His music has been described as “Bowie-esque”. His inspirations span the spectrum from pop to hard rock to alternative, and his sound reflects this encompassing quality, from the synth-pop of Tears for Fears to the eclectic acoustics of Peter Gabriel, all the way through to the iconic grunge of Neil Young and Alice in Chains. But what sets Mr the Invisible truly apart is the unifying perspective behind his songs, a message of the oneness of humanity, united by joy as much as by suffering, joined in one pain, one hope.
Mr the Invisible, aka Dr. Rick Bauer — pastor, father and multi-talented musician with a successful career spanning over 30 years has this to say about his role in the world of music:
Songs shape people’s experiences of life in the world and what we listen to matters… The world is a mess, and we need music that names our struggles with honesty and transparency, but that also doesn’t just leave us hanging there in the muck and mire. We need voices that speak to us of our inherent value as creatures who can make a difference in this world, voices that validate us and inspire us with a hope that things are still ultimately headed somewhere good.
This strong sense of purpose shines through in the music of his latest album, ‘Begin Again’. The album offers up a powerful mix, with uplifting tracks like “A Brand New Day”, stirring vocals like “Firewood” and mildly melancholy, thoughtful numbers like “Sparks” alongside old favorites like “After the Fall” (originally part of the album ‘Red Rock’). The truly original songcraft, combined with the artist’s seasoned understanding of the science and the art behind music, including chord progressions, harmony blockings, nuanced arrangement, and a sheer knack for building and releasing tension make ‘Begin Again’ a must listen.
Curious to know more about the man behind the Mr the Invisible persona, we asked Rick to share glimpses of his musical journey with us. Hailing from a truly musical family, with a professional bassist dad and a mom who played acoustic guitar, Rick naturally gravitated towards music. From his first stage performance with his dad at the incredible age of six, Rick continued to immerse himself in music through high school and college, recording a TV commercial that aired nation-wide and working professionally with bands like Mourning Son and Crave.
Hitting the road soon after graduation, Rick Bauer spent over twenty years on the circuit, performing as a lead singer, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist. From his home base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Mr the Invisible’s music has taken him far and wide, and won him applause and appreciation across Europe and North America. Equally at home in a tiny café, buzzing pub, or mammoth music festival, he describes his growth as a musician, saying,
Playing and singing, night after night and year after year, a wide variety of material gave me an experiential and embodied understanding of how songs work… I worked in a group that covered over 500 songs. This has also given me an appreciation for how genres can blend to capture memories and elements of different times.
What led him to develop his unique brand of music, with its rock underpinnings and elements of fusion imbued with faith and spirituality? “I am the pastor of a church and I hold a Doctor of Ministry from Duke Divinity School,” he explained, but clarified that, “I don’t come across as a “Christian” artist in the common understanding of the term”. He shared with us how his experiences teaching collegiate courses on World Religions have broadened and deepened his own perspective, introducing him to the fundamental commonalities across Christianity, Taoism and Buddhism.
Mr the Invisible’s music, though, is very much rooted in the realities of life, Rick is quick to point out — no mysticism there, or mumbo jumbo. His musical worldview, in his own words, “takes shape through a lens that has lived a very “worldly” life as a touring rock singer and guitarist. I’m down to earth in my music and communicate stories and ideas that are about all things inherent to the human condition.”
Characterizing his voice as, “Billy Joel meets Peter Murphy”, Mr the Invisible likens the added grunge factor that comes through in many of his songs to the vocal attitude of Royston Langdon or Layne Staley. But, he adds, the attention to structure and polish in his music are born of a life-long admiration for the incomparable CSNY, and influenced by the faultless execution of albums like ‘High ’N Dry’ and ‘Pyromania’, in which rock greats Def Leppard teamed up with production guru Robert “Mutt” Lange.
When asked to name the highlights of his career as a professional musician, Mr the Invisible shares a handful of moments… the surreal moment when he heard an electronic version of his track, “Let It Go” from his album ‘Mr the Invisible’ playing in-flight, and realized that it was the outcome of a licensing deal with the Netherlands’ Armada Music, and a co-creation of iconic DJ Markus Schulz… only half-seriously, he adds being represented by the Jeff Buckley estate’s entertainment lawyer to his list of journey highlights, before going on to recount, “a favorite moment”: It was when he found himself in a support role as a keyboardist and backup vocalist, recording at the Virgin Records HQ in NYC, and suddenly realized,
I was in a band that included Jeff Beck’s drummer, Yanni’s bassist, Jacob Dylan’s guitarist, and Lamont Dozier’s son… managed by Joss Stone’s mother. I took a moment to really breathe in the experience of being in that space, with those incredible colleagues and musicians…
What about his favorite tracks among his numerous recordings and releases to date, we ask him, and get a thoughtful answer. It really depends on the mood, he says, that acts as a filter at the particular moment one is trying to pick a song. But “Let It Go” has always been special for him, and “Eyeliner” from his very first album ‘Daybreak’ has been one that he’s proud to stand behind. Tracks such as “the Jordan” and “The Human Face of God” have also been impactful, he adds, with the latter receiving a prestigious award for making ‘an outstanding theological statement on interfaith appreciation and love’.
So how did he end up choosing the name, ‘Mr the Invisible’? We find his reply to be refreshingly honest: It was the name of the protagonist from his solo album of the same name released in 2008. As he moved forward with releasing ‘the Jordan’ in 2012, the name seemed like a good fit for the rather low-key mode in which he was continuing his musical endeavors, and it stuck through the years that followed, becoming a brand of its own in the realm of contemporary spiritual indie.
Now, though, Mr the Invisible says, he’s ready to return to the public eye, as he’s comfortable with the “marriage of my perspective and my sound”, and feels that it is a unified representation that is true to who he is, as an artist and as a human being with a message for his fellow humans.
Mr the Invisible belongs to that rare breed of musicians who have succeeded at actually living out the musician’s dream — to follow his passion wherever it leads him. Walking his chosen path, there’s been no dearth of achievements and accolades over the last three decades. What’s next for him, we want to know… where does he see himself and his music headed? For the present, he responds, he’s focused on getting ‘Begin Again’ out there, reaching out to loyal listeners as well as touching new hearts and minds with his message.
Another, equally important focus for Rick, the artist, is his role in supporting fellow artists in putting forth their best. Rick Bauer’s ‘Roads to Rome Productions’ has been instrumental in helping scores of musicians write, produce and promote their music. To this end, he’s opened the doors to his newly designed studio, ‘Red Room III’ in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, welcoming other musicians to use the excellent resources available there in creating their best music.
For the future, he sees himself continuing on the journey of reaching out to remind us of the real good in all of us, that shines through the ups and downs of life, overcoming the differences and uniting us in a bond of shared tragedies and triumphs. Reinforcing the message of his music, Mr the Invisible is working on a book that he sees in the role of a ‘practical guide’ in living out the philosophy of his songs. As he puts it,
My music explores the relationships between our living and our dying with a spiritualized appreciation for nature… at the end of the day, I craft the stuff of sorrow and angst toward the end of a faith and a hope, firmly rooted in love.
And the book, says Rick, will help people on the journey to, “being comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
We hear you, Mr the Invisible… and we hear your message, echoing clearly through the track, “A Brand New Day”:
You think you can or can’t… you’re right.
To let in the full power of Mr the Invisible’s music into your life, check out the tracks on his brand new album, ‘Begin Again’.
“My music explores the relationships between our living and our dying with a spiritualized appreciation for nature.”
We were impressed by Rick’s thoughtful and honest answers… a refreshing change from the slick gimmickry that abounds on the modern music scene.