Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interview with Tori Sparks

As we're closing in on a month away to Tori's visit to the Bluff View, I tried a new approach to introduce you to this energetic lady... An interview... and she was polite enough to answer even my silliest question...

1) You are seemingly the new phase of independent musicians & independent
labels, what has been the highs and lows to doing that?

The most positive aspect is control - not in a control-freaky way, but in
a common-sense way. I'm able to decide the way in which I'd like to be
presented to the public, what songs to record and when, what musicians to
play with, and there's no one to say "sorry, we decided not to release
your record for another year or so... we'll call you." Also, being forced
to do everything myself has taught me a lot about the ways in which the
industry operates. The downside is that you have to hired independent
promoters and try to forge your own way, rather than being able to be
plugged into a network that exists within a label or management company.
Really, there are days when the indie thing feels like an infinitely
better choice, and other days when having a big team would be nice. I'm
open to the idea of working with a label and/or manager if the right
person or company comes along, but in the meantime, I'll keep doing what
I'm doing.

2) So you do how many concerts a year? Has CIYH (Concerts in Your Home)
been a help?

I play around 200 shows every year, though last year, I only did 150
because I was in the studio working on the new album, The Scorpion in the
Story. CIYH has been helpful, because in many ways the house concert is
filling the void of the small music venue or listening room - which is
nearing extinction due to the nature of this crazy industry as well as the
economy in general - and the CIYH website is essentially a consolidated
database containing the bulk of the house concert presenters in the
country. It spares me a lot of extra research, and I love house concerts -
they're a unique format that allows a much more one-on-one connection with
your audience.

3) How did you get such a European presence?

I've toured in England, Ireland, and France, and was lucky to have had a
song from my second album ("Cold War," from Under This Yellow Sun)
released on a compilation distributed by Universal Music France, which
sold about 40,000 copies in Europe. That has been helpful, and then this
Spring we did our first European radio campaign. The album is at #19 on
the Euro Americana Charts, and I'm planning to go back overseas in the
fall. European audiences and the music business in Europe are in some ways
different than the States, in a way that's been good to me. I appreciate
it very mcuh.

3.5) When and where will you tour over there?

I hope I'll be there in September and October, and am planning on playing
the countries I've hit up before as well as the Netherlands, Belgium,
Germany, and possibly Spain and Italy. I'm still working on those dates. I
wish I could bring the band, we'll have to see whether the budget works
out or if I'll be touring solo.

4) LaCrosse WI doesn't have an Americana radio station, do you have a
favorite internet radio station that plays your music?

A lot of Americana music can also be played on college and AAA (Adult
Album Alternative) stations, so please feel free to call in and request!
That being said, Radio Crystal Blue and Women of Substance Radio and two
internet stations that have been very supportive.

5) Wonderful videos, were they as much fun to make as to watch? Even naked
in one, was that a trip?

Thanks - videos are great because they give your audience a new take on
the songs they've already heard live, or on the albums. And no, I wasn't
naked! For the record, my mother loved that video, whereas my
boyfriend-at-the-time's mother hated it. So, that's your barometer
regarding it's scandalousness or lack thereof. That particular video is
for the song "Cold War," and we've done videos for "Rivers + Roads" and
recently "Merry Go-Round" from the new album, as well as some behind the
scenes and live concert videos. They were all a huge amount of work, but
yes, so much fun. The last several videos as well as the concert DVD I've
edited myself, thanks to the tutelage of my director, who let me use his
Final Cut software. I loved it, and we'd spend 14 hours at a stretch
working on them and living off of Diet Dr. Pepper and Ritz crackers. The
Nashville Rollergirls and the City of Shelby NC (who lent us their
carousel) were incredibly kind to work with us on "Merry Go-Round."

6) I believe if I remember a different news article, you graduated with
honors from Florida State in no time, so is this just an extension of a
Marketing class?

Yes, actually! I always joke that I essentially went to grad school for
music business in Nashville, because living the experience of being an
independent artist - especially in this town - has been and continues to
be a serious education on all levels. I've learned a lot musically, but
really, the music industry is more about connections, marketing, and
timing than anything else.

7) Born in IL, grew up in FL, live in TN... Happy with any of the above?
Where would you like to live?

I like Nashville very much, it's a great place to live for a hundred
reasons. I have to confess that I've been considering moving for a while
now, and looking at a few options including Austin, New York, and Paris.
If I could live anywhere, it would be New York - or in the desert, outside
of Santa Fe, but that will be years down the line when I eventually
devolve into a crazy cat lady.

8) Is this your first Wisconsin trip?

My second. I played at all three Gateway Technical College campuses last
year. This is my first non-college-affiliated show in Wisconsin, though.
Can't wait!

9) What do you have coming up in the future?

I'll be touring throughout the US and in Europe for the rest of 2010 and
2011, for now promoting the newest album, The Scorpion in the Story. We've
been lucky in that the College and Americana stations in the U.S. and
overseas have really picked up on it. Also, I've been in the studio
working on the next record, which will be released probably early to
mid-2011. Shawn Mullins, a great singer/songwriter as well as a great guy,
contributed guest vocals on one of the songs. That song, called "Letter to
a Wretch #2," is on the Sin City Sampler Vol. 13 which came out in March.
Just lots to do in the coming year or two! Tour dates and all the
aforementioned videos are on ToriSparks.com, as well as a bunch of crazy
photos from the road.