We had the good fortune of connecting with Marty Rifkin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marty, what role has risk played in your life or career?
When someone chooses a career in the Arts, we know there’s always an inherent risk involved. We’re usually brought up to look for a career that will provide steady fixed income for our future. By following our art instead, we need to be prepared to take an unconventional journey throughout our lives. The first major risk that set the course of my career was moving to Los Angeles in my early ‘20s with nothing but my instruments in the van I ended up living in for the first year. Didn’t know any musicians here, but I always felt this was the place to be. The second risk I took happened not long after coming to LA. I had a day job at a firm that recruited aerospace engineers. One day the head of the company called me into his office and said that he’d like to promote me to manager of one of the sections. Although it was nice to hear, my immediate reaction was, “Thank you so much, but I’m going to have to give you my two week notice.“ With a look of shock, he asked me why. I told him that with the extra money they were going to give me, I was going to want to buy a nice car like he drove, get a nicer home and have to keep working there knowing that I would never be able to have time to pursue my musical career. To this day, I look back at that 22-year-old kid and thank him for being bold enough to do that. These were the first of many consequential choices I had to make for my career. With hard work they panned out. Lessons I learned from them resonated with me through the years and helped me have the confidence to take more chances. Between producing, touring and doing sessions at pretty much every major studio in LA, I’ve been able to live a life full of making music. Glad I took the risks!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I began playing music when I was in junior high. By the end of high school I knew that being a musician was what I wanted my life’s work to be. Through the years, I’ve played all around LA and toured, but my main focus has always been recording. As a studio musician and producer, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing artists. Whether I’m in the studio with Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Jewel or with an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who is showing the same focus and love to their craft and their art, it all brings me pure joy. Plus…there are so many laughs during a day of recording. Definitely one of the perks of getting to do this every day. The cool part about living in a “show biz” city like LA, is that besides playing on many records, I’ve gotten to work on quite a few TV & Film projects. Playing multiple stringed instruments (pedal steel, dobro, mandolin, guitar, bass, etc.) the recordings I’ve worked on have been pretty diverse. Every style imaginable. Never a dull moment!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I always tell visitors that Los Angeles has many attractions, but the real way to visit LA is to experience the lifestyle. The magnificent weather, the beach, the music & art venues, but most importantly, it’s our daily routine surrounded by all of that. The first thing I do is take them to the top floor of the parking structure at the Grove. There’s a fantastic 360° view of Los Angeles…including the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Park, Downtown, Westside…it basically lets them see the lay of the land. Once that’s done, we go back to Ocean Park (my neighborhood) for them to experience what every-day life is like here. I’m a big walker, so we’ll walk to the beach, restaurants, shops and even the grocery stores that we usually frequent. They get to feel what life is like as a “local”. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Family support is a wonderful thing to have when someone chooses an artistic career. To that end, I need to give a shout out to my wife, Mona and my sons, Devon & Julian. Being able to raise a family as a musician has always been my goal and with their love and help, we pulled it off! The other folks I have to thank are all of the talented musicians, producers, engineers, artists and songwriters I’ve worked with through the years. I’ve learned so much from all of them. So a big shout out to my fellow music-industry cohorts. Gotta give an honorable mention to my grandmother, Irene, who convinced my mom to get me my first bass guitar when I was 14. Thanks, Grandma!
Mona Rifkin Larry Eagle