently said, “Oh no, no, no, you can’t use that one! It belongs to Ringo.”
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
My songs are all about everyday life experiences that a broad audience can relate to, however, I do not write songs about negative things in life, like breaking up, heartache, or other depressing topics. My songs all have a positive vibe to them and are geared toward feeling good.
Who are your musical influences?
I have studied the techniques and nuances of many great songwriters from all genres of music, including classical music composers, so my influences are many and varied. I think the biggest influence though was the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They are the ones who originally inspired me to become a songwriter.
Who are your non-musical influences?
My parents and my wife and kids are at the top of the list, although both of my grown kids are also very musically gifted, so their particular influence also stretches to the musical side. Other than them, I have been fortunate to travel the world many times over, and as a result I have many friends from varied cultures, and they have certainly had an influence on me. I am also an avid reader about famous people throughout history, and some of them have definitely had an influence on me.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
I think the biggest obstacle in the music industry are the gatekeepers who determine those who “make it” in the industry. It’s not necessarily about talent, and it’s certainly not about the quality of a song because there are some really bad songs that become mainstream. It’s more about money; who can bring it to the table, and that’s very unfortunate. There are some amazing, very talented independent artists and songwriters who don’t become mainstream simply because they don’t bring money to the table. Without the gatekeepers and their marketing machines, it’s very difficult for a band/artist to get their music into the ears of listeners. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are the only inexpensive means of marketing a song, but they have limited reach, and most people who do see posts or tweets about a new song are apathetic about sharing it because they don’t understand the importance to an independent artist.
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Speaking as a senior business executive with many years of experience (albeit from another industry), it’s very important to understand music is a very large and very complex industry. As such, it’s extremely important to learn about the business side of music, not just about writing songs and performing.
What are your hopes for the next 2 years?
I plan to keep writing and releasing new songs and trying to reach as broad of an audience as possible. It would be very nice to have another song chart on Billboard, but mainly I want to have people across the world continue to enjoy my music.
If you would like to read more or listen to his music please check out: www.ronhamrick.com