Richard Kincaid

Richard Kincaid’s plaintive voice unleashed like an arrow from its bow, soars as it gathers momentum with yearning and unabashedly hits home in the heart. Longtime businessman and CEO of the largest publicly traded office real estate company in the United States, when his company sold in February 2007, Richard experienced a moment of reckoning. He faced a choice: he could step back onto the corporate treadmill or pursue projects that really mattered to him. “I didn’t want to continue on autopilot,” he says, “I wanted to make conscious decisions about my life and I needed outlets for my passion that corporate life never provided me.” Thus, Richard turned the page and began a new chapter in which he returned to his first love: music and simultaneously blazed a trail through new territory: philanthropy.

The fifth child of a musically inclined family of six, Richard sang before he completed his first sentence. In Ellinwood, Kansas, a town of approximately 2,000 people, the young Richard inspired church parishioners with stirring solos during services, weddings and funerals. Later he charmed diners as a singing waiter. From elementary school through his Bachelor’s at Wichita State University and his MBA at University of Texas, Richard studied classical voice. Drawn to the narrative power and sweeping scores of musical theater, he starred in many summer theater productions. Influences include Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Elton John and the musical theater canon. Throughout his corporate career, Richard maintained a strong and joyous connection to music and he re-dedicated himself to singing in 2007.

At the same magic moment, Kincaid, struck by the altruism of folks he met in the non-profit world, founded the BeCause Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to solving complex social issues and promoting change through the power of film. The documentaries tackle homelessness and healthcare, human rights in Eastern Burma and sexual abuse of children. Each film tells the story of individuals to shed light on the plight of many. In this way, Richard and BeCause give a face to human suffering and the heroic actions taken to alleviate it. Similarly, in his music, Richard interprets songs that give voice to raw human emotion in the face of tragedy and grace. Listeners find his singing “incredibly spiritual.”

On his first album, Return, “He’s My Son,” by Mark Shultz, an unveiled prayer to God to save Shultz’s brain-dead son resonates deeply for Kincaid. On March 1st 2008, his older brother, Frank called to say his son, Adam, a recent college grad and promising athlete suffered a cardiac arrest and might not make it through the night. As Richard’s plane sped towards his nephew’s hospital, he imagined his brother’s helpless feelings as a father facing his son’s mortality. Adam put up a good fight, but he died the next morning. Later, when Richard heard the lyrics of “He’s My Son,” he recalled his brother and nephew, “The song captures how parents really feel about their kids,” says Kincaid “I’ve dedicated Return to Adam.”

The album, completed in February 2009, evolved organically. Initially, Richard worked alone on time-tested, narrative ballads that challenged and thrilled him such as Robbie Williams’ Angels and Elton John’s Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, until he met David Taylor, producer of U.K. artist Clyve Waite’s hit single, I Like it When You Do it Like That. Taylor fanned Kincaid’s desire to take music more seriously and got him into a studio with musicians. “We started playing around and it worked so we kept going. It was inspiring to work with such astonishingly good musicians and I enjoyed taking covers and adding my own little twists,” says Richard. He thought Return would just be for friends and family, but when David played it for other producers, promoters and musicians, they urged him to sell it on iTunes and CD Baby. With such a positive response and audiences clamoring for more, Richard is gearing up to perform live shows in and around Chicago and for production of his next CD, which promises a mixture of new material and standard ballads that offer heart-rending stories of human perseverance.

How do you describe your music to people, Richard?
A unique blend of vocal purity, soaring emotions, the strength of opera and musical theatre, with the flavor of 70s R&B/Soul.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I started singing as a small child.  My parents claim I was singing before I was talking.  From there I performed in church and then moved on to musical theatre in high school and college.  I formally studied voice for around 15 years.  I never completely stopped performing, but I had a lot of years when I was to busy with my business career to do much with music. Now I am back and really enjoying singing again.  I called my first CD "Return" because it really was a return to one of my true passions.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Hiking in Glacier National Park.  I am an avid hiker and I just love Montana.  It never gets old to me. The pure, stunning beauty of Glacier National Park never fails to renew me.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Finding time for everything is my biggest challenge.  I am pursuing music, business and philanthropy at the same time.  I also am married and have three kids.  Like most people, I struggle to do all of these important roles well.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I thought I was going to be a doctor.  Then, I got into organic chemistry and realized that pre-med was not happening for me.  I always wanted to be a musician, but I convinced myself that I needed another "real job" to fall back on.   So, I ended up in real estate and it worked out well for me.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I have benefited from tremendous inspiration from the nonprofit community.  A lot of my recent performances have been fundraisers.  More than that, I am constantly humbled by the work of humanitarians.  There really are lots of people who dedicate their lives to others while seeking nothing for themselves.  Let's just say that is a little different than the majority of people I met during my business career.  I have also been encouraged to pursue music by many in the nonprofit world. They, as do I, feel like music is a universal language that can uplift and unite everyone.  I know I draw on their inspiration when I sing.

What other artists out there do you love?
I love Stevie Wonder  as a composer, signer, performer, etc.  He is a miracle that only comes around once in a generation.  I also  really admire Marvin Gaye, Michael McDonald and Elton John.  As to new artists, I think the lead singer from the Script is a great vocalist.  Jennifer Hudson is phenomenal as a pure singer.  I also really like Band of Horses, Civil Twilight and Arcade Fire.  I have really strange, eclectic taste in music. 

What does your future hold?
I am already working on a new CD and I am hoping to perform a lot more in the Chicago area with a top notch band.  At the same time, I really involved with several not-for-profit projects that I hope will significantly improve the lives of children in the U.S. and Haiti.  Life is good!