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Songwriter's Isolation Blooms Into "Marigold"

FREDONIA — Rick Hornyak had just moved to San Antonio and, separated from his friends in Austin, looked inward.

After having come through periods where he had to sell his guitars to pay the rent, he was now a self-sufficient musician. But, he decided he needed to do more.

“I realized I wasn’t really happy playing gigs every week and not really growing,” said the 37-year-old solo singer and songwriter.

The Fredonia native and Reynolds High grad decided to deal with the isolation by locking himself away for significant portions of the day and giving himself over to writing songs.

“I decided I needed to come up with some new stuff,” said Hornyak, formerly of Perry and Delaware townships. “I wrote that album in about three months or so.”

“That” album is his new one, “Marigold,” which he is promoting with a seven-state, 2è-week tour that includes five gigs locally: April 30 at Tully’s, Sharon; May 1 at North Country Brewery in Slippery Rock; May 3 at the Sidebar & Grill, Mercer; May 4 at the Tap House, Sharon, with Terry Dach and James Willaman, who have their own album to push; and May 6 at the OK Corral, Stoneboro.

While he did not necessarily notice a change in his songwriting, his friends did, he said. The songs reflect the two significant moves in his life – from Mercer County to Austin, Texas, and from Austin to San Antonio – and his marriage to Amanda Adams Hornyak, who also manages his career.

“Homesick Blues” reveals the bittersweet memories of moving to Austin, leaving behind a steady job for the unknown of a music career, and his realization that, for all he lost when he left Mercer County, he can’t reverse course.

“I’ve created this new life and I can never go back,” said Hornyak, who again lives in Austin.

“Cigarettes” covers his longtime addiction, which he kicked three years ago.  

“Everybody who was around me said, ‘You gotta quit smoking,’” Hornyak said. “It started to affect my voice.”

“Foolish Love” is his first real love song, he said, as compared to the angry love songs he had written in the past.

Hornyak, who has made a living solely from music since 2005, said he has reached a level of happiness that startles even him.

“I almost don’t want to believe it sometimes,” he said. “Just trying to enjoy it.”

In recording the album, Hornyak brought in some ringers. Rich Brotherton, a guitarist for Robert Earl Kleen, played guitar and produced the album, helping him “cut fat” from his songs.

Drummer David Sanger and bassist David Miller, both of Asleep at the Wheel, backed him.

Hornyak tapped Lloyd Maines and Cindy Cashdollar to add slide guitar, whether in the form of steel guitar or dobro.

Maines is the father of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines and an award-winning producer of the Chicks, Uncle Tupelo and Wilco. He has played for Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

Cashdollar, another Asleep alum, has played with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.

Hornyak said he had “amazingly little” rehearsal time with the guests, who basically followed charts and nailed their parts on the first or second tries.

“In many of the cases, they’d give me two takes just so I’d get my money’s worth,” he said.

That’s not to say they phoned in their performances, he said. He noted that Cashdollar would listen to a take and change her approach if it interfered with his vocals.

“They care that their name is on the record, and they really want to give it their best,” Hornyak said.

The steel guitar gives Hornyak a more country sound. He’s been called not country enough, but too country for rock. It’s left him somewhat in no man’s land in terms of getting airplay and promoting his music.

Social media has helped fill the gap. Musical acts no longer need major label backing to survive and grow, he said.

Social media “has leveled the playing field,” he said.

Hornyak has a website, a Facebook page and videos on YouTube.

While he will not have a steel guitar or dobro player with him on the road, “We basically can still pull everything off live,” he said.

Hornyak will be playing more electric guitar on the tour, including lead guitar. He had sold all of his electric guitars over the years and just played acoustic guitar, but found a need to go back to plugging in as part of his musical growing process.

“As a three-year gift to myself for not smoking cigarettes, I bought a Fender Telecaster,” he said. He also is taking lessons to accelerate the process of regaining his chops.

“You’re always going to be your own worst critic if you’ve got an artistic brain,” he said. “I’m always pushing myself, looking to get better.”

While fame is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time, Hornyak said he’s happy to be a working musician.

“I’m tickled that I’m going to be doing this tour and I’m going to be playing lead guitar again,” he said.

The tour starts today in Oklahoma and includes dates in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Missouri.

“Marigold” will be sold at his shows, but also is available through his website, and outlets such as iTunes, Amazon.com and CD Baby. Info: www.rickhornyak.com and www.facebook.com/rickhornyakmusic