Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ric Cunningham and his Modern Retro Lounge

ROBERTA: Today, we are pleased to introduce Ric Cunningham, AKA Mr. Lounge, your host for the Modern Retro Lounge. What the heck is that, you might ask. Ric is a music producer/writer/performer who believes music can help take us back to earlier, less complicated times. He has studied classical and jazz music and performed with many bands, including a two-year stint with legendary rock star Joe Cocker.

We can't help asking first: What was it like traveling around with Joe Cocker?

RIC: Touring and Performing with Joe Cocker on three World Tours was one of those Check Marks on your Life’s goals. Ever since seeing and hearing The Beatles in the 60’s, I wanted to perform and travel with a band. Being on stage with a vocal legend of Joe’s caliber was definitely a musical high in my career. Performing nightly in front of 100,000 fans who are not only critically listening but also singing along with each song was quite rewarding. Joe is an very distinct voice in pop music history and he really helped shape my understanding of music expression. It also taught me how tough it was on the road and made me realize that writing and producing music was a much better long term game plan than just being a “hired gun” sax player living tour to tour. I started acquiring studio equipment for the purpose of producing my own product instead of just being a part of the end result. (The first picture on right is Ric from his touring days, and directly right is Joe Cocker.)

ROBERTA: All of us here at JRW know how to write, but we don't have the foggiest idea about how to write music. Tell us a little about that--do you hear it in your mind first and then write the notes down, or what??

RIC: I think it’s probably much like literary writing in the fact that it depends on it’s purpose. When I was writing for TV shows and jingles, I was usually limited to the direction, style, time and/or emotion that the Creative Director or show’s producer was looking for to aide the visual. Certain guidelines or directions were given and your task was to please. So I would take the requirements and make them work around my style.

Now that I’m writing for myself there are still different scenarios for each tune and no limits. Sometimes I have a melody that I hear in my head, sometimes it’s a lyric that needs a melody and sometimes it’s a beat or bass line that needs direction. I’m just the musical conductor making sure everyone plays well together based on what I’ve learned, heard and liked musically throughout my life.

ROBERTA: Now you're working on your own, a proponent of the modern retro lifestyle, AKA Mr. Lounge. Translate all that please!

RIC: Sure. Being a sax player, my love of Jazz and Smooth Jazz have brought me to a Genre of Music called Lounge Music. Now Lounge Music can be described in many ways, but it is always background music or easy listening. Unlike Jazz or Smooth Jazz there is less emphasis on the artist and more on the melody or the mood that the song puts you in. Also the term Lounge conjures up a “kicked back”, relaxed way of life with the inclusion of alcohol and cocktails and with the Retro element you have a whole world of 60’s swinging bachelor pad sub culture. What I embrace is a Modern Retro Lifestyle where we take all those elements and add some Hip Hop feels and contemporary elements to give the musical genre a fresh approach. The lifestyle encourages a throwback to the 50’s & 60’s. The concept is to take a break from all the constant input of data(cell phones, pads, pods, laptops, internet, TV). A daily 10 to 20 minute escape to decompress with a favorite cocktail, coffee, tea or cigar just to “smell the roses”. Not unlike the martini at the end of a hard day at the office(think of the hit 60‘s style TV show, Mad Men). Oh, and by the way, I have some background music that can help you in your search for this way of life. My CD, “Adventures in the Modern Lounge”, is the Soundtrack for the Modern Retro Lifestyle.

It’s just good, clean fun!

You can listen to Ric on his website or follow him on facebook or twitter. Thanks for stopping by Ric! (And ps, he'll send you a very cool "thanks for following" message on twitter.)

And here's Ric with a little Christmas in July:

And Ric has offered to send a cd to two folks who comment and would like to try his Modern Lounge music--so pile on!


  1. Oh my...I just listened to Silent Night on Youtube and am just in love with your music. Thank you, and thanks to the writers on "best revenge" for having you. Dee

  2. Thx Gram. I put together that YouTube video right before the Holidays this past year to generate a buzz for the upcoming release of my CD. I ran the tracks through the headset and played "live" as the cameras were running. I didn't want to do many cutaways cause I wanted to show that it was one continuous take. I think we captured a real nice "late night" vibe.

  3. HEy Ric! Thanks so much for being here..I can;t tell you how often I've thought about writing music.

    Not that I could, or that I have any music to write in my head, but just how amazingly magical the process is.

    Because you have to learn a whole language--the language of what those notes on the staff mean--and that means your brain has to HEAR them.

    And then--why is some music accessible and easy to understand, and other music is almost incomprehensible? There's something in our brains that--expects music to be a certain way?

  4. Music is God's greatest gift. It heals, inspires, excites. And brings people. Great interview.

  5. Hank, we've been brought up embracing Western Music or European Classical Music. With it's traditional melodies, harmonies and chordal structures, we started singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Kumbaya" at a very young age and it's familiar. As with all art, there are examples ranging from very comfortable to 'head scratching'. One could look at a Monet and feel right at home and a Picasso and feel lost. That's the beauty of Art. It's really about how it makes you feel.

  6. Hey Ric,
    Just got the new CD! Great stuff! Can I get on a mailing list Or something so I can keep track of your music?

  7. Thanks, Ric! I'm writing about a guitarist at the moment who will be collaborating with a female singer, so your thoughts on the writing process were very helpful.

    Not to mention that I love your music!

  8. Thanks so much Drew..Sorry for the late reply. My social daughter is home for summer and I am the taxi.
    Thanks for asking about my email list. I am now in the process of negotiating this whole internet presence thing and I'm discovering that I do indeed need to get the fan base email list, Facebook 'Likes' and Twitter 'Followers' all together in a usable database. If you bought my CD at my site
    I now have your address. If not just head over to the website and click on the mail button or comments page.
    Thanks again for your support. It really means alot.

  9. Heh Ric - nice job explaining what you are up to with your Lounge music. Now I get the mood thing, though I loved the sound already. Just keep that in mind in your big golf tourney - nice and easy Mr. Lounge!

  10. PJ Schott:
    re. music as a gift, I couldn't agree more. There is nothing better than hearing a song you grew up on or you heard at a period in your life and you get transported back in time. That is magical. Like all the Arts, it's such a tough way to make a living, but it is so rewarding. To be able to do something that you love is special. And to be able to have the creative juices flowing keeps you young.

  11. Deborah;
    Thanks so much for checking out my stuff.
    Good luck with your work on the musicians. I use to love in the old days reading the liner notes while I listened to my jazz albums(did I just date myself). The writing was always so creative and discriptive. It really was a big part of the LP album experience...I miss that.

  12. Love the music, and love the idea of lounge culture. I've decided the whole mid-century, cocktails-and-jazz, modernist culture is about grown ups embracing and celebrating their adulthood (instead of trying to chase eternal adolescence, as is the habit today.)

  13. Thanks Julia. That's spot on. I never really thought about it like that. For me, it was more of a personal decision on of course, loving the style of music and knowing my strengths and weaknesses, but also coming to grip with what I wanted to play the rest of my life. When you write songs and release a CD, they become part of your show...forever. I just couldn't see myself chasing a younger crowd with a trendier approach. And mullets went out of style....