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Richard Marx talks singing, songwriting and subduing unruly airline passengers

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“No, I don’t carry rope around,” Richard Marx said, “but maybe I should start.”

The pop singer phoned Folio Weekly from his Los Angeles home as he prepared for a spring tour that will bring him to Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on Thursday, April 11. He’s referring to an incident on a Korean Air flight in 2016. Marx made headlines when, 22 years after his seventh and last No. 1 chart hit, “Now and Forever,” the pop star was photographed restraining a violent passenger on an international flight.

“It wasn't just me but several other people,” he recalled. “We did our best to subdue this complete asshole of a passenger who was attacking the flight attendants. He was out of his mind. One of the flight attendants had the rope and, at that moment, we were all joining in to tie the guy up. I can look back and see how ridiculous it was, but at the time it was frightening.”

The episode is paradigmatic of a career that may wend in and out of the spotlight, but never strays far from public consciousness. You see, even if Marx has been absent from the charts as a performer, he continues to write and produce hits for other artists. (In fact, he’s a member of an elite club of songwriters who have penned No. 1 hits in four different decades.)

And then there are the viral headlines: a Trump-baiting tweet here, an airborne free-for-all there, a random television appearance elsewhere. Richard Marx is ubiquitous (and his publicist is presumably indefatigable).

In between these random episodes, Marx continues to tour the world.

“I’m still writing and recording, working with new artists and keeping sharp, but especially last ten to 15 years, I've focused more on touring. That's where guys like me are making their money. Luckily I love it. I love traveling. I love the job of being an entertainer more than ever.”

This renewed emphasis on live performance has helped him rediscover fallow ground in Florida.

“There was period when I didn’t make it down there too often,” he recalled. “Then, maybe eight or nine years ago, I started playing solo acoustic shows and discovered that Florida has lots of beautiful, unique-sounding rooms like the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater and Lyric Theatre in Stuart. After that, Florida became kind of a second home. It’s soon to be a real second home. My wife [former MTV VJ Daisy Fuentes] and I are looking to buy a house in Miami.”

It seems superfluous to ask an adult contemporary singer if he's mellowed with age. After all, a tune like “Right Here Waiting” makes Muzak sound like Burzum. But. Richard Marx does seem to have lightened up. In early press photos and promotional videos, the young man mugs harder than Ice Cube. Today, Marx is quite comfortable suggesting the hint of a smile.

“It wasn't from lack of happiness,” he laughed. “I just hated photo sessions back then. I'd rather be on stage or in the studio playing music. But it is true: I’ve never been happier than I am now. I'm madly in love with a beautiful woman. My sons are grown and thriving. I’m still playing songs I made up in my head. It's good to be me.”

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