March 18, 2009 1 Comment
I recently caught up with Ricky Atkinson via email on the heels of their new album, I Know He Can. Here is the text of the interview.
WB: You and Loren Harris obviously knew each other from your days together with the Wilburns. How did you get hooked up with Greg Cook? Which one came on board first?
RA: I called Loren and Greg Cook the same day, I had pre-determined that if I was gonna do less RAC group dates and more solo dates, that I would call 2 of the best, highly recognizable names and faces with former popular SGM groups, ( and also knowing that Loren and I had been with The Wilburns back in the late 90s and I knew we had a great blend) it wouldnt take much to create a fresh new tight sound with a tenor in our range, and Greg is that tenor.
WB: You released “Encore” fairly quickly after Loren and Greg joined, but took your time in getting a mainline release out. Was that the plan from the start?
RA: Yes it was, I felt like at the start and for our first full year, when people come to hear us sing, they would want to hear these guys do the songs that made them popular in SGM, so we did an album right out of the gate that featured each of us on our former hit songs, and during that first year I was writing and planning for the first mainline album and everything was actually on time and went according to schedule.
WB: The new disc has several different styles, from very country influenced to inspirational ballads, to fairly progressive. Is that by design?
RA: Every CD I have ever recorded, 13 CDs in all, are all extremely versatile and cover a wide range of music styles. It is by design, I have never even branded my music, I leave that to the critics and the people who want to listen…. I’m sure one generation are skipping some songs, while another generation are skipping others, HAHA! BUT, I have never been one to do a certain kind of song, I create and write and arrange a song as needed to get that message out, and whatever RAC albums are, whatever you call them, it works. I call it Gospel Music, because that’s what it is….
WB: Which song took the most work to get it right?
RA: If you mean vocally, none of them were hard. I have worked as a producer for many groups in 13 years and when you work with professionals its not difficult at all to even exceed the goal. Musically, I use the same band and players for all my productions, so they also know what to expect on an RA production, and I know what they can do also…. its all in pre-planning and preparation, of which I do fairly well since I am a little OCD and ADD. I have to be ready for everything, which makes me wierdo to deal with, but makes me a pretty good studio guy. : )
WB: Which song is the most fun to sing?
RA: Love Mercy and Grace, but the whole album is stage ready and carefully planned and put into the lineup before we ever recorded the album, so they are all fun to sing.
WB: Which song goes over the best in concert?
RA: I Know He Can, Waving On The Other Side, Get On Board, man you name it…. crowd response so far has been A-1!! The entire album is a crowd pleaser, again, by design before we ever cut a track.
WB: You have quite a different vocal dynamic when you sing lead versus when Loren sings lead. Was that something you hoped would happen, or was that a pleasant surprise when you started singing together?
RA: Loren and I sang together for 3 full years every weekend sometimes 5 dates per weekend, and so when you do that , you learn how to sing and blend with people and pronounce the same. It’s a unique difference when we switch but I think it gives us a flavor that no one else has, at least that’s what the good ol’ critics say. All I know is we have been given this talent by God to use for His Glory and we try to do that with the best of our knowledge, and HE chooses to bless that.
WB: How strange was it for you to switch from singing tenor with the original male trio to lead with the mixed trio and now with the new male trio?
RA: Not strange at all, I can sing all the parts except the bass ( man have I tried that, HAHA!) I tell people all the time, I started as a tenor, then lead, and I would next skip all the way to bass and not do baritone at all…. well that didn’t happen, I am now doing most of the baritone on the new CD, Loren covers it when I’m on lead, but I ain’t quite got the bass yet. I need about another, I don’t know, 4 or 5 notes!! In singing all the parts, it allows me to demo the songs after writing them and arrange the keys and changes and musical fun things and vocal fun things before we hit the studio, then when we do cut them, its a matter of just playing it and singing it like the demo.
WB: Finally, the question I’m sure you are tired of answering…Is Gene McDonald joining you guys permanently in the near future?
RA: As of right now, Gene has not been able to work his schedule out to officially sign on with the group, BUT he’s more our bass singer than anyone else’s! His schedule and other obligations in life doesn’t match up with our tour for now, but we are praying for him, HAHA! Gene is a tremendous bass singer, as you can readily tell from the 2 song cameo on our project, but he is gonna do some dates with us in the near future, and we have plans to on the main stage on Thurs night this year at NQC! You don’t wanna miss the RAC set, trust me. : )
There’s an old axiom posted in the library of a place I used to work that said “Three weeks in the laboratory can frequently save two hours in the library.” Ricky Atkinson seems to have taken the intended sentiment of this saying to heart. It is obvious that he and the rest of the guys take their craft very seriously, and take great pains in their preparation for recording and performing their music. This dedication shows and pays dividends, as evidenced in my review of their latest album. Thanks Ricky for taking the time to do this interview!