Michelle Evans Interviews Todd Farrell of Todd Farrell Jr. & the Dirty Birds:


Todd Farrell & The Dirty Birds is a Nashville-based band celebrating the release of their first full-length album, All Our Heroes Live In Vans, due out October 31st. You can catch them tomorrow night, though, performing new and old songs alike at Mercy Lounge in Nashville, with the likes of Arliss Nancy, P.J. Bond, and Andrew Leahey & The Homestead.

Farrell and I didn’t have much time to chat, so we went straight to the important stuff.

So, where are you from?

Well, I was born in Dallas. My whole family, from forever, is from out there, and then I moved to Atlanta when I was 6. I lived there for 10 years, till I was 16, and then, when I was 16, I moved to Charlotte, NC. Lived there for about two and a half years. I graduated high school there, and then I came to Nashville to go to Belmont University, where I studied Music Business, play in bands, record bands, and I still do both of those things. I’ve been to Nashville ever since, so since 2006.

Why did y’all move around so much?

Dad got different jobs around the southeast, and when the time was right, we’d pack up and move on.

I have a similar background. It’s not common to meet many people with that background who aren’t military.

Everyone assumes that. It’s also tough, because people are like, “Where are you from?” and it’s tough to answer. I usually claim Atlanta, because
I spent the most time there.

I do that with Philly.

In general, though, I think moving around a lot, we have certain strengths that other people don’t have. Like, a lot of my friends lived in the same small town their whole lives, and they have all the same friends they grew up with, vs. people like us, we moved around a lot, and we learned how to adapt quickly to different situations.

Absolutely. Adaptability is definitely one of my strong suits. It made me an introvert, though, and I’m not good at emotional attachments. It’s easier to leave someplace if you don’t make too many friends. Did you find that to be true for you?

No. I think it was the opposite for me. It forced me to really come out of myself, and, too, luckily, there was the Internet to keep in touch with people, and that made transitioning and keeping in touch with people a lot easier.

So where’s “home” for you?

Oh, Nashville. Nashville’s home and will be for as long as I can foresee.

Makes sense. You’ve shared the stage with Austin Lucas and Arliss Nancy, among others, and Nashville is kind of the hub for your genre.

Yeah, it’s really cool, because so many people have relocated from here: Jason Isbell, Austin Lucas, Cory Branan… And it’s cool on that level, but also because everybody wants to pass through here. It’s a tough live scene, though. I tell anybody who passes through here, ya know, “I’ll book you a show, and I can guarantee you anywhere from eight to 80 people will be there, and we won’t know till the downbeat of the first song,” because there’s just no telling in Nashville.

Yeah, that’s the downfall of an oversaturated market.

Yeah, it’s oversaturated and a little bit jaded, and there’s just so much going on, it’s hard to be every place you want to be.

So, I know we’re both a little crammed for time at the moment, so tell me really quickly about your new record. That’s what people want to know about, right? [laughs]

[laughs] Sure. Well, I hope so. [laughs] Well, I write all the songs, but everyone arranged the songs, recorded the songs, mixed the songs… We pressed the record, all of it.

So it’s totally DIY.

It’s as DIY as you can get. We don’t have a label. We’re all freelance musicians and have audio engineer backgrounds. I used to work for a recording studio a couple hours away, and we were free to use it when it wasn’t booked, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so, ya know, we sucked up the drive and just took advantage of that opportunity, and we got it done.

That’s admirable.

Thank you. It’s our first record together. My first record was really a songwriting project that I didn’t think would go anywhere. It was just something fun to do and put on iTunes to see what happened. Ninebullets reviewed it and people caught on, and so that turned into finding a band and playing together ever since. This record is our fresh start. This isn’t just Todd Farrell and those 6 weird songs. [laughs]. It’s a band record, not just a Todd record.

Well, lastly, tell me about the title.

Honestly, it’s pretty much in essence about the show tomorrow night. I mean, it’s a lyric from one of the songs on the record, “Pawn Shops,” but it’s also about playing with some of your heroes. It’s about these poor dudes working really hard to make good music and do what they love, and it’s about working just to be where they are. We strive to be even at that level. Those guys – Arliss and Bond and Leahey – are huge influences and heroes of ours. It’s about them and other musicians like them.

Todd Farrell & The Dirty Birds – Pawn Shop

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