It started with a love between a boy and a guitar and bloomed into “A Love Electric.” Todd Clouser, a Minneapolis-born musician, comes to the High Noon Saloon Feb. 21 to show Madison exactly how his love for music led him to become one of the big names in the country’s jazz scene.
“When I was 11, I got my first guitar. It was like finding my soul mate. That’s really corny, but … it made complete sense to me. Even though I didn’t have any training on it right away, I could make sound and noises,” Clouser said.
Clouser always knew he was meant for something creative. As a child, he was the one chosen for the creative contests in school, or the “oddity of the minds” tasks, as he called them. He wrote a lot because it was something he felt like he needed to do to get his brain in order.
“For me it’s really like maintenance. Everything is about perspective, so I constantly try to change my perspective. I write every morning and never read it back. I always do maintenance – just practice on my guitar every day, little things like that,” Clouser said.
Clouser continued to study guitar throughout his childhood, attending Berklee College of Music in Boston after high school. He admitted that he was very reclusive in college but thinks that his reclusiveness might have saved him from getting caught up in the hyper-competitive nature of the school. He went to class, practiced and learned.
A few years after college, Clouser ended up living in Mexico. Originally, after graduating from college, he moved back to Minneapolis and started up a rock band, but he felt like his life was not going where he wanted it to.
“It was pretty stagnating. I was just playing music and partying. I could see what I was going to be in 10 or 15 years if I didn’t make a drastic change. Kind of that point that I think everybody reaches, you know? You can feel yourself getting further and further dug into something that could be great or it could be negative. To me it was negative. I ran out of there and got a teaching job down in Mexico as a general music teacher,” Clouser said.
In Mexico, Clouser’s passion for music blossomed. He created “Arts Day Out,” a free day in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, and now in Mexico City, where kids can participate in free workshops with professional musicians. The workshops also include free craft making and painting, areas in which Clouser admits he lacks talent.
“It was very inspiring and very centering being around kids and inspiring kids. Very circular, the relationship. You play something simple for kids that you’d forgotten, you’d lost any perspective on finding joy in, like playing a three-chord blues, but to these kids, it’s awesome and it reawakens something inside me,” Clouser said.
Clouser moved from Los Cabos to Mexico City to create and perform, but he still continues Arts Day Out as a way to keep himself grounded.
Soon he began touring throughout the U.S. with his band A Love Electric. Along with Clouser, the band includes Greg Schutte on drums, Adam Meckler on trumpet and James Buckley on bass.
“The idea of A Love Electric as a band is not to try to be anything in particular, but to try to just emote from who we are and what we’ve absorbed. And that’s a lot of ’70s rock stuff, a lot of jazz music, a lot of Monk,” he said.
“When I was in middle school, I loved hip-hop. I think some influences are more obvious than others in music; obviously there’s a lot of improvisation going on so people use the word jazz a lot, which is kind of a scary word because we’re not really playing jazz music. … We’ve all been influenced by jazz a lot, but I think it’s really more of a rock band in terms of when we’re performing live,” Clouser said. “We approach it more that way as opposed to a jazz concert.”
Clouser is excited to return to Madison; when he was younger, he would go to the High Noon Saloon to see artists perform and is thrilled to get the chance to be the one performing this time around. He says the show will be very energetic and encourages people to turn out, despite the Tuesday night time-slot.
“Come,” he said. “Leave [the concert] with a kind of burning sensation of wanting to go out and do whatever you do. Create or protest or something along those lines. Or take a nap. I don’t know, something you don’t normally do. Hopefully it really engages you.”
A Love Electric will play on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at the High Noon Saloon. Doors open at 6 pm, and tickets are $5 at the door. For more information, go to www.high-noon.com.