An Interview with Richard Carpenter


Legendary songwriter Richard Carpenter, one half of the best-selling duo of the 1970’s The Carpenters, plays Leeds Grand Theatre on Friday 13th of September. And, for the first time ever, he’ll be both performing and telling the stories behind their incredible hits.

Here’s what Richard said ahead of his tour…

This is your first time doing this kind of show in the UK – what can audiences expect?
As we’re arranging the stage as a “living room”, I will be playing for our “guests” different versions of our songs.  Soloversions, not those on the Carpenters tracks, as without Karen, most of the melodies will be missing.

Your songs have been performed by huge orchestras in the world’s biggest venues and concert halls; what does it feel like to be performing them in an intimate environment with just yourself and piano?
Through the years, an opportunity would pop up every now and again, to play solo.  This of course will be different from what I’ll be playing in the UK, but, as I enjoy performing, I’m certain I’ll find the UK experience quite rewarding.

Throughout your career, you’ve had numerous live performances. Can you share a particularly memorable or special moment from one of those shows?
As Karen and I were not a teeny bopper act, we were a bit surprised when a fellow came bounding on the stage during our concert in Houston, heading straight to Karen.

The Carpenters have won incredible awards such as Grammys and Oscars, as well as having an amazing amount of platinum and gold certifications – which honour are you most proud of?
Out of the many platinum and gold records and discs received throughout the years from many countries, the one we are most proud of would be “Close to You,” given that it was our first.

“The reception to the Carpenters in the UK was incredible”

Are there any artists new or past, that you’d love/have loved to have covered one of your songs?
I’d have to say Perry Como as he possessed many of the same qualities as Karen.  The trick would have been selecting which one would suit him the best.

Among all the songs you’ve composed, which one do you consider your personal favourite and why?
‘Yesterday Once More’ due to its melody and theme.

What was the UK’s reception to The Carpenters like in the early days?
The reception to the Carpenters in the UK was incredible, right from the start, where we sold out the Royal Albert Hall (SRO) in 1971.

What do you think it was about your music that resonated so well with the British audience?
As far as reception to the Carpenters, not only in the UK, but all over the world, Karen’s voice was a primary factor, but the music as well.  I selected and composed songs with melody and a range that was good for Karen, but arranged them to be correct for the two of us.

Have you got any particularly fond memories of performing in the UK?
The audience reaction was always good and, I don’t know if this is till the case, but Karen and I, and this for a number of years, held the record for how quickly we sold out our week’s engagement at the London Palladium.

We sadly lost Burt Bacharach last year – how instrumental was he to The Carpenters?
Burt Bacharach was an extremely talented chap, in that he not only wrote the music to his songs, but arranged them as well, in a way that was purely his own and instantly recognizable.  This usually worked, but even a genius has off days, and this resulted in me given the opportunity to arrange the song.

The Carpenters’ music has left a lasting impact. How do you see the legacy of The Carpenters in today’s music scene, and what do you think makes your music timeless?
As relates to the Carpenters and legacy, we still hear our music on certain pop music, which is good, but our recordings are played all over the world, and I believe more and more, based on the amount of letters I receive.  This is due to several factors, among them Karen’s voice, the Carpenter harmonies, and the strength of a number of the melodies.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians or songwriters who are trying to make their mark in the music industry, especially considering the changes in the industry over the years?
I find this question quite difficult to answer, but believe in what you’re doing, be prepared for rejection, take any advice you may receive from musicians you admire, and keep calm and carry on.

Tickets for An Evening with Richard Carpenter are available here

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