Richard X. Heyman -- the veteran singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and DIY recording pioneer -- is a world-class artist whose effortless mastery of popular music idioms is matched by his uncanny knack for infusing classic styles with timeless emotional truths.
Heyman was one of the first “one man band” recording artists, following in the grand tradition of Paul McCartney, Emitt Rhodes and Todd Rundgren. His abilities have won him a fiercely loyal grass-roots fan base and reams of acclaim over the past two and a half decades. Critical praise began with the release of Heyman’s first album Living Room!! which Rolling Stone magazine proclaimed “an undiscovered treasure.” All Music Guide called him “perhaps America’s greatest unsung hero of power pop, a songwriter of uncommon talent and intelligence and a one-man rock band without peer,” while the Hartford Courant proclaimed him to be “a true heir to [Brian] Wilson’s mantle, amid an ocean of pretenders.” Rollingstone.com praised Heyman’s “hooks galore and ebullient melodies, and lyrics revealing the emotional power that pop can pack into its brevity,” while the Chicago Tribune observed, “Heyman creates something fresh from his influences rather than parroting them.” With each new release, the glowing reviews piled up (you can check some of them out at www.richardxheyman.com). As Rolling Stone editor David Wild put it in a piece on Heyman’s fourth album Basic Glee, “rock’n’roll doesn’t get any better than this.”
Photo by: Heidi Gutman
The lifelong passion for music is what’s driven Heyman since his days growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey. He began playing drums at the age of seven, and was proficient on guitar and piano by his teens. By then, he had already begun writing songs. He has developed a versatile singing voice, which can range from sweet crooning balladeering to balls-to-the-wall rock’n’roll wailing.
Heyman was still in junior high school when he achieved his first taste of rock ’n’ roll notoriety as drummer with the fabled garage band The Doughboys, whose raucous live sets won them a rabid following in the New York/New Jersey area during the second half of the 1960s. The Doughboys recorded a pair of singles for the Bell label, made multiple appearances on the local TV show Disc-O-Teen (emceed by legendary horror-show host Zacherle), shared stages with the likes of the Beach Boys, the Buckinghams, Neil Diamond and the Syndicate of Sound, and served as the house band at the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village during the summer of 1968.
By the time Heyman reemerged as a solo artist in the late 1980s, he’d matured into a singularly distinctive songwriter with an uncanny ability to channel his vintage rock ’n’ roll influences into tunes that are both infectiously catchy and emotionally resonant. Those qualities were prominent on his self-released, home-recorded efforts Actual Size and Living Room!! Both generated considerable critical positive press and music-industry word of mouth, leading to a major-label deal with Sire/Warner Bros., which released the widely acclaimed Hey Man! in 1991.
Recording for a corporate label helped to win Heyman a wider audience and a higher media profile. But it also proved to be a frustrating experience, and it wasn’t long before he was back in indie territory, making and releasing his music on his own terms. His subsequent albums Cornerstone, Basic Glee, Rightovers, Actual Sighs, Intakes, and Tiers/And Other Stories, as well as the EP Heyman, Hoosier and Herman (with guest vocalist Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits) chronicled Heyman’s ongoing musical evolution. Heyman also found time to release the career-spanning video retrospective X-Posures, and to pen his first book, the vivid rock ’n’ roll memoir Boom Harangue.
Having recorded within the major-label system and as a self-sufficient free agent, Heyman definitely prefers the latter route. “Back before there were state-of-the-art home recording systems,” he notes, “you had to record in a proper studio if you wanted to make a decent-sounding record. And to afford a good studio, you had to have a record deal. But now you can match the highest paid major-label artist sonically in your bedroom. The cat’s out of the bag now.”
When he hasn’t been writing and recording his own material, Heyman has also found time to work with an array of other artists over the years, including several of his musical heroes. He’s played drums behind Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson, seminal guitar icon Link Wray, Left Banke leader Michael Brown and beloved indie troubadour Jonathan Richman. He also served as guitarist in Shangri-Las lead singer Mary Weiss’ band during her recent comeback, and played keyboards with soul legend Ben E. King.
In recent years, Heyman has juggled his own work with his activities as a member of the reactivated Doughboys, who first reunited to play at Heyman’s surprise birthday party in 2000 and have remained active ever since, delivering authentically raw garage rock ’n’ roll to old and new fans. The resurgent quartet has also released a trio of well-received new albums, 2007’s Is It Now?, 2010’s Act Your Rage and 2012’s Shakin’ Our Souls. Their song Why Can't She See Me? (written by Heyman) was chosen as #3 Coolest Song in the World on Little Steven's Underground Garage Sirius XM channel for 2010, and the first two singles from Shakin’ Our Souls (Land and One More Time) are both Heyman compositions.
Heyman has recently released his tenth solo album, X. He lives in New York City with his wife Nancy and their beloved cats.