As the temperatures dropped below freezing early last month, the third album by singer/songwriter Bill Ricchini debuted with a sweet name reminiscent of warmer times.
“The album is called ‘Summer Fiction.’ It’s my moniker, my band name, if you will,” Ricchini, of 12th and Moore streets, said. “My third album is my first under the name ‘Summer Fiction.’ My first ones came out under my own name, Bill Ricchini.
“Since my last record came out, I wanted it to be cool, to do something different. It took about two years to make it, a good year to record it. I recorded in South Philly, a lot of it was at my home,” the 36-year-old said.
Ricchini laid down the lead and backup vocals, while also recording multiple musicians of all types separately — including rock and classical — to create a “wall of sound” that he accomplished by layering the tracks together.
“One of the things that is interesting about this album is it is really dense. I like The Beach Boys and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ by The Beatles. There is a lot of orchestration and strings and whatnot — with this record, I really took it a full step forward,” he said.
With press starting in the blogosphere, national media coverage took its cue from the specialists and has been praising Ricchini’s newest release. “Summer Fiction” made appearances in such places as on the Inquirer’s 10 best local records of the year and in Vogue’s artists to watch section.
“[Response to ‘Summer Fiction’ has been] really, really positive,” Ricchini said. “I’ve gotten really glowing press pretty much across the board.”
The self-taught guitar player plans to ride the wave, booking more gigs with his five bandmates — who play with him for live performances — to garner exposure and make sure the ’60s-style sound reaches more ears.
“I’d like it to have a larger audience than it has now,” Ricchini said. “I’m happy to get the coverage I have, it’s really cool. I feel like people are just discovering the record.”
A native of Northeast Philadelphia, Ricchini began his love of music at a young age, but started to move toward his passions in high school.
“It was probably around high school I started to really blossom. There was a lot of music in my household. I was a child of the ’80s, Michael Jackson and Prince and Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. Like a lot of kids in high school, Nirvana was a big deal and getting in to alternative music,” Ricchini, who writes all of his own material, said. “I wasn’t trained and didn’t know how to read music or anything, but started to think maybe there was a place for me in music
“My music interest was more of a fan, listening and buying records and then thinking, ‘Maybe I can actually write songs.’”
The drive to write persists to this day, with writing being what Ricchini considers his true passion. After studying communications at La Salle University, Ricchini worked as a freelance journalist before turning to music full time and realizing his first record, “Ordinary Time.”
“I had a four-track recorder and started recording sets of songs while I was trying to figure out how to be a songwriter in 2002,” he said. “That got me a record deal. I guess I was sort of on my way.”
Music from his first two albums — the second being “Tonight I Burn Brightly,” recorded while he lived in New York City — was featured on “Grey’s Anatomy” and is in the feature film “Barry Munday.” But the bright lights were not enough to keep Ricchini long.
“New York is great, but I feel like Philly is my home. It’s a really supportive music community here, which is nice. It felt like the right time to move back,” Ricchini said of ’06, when he purchased his Passyunk Square home.
When deciding where to put down roots, the musician had the benefit of having lived in the area in ’01 and ’04, but was pleasantly surprised to find many changes had occurred during his time away.
“It’s changed a lot from when I lived in South Philly in 2001. It was a much different scene. There were young people, but I didn’t know where they hung out. There was no Cantina, no P.O.P.E. … I was feeling like a pioneer back then. It’s really changed a lot.”
Ricchini was able to find just what he wanted, including the in-house studio where he cobbled together the pieces for “Summer Fiction.”
“I love South Philly. I think it’s great. I think it’s a great value. I think you can buy a big house and have a recording studio, which is what I wanted,” Ricchini said. “I think it’s really livable. It’s the neighborhood to live in if you want to live in downtown. I love all the food. I love the neighborhood.”
Settled into his surroundings and his sound, Ricchini is thrilled with his latest production. Upcoming events for the record include a live recording at XPN to air the week of Jan. 16 and a March show at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. And though the winter months creep slowly on, Ricchini hopes “Summer Fiction” will give each listener a personal escape.
“[I picked the name ‘Summer Fiction’ because] I liked the way it sounds, it’s seasonal yet literary,” he said. “It can be taken a couple different ways. I just thought it was cool name I guess is the easy answer … It’s really up for interpretation and all good bands’ names are.” SPR