When Randy Tillim was growing up in the small farming town of Roseburg, OR, music surrounded him. His father, a pianist and composer, instilled in him a love for the art at an early age. In high school, Tillim took his passion for music to the next level by studying jazz piano and composition with local teachers. Tillim spent four years in the U.S. Army, including time stationed in Japan. After his military service, Tillim settled in Eugene, OR, where he went to college and continued his education in music. In addition to his studies, Tillim played jazz piano with a small local combo and served as music director for his fraternity.
In the early 1990s, Tillim met singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt in Eugene. After hearing Tillim’s compositions, Schmidt encouraged Tillim to try his hand at recording. Tillim and Schmidt co-founded the indie rock band, The Great Escape Artist, and released the debut album, “Is It Usable Yet?” in 1993.
After the release of “Is It Usable Yet?” Tillim and Schmidt parted ways, but not before Schmidt gave Tillim a tape of a local singer/songwriter named Joe Ely. Ely had grown up in the same small town as Tillim and his father and had also started playing the guitar in his teens. Tillim was struck by the purity of Ely’s voice, the clarity of
The Great Escape Artist
The Great Escape Artist is an indie rock band from Eugene, Oregon. The band is composed of Randy Tillim (piano, vocals), Joe Ely (vocals and guitar), John Munoz (bass) and Danny Schmidt (drums). All members were raised in the same small agricultural town in Oregon. The group formed in 1993 and released their debut album, “Is It Usable Yet?”, in 1994. After the release of “Is It Usable Yet?” Tillim and Schmidt parted ways but not before Schmidt gave him a cassette of local singer/songwriter, Joe Ely.
Ely was born in Roseburg and grew up with Randy Tillim’s father. He started playing the guitar at age 13 after hearing Elvis Presley’s song “Heartbreak Hotel”. In 1989 he met Randy Tillim, who encouraged Ely to try his hand at recording. They co-founded the indie rock band “The Great Escape Artist” and released their debut album, “Is It Usable Yet?”, in 1993.
After releasing their debut album, “Is It Usable Yet?”, Tillim left for college but stayed on as music director for his fraternity. In 1999 he returned to Eugene to take up playing music full-time again with a better-known group called The Flaming Lips; on April 23rd 2000 he recorded a session for David Letterman’s Late Show with Dave Letterman that aired on June 1st 2000.
Tillim only lasted until 2003 when
“I Love You Forever,” “Not So Long Ago,” and “Long Way Down,”
After hearing Ely’s tape, Tillim went to the singer/songwriter’s house and played “I Love You Forever,” “Not So Long Ago,” and “Long Way Down.” After hanging out with Ely that evening, Tillim became convinced that he was the only person who could help Ely find his voice and bring it to life in a way that would be authentic for Ely.
The two quickly set up shop at The Archway Studio in Eugene, OR and began recording sessions together. They recorded 2-3 songs every day for 10 days straight until they had a finished product.
Tillim left for Hawaii after their success with Joe Ely and has lived there ever since. In the years between 1993 and 2001, he recorded dozens of albums with artists such as Joe Cocker, Tanya Tucker, Kris Kristofferson, John Hiatt, Vince Gill, Joss Stone and others. He also toured extensively throughout North America with these artists on tour or as special guest artist.
Most recently in 2016 Randy released his first solo album entitled “Randy Tillim: A Brief History.” This album of original songs is a culmination of all the music he’s performed over his career up to this point. It’s a mix of styles including folk, country rockabilly, blues rockabilly and Americana; showcasing Tillim’s unique ability to seamlessly blend multiple genres into one cohesive sound while staying true to himself
In 1997, the musical partnership of Tillim and Ely began again. They recorded a self-titled album on John Fahey’s Revenant Records label that was released in late 1997. The album was named after Tillim’s father and sold approximately 15,000 copies.
In 2003, Tillim released his second album of original material, “The Great Escape Artist II: The Escape Continues!,” followed by the compilation album “Classic Remixed Collection: Randy Tillim” in 2005.
Tillim has maintained a steady touring schedule since the release of his debut album. In 2006, he played at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with his trio of drummer Joel Taylor, bassist David Dorn and pianist Alan Pasqua.
Danny Schmidt and Randy Tillim Come Together
and he decided to return to Eugene in 1996 to work with Ely.
In 1997, Tillim and Ely released their second album, “The Journey is Long” on the independent label K Records. The Great Escape Artist completed a successful tour of Europe in 1998 and disbanded after that tour.
Tillim focused on solo projects in 1999, releasing the album “What If You Were Not Enough?” on K Records and touring extensively throughout North America and Europe. In 2000, Tillim was hired by Sub Pop to produce Ely’s third album, “Steady at the Wheel.”
Tillim continued his work with Ely in 2001 by producing two albums for him: “Live from Austin TX” which featured live recordings from a performance at SXSW and “Out There Somewhere.” Soon after that collaboration, Tillim produced Willie Nelson’s “Nashville Sessions,” before ultimately returning to Portland where he resumed his solo career.
Building a Fanbase and Launching a Career
Tillim’s first record with Ely as a co-writer, “What Can I Say?” was released in 1995. Their next album, “Lucky Man,” was released in 1997. The duo continued to release albums until 2002 when Tillim left for Nashville, TN to pursue a career in music writing. In 2007, Tillim returned to Eugene and began working on a new project with Ely and other musicians. The result of that collaboration was the album “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With” which was released in 2010. He also launched his own record label, Down Home Records.
In early 2017, Tillim embarked on his first solo tour where he played all of the songs from his catalog of work with Ely rendered acoustic and accompanied by a single guitarist.
List of Songs Written by Randy Tillim
And he was hooked.
In 1994, Tillim moved to Portland and met producer Greg Brown. Eventually, Brown offered Tillim a job as a recording engineer at his studio and recommended him for solo projects. Tillim took the job and went on to record six albums with Brown in the years that followed. In 2008, Tillim released his first solo album, “The Dreamer’s Dream” which garnered much acclaim from critics and bloggers alike.
By the end of 2009, Randy Tillim had relocated back to Eugene where he continues his work as a musician, composer, author and musician educator.
Randy Tillim is an American musician who has worked with artists such as Joe Ely and Danny Schmidt, who founded The Great Escape Artist. Now he is a musician and composer himself, writing songs that have a sense of genuine humanity and vulnerability.
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