Todd Burge hopes to plant ‘Seeds’ with his latest full-length

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PARKERSBURG, West Virginia (WOUB) – For every artist who creates and shares their art, there are countless others who will never fully create anything for fear what they make will not be a “masterpiece.”

It’s a big part of what many call “writer’s block” – or at least it was for singer-songwriter Todd Burge.

Note the use of past tense – Burge says he hasn’t had a case of writer’s block for almost 20 years.

How has he managed that?

Burge says this wasn’t due to his willpower or some kind of miracle. Rather, he traces it back to a songwriting approach he learned from a fellow musician about 17 years ago.

Burge says he was “liberated” by this deceptively simple creative exercise. What’s more is he’s been working to slowly liberate other songwriters by sharing what he learned.

In fact, his forthcoming album Seed is all about sharing the revelation that cured Burge’s writer’s block forever.

A headshot of musician Todd Burge.
Todd Burge [Photo by Richard Anderson]

The Seeds of Seed

Seed is Burge’s 15th solo album.

It began the same way any creation does: with a desire to create. But to make a new record, you’ve got to have new songs.

As it turns out, Burge already had quite a number of songs for the record – more than he had realized – when he started his work.

He says most of them started as “quick and dirty” writing exercises Burge does with the Song Colony, a songwriting group which meets monthly in Marietta.

It works like this: at the end of meetings everyone gets a word they’ll use as a prompt for a new song. The catch? They’ve got to write it in an hour or less. This forces the songwriters to make bold creative decisions based on intuition, which Burge says also often leads to the exploration of ideas they might have not otherwise considered.

The notion of the “quick and dirty” was introduced to the group by songwriter Bruce Dalzell, who came across the concept for the exercise in something he read some years ago.

Burge says the concept “crystallized” for him after the aforementioned “fellow musician” – Paul Reiser – told Burge about another exercise – “the daily song,” about 17 years ago.

Paul Reiser and his “daily song”

Reiser’s “daily song” exercise started once Reiser convinced himself he could write a “bad song” every day. That’s exactly what Reiser did.

He wrote one song, every day, with whatever spare time he had. It didn’t matter if the song was “bad,” the important thing was writing a complete song every day and never looking back on the previous day’s work when he started the next. After six weeks, Reiser would finally look back on all his “daily songs.”

“[…] inevitably, after six weeks, he had an album’s worth of work that he could see,” recalled Burge. “This kind of blew my mind.”

Burge gave the exercise a try. And it worked.

“It really frees me up from thinking ‘Jesus, this is so crucial to do something that is profound or something that is going to change the world,’” Burge said. “I just want to create and be happy myself and see if I can connect with others through that. That’s my goal, and this kind of technique makes it possible for me. So, [with Seed] I’m wondering how far I can spread this concept.”

Planting seeds

Not only is Seed a collection of Burge’s songs; it’s an ongoing and open creative collaboration with his audience and friends.

This is very literal. Burge is providing every part of the album to the public: the songs, the lyrics, even the audio tracks themselves. His hope is that those who download those materials use them to make something new – whether that means remixing the audio, reworking the lyrics; or even using Seed to inspire art in other mediums; like a poem or a painting.

The album cover for Todd Burge's "Seed."
[Image courtesy of the artist]
Although no concrete plans have been made regarding a follow up release as of now, Burge says he hopes to release the fruit of everyone’s collaborative effort – perhaps under the title Flower.

Celebrating a landmark

Burge celebrates the release of Seed on the same day he celebrates his 60th birthday at his annual Birthday Bash benefit concert for the Parkersburg Arts Center (725 Market Street) on November 18. Burge has been doing these birthday shows for quite some time, although he says they have changed significantly over the years.

“Back in my 20s, however many years old I was, that’s how many songs I would play, but then I got too old to do that,” Burge laughed.

Instead of playing 60 songs himself for the show, Burge is bringing in several special guests. These include Larry Groce of Junk Food Junkie and Mountain Stage fame; and Grammy Award winning musician Tim O’Brien and his wife Jan Fabricius.

Burge clarified that he doesn’t think Seed will necessarily “inspire anyone.”

“I think it would be kind of egotistical or pretentious for me to think that,” he said. “This is more about dialing it back to where it came from for me – the realization that inspiration is spontaneous, it comes from other people and places. I feel like these ideas that I have that created this album Seed are just little gifts that were given to me and I expanded on them, and now I’d like to see how else they expand if I give them away.”

Find more information about Seed at this link.