Maybe, you say, maybe Todd Sarvies isn't any different from other
singer-songwriters. Maybe the drive of a music career-earning a living doing what
he loves-is, you think, just like everyone else's. Maybe his talent-obvious at
first listen-is just that: talent, not yet fulfilled.
But then-there's someone onstage and he's commanding your attention. As he sings
and (sometimes) comes close to screaming, his voice, his face, his body
language-all expertly convey hurt, pain, anguish, longing, hesitation, regret.
It's more energy than an entire band puts into one live show. All conversation
has stopped; all eyes are on him.
"I put everything I am into the songs I write," says Todd, "and everything I do
on stage echoes that."
The goal is simple: To feel the music, not just manufacture noise without ample
time or broken strings. To make one word mean more than the next. To tell a new
story, a new song.
Having such a strong emotional tie to the music and lyrics makes Todd's
performances powerful and cathartic. His ability to captivate an audience
using the raw power of his voice is mesmerizing. It is clear he is most at home
on stage, shrouded only by his music.
"Performing is a rush," Todd says. "I can be on stage, screaming my heart out,
knowing an audience can understand exactly what I've been through without
distraction. The truth behind it all is what makes it captivating. It's where
all the passion comes from."
In 2007, his band John Boy's Courage released its debut album, "The Fall Precaution",
a collection of chapters more than songs, a story about falling down ... then
pulling yourself back up. The music style-emotionally honest alternative
pop-rock-often belied the depth of its tales, the songs' intricate instrumentation.
After the album's release, Todd took the show on the road, hitting towns near and
far, and racking up an impressive list of festival appearances, including CMJ
Music Marathon and Red Gorilla.
The setup was simple: No spotlight, no flashbulbs: just a small club
singer-songwriter traveling the country in a van, selling CDs for gas money, and
pouring out his heart and sweat onstage, even if only for a small audience. While
he never quite imagined himself as a 'star', Todd nonetheless longed to make a
career out of his craft.
"I think every musician has the desire to do this professionally," says Todd.
"It's a lot like falling in love. When you are passionate about something it's
the first thing you think about when you wake up, and the last before you fall
In 2009, stardom came knocking in the form of a MTV reality singing competition
P.Diddy's Starmaker, and a chance to be signed to Bad Boy Records. It was an
opportunity he took beating out 12 other contestants to finish as the runner up.
"The show gave me a great deal of confidence," Todd says. "Showing I can perform
on a consistent high level, on a big stage was a great experience."
Today, Todd is promoting his newest album, "The Dead, The Dying, The Damned".
In the past, he would write a song and record it. Cut and dry: it was what it was,
like it or don't. These days, he's not alone, bringing in talented producers and
backing musicians to enhance the process. Additional minds collaborating during
the recording process has helped him become a stronger songwriter.
"The new songs have a lot more heart," Todd says. "As a songwriter,
I try to be honest. When I first started, I was making up stories; now I write
from experiences. Before, I was just scratching the surface. Now I pride myself
on writing what I know, what I'm thinking about. It means more when you know
where a song comes from, and how that moment in time may have changed you for
better or worse."
But it's still his, all of it: the drive, the talent, the emotion. He still puts
it all out there: all of his experiences, all of his hang-ups, everything he
thinks about, stresses about, dreams about.
That's what songwriting is. It's storytelling, relating, opening yourself up and
stripping yourself bare. It's making the listener feel less alone. It's holding
on to an emotion, reliving it night after night, never letting it die.
It's what Todd Sarvies does best, and what he does for you. It's been there for
you all along. And yet, it's just beginning.
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