Todd Thibaud saw the handwriting on the wall, even after his roots-rock group, the Courage Brothers, landed a deal with Relativity Records in 1995.
First off, one of the group’s co-founders quit shortly before the deal was signed. Then, just when Thibaud (pronounced Tee-bo) was beginning preproduction work with producer Matt Wallace, Relativity pulled the plug, adopted an all-rap roster and dropped its rock acts or moved them to other Sony labels.
The Courage Brothers were no more.
“I think we all felt at the time we got the Relativity situation, the Courage Brothers even then was at the tail end of its cycle, psychologically for us,” Thibaud said recently. “Everyone felt it had run its course. It was a great opportunity (at Relativity) and I was really looking forward to working with all those guys, but on the corporate side of things, it was a very corporate decision. Those decisions happen on a regular basis, so I basically got to the point where I was like ‘I can’t imagine my life without doing this.’ That was the bottom line. Doing music was more important to me than whether or not Sony wants me to do it for them.”
The Haverhill, Mass., native made the great leap on his own and teamed with former Dumptruck frontman-producer Kevin Salem and mixer Jim Scott (Tom Petty, James Iha) to record his absorbing debut Doolittle Records album, “Favorite Waste of Time” (released in February).
“We made the record, we made it on our own, with no label support, and kind of rolled the dice hoping we could get somebody to pick it up,” Thibaud said. “It took a while, but at least I feel like we’re back on the upswing, heading in the right direction again.”
Thibaud, who has opened for Dar Williams and Pete Droge in the past few months, felt his first post-Courage Brothers project should take two routes.
“Courage Brothers music was a little lighter and we focused more on our keyboard player, really letting him step out a lot,” he said. “I was feeling the need to get back more to a basic sound, more of a guitar-driven sound. I definitely wanted it to be a rock record, as opposed to folk.
“The songs themselves also were a lot more personal. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It just happened.”
Most of the album, particularly “Johanna’s Dreams” and “Sweet Destiny,” addresses controlling one’s fate. Thibaud handled his by maintaining a positive attitude.
“It took a little bit of getting used to, being on my own,” he said. “I freaked out for a while just because there wasn’t a phone call I could make to go ‘What do you think we should do about this? How about this song, where do you think it should go?’ Those decisions, obviously, were back on me. But in a lot of ways, it made me better at what I did. You really have to step up and do it or not do it. In that way, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
BWF (before we forget): Waste all the time you want with Todd Thibaud on the Web @ www.doolittle.com.
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