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Todd Burge will perform alongside Larry and Sandra Groce at the People's Bank Theatre in Marietta on Oct. 28. (Josh Saul)
Todd Burge will perform alongside Larry and Sandra Groce at the People's Bank Theatre in Marietta on Oct. 28. (Josh Saul)

Sometimes, One Can Hide Behind Fiction: A Chat With Todd Burge

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One of West Virginia’s most acclaimed songwriters, Todd Burge, has just released a compilation of his performances on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Mountain Stage, aptly titled Live on Mountain Stage (2006-2015).

Burge has worked with the likes of Americana greats such as Tim O’Brien; and his work has been compared to that of Randy Newman, Warren Zevon and many other lauded American songwriters. Roots music publication No Depression notes that the only other solo artists to issue live Mountain Stage albums are Laura Nyro and Jesse Winchester, “so Burge is in good company.”

“This compilation starts with a performance in 2006, even though I first played the Mountain Stage in ’91. The reason I didn’t go further back than that was that I actually don’t remember much liking any of the performances before that,” Burge said of his latest release. “Everything just started clicking around 2006, and, generally speaking, I felt better about my performances in general.”

Burge is known for his stage banter, which he intersperses throughout his live performances. This beloved aspect of his live shows manifests itself on the new release in the form of the final track on the album, which consists entirely of this stories, quips and wise cracks.

“When I started playing solo, I was coming from a world of live rock music – so I detested banter between songs. I would listen to songwriters, ‘setting up songs,’ as they say; and it kind of wore me out,” said Burge. “But then I heard Greg Brown, and he had possibly as much banter as music – but it was so damn good. I started to dabble in setting up my songs and something really clicked. I realized that just in the same manner in which the songs are not all factual, and in the same way that I often hide behind fiction in song, I could do the very same thing in setting up a song.”

The singer-songwriter’s early days of playing music consisted of playing with rock bands based out of Morgantown, WV, in the ‘80s. All throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s Burge would tour up and down the east coast with these bands; eventually even crossing the media line from the production of LPs to the CD age.

“Once I started to play solo, I realized that I could do better financially if I was playing for 50 people by myself than playing for 500 people with a band,” said Burge. “Also, I love being able to pull off songs all by myself. Somehow I managed to eke out a living in the early days – I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I did manage to kick start myself that way.”

On Oct. 28, Burge will join longtime Mountain Stage host Larry Groce and his wife, Sandra Groce, at the People’s Bank Theatre in Marietta for a show that will serve as a special release event for both Burge’s latest and Groce’s first new batch of material in nearly two decades, which was produced by the legendary Don Dixon and is entitled Live Forever. For more information on tickets, visit peoplesbanktheatre.com.