Todd Sharpville Spotlight

"Legacy Of Greed" from his CD Porchlight
TGS Spotlight Player from October 6, 2011

Todd Sharpville is a notable British bluesman who was born into one of the UK's oldest, titled aristocratic families (that spans well over a 1000 years of privileged history). His father was the late Viscount St Davids (also known as Baron Strange of Knockin, Baron Hungerford, Baron De Moleyns and Baron Picton), and Todd is the current "Heir Presumptive" to these family titles. This automatically begs the question how did someone from such a privileged background get involved in such a blue collar idiom? Of course, anyone can pick up a guitar and profess to play the blues, but in Todd's case he's very much been accepted by the highest echelons within the idiom as being one of the very best at what he does. From having the likes of BB King & Joe Cocker asking him to open up for their shows, to having worked in his younger days with the likes of Hubert Sumlin, Ike Turner, Byther Smith & Chuck Berry, to having been mentored from his early teens by Joe Louis Walker, to working on his prior blues release ("The Meaning Of Life") with Rolling Stones guitar legend Mick Taylor, to working on his current release with the likes of Duke Robillard, Joe Louis Walker & Kim Wilson.... A privileged background certainly didn't earn him his blues spurs, though his life events of the last few years may well have added considerably to his maturity as an artist.

Late 2004/early 2005 marked a pivotal time in Sharpville’s personal life, being the year that his marriage collapsed. He found himself unable to cope with the separation from his 2 children & subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown by the end of the year. This resulted in his hospitalization for just over a month, with a “reactive depression” diagnosis. Whilst resident in a psychiatric hospital, Sharpville penned 3 of the songs that now reside on "Porchlight".. This period also marked the beginning of a 4 year court battle for contact with his children; indeed, the US wing of “Fathers 4 Justice” welcomed Todd’s numerous blogs and public statements on the subject of Father's Rights & streamed a pertinent song he wrote for his children, “Just Because” on the home page of their website. It was during the hospital period that Sharpville was invited by Leo Sayer to a residential studio in Denmark to guest on 5 tracks on his “Voice In My Head” album (Edel Records), along with contributing a track to his “Endless Journey” album (Sony Records). As it happens, Sayer drove 8 hours in one day in order to negotiate face to face with the chief consultant of the hospital in order to get Sharpville out a week early so as to fly him to the recording studio (humorously enough, in pajamas, slippers, and dressing gown on a late flight to Denmark!). It was here that Todd met the legendary Californian songwriter, Albert Hammond. They soon became close & Hammond retained Sharpville as his musical director & guitarist. This relationship was cemented by the album “Revolution Of The Heart” (SPV Records) highlighting Sharpville’s arrangement skills, his electric & acoustic rhythm & lead guitar, and additionally featuring him on bass guitar on every track. Todd toured Europe with Hammond to promote this album and Hammond’s influence soon rubbed off on his writing ability, spawning an eclectic song-writing spree that resulted in Todd’s mainstream singer/songwriter divorce album “Diary Of A Drowning Man”. This album was produced by Dave Hyatt (Stone Roses/Ian Brown) & Steve Power (Robbie Williams), featuring a duet with the legendary British diva, Sam Brown. However, despite the enormous production budget of £180,000, this album never hit the stores and currently remains unreleased. The recession hit just before the release schedule was strategized & drove the label into bankruptcy. Two further record labels suffered the same fate subsequently leaving Diary Of A Drowning Man on the shelf to this day.

In 2008, TS signed a management contract with one of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise business partners, David L. Jones (Cathouse Music LLC). Jones had also recently signed Todd’s friend & mentor Joe Louis Walker, and in 2009 Sharpville was asked by Walker to guest on his Stony Plain Records comeback release, “Witness To The Blues” (and more recently, Sharpville is one of the many luminaries guesting on Walker's current release "Blues Conspiracy: Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise"). "Witness To The Blues resulted in a trip to Rhode Island to Duke Robillard’s studio (where the album was being produced by the New England guitar legend). Robillard and Sharpville had bonded on the road 8 years previously & had managed to reconnect during the recording of Walker’s album. Robillard swiftly became a huge fan of Todd’s shelved “Diary Of A Drowning Man” album and proposed that he produce Sharpville’s next blues release. Todd found himself in the midst of another writing spree which resulted in the recording of his new double album “Porchlight”. The sessions were sadly interrupted by the un-expected death of Sharpville’s father. The emotional aspects of this are therefore reflected throughout the recordings, the title track especially being a direct dedication to his dad. In the words of Todd, the “Porchlight” is symbolic of the “home fire that loved ones keep burning for us in the nether world, waiting to lovingly lead us back home to our maker.. In the meantime, the human plight to create earthly Porchlights is the closest we ever get to come to true divinity while we’re alive, comprising the basis for our earthly existence: family, security, moral guidance & love.” Porchlight was recorded in Rhode Island with Robillard behind the mixing desk (though Duke found the time to guest on the humorous track, “Lousy Husband But A Real Good Dad”). The musicians on the album were provided by Robillard, and comprised the majority of his current touring band (including long time Roomful Of Blues stalwart, Doug James on baritone sax). In addition, Todd asked his friend Kim Wilson (of the Fabulous Thunderbirds) to play harmonica on 4 tracks, along with a guest appearance from Joe Louis Walker on “When The Blues Come Calling.” Shortly after recording the album, Britain held a general election & Todd declined an offer from the UK Conservative party to stand as a proposed member of parliament in Wales (the British equivalent of receiving party backing to become a US senator). The combination of his life experience and his ability to touch people had earned him the attention of the political world.

Regardless of these many personal trials and tribulations, Sharpville relentlessly pours his life experience straight back into his music where it best belongs. His honest & wry lyricism frequently shines a light on the heart that he so publicly chooses to wear on his sleeve, his whiskey soaked voice oozes emotions that can only be born from personal suffering, and his guitar always provides a window straight to his soul. As Todd himself likes to say: "When I was a kid I used to play to impress. Nowadays, I only play to express. My happiness depends upon it."

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