How Richard Marx's son ended up in a metal band

When the members of the Chicago-area heavy metal band For All I Am needed a new guitarist and backup singer for their group, known for its death-growl vocals and head-banging guitar riffs, they turned to 19-year-old Jesse Marx — youngest son of Richard Marx.

Yes, that Richard Marx.

Jesse Marx had been a fan of the band ever since he saw it perform in April 2012 at Penny Road Pub in Barrington. Marx had his own metal band with friends called Mark This Hour, but school and work schedules prevented the members from fully committing to it. He became a regular at For All I Am's local shows and kept in contact with the band members. In August, when For All I Am asked him if he wanted to fill in on tour for a departed member of the group, with the potential of becoming a permanent member, Jesse jumped at the opportunity.

He made his debut last month at Mojoes in Joliet, with his famous father proudly looking on.

“I was completely filled with pride,” Richard Marx said by phone the next day. “I remember being around his age and thinking, ‘Wow, I'm beginning this journey now.' That's what I saw last night. He packed up his gear after the gig and drove 16 hours for another gig in Texas. I was so excited for him. This is his favorite band. It would be like me joining the Eagles in 1985.”

Not surprisingly, Richard Marx — whose crooning on the Billboard chart-topping ballads “Hold On to the Nights” and “Right Here Waiting” is a far cry from the screaming on For All I Am's “Overthrown” and “Oppressor” — admitted that metal isn't exactly his cup of tea. Keep in mind this is the same guy who wrote and produced 'N Sync's mushy “This I Promise You” and co-wrote the Luther Vandross tear-jerker “Dance With My Father.” Still, none of that kept him from enjoying watching his son perform that night in Joliet.

“It's a genre I don't listen to,” he said. “But no matter what the genre is, I can appreciate musicianship. They're really good. It's serious metal. This metal makes Lamb of God sound like me.”

Jesse Marx was first introduced to heavy metal by his brother, Brandon, around the age of 12. He listened to all types of music growing up, including REO Speedwagon, but metal was the genre Jesse connected with the most. Given the rebellion in the music, one might think Jesse would have been turned off by his father's radio-friendly pop, but he said the opposite is true.

“My dad is my biggest inspiration,” Jesse said by phone last week. “He's an amazing musician.”

The elder Marx continues to record new music at his home studio in Lake Bluff — which For All I Am has been using as of late for rehearsal space — and expects to release his next album in the spring. Richard will often ask his three sons what they think of his songs, and he can count on honest responses.

“I feel like I wouldn't be helping him if, every time he showed me something, I said it was great,” Jesse said. “I know our opinions are very important to him.”

Because it's so difficult to make it in the music industry, Richard Marx said he'd hoped his sons would pursue a career in something else. But that's not to say he deterred them. He has posted videos of his sons singing on YouTube, one of which helped Jesse catch on with For All I Am.

“I went on YouTube and looked at the Christmas video the brothers did,” For All I Am lead singer Aria Yavarinejad said last week. “I fell in love with (Jesse's) voice and was like, ‘This kid needs to be in the band.'”

The song the Marx brothers sang that impressed Yavarinejad? The not-very-metal holiday classic “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

For All I Am was founded in 2011 and is signed to Albany, N.Y.-based indie label Equal Vision Records. Yavarinejad said the band had most of its next album written before Jesse Marx came into the picture, which could be one of the reasons the group is holding off on making him an official member. Yavarinejad said he has been impressed with Jesse's performances up to this point but feels a tour (he's hoping for three or four months on the road) would give the band a larger sample size to see how Marx would fit in with the group.

(Jesse Marx has put off going to college and is working at a Starbucks in Lake Bluff. He said he would become a permanent member of For All I Am in a heartbeat, if given the opportunity.)

Asked how he feels about having a pop singer's son in his metal band, Yavarinejad said it's pretty cool.

“I admire all the talent and success his dad has had,” Yavarinejad said. “Going around his house and seeing the platinum records on the walls is inspiring for us. It makes us want to play music for a long time and put more work into it. I've never really listened to his music. I was born in the '90s and didn't really listen to '80s music growing up. But someone showed me a video of him and I was like, ‘Holy crap. It's no wonder Jesse can sing.'” | Twitter @TribLuis

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