FREDERICK, Md.—Richard Marx is an artist who writes what he feels.
At the age of 23, the Illinois native had been in the entertainment industry long enough to know that nothing was sacred in L.A.
"I already had kind of a chip on my shoulder," he recalled last week during a telephone interview from Ashland, Ky.
A background vocalist for Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers, Marx said his early experiences prompted him to pen the single, "Don't Mean Nothin'," a scathing take on the entertainment industry. The song went to No. 3 on the pop charts in 1987.
"In retrospect, maybe my handlers should've said, 'Dude, maybe this isn't the direction you want to go yet.'"
But Marx said he has no regrets about his barb-filled debut single, whose success he partially credits to the guitar playing of former Eagle Joe Walsh, as well as the harmony of Eagles backup singers Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, Marx has sold more than 30 million albums, and written 13 No. 1 songs, some of which he will perform Friday, Sept. 30, during an appearance at The Weinberg Center for the Arts in downtown Frederick, Md.
Marx said he is content to produce albums for other artists, including Keith Urban, Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand and Vince Gill.
"I realize that I am no longer a viable recording artist," he said nonchalantly, noting that after 10 years of success as a commercial recording artist, he has had much more success as a songwriter and producer for others.
"People don't read liner notes. So a lot of people think I just disappeared," he said.
But Marx, who turned 48 on Sept. 16, has done anything but disappear. In addition to producing for commercial artists, he is also producing all the music for the NBC drama "The Playboy Club," which debuted Monday. The series stars Laura Benanti, who appears with Marx on his video diary at www.richardmarx.com.
Marx said although he was reluctant to embrace social media, and still considers Twitter "a huge waste of time," working with actress Benanti on the video diary of sorts, is "a lot of fun. We have a great relationship and a great time together."
Speaking of great relationships, Marx says that he loves working as a producer and writer in different musical genres including country. "I grew up listening to Merle Haggard ... and Tom T. Hall. While I never tried to be a country musician, it is in my background. A lot of people say modern country sounds like '80s pop music. So it's pretty much an effortless transition for me," Marx said.
In his career, Marx has been nominated for three Grammys, and in 2004, won Song of the Year for "Dance With My Father," which he wrote with the late Luther Vandross.
More recently, Marx and Canadian country music artist George Canyon were named "Producer of the Year" at the Canadian Country Music Awards for their work on Canyon's latest album, "Better Be Home Soon." Marx and Canyon performed Canyon's new single, "When Love Is All You've Got" earlier this month at the awards show.
Since 1987, Marx has also been involved with much charity work. "(Charity)is so easy (for celebrities) to do. All you do is show up and perform, just like anyplace else."
Marx said when his second single, "Shoulda Known Better," was on the charts, he found out about a 16-year-old girl in New York who was dying of bone cancer who wanted to meet him.
He said he was not excited about the prospect. "Here I was having all this success, and I thought ‘Oh, this is going to be so depressing.'"
But when he called Gabrielle DiMartino, who was in the hospital and going through grueling cancer treatments, he said "she had more energy than I did." The two later met and became friends before her death. Marx ultimately donated the royalties from "Should've Known Better," to help build a room at the New York University Medical Center where pediatric cancer patients can play while at the hospital.