Having slowly built up a fan-base in and around New York, singer-songwriter Todd Lewis Kramer has just released his debut album Fairground. Packed with songs inspired by his life, the collection is a great introduction to a rising talent who may yet find his name on the lips of individuals on both sides of the Atlantic.
Currently planning shows for later in the year, Todd kindly agreed to this interview to chat inspirations, song-writing, favourite artists and ultimate ambitions.
PW: How would you sum yourself up in three words?
TLK: Pretty. Laid. Back.
PW: When did you first realize you wanted to be a singer and did you have any other ambitions prior to that?
TLK: I actually always thought I’d be a sports broadcaster. I’m a pretty big sports nerd and was obsessed with sports growing up, and went to school to become a TV sports guy. But I always sang, and once I started writing songs, the urge just kind of kept creeping up on me to the point where I just decided to book some shows, and the rest is history.
PW: Can you recall the first concert you attended and record you bought? What impact, if any, did they have on you?
TLK: The first concert I truly remember attending was a Ray Davies - from The Kinks - concert. I fell asleep…sorry Ray, I was only like 8! I think the first record I bought was the Bulworth movie soundtrack. So, no, I don’t think either of those really had a huge influence on me. But I went to a lot of concerts in high school; Dave Matthews, Counting Crows, John Mayer, stuff like that and I think my style definitely draws from those without a doubt!
PW: Which bands or artists did you grow up listening to and have those influences/artists from your childhood changed much as you've gotten older?
TLK: I listened a lot to the styles of the bands I mentioned above growing up, but I do think my sound has evolved over the years. I definitely think I draw from a variety of genres now, and living in a place like New York City, obviously you’re exposed to so much more in terms of style and talent and sounds, so it’s definitely grown and evolved over the years.
PW: Is there a particular band or artist you think you sound most like or do you make a determined effort just to be yourself?
TLK: I think I try to just be myself. But I definitely have had major influences, and I really appreciate the artists that can kind of cross over genres a little bit. One guy who has had a profound impact on my song-writing style is Ryan Adams. He’s just so prolific and just such an amazing songwriter. But in general, I’d like to think I’ve carved out a little bit of my own sound.
PW: How easy or difficult do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on what you're writing about?
TLK: For me it totally depends on my mood and the situation and probably depends on what I’m writing about. I rarely find the song-writing process easy, though. Sometimes a song just pops into my head and it’s written in less than an hour, which is always nice. But coming up with a great melody and a strong, cohesive set of lyrics is something I’m always struggling with.
PW: Who or what most influences your song-writing?
TLK: Definitely personal experience. I don’t really know how to write any other way than from an autobiographical perspective. Relationships, family, distance, places I’ve been. Stuff like that.
PW: What, to you, makes a great song and with that in mind, which song would you say is the greatest ever written and why?
TLK: Ha, that is an impossible question! To me, it’s all about the combination of strong words and melody. The best songs are the timeless ones, and though it’s a fairly recent song in the scheme of things, “Oh My Sweet Carolina” by Ryan Adams is definitely on my list of favorite songs. Those lyrics, that melody and those harmonies are undeniable.
PW: Tell me about “I Want Your Love." Is there a story behind it?
TLK: “I Want Your Love” is pretty much a straightforward love song. It’s actually one of the least autobiographical songs on the record. It’s one of the few songs I’ve written where I just said I wanted to write an upbeat, happy love song, one that’s pretty accessible in its message. And I think that’s what we accomplished!
PW: How do you find the experience of making music videos? Is it something you’re passionate about or happy to leave to someone else?
TLK: I think there’s a fine line with music videos. I absolutely LOVE good music videos, but if you’re going to make one, it better be awesome. Nothing worse, in my opinion, than a bad music video. I actually put out a studio-footage video for ‘I Want Your Love’ which I’m super proud of. My thoughts are, if you’re going to go all-out for a video, it better be good.
PW: You’ve recently released your debut album Fairground. How would you sum it up and could you pick your favorite track on the collection?
TLK: Fairground, in my opinion, is basically an album filled with songs about me navigating my 20’s, with a nod to my past. There’s a lot of nostalgia on the record, at least for me, which I hope comes through. Probably my favorite track on the record is “Anna,” which is one of the oldest songs on the record and goes way back to something that happened in high school. We decided last minute to throw it on the record, and it came out beautiful. I'm so proud of that song.
PW: What are your upcoming tour/performance plans?
TLK: Right now I have plans to play three release shows celebrating the album – New York City, Boston and New Haven. And I’m in the process of booking shows for the Fall right now, so stay tuned!
PW: If you could play a venue anywhere in the world with three other bands or artists who can be living or dead, where would you play and who would you choose?
TLK: Madison Square Garden with Michael Jackson, James Taylor and Whitney Houston.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media? Would you agree it's a necessary tool for bands and artists today?
TLK: I’ve come to embrace it. While it’s annoying having to promote yourself all the time across all the platforms, I’ve actually come to enjoy most of the platforms. In a perfect world it would not be necessary, but yes it is definitely a necessity these days for bands and artists who are trying to get the word out on their own.
PW: Finally then, whose career would you most like to emulate and what would you have to achieve in order to happily call it a day?
TLK: That’s a good question, and one I’ve been asked a lot. I really just want to write songs that people like, and if that turns into a demand for me to go around the country or the world playing those songs, that would be a dream come true. I don’t know if I could pinpoint one artist that fits the bill. I think that’s a pretty universal dream among songwriters/artists.
Check out the video for "I Want Your Love" below and for more information on Todd Lewis Kramer, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter or Instagram. His debut album Fairground is available now on itunes.