Henry Particelli left the Sault in 1994 with a duffel bag in one hand and a guitar in the other and headed to Nashville, Tenn. in pursuit of a career in music.
“For the most part I just played solo gigs with me and my guitar, singer-songwriter stuff,” he says. “There was a lot of amazing country bands that would let me get up with them and sing one or two along the way.”
In 2004, Particelli put out a record called Wide Open under the pseudonym of Rick Henry, a combination of his middle and first name.
“When I stepped off the Greyhound bus, I decided Rick Henry would be easier for people to remember than a last name like Particelli. Everyone here knew me as Rick Henry.”
As Rick Henry, Particelli released three singles from Wide Open to Canadian radio to some moderate success.
As with most aspiring musicians, Particelli had to take on other work to support himself while pursuing music.
“Part of my side hustle was doing things like bounty hunting while doing music.”
It was in 2008 when a good friend, who worked as a police officer for the Metro Nashville Police Department, came to visit Particelli and told him about the positive experience he had as an officer.
“He was telling me all about the job and how much fun he was having,” he says. “So when he left, I got online and filled out an application.”
The vetting process took almost a year and a half, but Particelli was accepted and began studies at the police academy.
“When I [finally] joined the Metro Nashville police department, I went back to my legal name. For me it was part of the transition away from music and into public service.”
With a demanding new job, Particelli found it difficult to balance his work and his dreams of music.
“Balancing work, family and music was rough. Generally something had to give and for the most part it was music.”
Particelli stopped playing music for almost a decade, save for the rare performance.
“It truly hurt my heart to step away from the dream, so I just needed that time away from it,” he says.
He performed occasionally over the years at different events or opening ceremonies.
In 2019, Particelli had a request to perform one of his songs called, We Are the Good Guys for an Metro officer’s funeral service.
The president of the Sound Emporium Studios, Juanita Copeland, heard Particelli sing on the livestream of that service and reached out offering to record the song.
“We did that almost immediately and created The Good Guys Foundation. There was a demand for me to be out playing the song,” says Particelli. “I played for a Fraternal Order of Police conference in New Orleans, National information officer conference in Florida and was scheduled to play on the stage with the President of the United States here in May for the National Police week Memorial Service.”
The National Police week Memorial Service was cancelled due to the pandemic, but Particelli made a commitment to himself that in 2020 he was going to work on his music catalogue and talk to music publishers for the first time in his 25 years.
“I knew in my heart when I hung it up I wasn’t done. I figured my artist career was done but I felt I still had things to say and write about. I still had good songs on paper in good songs in my heart I needed to get out one day.”
A few days after the death of George Floyd, Particelli was listening to a talk radio show in his police car.
“I heard something on talk radio about some of these senseless unjustified deaths. I was thinking how terrible it is that we know these people’s names because of these terrible events. I immediately recorded the first couple of lines in melody ideas on my phone, ‘I cried for you today but I don’t know you.’”
When he went home that night, he wrote half of a song called Your Name and finished most of it by the following day.
“It was important to me that every line meant something special in this song.”
Particelli told Juanita Copeland about the song and played it for her.
“I played it for her and chief engineer Michael Stankiewicz. After her tears dried, she told me ‘I loved it’ and ‘you need to record it now.’”
By the following week, the final vocal of the song was recorded.
“Juanita believed in the song so much that she started pitching it around trying to get a major artist to cut it.”
Copeland was even able to get the song in front of Garth Brooks.
“He listened intently. [Brooks] and Trisha Yearwood had just recorded their healing song the night before. According to Juanita, he loved the song and asked what she knew about the writer. When she told him I was a police officer, he said, ‘there it is.’ Henry needs to be the guy to put this song out. That will mean more to people than any other recording artist because what he is and does for a living.”
Particelli was initially resistant to releasing it himself, but not because he was worried what other officers would think, but because he felt that in the general public there were going to be people that hated it because of his job.
“While that is heartbreaking [to think that], I’ve come to accept it,” says Particelli. “Nobody is more heartbroken over a bad cop’s actions than a good cop. I fully expect there are some officers that may not appreciate the song but it needs to be heard and maybe they need to do some self-reflection on why they chose a career to serve.”
Being an officer and songwriter gave Particelli a unique perspective.
“We hurt, we cry, we see things most people only see on TV, and like it or not, it does affect us,” says Particelli.
“The song humanizes the badge . . . I was encouraged to go ahead and release it. I personally didn’t think I would have the ability to push it out far and wide. I still don’t know that is a reality but I feel like the message is being well-received and we’re going in the right direction.
Particelli emphasizes that the song was never written as to be “opportunistic” or as a “chance to revitalize” his music career.
“If nobody ever heard it, I [still] needed to write it for me to heal my heart.”
With the completed song, Copeland reached out to the production team of Tim Sutherland and Ron Peterson, who worked on the TV show Nashville, to ask if they would film a video for the song.
“We are so proud of the video . . . they heard the song [and] wanted to be part of the project and agreed to work for a fraction of what their services are worth,” says Particelli.
The video features Particelli performing in his civilian clothes for the majority of the song, with a series of friends and family holding up messages of healing.
“I wanted to have people fall in love with this song before the pre-judged me for being a police officer.”
One actor in the video is extra special for Particelli.
“The beautiful nurse in the pink scrubs holding the ‘One Heart’ sign is my wife.”
The end of the video shows Particelli in full uniform. For those who don’t know the back story, it is an emotional and powerful moment.
“The [song and video] has become a community project and everyone involved has been amazing. Juanita donated the studio time and had been working with us tirelessly on the project,” he says, noting there were over 40,000 views between platforms in the first week alone.
He hopes that the song and its message of healing will open up some conversations and dialogue, something he has started to see firsthand.
Particelli recently received a message from a woman in California telling him about her distain and distrust of police based on lived experience.
“Then she said, ‘Your song is the start to the conversation that might take years to fix’ but that she loved it and thanked me for it. She was going to share it with all of her friends including those that don’t hold us in the highest regard. I [initially] wrote the song to heal my heart, but apparently it helped to begin to heal hers.”
So will we hear more music from Particelli in the near future?
“I’m so excited to be making music again. That said I’m very realistic about what this all means so far. If nothing else my hope is that you get to hear more Henry Particelli songs, but who actually sings them remains to be seen.”