Richard Ely Music

About my songs

I wrote my first song in the bedroom of a tiny Williamson Street apartment with a hideous pink, black, orange, green, and yellow shag rug whose colors pooled together like a psychedelic chemical spill. I was sitting on my bed finger-picking a simple chord progression and began singing the words to Happy to Be Alive. It was 1977.

As I wrote more songs, I occasionally wandered down to the open mikes held in the Memorial Union, where I attracted one diehard fan. But I had terrible stage fright—shallow breathing, sweaty fingers, trembling—and rarely subjected myself to the agony. I did, however, make two lo-fi cassette recordings of songs that I later compiled on a CD called Beautiful Room. Listening to those songs now, I hear a vulnerable, wistful, lost young man bursting with outrageous humor.

chair collage

From the early 1990s until about two years ago, I mostly gave up songwriting. Then one day a wise man pointed out to me that artists pay a price for squandering creative gifts. The next morning I wrote a song about a defunct punk-rock band, and a flood of new songs soon followed. 2005's Shut Up and Pay Attention to Me contains 12 of those new songs plus two new recordings of older songs. The song Cows in the White House won third prize in the children's/novelty category of the 2005 Midwest Songwriters Contest—my biggest award since a plastic badminton trophy from summer camp at age 12.

Following another flurry of creativity in 2006, I recorded Wherever You Go, a CD of 13 new songs released in January 2007. 2009's Happiness Is Free is also now available.

All tracks on all CDs are live home recordings, vocals and acoustic guitar, mistakes included. You can listen to and/or download several songs at this site. CDs are available for sale—you choose the price: $5–$15—or trade.