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Interview: Tod Lippy
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’m coming very late in my life to music, so I’m lucky to be able to say I’ve done a lot of things that have been very fulfilling to me already, including writing, designing, and publishing books and magazines; making films, and creating art here and there. Although I played classical guitar for many years when I was much younger, I got into music again several years in large part because the magazine I created, Esopus, featured a CD of new music in every issue, and getting track after amazing track from artists like Neko Case, Jens Lekman, Kimya Dawson, and Grizzly Bear inspired me to start making music on my own.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Anything creative – cooking, drawing, taking photos, working a design project. And then of course experiencing the creativity of others – listening to music, watching films/tv, going to galleries and museums. All of art I’ve had the privilege of experiencing over the years has had a huge influence on my own creative pursuits. And finally, just living: especially listening to and observing others, which is very easy and rewarding to do in a big city full of characters like New York.
How long have you been active as an artist?
Pretty much all of my life – although, as mentioned above, the “art” has taken many different forms.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I have lived in New York City for more than 30 years and being here has influenced every aspect of my life. The level of talent here, and even just the intense energy you experience walking down the street, really inspires me to try to work harder and go deeper with whatever I’m working on.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I’ve never performed live. Working on that now.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I love smaller, intimate venues like Joe’s Pub or Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, or, on a slightly larger scale, Koko’s in London. Hopefully one of these days I’ll hit one or all of them.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
(Sandy) Alex G, Bill Callahan, Nina Nastasia, Dean Wareham, Bedhead, Charles Bissell, King Creosote, Frank Ocean, Sam Amidon etc. etc.…….
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I always get nervous with the “go back in time” questions because I’m pretty committed to living in the present. I have to assume that any different advice I would have taken would have lead to a different life, and I’m pretty happy with this one.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
“Good Start,” the lead single from my first album, Here We Are, is the first successful song I ever wrote. Its lyrics are based on a quote my grandfather told my father (“A good start means you’re half done”), and the song ended up being a reflection on mortality – not only mine, but that of all of the people I love. It was also the first time I realized that the simpler your lyrics are, the more powerful their impact can be.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Again, still working on this!
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
I almost always start with a riff. I’ll play around on the piano or guitar until something — a chord progression or even just a couple of notes — clicks with me. Lyrics almost always come later on. And then it’s lots of time building, revising, leaving and returning, etc., almost always on my laptop via Logic Pro using a midi controller, my guitar, and a microphone for vocals.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I think the most important thing all art can do is attempt to find the universal themes of existence and use these to establish connections between artists and their audience. When I’m able to do that – whether it’s a song inspired by high-school yearbook ambitions or about spelling people’s names correctly – I feel like I’m hitting the mark.
Do you ever have creative block, and if so how do you get past it?
With music, never. But there are times – especially after I’ve finished an album – when I feel it’s necessary to take a break.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
My third release, the EP Midterms, will be out on July 15th. I’m super excited about it for a lot of reasons. It’s the first time I’ve worked (remotely) with other musicians—in this case, the brilliant drummer and mixer Jeff Lipstein (Clem Snide) and cellist Serafim Smigelskiy (Tesla Quartet), and it’s also the first time I’ve privileged the guitar, particularly in the songwriting process. It’s also almost entirely analog, which is new for me. The EP’s title references the US midterm elections, and most of the 6 songs reference the current political climate in some way or another—I think it’s my way to process the dread I’m feeling about the future of the U.S., which is so hyper-polarized right now.
Website - https://www.todlippymusic.com/
‘Bob’ song link: