Gary James' Interview With Songwriter
If you remember seeing Rocky IV, no doubt you'll remember one of the featured songs in the film, "No Easy Way Out". That song was written and recorded by Robert Tepper. We talked to Robert Tepper about his "Rocky" road to musical success.
Q - I saw a segment on you on Entertainment Tonight. You were waiting on tables at the same time "No Easy Way Out" was breaking. Did you ever get recognized? Do you still work there as a waiter today?
A - No, I don't still work there. I used to have to slick my hair back and put it in a ponytail because my hair was long. They were very good about that. Occasionally I did get recognized. The restaurant used to get a lot of calls and people would come in when the record stated doing something. In fact, the people I worked with were very supportive. The big thing about the restaurant is they'd show videos there. The week I left, they got in a reel with my video on it. They would show it while I was working on the floor! But somehow people didn't make the connection unless they came in and were looking for me, which some people did. It was sort of strange because people would be watching the video and talking about the movie and song while I was waiting on them.
Q - Did you have to work that job? Was that necessary for your economic survival?
A - Yes it was. People have this misconception that record companies take of the artists in a way where you get all this money and then you sit around. At that point, I was not in a position to do that. It takes a while to start reaping the rewards. Maybe what you do this year, you'll see the following year.
Q - What about people who move to the music capitols, New York, Nashville and Los Angeles in the hopes of breaking into the music business and then have to work a day job and whatever time is left over is devoted to music. Do these people have a chance?
A - It's very difficult. You gotta put the time in to write the material and do things right. If you're carryin' a full-time job and tryin' to keep your head above water, it's very difficult. But again a lot of people are forced to do it to an extent. That's why I took waiting. It was cash and I could pretty much dictate my schedule. I did it four days a week. The days off I would work. It's a tough juggle. At least I knew I had an album in the can. I was very fortunate that the Rocky thing did click.
Q - Since you're from Bayonne, New Jersey, maybe you can tell me why Johnny Carson made fun of Bayonne in his monologues.
A - Everybody makes fun of Bayonne, New Jersey. It's considered like the armpit of New Jersey and it's really not that bad a town. It was just one of those towns where don't blink or you'll miss it. It wasn't a bad place to grow up. It was real close to New York. When I was seventeen, I got out.
Q - When you were seventeen, you wrote for a publishing company and you had a number of songs recorded. What were the songs and who recorded them?
A - I'd rather not tell you. I'm not trying to be difficult. I was assembly line writing. I still get money from some of those songs coming in from ASCAP and they're still in elevators someplace. But I'll never own up to them.
Q - Who wrote "Into The Night", you or Benny Mardones?
A - Benny and I. We co-wrote the song.
Q - How did you meet Benny Mardones?
A - It was funny. I was at the time very green and in New York and I hadn't done a lot of things. I was taking some voice lessons off a teacher and it happened to be the same teacher he was taking them off of. The teacher said "I have an appointment with this guy and you should meet him. He's a real nice guy. You should get to know him." All of a sudden this guy storms into the room with his manager and that's how we met. We got together. I showed him some things I was writing and we just kept in touch. I was doing some things I wasn't too happy with and I gave him a call and said "What are you doing?" He said he was on Polygram. I told him I was writing some stuff and he said "we'll get together." We got together and wrote "Might Have Been Love", "Too Young" and "Into The Night".
Q - How long were you with Benny Mardones?
A - Three and half...four years.
Q - And what happened?
A - It was a Rock 'n' Roll casualty. The first record did great and we were all pretty crazed. Polygram never brought home the single. It was one of those turntable hits, a song people loved. They released another single and it didn't do anything. Then we went in to do another album for Polygram and at that point it was getting pretty crazy. Benny was absolutely one of the best Rock 'n' Roll singers out there a the time. Personality wise, it was drugs.
Q - Why do you think Benny Mardones can't get a major record deal today (1987)?
A - I think people got very afraid of him because they are investing a lot of money now in people and you can' be a maniac. You have to be somewhat stable. He just made a lot of enemies. It was too bad, because he was a very, very talented man and still is. I think he's turning that around slowly and who knows? At the time, he buried Springsteen as far as I was concerned.
© Gary James. All rights reserved.