Friday, February 13, 2015

Guest Interview

Singer/Songwriter/Actor Richard Byford started his musical journey during the folk music era of the 60s and honed his craft singing in folk clubs, theaters and pubs around the world.   In addition to his other creative credits, Byford is an event producer and popular public speaker.  Richard Byford performs stories from his travels, highlighted with original songs, in his heartfelt and personal look inside “The Heart of a Gypsy Troubadour” running February 13 through April 9 at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, CA.

Written by Steve Peterson

How did you first get interested in acting/performing?

That question is answered in my play – I just fell in love with theatre and performing.  I won a scholarship from the British government to go to The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and I have now been a performer for 53 years.

What was your first performance experience like?

It was terrifying; I suffered from stage fright really badly – but I got over it and between acting and fronting a Rock & Roll band, I found my lifetime love.  It was much easier to get girlfriends too.

For many years, you’ve performed as part of a musical duo with Mary Avery.  How did you and Mary get started? 

I was singing at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California back in 1971 and Mary came in one night with a choir who wanted Mary to sing with me – she did and has for over 40 years.  We are now in our 44th year. We have sung all over the world.  We were married for the first three years and she’s my best friend.

How did the solo show come about?

I have always told stories in between songs and I have been extremely lucky to do a lot of things in my life – working behind the Iron Curtain in the 60s, riding bulls in rodeos, racing cars and much more.  So, I have a lot of stories which people really seem to like.

You’re also a producer of other performers’ events.  How has that helped you in fashioning your solo show?

I think it’s the other way around – because I am a performer and I know what it is like to be on both sides of the “footlights,” I know what it takes to produce a show. A lot of well known celebrities have said that they like working for me or with me for that very reason.

Tell us a bit about your show.

My show is a collection of originals songs illustrated by stories from my life.  Some are funny, some are sad, but it has been one hell of a ride.  I have performed on stage for the past 53 years and as I said, I have always told stories as introductions to my songs - people always love the stories and say "You should write a book."  Well, instead of a book I wrote a theatrical play - that's always been my dream. The Heart of a Gypsy Troubadour is a collection of stories from my life - stories from my cowboy days, stories from my car racing days, stories from the 60s when I spent time in Yugoslavia & Russia and performed behind the so-called "Iron Curtain", stories from Alaska and much more.  The stories are highlighted with original songs - that is what troubadours do - they tell stories and sing songs.  Some of the stories are funny, some are sad but you will agree - it has been a life well-lived.

What would you like the audience to take away from having seen your show?

I have thought about this topic a lot. The world needs steady working family people but it also needs the creative restless artists – the difference is not necessarily bad – but I want the audience to know my side of it – Pete Seeger once said that the audience comes to his performance either as couples or singles but by the time they leave they have become a family because they have shared, laughed and sung together.  I’d like that.

Is there anything you want the reader to know about you or the solo show?

I want people to come to my show ready to feel and share all the emotions that make life so interesting – I want them to share in the life of a Gypsy Troubadour and walk away saying “Wow I have to do more with my life.”

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