A Bay Area native, Todd Sickafoose spent some years in Los Angeles studying bass with Charlie Haden and composition with the great, late Mel Powell. Since then, he’s been recording and performing with a ton of innovative folks and genre benders including Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird, Nels Cline, Jenny Scheinman, Ron Miles, Trey Anastasio, Yoko Ono, Myra Melford, Tin Hat Trio, Adam Levy, Skerik, Allison Miller, Stanton Moore, Bobby Previte, Scott Amendola, Will Bernard, Stebmo, Jessica Lurie, Shane Endsley, Erin McKeown, Anaïs Mitchell, Gina Leishman, Carla Bozulich, Noe Venable, Etienne de Rocher, James Carney, Erik Deutsch, Tony Furtado, and Darol Anger.
The consistency of his personal voice within wildly diverse collaborations prompted the LA Weekly in 2004 to call Todd “one of the most comprehensive musical minds of this coast”.
Read our interview with him below to learn more about his life, and get prepared for a great show Sunday, Aug 3, where Todd Sickafoose’s Tiny Resistors open for Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory at 2 p.m.
What inspires you the most when writing?
Well I hear melodies and rhythms when I walk. I think being outside and moving your body make the ideas emerge from wherever they do. I also like writing music on airplanes or anyplace that’s extremely noisy. It’s a backwards process — you pull something out of everything, like whittling a grizzly bear out of a log. But the most inspiring thing to me when writing music is thinking about the people who will be playing it. When I think about the each musician and imagine their particular sound and touch, I can create something that has a chance of really coming to life.
If you could collaborate with any performing artist – dead or alive – who would you choose?
I guess Miles? And I’d choose alive! Or this — I used to have a poster for a concert that happened at Royce Hall in Los Angeles in the year of my birth — a birthday concert for Igor Stravinsky, MC’ed by Aldous Huxley, during which they premiered Stravinsky’s Agon, which is one of the greatest pieces of music ever created. I wish I could have been on that stage.
What is your self-defined genre?
It’s tricky but “orchestral jazz meets indie rock” seems to work okay and then I try to let the music speak for itself.
Out of all the instruments, what got you interested in the bass?
I quickly fell in love with the physicality of it. You feel the sound so strongly with an acoustic bass — the dance and the rhythm of it are so obvious and visible. I also liked a lot of bass players when I was young. Charles Mingus, Dave Holland, Milt Hinton, and Charlie Haden were all fascinating to me.
In what ways has your music career been affected since starting your family?
Being around young people keeps you in the moment and in the joyful place (most of the time) — it turns out that those are also two of the most important parts of playing music, especially improvised music. I have had the chance to tour a lot with children tagging along and if the personalities are right, it can keep everyone feeling like they belong to the human race, which is a good thing.