On the twenty-second episode of All Heart with Paul Cardall, Utah guitarist, producer and songwriter Rich Bischoff joins Paul Cardall to discuss what it’s like to live in a small town as a professional musician and how he’s been able to build a niche market for himself.
In the episode, Cardall and Bischoff reflect on their shared experience serving a two-year full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As missionaries, both were restricted from listening to music other than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a handful of other approved recordings. Bischoff shares how he broke the mission rules to listen to Joe Striani and when he came home, began navigating how to build a career as a musician.
“On my LDS mission, I listened to a lot of singer-songwriter stuff,” Bischoff said. “I was always trying to find ways to break the mission rules about listening to music. One of the rules was you could listen to instrumental music. So you could imagine what I tried to do. There was an album by Rush that came out called Counterparts and I went and picked that one up.”
Bischoff also discussed growing up in the Utah music scene, where at age 13, he used his paper route money to buy his first guitar from a Sears catalog. Through an early discovery of his love of music, Bischoff became the first call player for Utah events as a guitarist, enabling him to earn an income from working in cover bands.
“We would make money at gigs and we’d sell a few CDs here and there. But I finally just got to the point where I was like, ‘you know what? I just want to make money,'” says Bischoff. “I started playing in cover bands and I kind of turned into this hired gun up here in Utah. When somebody’s guitar player doesn’t show up, they called me. I kinda turned myself into this guy just because there’s money there and I’m trying to support this family. So that took a lot of my time. I liked it too. My main thing is I just liked playing live.”
Now, a musical veteran with over 30 years of experience with the guitar, Bischoff has played in multiple bands in Northern Utah including Animation, Brother Sage, The Wind River Band, GearHead, The Moment, Red Shot Pony, Stone Road and Hearts of Steele.
To bring it full circle, Bischoff shared the story behind his latest album Electric Hymns, which was inspired by the LDS church’s “primary songs” (hymns for children) that he wanted to give an electric edge to. For the album, he began experimenting with the classic rock sound using the electric guitar but mellowed it to create a soothing, atmospheric quality that defies genre.
“When my mom almost came to tears because of it, I was like, ‘Okay, this is what we’ve got to do,” Bischoff shared with Cardall. “I mean not that I want people to cry, but the guitar can evoke such emotion that way, as it can if you’re playing a whole bunch of notes and rocking out.”