A native of California, Americana guitarist-singer-songwriter Rich McCulley was raised on AM Country radio & classic rock in the San Joaquin Valley. "I have always loved music, from riding in my dad's 1970 Ford truck listening to Buck Owens and Johnny Cash or listening to my mom's Beatles and Stones records. I have always wanted to play music, I never noticed the difference between country and rock. I loved it all."
McCulley's Detroit-bred/Los Angeles-based grandfather helped grow Rich's love for music and the desire to make it himself. "My grandpa had a guitar and an organ he would play, and it fascinated me. I wanted to play guitar. I was a small guy, so he said when my hand was big enough to fit around the neck I could have the guitar. I took until the 8th grade!"
Developing his roots-rock sound, Rich began playing songs by classic 70's-80's rock acts with a band called the East Side Indians in his hometown of Fresno. "We learned the hard rock stuff, always the bluesy stuff though. We were trying to be the Black Crowes who were trying to be the Rolling Stones who were trying to be Muddy Waters, who was trying to be Robert Johnson who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical talents!"
Soon after he began playing, songwriting came naturally to McCulley: "Until I started singing in bands, I just always wrote the music and the singers would add the words. I finally tired of dealing with jerky lead singers, I decided I can do this (I can be the jerk!). Then I realized I HAD to write the words. I soon discovered I had a lot to say, whether or not anyone wanted to hear it, I wanted to say it!"
Influenced by Paul Westerberg, Steve Earle, Wilco, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, Merle Haggard, the Black Crowes and - of course - his grandfather, McCulley's style remains sunny and honest and always throws a hook. "I want the truth, ugly as it may be. Give me a story, not the big special effects."
Although he does have some formal training, Rich has honed his ambitious guitar prowess virtually on his own. His true talent and skill comes from the "School of Hard Knocks" where he recorded with bands like the country-tinged twangers Big Blue Hearts (Geffen) and toured as a fiery sideman with jam band Sweet Vine (Columbia) and stone Country singer Victor Sanz. Additionally, Rich has recording & engineering credits with several West coast-based recording artists.
Regarding his Big Blue Heart days, Rich says, "I actually started the band with them, I did the demos that got them a deal." However, Rich soon disagreed with the direction of the band and their sound. So McCulley decided to seize a new opportunity and go in another direction. "[Big Blue Hearts] got signed to a major label about month after I quit."
McCulley's golden new opportunity was as a hired gun/guitarist with Sweet Vine, "Every horror story you hear about a bad major label deal, that was this. Sweet Vine made every bad choice they possibly could. I ain't bitter...not at all...these are truths!"
His positive attitude paid off. As a touring guitarist for Country singer Victor Sanz, McCulley experienced the big time opening for acts including Dwight Yoakam and the Charlie Daniels Band while playing halls like Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, state fairs, rodeo shows and even performed at the Houston Astrodome. Much of what McCulley has learned on the road is obvious at his current live performances.
Rich says, "I try for the shows to be fun. Even though some of the words are serious, I don't lay my heavy trips on people. They can go home, listen to the CD and let the words speak to them. People always seem to like the dynamics of my shows. I play everything from total rockers to mellow, or bluesy, or country-ish stuff, mix it up."
And that's exactly what listener's can expect on Rich McCulley's two self-released CDs: If Faith Doesn't Matter (2002) and After The Moment Has Past (2000). On his primarily self-penned recorded works, Rich sings and plays guitar, bass, mandolin, harmonica, a little piano, some lap steel and contributed to the recording, engineering and production.
Of McCulley's debut release, Amplifier Magazine said, "he's a helluva guitarist and has a way of infusing his songs with load of memorable guitar hooks."
The Sacramento News & Review's Jackson Griffith wrote "...Loaded with tuneful, guitar-driven power-pop tunes...McCulley certainly has a way with writing a hook, too. A winner? Totally."
With his newly released If Faith Doesn't Matter, Rich continues to win over the critics with his sublime guitar work and catchy refrains. Each of the 12 new tunes features McCulley's distinctive chopped gravel vocal rasp - hailed by IndieMusic.com as, "a great rock and roll voice" as well as his multi-genre sound that shifts effortlessly from full-on rock to laid-back California cool.
Miles of Music says, "If Faith Doesn't Matter, will renew your belief in good time roots-pop. [McCulley] gives his distinct power-pop a decidedly sharp, rootsy flavor and at times it sounds, vocally and musically, like Cracker."
And The Fresno Bee says the new collection, "is a CD of easy-to-digest rock tunes that will have a listener singing along."
Currently, the Rich McCulley Band is touring in support of If Faith Doesn't Matter on the West coast with a cross-country tour planned for early 2003. All of McCulley's recordings and other merchandise are available at select retail outlets nationwide and on the internet, including www.richmcculley.com.
Looking to his future in music, Rich says "I hope I create some music that matters to someone." Now that's faith.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Free World
3. Take It Back
4. The Last Laugh
7. All I Can Do
8. Change The Key