Interview With Country Artist Todd Fritsch
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with one of my favorite artists, Todd Fritsch, at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, TN, this year. Two years and 200,000 miles might change most men, but neither the time nor the miles have really changed Todd Fritsch; he's still the down-to-earth, two-stepping, cattle-ranching cowboy who burst onto the country music scene in 2005. There are a few differences though - Todd really "owns" his vocals now, his band has gelled and his stage show is tighter, and he's writing more of his own material. Sawdust, Todd's second CD for Diamond Music Group/Spinville, proves that there's a man with a heart the size of Texas - and a voice to match - standing tall underneath that hat.
The 17-song disc kicks off with "What's Wrong With Me," and immediately the energy bursts forth like a bull out of the chute. The track's punchy dynamic and Todd's far-ranging vocals meld perfectly with the song's unique lyrics, making for a great "radio record." Fritsch won't deny that he hopes this track will boost him to the "big" Billboard chart and place him at the top of the Music Row chart, as well. The video includes guest stars Roger Clemens and Eddy Raven.
One of Sawdust’s treasures was written by Aaron Scherz, Jeff Batson and Thom Shepherd. "The Rock" is a true career record and is a masterpiece on every level. Todd digs in his boot heels and nails this one as surely as the congregation, stone and mortar hold together the church that is at the heart of this lyric. Fritsch's voice is the strong foundation that carries the listener from the spring of 1844 through to the present day, recalling the joys, confessions, trials and tribulations that "The Rock" has seen along the way. The angels in those old rafters will surely sing along with Todd whenever this jewel is played.
A talented writing team themselves, Todd and producer Doug Deforest still searched high and low for songs for this CD, and they were thrilled to nail down "No Part Of" by Billy Yates and Will Nance. This up-tempo, country dance tune has all the requirements of a great country song: lyin', cheatin' and more are covered in its clever word play. The touching "Life's A Circle" (Fritsch/Deforest), features Todd's rich baritone, a graceful melody and a delicate mandolin - a mesmerizing combination. From start to finish, the song travels from youth, to old age, through death and to the birth of a new life. A picture may paint a thousand words, but a song this well written tells a story better than any visual ever could.
Todd lives in the present but cherishes the past, and he's vowed to stay true to his roots. The native of tiny Willow Springs, Texas, has made it clear that he intends to include a traditional "cowboy campfire" song on every CD. Todd doesn't let go of much. For all the miles he's traveled, the ranch is still his home, and although his music has taken him far from the ranching life he loves, he regularly works 16- and 17-hour days when he's not performing.
Fritsch might as well face the facts and hang up his saddle and spurs - at least for the foreseeable future. His recent hits have taken him to a new level, and he's now opening shows for the likes of Lee Ann Womack, Trick Pony, Joe Nichols, Cross Canadian Ragweed and others. In 2006, the European Country Music Association honored him in two categories: Male Vocalist of the Year, and Album of the Year (for Todd Fritsch); he performed at CMA's MusicFest; sang the National Anthem at a televised Houston Astros' game; and toured Europe twice.
Sawdust should open up even more markets for Todd, broaden his appeal and earn him many more fans, and that will mean a lot more "road" and a lot less "cowboying" in his future. Be sure to check out CMT.com HEAR MUSIC NOW featuring a Sawdust listening party until mid-August!
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Hi Todd. It's great to see you. So, do you miss your cows?
Todd Fritsch You know, a lot of times I do get kind of homesick being on the road so much. I'm used to waking up and hearing cattle mooing outside and petting my dogs. A lot of times I don't get to do that anymore.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] So you're on the road a lot?
Todd Fritsch The road has been home for me for a pretty good while now.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] You were on a European tour, right?
Todd Fritsch Yes. This is my second European tour. Last fall we did four to five shows in a two-week span. We went to Belgium, Italy and France. It was an awesome experience. The people were great, the fans were great, the food was great. It was really awesome that people care about your music and about what you do so much.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Sounds like a great experience out there. What are your current projects?
Todd Fritsch Currently, I just got done with our brand new album called Sawdust. It's a 17-song album that is something I'm very proud of. I went ahead and cut music that I really love, songs that represent who I am - from cowboy country. There's some great writers on the CD!
[Cindy Beth Gordon] And you have a new single out from the CD called “What's Wrong With Me." How is that song doing for you?
Todd Fritsch Yes, our new single, "What's Wrong with Me," is out and doing really well for us. It's something different than what I've been doing. It's commercial and really radio friendly. We feel really good about it. I encourage folks to go and check out the CD because as you listen to it all the way through, you realize this guy likes all different types of music and I do - Swing, up-tempo, ballads, old country to new stuff, I love it all!
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Do you have ballads on there, too?
Todd Fritsch Sure do. We've got some big ballads on there. We've got a gospel-type song. It's called "The Rock," and is probably our next single. It's a powerful, powerful song. Another Christian-based song I wrote with a friend of mine is called "A Walk to Remember." It's a really awesome song. It talks about going thru life and ending up in heaven. The guy I had cowritten the song with [is] my friend and guitarist from my band, Randy Sarver.
We were working on the song when Randy Sarver became ill. I had no idea just how serious the situation was until Sarver's wife called to tell him that her husband had passed away. I was devastated. But Randy never let go of this song, and right before he died, he finished and demoed the last verse so that I'd have it. I re-worked the song with the help of Doug Deforest and Rick Stancil. I knew I had to put it on this album; it's a gift that will always be special to me. He was one the first guys who actually believed in me.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Are there any other favorite songs on the album that you wanted to mention?
Todd Fritsch "All That's Left Is You," a Texas Swing song, is one of my favorites, too. I wrote it with my two managers, Deforest and Joe Bob Barnhill. The song has the feel of a great Ray Price tune with an undeniable '40s feel. Another favorite is “If You Don't Like Country (Time To Leave)." It was a line I threw out to the crowd one night. I realized, hey, this really is how I feel. So Doug helped me put it together, and even though it's a little more “Bocephus” and a little less “Waylon-ish” than we'd planned, it's become a big song for us live.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] I heard you made it clear that you intend to include a traditional "cowboy campfire" song on every CD.
Todd Fritsch Yes, it's really what I'm all about. I still ride the line, repair fencing, train horses and doctor our cattle, so I can identify with the characters in these old songs. "Little Joe The Wrangler" is a half-spoken tribute to the life of Little Joe, an unlikely cowboy and the cattlemen who befriend him. No one writes songs like this anymore. But that lifestyle is part of my heritage, and the history of cowboy music is something I won't let go.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Are you currently touring?
Todd Fritsch Yes, when you start out you never start or end a tour, you just stay on it! We're doing 3-4 shows a week where we can. It is non-stop, 150 -160 shows a month is what we do. As an independent young guy, it's what you do. You gotta show up at every honky-tonk and festival and fair - you get your butt out there and do it! That's what we do, we never slow down.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] When do you get home?
Todd Fritsch I head home Friday from the Country Radio Seminar and then head out for a show on Saturday. This last week was really grueling. We did a Tuesday show, a Thursday night show, a Friday morning show, a Friday midday and Friday night show. It was all great. We did some TV, we did some morning shows, and we went to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. One of my greatest experiences in my life is to go there and do that with these kids; most of them are terminally ill. It's really touching to go and do something like that.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] I know you've been active in various charity work, as well.
Todd Fritsch Yes, I've been a big supporter of Lion's Club. I've done some work for them as well as the American Heart Association. The Texas Children's Hospital is something that's going to really start with me because I'm really into supporting kids who can't help themselves. They're young folks who got dealt a rough hand and it's tough for them to deal with so however I can support them, I'll try.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Well, we wish you luck with your new CD, Sawdust, with your upcoming shows and everything else!
Todd Fritsch Thanks Cindy.
There's something for everyone on Todd's latest CD, Sawdust. Be sure to get a copy and check out Todd's website at www.toddfritsch.com for show schedules and more info on this talented Texas Artist!
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