Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Todd Wright

Though never a particularly enjoyable birthday for anyone, the Big 4-0 can be particularly cruel for musicians who have yet to leave a mark with their performing careers. In an industry dominated by youth, over-the-hill artists usually command little attention from record company executives eager to capitalize on younger demographics. It’s a sobering reality that resonated with 39-year-old Todd Wright earlier this year. presspassNEW

Though never a particularly enjoyable birthday for anyone, the Big 4-0 can be particularly cruel for musicians who have yet to leave a mark with their performing careers. In an industry dominated by youth, over-the-hill artists usually command little attention from record company executives eager to capitalize on younger demographics. It’s a sobering reality that resonated with 39-year-old Todd Wright earlier this year.

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Todd Wright (Photo: Courtest Barbara Parker)

For the last five years, Wright had stepped away from his artist side, last releasing an album with his band Getaway Car in 2004. Instead, he focused on writing for other musicians and working as a side musician for other groups, including local artist Luke Brindley. But as 40 approached, he decided to try to reignite his own work as an artist, he just needed a creative way to do it.

Enter the 40×40 Project, a plan to write and record 40 songs, one per week, leading up to his 40th birthday.

“40 x 40 is a musical midlife crisis,” Wright says. “I decided to try to embrace the fact that I’m turning 40, I tried to forget that it’s the kiss of death in the music industry, especially if you haven’t ‘made it yet,’ I’m going to flaunt it and pull off something of a marathon.”

In addition to wanting to establish something of a legacy for his seven-year-old daughter, Wright is using the project as an opportunity to support a friend in need.

“The day we launched, I received an e-mail from my friend about how they found out their second child was Type 1 diabetic, like their first child was. I realized that while I sympathized with them, I’d never really done my part to help out,” said Wright, who has pledged to raise $100,000 for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). “Writing 40 songs in 40 weeks is a huge pain in the butt, but it doesn’t even compare with what a 10-year-old with Type 1 Diabetes does in a day.”

After completing the songs, Wright uploads them every Wednesday to his site, Orangepopsongs.com, where listeners can download them for free, but are encouraged to donate to the charity in $10-50 increments. Additionally, Wright is putting the songs onto a collection of albums, with all proceeds going to the ADA.

Currently in the ninth week of the process, Wright has already been forced to cope with various hurdles, including illness and a simultaneous visit by his girlfriend’s family two weeks ago.

“Fortunately, I recorded the vocals right before I got really sick,” Wright said. “But you wonder how these quarterbacks go out and play when they get a fever because I couldn’t even pick up a guitar without wanting to die.”

Battling weekly deadlines despite these obstacles, not to mention continuing his work with other artists and spending time with his daughter, Wright admits that the project will be the “hardest thing I’ve ever done.” And the degree of difficulty is about to increase. When he started, he planned on using a reservoir of songs he’d started during his earlier artistic days, but never completed. That reservoir is about to run dry, however, meaning he’ll be starting from scratch each week.

“I’ve got a book for titles and little ideas, so if I get a concept of a lyric I’ll sit down and just see what happens.”

Despite the challenge, Wright is relishing the impact it’s had on him professionally and personally.

“There was a time after Getaway Car that I didn’t write a song for myself in three to four years, but the inspiration lately has been great. I’ve been drawing a lot from being a father too. I didn’t have that when I was younger, back then you write about how angry and miserable you are. Now I don’t care about that stuff, and I don’t care about writing to impress a record label or try to make a million bucks and be a rock star, I’m writing honestly about real things in my life. It’s a very cathartic place to be.

“I’ve really figured out the most kick-ass way to throw my own birthday party. At the end of this, we’ve got to have a show or something. It’s going to be such a relief to be 40 because of this thing.”

• For more on the project, visit www.orangepopsongs.com. You can check out Wright live during his seventh annual Christmas showcase at Jammin’ Java. You can find Todd Wright on Twitter @orangepopsongs.

 

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