Interview: Heath Wright of Ricochet

Afternoon DJ Amanda recently chatted with Ricochet lead singer Heath Wright about the band’s upcoming performance at the RWB Music Fest in Jasper, Indiana. They talk about the hits, what’s up ahead, and new music during their conversation.

Listen to the interview here.

AT: I am so excited to be talking with you! And of course, everyone cannot wait to see Ricochet at the RWB Music Fest on Saturday, August 27.  

I want to go back about 25 years. Ricochet breaks through with “What Do I Know,” and it’s an instant top ten. Bands were really big during that time, and bands were finally getting the chance to play on their records. Your albums had songs from some of the best songwriters in Nashville. There’s one on your debut album – “The Truth Is I Lied,” that Bill Anderson and Skip Ewing wrote – that is one of my favorites. 

HW: Oh, really? That’s awesome. Now, I don’t know if you noticed or not, but at the end of that song, I sort of pay tribute to Bill Anderson. I whisper the very last lyric.  

AT: Oh, I’ll have to listen for that!  

So many things were happening for Ricochet – gold records, playing the Opry, winning an ACM award. Take us back to that time and what it was like for you.  

HW: Well, I mean, it was a whirlwind, I’m not gonna lie. I was young back then. I just turned 30 years old; I was 29 years old when we got our record deal. 30 when the ACM Awards rolled around, and we were nominated for two, we won one of them. It’s so funny, we won the New Vocal Group of the Year, but we lost the Vocal Group of the Year to Sawyer Brown, and this weekend, we’re doing a show with Sawyer brown. I’m sure that Mark Miller will remember that. And he’ll probably rib me a little bit for it.   

It was a whirlwind. And it was so busy. People would ask me, ‘Man, do you have a relationship? Do you have a girlfriend?’ I was single at the time. And I said no, to be honest, I couldn’t keep a goldfish alive right now, much less a relationship if I had to. So, I don’t know how the married guys got through it simply because we were just gone all the time.   

In 1996, we were on the road for 268 days. Now, that doesn’t mean we did 268 shows because some of those days were travel days. There were probably at least 200 shows. For several years it seems like I was living on a bus more than I was living at home. I didn’t buy a house of my own. I just kept renting.   

Everything was flying by so fast. I started keeping a diary there at one point whenever we were doing some overseas stuff, just so I could remember. I would try to force myself every night even though I was exhausted, to sit down and write in a diary just so I could try to remember the stuff that happened that day because I didn’t want to be looking back on and 20 years later and thinking, ‘I don’t really remember that trip to Japan or I don’t remember that USO tour that we did in 2001. I want to try to remember all of this because it was just so cool.’ Everything about it was cool, except the fact that I was away from friends and family so much, but you know, it’s give and take.  

MEMORABLE SHOWS  

AT: You spend so much time on the road. I imagine that you’ve probably played shows with just about everybody. Looking back, what are some of the memorable shows with other artists that you can remember?  

HW: Oh, I know exactly the one that popped into my head when you said that. I’ve been a huge Steve Wariner fan my whole life. I just love everything about the man. He’s one of the kindest, most soft-spoken gentlemen you’ll ever meet, a good Kentucky gentleman. I guess he’s technically from Indiana, but he also lived in Kentucky for a while. He is one of those guys that you cannot help but look up to if you’re a country music artist. He’s a phenomenal guitar player. I mean, he was the protégé of Chet Atkins. And he’s just an amazing singer, songwriter, producer, he’s a Grammy Award winner. We were doing a show with him one afternoon in Allegan, Michigan, it was one of those all-day music festivals. It was us, Neal McCoy and Steve Wariner.   

We had done our show early in the day, and Steve came out off his bus to listen to our show because me and Steve had been buddies for a while. I look over every now and then on the side of the stage, he’s been standing there and gives me the big thumbs up and says, ‘Your guitar playing is sounding great.’  

I remember right before as we were getting ready to load up on the bus because we had to travel like 700 miles that day for our next show, I told him, ‘Steve, I wish I could stick around and watch your show, but we’re gonna have to get out of here pretty quick.’  

He said, ‘Well, are you going to be here for the first part of it?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’  

Steve said, ‘Well, do me a favor. Come here to the side of the stage because I want to do a song and I want to get you up to sing it with me, alright?’  

I said, ‘You don’t have to do that.’ Steve said, ‘No, I want to.’ He tells the audience, ‘Here’s a song that I recorded with a group we called Jed Zepplin with Diamond Rio and Lee Roy Parnell.”  

He says, ‘Now we don’t have Lee Roy or the Diamond Rio guys here, but we do have Heath Wright from Ricochet. Let’s get him up to help sing!’  

As I was walking on the stage, I look to my left and I saw that there was a guitar and a stand there and it belonged to the fiddle player. I said ‘Do you mind if I play your guitar?’ and he says, ‘Well, you could but it’s not plugged in and I can only play one instrument at a time and I play fiddle on the song.’  

I said, ‘Oh, no big deal.’  

And then Steve, when he saw that I wanted to play guitar, he takes his guitar off of his body and hands it to me. That was just cool. That’s like someone throwing you the keys to their car or something. And we started doing “Working Man Blues.”  

I was so bummed because I forgot the lyrics to the second verse when it was my turn to sing. I got to play the solo; the first solo on Steve’s guitar and then I handed it back to him. And by the time we were done with that song, I looked up and all the rest of my guys in my band were onstage. Half of the guys in Neal McCoy’s band were onstage and probably some other musicians. It was pretty much a free for all on that song and I get to say that I was the only one that Steve invited personally onstage that day in front of 30,000 fans in Allegan Michigan.   

All About the ’90s

AT: I want to talk about Jeff Carson – he was scoring big hits right around the time Ricochet came on the scene. You played his memorial earlier this year and it was such a tremendous loss for country music. Can you share any memories that you have of him?  

HW: You know, he was one of those guys that you never saw him down. He was always in such a good mood and just so happy and so grateful to be doing what he loved out on the road, bringing country music to the people. He just always seemed grateful that he got to do that for a living. He got to live a second dream as well as a police officer with Franklin Police Department in Williamson County, Tennessee.   

A lot of people will live longer than Jeff did – he was only 58 years old when he died, but very few people will outlive that man because he was just full of life every single day.   

Here’s a fun little Jeff Carson story for you.  

It turns out in like 1993, or 94, Jeff was pretty much new to town. He had just come to Nashville, and he was writing at a local publishing company. He was singing a lot of demos because he was a great singer. He was a workhorse. He could go in and sing a day’s full of demos doing all the lead vocals and the harmony parts, and he was making a decent living doing that. But you know, demo singers and staff writers don’t get rich unless somebody records one of their songs. It’s kind of like being a waiter or waitress. It’s a wage-type job.   

One day, there were these three songwriters named Bob DiPiero, Steve Seskin, and Mark D. Sanders. They’re all sitting in a room there at this recording studio and publishing company. There are writer’s rooms in this place, and they’re all sitting in a room staring at each other trying to figure out what they’re going to write that day. They’re just kinda staring each other down in the room and waiting for lunch. And then Jeff Carson pulls up, and they see him outside the window. He pulls up in the parking lot in this brand-new Jaguar. Now again, he hadn’t had any hit records yet, he might have had a record deal, but he hadn’t been out on the road. He was just a staff writer and a demo singer. And one of the guys says, ‘Look at this kid. What’s up with his cars? I’ve never seen Jeff drive that car before.’  

And they’re like, well, that’s kind of strange that a demo singer and a staff writer would have a car like that. One of the other guys says, ‘Oh, wait a minute, guys. Have you seen that girl he’s married to? She’s beautiful. And apparently, she’s got her daddy’s money.’  

So, Jeff Carson was the person that actually inspired the song “Daddy’s Money.” The three guys wrote that song that day and my career would be a heck of a lot different had Jeff Carson not shown up at the right moment. And thank you to his wife, Kim Carson, for loaning him her car that day.   

Daddy’s Money

AT: Of course, the story we have we have to talk about “Daddy’s Money,” one of the most iconic songs of the 90s. Talk about the longevity of this song, because on our radio station, I’m pretty sure we play it like twice a day. This song has been everywhere for the last 25 years!   

HW: Can you believe that? It’s been around that long.   

I’ll never forget the first time I heard that song where I was. I’d been in Nashville for several months and I was just homesick. I had a weekend off, so I decided to drive home to Oklahoma to the ranch that I grew up on, which is where I live now. My dad and I were out. We decided to get up early one Saturday morning and drive to an auction. I had a little bit of money in my pocket because the record company had given us a small signing bonus and I wanted to spend it on cattle. We went to buy some heifers that day and when we got back my mom says somebody named Uncle Ron called and wants you to call him right back. So, Uncle Ron, that’s Ron Chancey, that’s our producer. Mom said, ‘Well, he wants you to call him right back. He says it’s very important.’  

I called Ron Chancey back and he was in the studio, and he says, ‘Hey, we got this song that we just heard, and if we don’t record it soon, somebody else is going to.’  

He plays me “Daddy’s Money,” over the phone. When the song finishes, he says, ‘What do you think?’  

I said, ‘That’s the silliest song I’ve ever heard, Uncle Ron. We probably should record it before somebody else does. It’s going to be a huge hit.’  

I knew it was gonna be a hit. I didn’t realize it was going to have staying power. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not one of those heavy thinker songs. It’s a song about a guy that can’t concentrate because of the girl in the choir loft. But it didn’t go on to cure cancer. It’s just one of those really fun songs.   

We still get people coming through the autograph line, I mean grown women in their 20s saying, ‘My dad used to say that song was written about me when I was a little girl.’ It’s like, well, that don’t make me feel old at all! I don’t know what it is about that song that gave us such legs that people still want to hear that. And I think God that, like I said, that Jeff Carson pulled up at the right time, that day so that those three songwriters could have some inspiration to write about.  

USO Tours

AT: Proceeds from the RWB Music Fest that you’re playing, it benefits veterans, and Ricochet has played many USO tours and your version of the national anthem, it’s one of the most well-known in country music. It has to be so rewarding to be able to perform for our veterans and troops.  

HW: It really is. We’ve done two USO tours in the past, one in Asia, and another one in Europe. That’s the most rewarding thing. We shout out to the veterans and the currently serving military folks every night in our show, and we do a song for them. You don’t realize just how lucky you are to live in this country until you visit other countries and see what their laws, rules, and life is like.   

During the USO tours, as these military guys would come through the autograph line, they’d say, ‘Thank you for taking your Thanksgiving away from your family and coming and spending some time with us.’   

And I’d be like, ‘Thank you for taking all your time away from your family so you can keep my freedoms safe and keep them protected.’  

It’s truly a gift that we have been born in this country. You just don’t realize how much of a gift it is.   

What’s Next?

AT: What’s up ahead this year for Ricochet? I’m sure plenty of touring?  

HW: A lot, a lot of touring. We just signed a new record deal with a company called Encore Entertainment. I’ve been working on new music for quite some time now, well over a decade. And every time I could afford it, I’d go into the studio and record something, whether it be re-recordings of our old hits or recordings of something new. So, we have an entire album that we just turned in that’s been recorded over the last decade with more modern technology. But we have some new music coming out in 2023, so keep an eye out for that.   

AT: I can’t to play the new music! Tell fans what they can expect when they come to see you at the RWB Music Fest.  

HW: Well, I don’t want to give everything away. But trust me, you want to get there early, and you want to stay until the end because there are surprises all through the show. Of course, they’re gonna hear the hits. They’re gonna hear “Daddy’s Money,” “What Do I Know,” and “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” and all the hits, but they’re gonna hear some other stuff throughout the show. They’re gonna be surprised; they’re gonna laugh. We love playing music. You pretty much have to whip us off stage because 75 to 90 minutes go by pretty fast.   

Find tour dates, music, and more at RicochetOnline.com!

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