Alsup first made a name for himself with the release of his 2008 debut EP “Facts and Figures.” The EP garnered steady radio rotation, rave reviews, a coveted Yamaha endorsement, and the attention of Billboard Magazine, where Alsup was featured as an up-and-coming artist to watch. Riding high on the momentum of his first outing, Alsup enlisted New York producers Steve Greenwell (Joss Stone, Diane Birch) and James Walsh and Jeremy Sklarksy (Freelance Whales) of Major Who Media to assemble his first full-length record. Work on the project began in late 2008 and continued for nearly 15 months. “We were careful to let things take shape organically. A conscious decision was made to create something timeless that would pay homage to the artists and styles of music I grew up listening to. As I wrote the material for the record, I took great inspiration from artists like Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, The Supremes, Elton John, and Marvin Gaye.”
The result is a truly remarkable debut that sparkles with elegant piano lines, quirky synths, doo-wop harmonies, lush strings, bright horns and, at the forefront, Alsup’s impressive vocals. Lead single “Let’s Have a Party” is a celebratory shout-out - a deliciously funky track with an old-school Stevie Wonder vibe. It features reggae-infused piano, Wonder-esque Moog synths, and brass-lines for days. “You Are” is a classic piano love ballad in the style of Elton John and Billy Joel and features an intimate, romantic and heartfelt lyric. There are nods to Motown (the joyous, horn-soaked “Funniest Thing”), disco (the infectiously funky “The Only Thing”), blues (heart-wrencher “How I’m Made”), epic classic rock (a politically-charged “Something Worth Believing”) and traditional piano-man balladry (“The Way It Goes” and “Getting Gone”). It’s an album that tips its hat to the landscape of classic American pop, without being bound to any genre or era. It is, simply, a collection of solid songs recorded by top-notch musicians. This is a playlist you will want to put on repeat.
Alsup grew up in Pontiac, MI, a suburb of Detroit, the eldest of two boys born to public school teachers. He spent his early years making lots of noise. “From as young as I can remember I had a desire - a compulsion actually - to sing and make music. As a kid, I drove all of my family nuts because my idea of singing was belting out everything at the top of my lungs and I simply would not shut up.” When his parents bought a piano for the house when he was eleven, things just got louder. Alsup felt an innate desire to put on a show and it was not uncommon to see him rounding up kids from the block for the latest Todd Alsup production – a parade through the neighborhood, a circus in the backyard, a music video in the basement. “I wanted to be the ringleader. I just really liked entertaining people.”
As a boy, Todd spent a lot of time listening to pop, and at a very early age became fascinated with his mother’s record collection from when she was a teenager. He steadily developed a taste for a variety of pop artists from different eras – including Motown (especially the Supremes), Carole King and Billy Joel. A wild obsession at age six for Donna Summer (“I spent hours and hours dancing my ass off in the living room to ‘She Works Hard for the Money’”) made way for a love affair with soulful vocalists like Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. “Even as a child, I derived great pleasure from listening to great singers. I loved to study the ways different vocalists would interpret musical phrases. Everything I know about singing with nuance and guts and dynamic I learned from listening to the iconic soul singers.”
Adolescence brought about many unexpected changes in Todd’s life.
There was upheaval at home (his parents divorced when he was 12), new physical changes (difficult struggles with weight) and social awkwardness (coming into his own identity), which yielded much unwanted attention from classmates. “Those were some really difficult times. My whole world seemed to be turning upside down and I really felt alone most of the time. I didn’t want to be the center of attention anymore – because that had come to mean mocking and taunting from other kids. Music, thankfully, saw me through.” Todd found solace and an unjudging friend in his music. He spent endless hours at his piano and keyboard, composing and exploring harmonic possibilities. “Writing songs was my only emotional outlet. I learned then that I had a lifelong friend. Music has truly been my savior and source of comfort ever since.”
Even as a youngster, the allure of New York City was never lost on Todd, and he set his sights on living in the center of it all early in his teens. An opportunity to study vocal performance at NYU was just the one-way ticket he had been hoping for. He has called Manhattan his home since graduating high school. These days, Todd regularly thrills faithful crowds at popular downtown NYC clubs, and maintains a steady touring schedule. An out and proud artist, he’s also an active member of his community. He is a strong advocate for marriage equality, a volunteer artist for Lifebeat – The Music Industry Fights AIDS, and regularly contributes his time and talents to worthy organizations like GLAAD and various Pride groups.
So how does Todd Alsup view his place in the music industry? “I’d like to think I’m bringing a bit of classicism and authenticity back to pop. I was drawn to pop music because I don’t know any other art form that can excite or affect people the way a three-and-a-half minute song can. You’re given a short pocket of time to tell a memorable story and make people feel something. It’s about distilling an emotion and the challenge of doing that effectively is epic. No movie or novel ever made me feel as joyous as ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ or as cathartic as ‘Let It Be.’ Pop music gets a bad rap an awful lot, but it can be elegant and serious shit.”
For Todd, the journey is all about making a lasting connection with listeners. "I would love to bring back that era of well-crafted songs that tell meaningful and powerful stories about life and love. I think that's a lost art, and if I can make a living sharing that passion with an audience, then I'm happy."
Go to all blog entries
Miguel's "Kaleidoscope Dream"
Elle Varner's "Perfectly Imperfect"
Pink's "The Truth About Love"
Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange"
Brandi Carlile's "Bear Creek"
Rebecca Ferguson's "Heaven"
Emeli Sande's "Our Version of Events"
Jamie Lidell's "Jim"
Coldplay's "Mylo Xyloto"
Maroon 5's "Overexposed"
1. "It's OK" (Cee Lo Green) - Cee Lo's new album "The Lady Killer" is killer, indeed. Loving everything on it, esepecially this joyous retro track. And how about that Grammy performance? Love a man in a brightly colored turkey suit.
2. "Don't Look Down" (Barnaby Bright) - I was honored to share the stage with this Brooklyn duo at the SongCircle finals last fall. They took the top prize and well-deservedly. Watch for them to conquer the world soon.
3. "Stutter" (Maroon 5) - I'm so loving the grooves on the 5's latest album. Very inspired.
4. "I've Got Love on My Mind" (Natalie Cole) - For anyone who has forgotten Natalie Cole has some of the best pipes in the biz, crank up this sexy soul slow jam and bask in the glow of that glorious voice. And prepare to get laid.
5. "Time Machine" (Robyn) - Can't get enough of her. Saw her at Radio City recently and was knocked out by her mega-wat starpower. This girl is bringing a big ol' blast of infectious 80's dance pop. OBSESSED.
6. "Nothing from Nothing" (Billy Preston) - Damn, I wish I'd written this tune. Quirky, upbeat 70's piano soul at its very best.
7. "Down to You" (Joni Mitchell) - From the classic "Court and Spark" - lush, cinematic and oh so devastating.
8. "Knock Em Out" (Lily Allen) - Groove-a-licious, riotously funny/bitchy and so wonderfully produced with all those great synths and effects. Where she be? Waiting on album #3!!!
9. "Red" (Daniel Merriweather) - I was reduced to tears the first time I heard this song. Powerful in its soulful simplicity - a serious heartbreaker.
10. "He Won't Go" (Adele) - All hail the new queen. I loved this girl from the moment I first heard her. Glad the whole world has caught the fever. Everything on Adele's new album "21" is simply excellent.
FAVORITE THINGS – June/July 2010
1. Friday Night Lights on NBC – People are often surprised when I tell them that my favorite show on TV right now is unquestionably “Friday Night Lights.” Generally this is because they’ve never seen it. The question they usually ask is, “Isn’t that that football show?” The answer is yes… and a big no. Yes, the plot focuses in part on a high school football team in Dillon, TX. But the characters and plotlines branch out in many directions, weaving a stunning tapestry and painting a poignant portrait of American life. “Friday Night Lights” is one of the most beautifully written and stunningly acted series ever. It’s a show about community, integrity of character, growing up, making choices. The characters are so compelling – funny, moving, real. I haven’t missed an episode in 4 seasons and find myself captivated every week. If you haven’t seen this show – rent the DVDs and join the ride.
2. Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman – I’ve always struggled with weight, body image and an obsession with food. But this book has changed my entire outlook on eating and health. Matt and I started the program 2 months ago and have both lost nearly 20 pounds! This is not a fad diet. The gist is not controversial. The basic premise: choose foods that are rich in nutrients… and eat lots of them. Avoid oil, sugar, dairy and keep meats to a minimum. This means lots of fruits, salads, cooked vegetables, grains and beans. I’ve never felt better.
3. Fireworks – I love the summer. And one of the many highlights of the season for me is watching the sky light up with brilliant shapes and colors. Doesn’t matter if it’s Macy’s spectacular show or a small town display, fireworks always have me in awe and make me smile.
4. Breslin Bar & Dining Room – There’s been lots of buzz among NYC foodies about this place. So I had to check it out. A cozy, pub-like dining room serving sinful comfort food and unique cocktails. I heard the cheese sandwich was not to be missed. I heard correctly. It’s a knockout.
5. “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn – I’m really on a dance kick right now. And I can’t get this song out of my head. It’s the perfect summer dance anthem with the hookiest chorus and a delicious 80’s electro-pop vibe. The video’s pretty rad too.
6. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work – I was never much of a Joan Rivers fan. As a celebrity, she has developed a reputation as a grating coot. But this fascinating film documentary, which gives you a behind the scenes look into the life and career of the pioneering funny lady, really changed my perspective on Ms. Rivers. She’s a tough cookie (with a heart of gold) and an insatiable drive to stay relevant. This film hit me on many personal levels, as I struggle to navigate the entertainment industry and seek acceptance, validation and success.
7. Cheddar Cheese Pretzel Combos – One of my all-time favorite low brow snacks. So, so good. Salty pretzel rolled around powdery fake cheese? Who could ask for more? Amazing with Cherry Coke.
8. Nike High-Tops – I was dismissive of the high-tops craze for a while. Then I started to think they were sort of adorable. Then my friend Gonzalo bought me a pair of sweet Nikes. Now I wear my high tops constantly and I feel cute and sexy. The end.
9. Boston Terriers – I am in love with my dog right now. Lily is 5 and she is the best buddy anyone could ask for. She’s always been a gem, but she is giving extra helpings of cute 24/7 lately. She’s a cuddle puss with big, soulful eyes. I think Boston Terriers are the perfect breed – adorable, loyal, playful. Contemplating getting a little sister for her. We’ll see.
10. Smoked Chipotle Tabasco Sauce – I’m a hot sauce guy. Would put it on just about anything. My local burrito place has a whole selection of Tabascos to try on your food and I discovered this Chipotle one and flipped. So delightfully tangy and smoky – it makes EVERYTHING taste better.
1. My Mom – She rocks. My mom is a good listener, a great cook and the president of my fan club. I always know I have her complete support, and that she’ll be there for me no matter what. A very special lady. Happy Mother’s Day, mama bear. I love you!
2. Provincetown, MA – Best getaway town EVER. Provincetown is a charming fishing town and gay destination at the tip of Cape Cod. I’ve had the good luck to perform quite a bit at the wonderful Crown & Anchor in PTown. I was totally in love after my very first visit. It’s quaint, colorful and oh-so calming. I always look forward to having a weekend here!
3. Diane Birch (Bible Belt) – What a great record! Diane Birch is a singer/songwriter after my own heart. She’s an amazing keyboardist. A truly-gifted songwriter. And a gorgeous singer, who could well be mistaken for the love child of Joni Mitchell and any of the great soul queens. I love, love, love her piano-based blue-eyed soul, especially on lush tracks like “Fire Escape,” “Nothing But a Miracle” and new single “Valentino” (check out the cool, intricate video). Buy this girl’s album and don’t miss her first headlining tour this summer!
4. Sigg Canteen – I’m trying to get myself on a health kick. This means going to the gym, eating right and keeping myself super-hydrated. I love my Sigg because it’s easy to transport, eco-friendly (no more plastic bottles!) and is a sleek reminder to fill up (and drink up) over and over again.
5. Why Marriage? by George Chauncey – Anyone who knows me knows that marriage equality is an important issue to me. My partner, Matt, and I have been together for seven years and would be married if we could be. Many people like the take issue with using the word “marriage.” Why not just accept “domestic partnership” and leave it at that? With clear insight and direct historical context, George Chauncey explains exactly why anything less than the word marriage denies us equal rights and protections. He makes the case for why the fight for marriage equality matters to all of us.
6. The Muppets – I love these furry, colorful oddballs. Always have. I love the Muppet Show, all the movies, TV specials, records and books. Jim Henson invented such a beautiful, magical world inhabited by unique, hilarious and goofy creatures. I’ve always loved the Muppets’ “let’s sing a song or put on a show and everything will work out” attitude. Oh, and Electric Mayhem (Dr. Teeth, Janice, Floyd, et al.) is the hottest, funkiest band in puppet history. Rawk!
7. John Varvatos – I’m addicted to this man’s sexy grown-up rocker duds. His menswear is sleek and stylish with a very vintage feel and wearing it always makes me feel cooler than I really am. His flaghip store in the old CBGB’s on Bowery is a rock-lover’s dream and a must-see shopping destination in NYC. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Varvatos when I played an event at his store recently, and I was happy to find that not only is he an incredible designer, but also the sweetest gentleman.
8. City Bakery NYC – I love the coffee. I love the breakfast (amazing eggs, and a maple bacon biscuit to die for). I love the by-the-pound lunch spread with ultra-fresh greenmarket foods prepared in unique and delicious ways. I cannot get enough of this place. Famous for their decadent (read: seriously thick) hot chocolate, their desserts are equally scrumptious. And it’s only two blocks away from my apartment! Trouble.
9. RuPaul’s Drag Race – I know, I know. The season’s over. But this Logo show is such a blast I have to rave about it, even if we are post-season. Season 2 of the Drag Race is even more deliciously bitchy than Season 1. RuPaul is an immensely gifted host with pitch-perfect timing and stunning diva looks. She is utterly flawless in every episode and keeps things campy and hilarious. The girls competing for the title of “next drag superstar” are a wacky, catty bunch. Spoiler alert! I was loving me some Raven, but wasn’t the least bit disappointed to see gorgeous Tyra take the crown. Fierce TV.
10. Bourbon – I’ve never been much a drinker. My tolerance for alcohol, in fact, is pretty low. I don’t mind beer and can certainly enjoy a full-bodied red wine. But at the end of long, stressful day (of which there have been many lately), there’s nothing quite like the dark, oaky bite of Kentucky’s finest. A few sips of Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve and Blanton’s make me feel very relaxed indeed.