Richard Potter grew up the youngest of four children in a middle-class family in northwestern Iowa during the 1950’s. His parents loved Nat King Cole, Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin. One of his earliest memories is listening to Nat King Cole singing Christmas carols. His older sister loved Elvis and Buddy Holly; and she played "Hound Dog" and "Maybe Baby" endlessly. Richard’s older brother was a huge fan of Dion, Roy Orbison, and the Beach Boys, so during his tender years, Richard heard their classic pop hits "Runaround Sue", "Only the Lonely", and "Surfin' USA" daily.
Meanwhile, his other sister loved Neil Diamond, Gene Pitney and musicals, so she would put on some "Solitary Man", "Only Love Can Break a Heart", or "West Side Story" whenever she got the chance. Since they only had one record player in the family, there was constant competition to see whose music would be played. Ultimately, the exposure to a variety of veritable icons of popular music and legendary musical performers would have a huge impact on the young composer.
“I remember that on my sister's 14th birthday, all she wanted was a promise from my parents that they'd let her watch the Ed Sullivan show that evening. She'd heard of this musical group called The Beatles and she wanted to know what they sounded like,” says Richard. “That night in February 1964 I sat on the floor beside my sister in front of the TV, and watched the Beatles perform. Although I liked their songs, especially "She Loves You”, I never became a ‘Beatlemaniac’.”
It wasn't until the Beatles released "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in 1967 that Richard became electrified by their music. He was astonished by the lyrics of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life". Before then, he’d never heard a song that wasn't either a Christmas carol or a love song. “I had no idea that you could write a song about being on LSD or reading a newspaper article about a fatal traffic accident, “ says Richard, “It blew my mind!”
It was then that Richard decided he had to learn how to play the guitar so he could write his own songs. He wanted his songs to be full of amazing imagery with unforgettable melodies just like the Beatles’ songs he so admired. Richard learned some basic chords and began composing. “Naturally, all of those early tunes were terrible!” claims Richard, “But, I continued to listen to popular music, collected all the earlier Beatles albums, and came to appreciate Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Moody Blues, The Turtles, The Byrds, The Mamas and the Papas, and The Bee Gees along the way.”
Richard continued to write songs over the years, influenced by these legendary popular singers and songwriters as well as current artists such as U2, R.E.M., Sarah McLachlan, and Prince. This eclectic set of unlikely influences has resulted in his signature brand of catchy and emotional songs, such as “Oh, George” and “Silver and Blue”.
When asked about his songwriting technique, Richard claims that he doesn’t write songs in a methodical way. “I don't usually decide ahead of time that I'm going to write a country-western tune for female vocalist that describes how blind love can be,” states Richard, “I can do that, but some of my best songs have just come to me out of the blue. I wouldn't say I ‘channel’ music but it's almost like that.” Richard explains that unpredictably, a tune will pop into his head along with a line or two of lyrics, “From that point on,” Richard says, “it's just a matter of figuring out what the song is about and coming up with the rest of the words.”
Richard Potter welcomes recording artists to cover his songs.