His main musical influence is Tori Amos. Bjork, Ani DiFranco and Rufus Wainwright have also inspired him, but Indianapolis singer/songwriter Richie Versace means to continue developing his own innovative style, as he capitalizes on a growing buzz surrounding his emergence as an artist to be reckoned with.
Building on momentum that has increased since his critically acclaimed appearance at the Elbo Room in Chicago, November 2012, and the December digital release (available on iTunes) of his newest album, “Gianni’s Brother,” Versace will perform Friday, Jan. 18 at 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 8:00 p.m.) at Birdy’s Bar & Grill on Indianapolis’s North Side.
Versace will be appearing as “Me In Radio,” a name he has given his one-man band. He calls it that because growing up in a conservative religious home, he was not allowed to listen to pop/rock. “The title is a play on words. It is representative of a long-lasting emotion that transmits a signal called music,” he says.
Versace is actually a stage name for 31-year-old Richard Mills, who says he borrowed the late fashion designer’s (Gianni Versace) last name as a form of tribute. As far as his album title, “Gianni’s Brother,” Versace explains: “It’s connected to the identity of imagination and represents me within the context of creativity. It is also related to Anna Wintour. As clothing and fashion change, so do I. It is also representative of avant-garde style.” It's a style that Versace, whose shows are very theatrical, incorporates into his performances.
On the topic of avant-garde, which is how Versace describes his style, he says: “A Chicago reviewer defined it as avant-garde because it is not adult contemporary and it is not alternative music … it is not folk music. It is a little bit of a blend between all of those types of music. I started to look at other avant-garde artists, whose styles were similar to mine, and that is how I arrived at the definition for myself.”
Versace, who does not read music, plays piano by ear. He says that when he was a student at IU, from which he graduated in 2006: “I would go to the Jacobs School of Music and sneak into one of the practice rooms and play the piano for hours. My first instrument was a guitar, but then I started to really experiment with the piano and I realized I didn’t want to learn music. An instrument is very emotional. A piano has two sides — the masculine side, which is more of the bass, and the feminine side, which is more of the treble. So when you hear me playing, it is like a conversation piece that happens.”
As far as the content of his music, Versace says that his music is about unrequited love, loss and rebirth of self. He adds: “It’s about personal life experience spoken through music. I hope it has impact and that it is not just something to listen to, but that people understand and embrace.”
Versace says that his Birdy’s show will feature appearances by fellow performers R - Into Astral Orbit and Christa Martini.
In addition to his own music, Versace will also perform what he calls “Richie’s Piano Bar” (similar to what Tori Amos does in her act): “I do pop songs. I do an Annie Lennox song, Radiohead songs, ‘Rainbow Connection,’ an R.E.M. cover ... I’ve taken a song like Britney Spears' ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ and people have said, ‘OMG. I can’t believe that song could be done that way.’”
Regarding the future, Versace says that with the assistance of his friend and supporter, Indianapolis businessman Rob Hoaglin: “My short term goal is to start playing more regional shows. Eventually I would like to get on a tour with a more well-known artist, and then move on to an independent tour.”
A long-term goal for Versace is “to strictly write music.” “Currently I wear a lot of hats and it’s a lot of work. I probably put in 20 to 30 hours a week on ‘Me In Radio’ outreach, doing a lot of different things. Eventually it would also be nice to branch out. With the advent of the digital world, musicians don’t have to be on labels as much. It would be nice to have label support, but my concern is that sometimes their vision can differ significantly from that of the artist,” he says.
To purchase tickets to “Me In Radio,” at Birdy's visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/312355
For more information about Richie Versace and "Me In Radio" visit www.meinradiomusic.com.
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