Michael Jahnz of Richrath Project 3:13
Interview by Andrew Daly
After touring with Badfinger and making friends with REO Speedwagon’s Gary Richrath, you could say that Michael Jahnz has the type of chops that can only be earned through sweating it on stages worldwide.
Of course, Richrath’s influence over Jahnz can’t be minimized. The duo were close friends, sharing many laughs over the years during various jam sessions. And so, it’s no surprise that in celebration of Gary Richrath’s long career, his old friend is putting something together in his honor, Richrath Project 3:13.
The first fruits of what will most likely be an ongoing project has seen Jahnz unearth an old ’80s demo, “Heard It On The Radio,” bringing it to life in the modern era. It’s a fitting tribute to both Richrath’s stellar songsmith, as well as the enduring friendship the two shared.
For ClassicRockHistory.com, I dialed in with Micahel Jahnz to dig into his musical origins, his friendship with Gary Richrath, the idea behind Richrath Project 3:13, and more.
As a young musician, what was the moment which first sparked your interest in music?
My interest in music dates back as far as I can remember. I don’t think there was one specific incident that sparked my interest per se. I grew up in a musical family, with everyone playing a musical instrument. I started with my first instrument, the trumpet, but I didn’t like that too much. When I really got interested was when I discovered the bass guitar. I guess if anything sparked me, it was attending my first concert, which was Yes, and seeing Chris Squire on bass guitar. That is also when I started becoming interested in vocals.
Who were some of your earliest influences that first shaped your style?
Like I said, Yes was an early influence for me, and Rush was a huge influence. I started playing bass guitar, bass pedals and singing just like Geddy Lee. As time went on, I started appreciating vocals and harmonies more with bands like The Little River Band, Chicago, Ambrosia, and The Eagles. It wasn’t until I met Gary Richrath that I started playing rhythm guitar. He heard my voice and insisted I put down my bass and become his lead singer and frontman. He himself taught me how to play.
What were some of your earliest gigs where you first cut your teeth?
My first paying gig was actually my eighth-grade graduation! After high school, I hit the road with Badfinger for an East Coast tour. Talk about first cutting teeth at 18 years old! Going on the road with those guys was a trip. The next phase of my career took me out to Southern California, where my band and I hit the Hollywood scene and played all the spots on the Sunset Strip, like Gazzarri’s, The Rainbow, and The Whisky-a-GoGo. Then, by chance, we met Gary Richrath; the rest is history.
You’re about to embark on a new tour. Give us the rundown.
We actually started out this year doing some shows in the Midwest-Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and then out to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The next leg of our tour has already taken us to Chicago, St. Louis, and northern Wisconsin. We’re headed out west to Nevada and Salt Lake City at the end of June and back to Illinois and Wisconsin in July. The fall leg of the tour will take us to the East Coast- Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania and also down to Georgia. New shows are still being added all the time. We’re so enjoying seeing all of our fans and making so many new ones along the way.
Let’s dig into your newest single, “Heard It On The Radio.” Tell us about its inception.
The origin of “Heard It On The Radio” actually stems way back as far as the ’80s. I had the title, and some of the lyrics penned. I even brought it up to Gary years later in the ’90s, and it never quite fit into our plan. One day my current lead guitar player, Dennis, came to me with a cool riff he had come up with, and a thought immediately popped into my head, and I just knew right where it would fit.
So, I dug through my old demos and found my song that was shelved all those years ago. After adding Dennis’s riff and a few more leads he had been working on, I completed the melody and the lyrics, and we ended up with a rockin’, fun, summertime tune! We filmed the music video primarily in the Southern California, including many famous landmarks in and around the Hollywood area.
From a songwriting perspective, how have your collective experiences affected the music?
I’d have to say if I’ve learned one thing from the legendary songwriter Gary Richrath, it was to write songs from your heart. He always told me to write about something that means something to me. That’s what he always did, and we know how wonderful his songs and lyrics are. Sometimes a song might actually even be too personal to actually share with the world, but most of the time, I am absolutely thrilled that the world gets to hear the fruits of my labor.
How about the production mixing side of things?
We had a very unique situation with three of the songs on the new album “L.A. Is Mine.” We were actually able to grab Gary Richrath’s actual guitar tracks off the demos he and I did back in the day and separate them in the studio, and my current band played along. This literally makes it sound like Gary is right there in the studio with us. This made Richrath fans everywhere so happy. Being able to hear Gary’s guitar again after his passing on brand new music.
What has the reception been like?
These fans have also embraced all the new songs that I have written, including “Heard It On The Radio,” which gives me great joy. Back to the mixing process, we had an excellent engineer in the studio where we recorded. Then adding to that, we had an amazing engineer, Anthony Focx, master the CD in Nashville. Anthony has been credited with working with Aerosmith and Steven Tyler to Night Ranger, to name a few.
What’s next for you in all lanes?
More touring, more albums, and making time to meet and greet every fan I can. I have a lot in me left to give!
An Interview With Michael Jahnz of Richrath Project 3:13article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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