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Category Archives: Biographical

In Absentia

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We have been absent from our site for one very amazing reason.

AUGUST

After 21 hours of labor and a quick dash to the hospital, my amazing wife bypassed all paperwork, walked into an unusually empty maternity ward at around 3:45am, and had a full staff of nurses at her disposal.

By the time they got her into bed, she was already fully dilated and her water broke. The staff at the hospital sprang into action… 4 nurses and one awesome Doctor Rodriguez¬† made quick work of transforming the labor room into a delivery room in less than 2 minutes.

With her mother rubbing her arm, and her fabulous doula reassuringly holding her hand, one contraction and two pushes was all it took for little August to make his appearance in the world!

No matter how many times I bear witness, it never ceases to be a miracle before my eyes.

Born on 04/02 at 4:02am. 8lbs, 2oz and 19.75 inches long… and we’re done!

For the past month and a half, we’ve been adjusting to life with another small person added to the mix. It has been amazing as much as it has been exhausting. Hopefully, regular updates will return. Thanks for visiting! ūüėÄ

The Pivot Point

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This is a follow-up to my previous article: The Price.

Living in Los Angeles, there are probably very few people who haven’t at some point in their lives dreamed of being famous.¬† You know… face plastered on billboards all over town or your contagious song on the radio.¬† I’ve been fortunate to experience many extraordinary things over the years… two albums (do NOT ask me the names, I will NOT tell you), movies (VH1, but hey it still counts ), and TV commercials (Coca-Cola, KFC, McDonalds… FYI jingles make a TON of money), among others.¬† For the most part, I’ve always been two steps shy of the spotlight. At any moment I could easily have stepped into the hot glaring lights of Who’s Whoville. Ran through the Hollywood scene with reckless abandon.¬† Schmooze at houses with bathrooms bigger than my backyard.¬† But with all of the things that I’ve seen, read or personally experienced, I’ve come to the conclusion that fame was the last thing I ever wanted.

I told this story a couple of years ago about a very well-known, highly respected (and still active) industry exec who told me, “Riis! I will make you a star!¬† We’ll make your album and feature it in all of the movies I work on and you’ll guest spot on every single TV show I supervise.¬† Just sign on the dotted line…

I never did.

I knew everything he said was probably true.¬† But as I mentioned, the cost for me was far more than I was willing to pay. I’ve seen what fame & celebrity has done to people.¬† People I know personally.¬† There’s absolutely no privacy.¬† Increased instability for my kids who already have enough to contend with just trying to be kids. The constant travelling and being pulled in several directions at once. I realized back then that in all of my pursuing, I wasn’t chasing a desire to be famous, but simply… a desire to be liked.¬† I wanted to feel special.¬† I wanted people to look at me with the awe that comes with seeing a child prodigy, getting a book signed by their favorite author or scoring backstage passes to a sold out show.¬† I wanted to feel wanted.

But you know what you often get with fame? You get a growing population who feels it is there right and obligation to criticize you… judge you… pick you apart for every little thing you do or don’t do… you become the subject of asinine headlines like “Riis addicted to Starbucks” or “Riis’ Marriage On The Brink Of Failure! Drinks Red Bull To Calm Frayed Nerves!”¬† And then you realize that the affirmation is fleeting.¬† This industry is fickle.¬† Jealousy overshadows your accomplishments.¬† People have unrealistic expectations of how you should act and who you should be.¬† Close relationships begin to fall apart because you just don’t have the time to invest in them like you should.

I’m not saying this is what fame looks like for everyone, but when he placed that contract in front of me and I looked at my future… this is what I saw.¬† And I was thankful that in a sense, at that moment I was at the pivot point… a chance to rewind.¬† I could choose now to trade that successful but empty future for a different one.¬† The one I have now.

When I take stock of all that I have, I recognize that it’s everything I ever truly wanted.¬† I’m not just liked, I am loved… by my wife, my kids, my family and close friends.¬† My children look at me with awe and think that I know the answer to everything.¬† I’m recognized for my skills and talents at work, with colleagues and fellow artists.¬† My wife wants and affirms me everyday.¬† And you know… if I never win a Grammy or an Oscar, I’ve acquired something more priceless… fulfillment.

The Price

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Someone complimented me on my music the other day. After saying thank you, they proceeded to ask me why I haven’t “tried to get a record deal??” and blah blah blah. I’ve heard that question so many times now that I’ve developed the pat answer of, “because my wife and kids are worth more than any fame or fortune I’d have sacrificed them to obtain”.

Okay, I’m not trying to sound all doomsday. So what does that mean exactly?

Well, Day 150 - 05-29-2012I’ve had many occasions to “get a record deal” (which doesn’t mean what it used to). That isn’t meant to sound boastful. I just want you to know that it hasn’t been due to lack of opportunity. But once I started a family, they became my priority. It was my choice to do so. And no amount of money or notoriety was worth the very real possibility of giving them up. Which is what I was being asked to do in nearly every single circumstance.

See, I already knew what it’s like to spend countless hours in the studio. I’d paid my dues as an artist performing multiple shows a day, multiple days a week. So while it’s true that I would have done anything for my wife and kids, I had to draw the line at depriving them of a husband and father who loves them.

My decision was based on my personal experience and firsthand knowledge that the music industry (and the entertainment industry as a whole) is not very nice. The industry machine and the people who operate it don’t really care about you. Labels, publishers and some producers only care about how you will benefit them first and yourself second, if at all. Most will be expected to act selfishly, and you could very well be asked at some point in your career to compromise everything you believe.

I’m not saying this is the case for everyone. And I would never discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams. It’s just that with my circumstances, for me it was very clear what the end of the road looked like had I chosen differently. I have acquaintances who are both lonely and full of regret. I have other friends who are very fulfilled in their industry careers. It wasn’t until¬†years later that they become acutely aware of the cost of ¬†the road they chose.¬†I just implore you to make an informed decision about these kinds of things. Because the price you pay isn’t always obvious.

I Didn’t Get The Sports Gene

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In many respects, I am a stereotypical man and I do what many typical men do… no, not THAT I mean like fix and build things. (I made this! )¬† However, there is one particular area where I am very different from many of my male friends: Sports.¬† Yep, baseball, football, hockey… You can keep ’em.

This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy playing sports. Prior to a car accident at age 12, I had a very promising career on the school track team.¬† Yeah, don’t hate on the runners. Some of the best runners I knew became football players. Others became managers at Footlocker. But that’s another story. To this day, I love to work out and stay physically fit (P90X!).¬† And sure, I love a good pick up game of basketball with my sons, or playing street football with the neighborhood kids (who apparently don’t know the meaning of “TAG” football). But anything beyond that and my attention fades to nothing. Really.¬† I mean, I don’t even watch professional sports unless it’s the NBA Finals¬†or occasionally the Super Bowl, and then mostly to see the commercials (which are far more entertaining to me). I’m not glued to the big screen HDTV for Monday Night Football surrounded by my buddies with beer, chips and hot dogs. I’ve never even participated in any Fantasy Sports leagues.¬† Call me crazy, but there’s no excitement in that for me.

I’m not the guy who’s so consumed with which player is being traded to what team that I can’t focus at work. I’m not the husband who can’t be approached while the game is on, and gets grouchy when my team loses.¬† Guys at work will come in the next day and spend hours discussing last nights game and arguing over bad calls and inflated stats.¬† Me?¬† I could care less. Who got injured? Some team is 12-0? I guess I never got that gene.

It was replaced by the MUSIC gene. Ask me who won the Grammy for Best New Artist back in 2004 and I can run off a list of the songs from their album.¬† I could talk for hours about the rise of Country Pop and the degrading of R&B production quality. I could give you a year-by-year history of Hip Hop and provide details of pioneers like the Sugar Hill Gang, Just Ice and Grand Master Flash, or innovators like ATCQ or the Fu Schnickens, as well as contemporaries like Drake, Rick Ross and T.I.¬† I can tell you what High School Josh Groban attended, or about the girl who originally recorded and released “Don’t Cha” before the Pussycat Dolls (trust me, it was NO BUENO).

I guess the parts of my mind that were originally reserved to care about sports were usurped by the arts, musicality and the pursuit of sonic nirvana.¬† As a writer, producer, arranger, artist and musician, it infiltrates every part of my life.¬† I guess I got it from my parents who used to tour Chicago and the surrounding areas, traveling with an ensemble vocal group with my uncle who played the piano.¬† And it’s been passed on… my wife sings and plays the guitar.¬† My oldest son is an actor, singer and dancer. And my middle son is already an exceptional writer at the age of 16.

So while you’re watching the Super Bowl, remember me and people like me who compose the music for the broadcast introduction, replay transitions and commercial jingles that have become just as much a part of American culture as apple pie.

TLM: Riis

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Music is my passion. I dream music. When I hear music I can literally see the movement of the notes, the syncopation and the various instruments used play out in my head like an old silent film with a custom score. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a type of synesthesia. Music literally conjures imaged in my head. It is as much a part of me and as natural as breathing.

I began playing the piano at age 7. It wasn’t that my parents felt that all of their kids should learn an instrument. No, that story wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as the truth.¬† It all started because the brand new upright piano my parents bought for my older brother to practice on, sat in our living room untouched because he grew bored with the lessons he previously begged for.¬† I, on the other hand, was fascinated by this monstrous noise maker with the clangy black and white keys, and decided that since no one else was using it, I might as well teach myself to play.

And I did.

Slowly but surely I went from finger pecks to two-hand quad-chords. Pretty soon I was playing songs from the radio by ear. While I have never had a formal lesson,¬† I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a studio session musician, I’ve played in a few bands, and on good days I can play circles around as well as some of my friends who are trained musicians. I have also taught myself to play the drums, guitar and a little trumpet. Although little trumpets can be far more difficult to hold. ūüėČ

Riis Playing Guitar

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