Richard H. (he asked not to have his full name used for this article) doesn’t shake hands nor does he touch Mercer’s computer keyboards. Instead, he has grown accustomed to giving awkward fist bumps for greetings and wearing mechanic’s gloves to face the computers and quiet his fear of germs.
Richard struggles with paranoia, the result of both a family member’s mental illness and several traumatic encounters with the police when he was younger. At the slightest sound outside his home, he checks both doors and windows.
Despite these fears, however, Richard, who goes by the stage name Henry the Archer (also the name of the protagonist in a book he is currently writing) has chosen a career that forces him to maintain a very public persona. He is a well-regarded musician who performs live and has also received recognition for his work on an international scale.
Richard, who is a full-time corporate security manager and second-year Education major at Mercer began writing music at the age of sixteen. Recently, his indie-folk-Americana music was used in a commercial for MTV’s “Teen Mom 2”, reality show which chronicles the lives of teenage girls in their first year of motherhood. His music has also been used in a commercial for Stella Cove, a brand of high-end beachwear sold in North America and Europe.
In discussing he started as a musician at sixteen, Richard says, “[That year], my best friend went on a…trip to Florida. While she was gone, I felt like a part of me was missing. I realized I liked her-liked her, so I traded someone my roller blades for a guitar so I could write her a song…I haven’t stopped writing songs since.”
Love continues to inspire his music, however, his lyrics are no longer so optimistic. The subject of “Not Just Yet,” off his first album “Space Suits For the Modern Astronaut,” speaks of the moment when one realizes they’ve had enough of trying to make a relationship work. The upbeat tempo of guitar strums, accompanied by tambourine jingles, hand claps, and whistles, are an ironic, yet triumphant, musical pair to the song’s lyrics “I’ll wait no more…it’s not your heart to break no more/That’s right, I’m over you.”
It is the mix of serious versus whimsical tone that Caitlin Bensel likes about his music. She is a former classmate of Richard’s who is currently student at Savannah College of Art and Design.
“The first time I listened to [“Space Suits for the Modern Astronaut”], it sounded exactly like Rich’s personality: fun, different, [yet] a bit of romantic. I can’t imagine him doing anything else.” Bensel says.
Not only does Richard’s personality influence the sound of his music, but also the manner in which he prepares for and performs at a show. As a romantic, he rarely practices; according to Richard, to do so would damage the connection felt between himself and his audience. Unfortunately, this decision has resulted in several embarrassing moments including the time he began singing lyrics from a song different than his instrumentals.
“It sounded terrible. I stopped, and not knowing what else to do, threw my hands up. The crowd laughed and so did I, and then I started up again.”
Although he says he was mortiied, intimate moments are the ones Richard says he values most; losing them in order to appear perfect is not a compromise he’s willing to make.
This is also the reason behind the infrequency of his performances. Richard spends most his time in the studio he recently built in his basement. Its construction was the result of excessive studio-rental fees, which, in addition to school expenses, he could not afford. According to “Creating a Budget for Your New album,” by Cameron Mizell of musicianwages.com, rental price per hour ranges from $25-100, and up to $3,000 per album.
Although he is more comfortable away from the footlights and crowds, Richard says, “The nervousness before a show, it’s like an eclipse…it quiets all other nerves.”