Todd Sharpville “Part 2”
This part two of our interview with Todd Sharpville, in this segment we’ll be discussing his latest work and some of the great players that took part in it.
You appear on at least 24 albums. What is your best work?
TS: I had a second birth, everything to me musically now makes sense.After the divorce, I fell to pieces. I was able to sit back and look atthings with some objectivity. While I put myself back together I leftsome of those pieces lying on the floor. I realized for the first timein my life that there were some things about me musically and aboutlife that I wasn’t fond of. So I left those on the floor and took the good stuff withme. So now I am getting better musically because ofthis. Everything that has happened since then I’ve been proud of, but Iam especially proud of “Porchlight”. “Diary Of A Drowning Man” is goodas well. It’s sitting in a drawer somewhere.I needed to grow up a little and take my knocks.To this day I cannot listen to my first album. I can’t listen to thestuff I recorded in my youth. Like a lot of those kids we talked aboutbefore, maybe I was exposed and unleashed on the world earlier than Ishould have been . I think I should have played the bars longerinstead of jumping in the club scene right away. So,”Porchlight”is some of the best.
Let’s talk about Porchlight, I think it is a brilliant piece of work. How long
did it take to come up with the material?
TS: I guess about a month. I went on a crazy song writing blitz andDuke only had a certain window of time. You know, when he would beable to do it. So we ended up being in kind of a rush, I guess. Ithought I had more time on my hands and then all of a sudden I didn’t.The majority of it came out of this period. From a writing perspectiveall of a sudden I had to sit down and be a blues writer instead ofjust sitting down and writing a song. It had been a while since I haddone that, so I just sort of locked myself away in the middle ofnowhere in an apartment in Wales by the sea. I spent the best part of amonth just going crazy writing as much as I could. After the processstarted out, I realized that some of what I was doing was shit anddumped it into the garbage bin. Then I really got going on some decentstuff and when you start doing something decent, you don’t want losewhat you have, so I didn’t sleep much or eat much. I ended up withabout 30-35 tunes out of it. My girlfriend is thankfully deaf in oneear, so she learned to sleep on one side. I could be in the other roombanging away on the piano and she’d be sound asleep. So I put thisstuff together on a multi-track recorder and sent the files to Dukeand just waited to see if any of it was any good or not because Ireally had no idea. We finally got the thumbs up from Duke and wentover to make the record. The only real problem was the amount ofsongs, we had the good problem of what do we keep, because Duke wantedto keep a lot of it!
What was it like recording with Duke Robillard, Joe Louis Walker
and Kim Wilson?
TS: I have a ton of respect for Duke. To me, Duke is one of theclassiest blues musicians in the world. Playing with Duke didn’t phaseme because we knew each other and had recorded together before and Iknew how he operated. Joe, now we have had a very strange relationshipsince I was a teenager. He has been my mentor or my blues guru for along time. In the early days he used to let me hang out. Then after awhile he would let my band open for him and then later still he broughtme up for his encores. I had to earn my respect with him. This whole thingjust came full circle because I had guested on one of his albums. Joehad already seen some shit by the time he met me as a precociousteenager. So this this was kind of cool and it was an extra specialmoment. Kind of like the student coming full circle.Kim Wilson has always been my favorite harmonica player as far asliving guys in the world. When I think of all the harmonica playersaround today it is a very exclusive little club of people that I holdin the highest regard. It’s one the instruments that anyone thinksthey can play but there is only like 10 guys on the planet that canreally play, James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite. Curtis Salgado is agreat friend of mine and another great player. Curtis played with uson the Blues Cruise one year. He learned Kim’s chops even though wetold him to play however he wanted. There are a couple of greatplayers in Europe as well. 10 or 12, but I really see Kim being at thetop. I think everyone kind of looks up to Kim.
“Porchlight” pays respect to your dad. When he passed, did it
change how you were going about the album?
TS: Yes it did, I’d already written the bulk of the tunes. He diedliterally just at the time I was going to start production, soPorchlight was kind of a late addition to the proceedings. I had myguitar tech that had split up with his wife and needed a place tostay. This poor motherfucker, I had him staying on my couch and he wasengineering my multi track recorder, working day and night pushing mybuttons. It didn’t take long for him to get back with his wife, he’dhave done anything to get away from my apartment after that! Then,when we were done with that phase I had a plan to sleep for a weekstraight. Do nothing. I’d emailed all the tracks off and I was done.I finally went to bed and a half an hour later my mum called and saidyour dad collapsed at the bottom of the stairs. So then the wholeroller coaster started and we had to postpone the recording sessions.I was thrown into the mix of organizing my dad’s funeral. During thatperiod I had a lot of time to think about things. We had pushed everythingback about 3 weeks or a month but yes, it totally changed thedirection. After I wrote Porchlight, we now had a title track. A lotof people would think the sessions were depressing but it was quitethe opposite actually. Yes, we had some teary moments and it wasemotional at times but it was a big relief really to be in the studio.I was so immersed in taking care of all of the affairs andarrangements for the funeral that I hadn’t really had a chance to stopuntil we got in the studio. My dad was a statesman and the funeral wasa total head-fuck to arrange. We needed a statesman-like funeral. Ofcourse my mum was in the deepest of grief, so I needed to handle it. Iwanted to respect my dad’s musical interests and the music had to beworld class. We had hand picked musicians and my mum picked music thatshe and my dad liked, so these guys had to learn all this new music(to them) in a week. It worked and we pulled it off, it was great.That was pretty much the emotional equivalent to recording an entirealbum.
How healing has Porchlight been for you?
TS: To be quite honest, I haven’t really had time to sit back andthink about how I feel about it yet. I think it is still happening aswe speak. I think I will be working through my grief, one little pieceat a time. Porchlight wasn’t about just healing from my dad but alsofrom my divorce and also my other CD that never got released. It’slike going through the pains of having a baby and not getting to watchit grow up. Porchlight is going to signify having another baby, andwatch it grow up and watch it go out into the world and achievesomething for itself. So I’m still going through the process. Up untilnow it hasn’t been expressed to rest of the world. I’ve done itprivately but not publicly.
What do you think is the best song on Porchlight?
TS: Hard question. I’m really a song guy more than anything else andI’m very protective of songs. Everything I do is to make the song lookgood instead of making myself look good. Songs are like birthssometimes: they pop right out and sometimes they are breached and comeout backwards. One thing that happened during my songwriting blitz inWales, I was able to finish a lot of songs that were just parts andpieces, or riffs. So a lot of it just sort of poured out. As far as afavorite, it’s like having kids. How do you pick a favorite?They are individually unique in and of themselves.
Any plans to get over to the States?
TS: Absolutely, I come over and the do the blues cruise pretty often.We are actually finalizing a deal to come over and do some dates withTommy Castro and some other things. A lot of it of course depends onhow Porchlight does. I also might be opening up some arena shows in
the states as well. We’ll see.