A couple of years ago, musician Greg Wickham was on a walk with his wife when she asked what he thought was a strange question.
“‘If you were to die tomorrow, is there anything you haven’t done that you would regret?’” he recalled. “I told her the only thing that I would really regret is never having recorded a solo record.
“And it was kind of quiet for a second and she said, ‘Well, you need to get into the studio, then.’”
That conversation helped inspire Wickham’s first solo album, “If I Left This World.”
In the mid-1990s, he co-founded Hadacol, which he described as “high-octane, alternative country, roots-rock kind of band.” The KC-based band released two records and traveled all over the country.
When the group disbanded in 2001, he took a break from music.
His new album reflects his change in perspective as a songwriter.
“I was out of the game for 15 years, and in that 15 years, I got married, I had three children. And life is very different now than when Hadacol was playing,” he said.
He had ventured into the studio during his break to record a song for local musician Kristie Stremel, who was working on a children’s project.
He had so much fun working with Stremel, he said, that he started thinking about making his solo record (which Stremel co-produced).
Once he decided to make it, he said, he had a desire to leave something for his children.
One of the songs on his new album is “Elsie’s Lullaby,” which he wrote when his eldest daughter was a baby.
“I’d just wanted to leave some fatherly words of wisdom,” he said.
“I think a lot of what infused the perspective on the entire record was being almost 40 years old before I had my first child,” he added. “I got a late start on it, and I think that offered a different perspective in terms of mortality.”
The main thing he wanted to get across is in the chorus was to think for yourself, do your best and then let it go.
A song for his second daughter, “Angel of Mercy,” had a similar goal in mind.
As a writer, he tried to serve two different purposes for both those songs for his daughters: to write something that works in the present, knowing they wouldn’t grasp the full meaning until later in life … and perhaps after he’s gone, he said.
Music has always been a part of Wickham’s life. He started piano lessons at an early age. When he was in high school, he said, he was lucky enough to have a teacher who noticed that he was more of a creator than a classically-trained pianist.
“She threw the books out and said, ‘Write for me. Compose, and let’s come in and talk about what you’ve composed,’” he said.
At home, his dad was into country music and his older brother Fred — the other co-founder of Hadacol — showed him the way. And Fred is one of the contributors to “If I Left This World,” along with a whole host of local musicians.
“It’s an enormous cast, an incredibly talented cast,” he said. “I wanted a big sound and a diverse sound on the record.”
Even among the big, diverse sound, there’s a moment in one of his songs that gets to him.
On “Elsie’s Lullaby,” the music gets quiet and he sings, “Know that I’ll love you even when I’m not here.”
“I have a difficult time singing that when she’s in the room without tearing up because the love is so unconditional,” he said. “It’s the unconditional love for my children that I would want them to get out of the songs more than anything else.”
Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.