The Note's Charlie Blasberg dives into Todd Lewis Kramer's EP January and gets some insight from Kramer himself of the background and making of the record.
Todd Lewis Kramer is one of New York City’s best kept secrets. His music first hit the internet in 2012, but his 2016 album Fairground is where his identity as a singer songwriter really came forward. Most recently, he released January, a collection of five tunes, his first release of that length since the seminal Fairground record.
Beside his natural melodies and smooth tenor voice, the thing that fans appreciate about Kramer is that he tells it how it is. He is an honest storyteller and sings songs that people can listen to thinking, “I’ve never met this guy, but he seems to know exactly what I’m going through.”
The January EP features more variety in instrumentation and song style than we’re used to from Kramer. Part of this can be credited to his continuing evolution as a songwriter and musician; part can be credited to his using a co-writer, Kiyoshi Matsuyama, on certain tunes.
Overall, January is an excellent collection of songs, which showcase Todd Lewis Kramer’s development over the past few years. They harken back to his classic understated style, while pushing forward musically on tunes like “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” and “She Knows.”
CB: Is there a common thread between the tunes on January?
TLK: Yea. I don't really think I leave much to the imagination with these songs - it's a pretty straightforward breakup album. I'm not sure I'm enough of a wordsmith to hide that fact. The one thing I will say is I think each song kind of talks about different stages of the end of a relationship: there's a song about just being straight-up sad, there's a song about blaming yourself, one about blaming the other person, and one about accepting that what's done is done. All in all, this was a very cathartic release for me. I don't know that I believe you can just pick a day and say 'I'm turning the page' on this thing or that thing, but putting out this record really does feel that way to me a bit.
CB: Is there one song in particular that you enjoyed writing or playing?
TLK: Hmm, that's a tough one. I'm really happy that I was able to have my brother add a trumpet solo to 'Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.' I don't know why I always end up being a little partial to the most stripped-down songs, but we recorded that one in one take at the tail end of a 10 hour day in the studio in August, and I was just like sweaty and emotional and tired, and I think that all comes through - or maybe it's just that I know that's how it went down, haha. As for the other ones, I think 'Stone' also turned out beautifully. But the album as a whole is one I'm really proud of. I think we nailed it, and that's a huge credit to my producer and friend, Kiyoshi Matsuyama.
CB: You include nods to a number of influences (gospel, rock, jazz). Can you speak to that a little bit?
TLK: This is the first record I've put out that includes co-written songs. I wrote 'All of My Days' and 'She Knows' with Kiyoshi, which probably are the two most Rock n' Roll songs of the bunch, and I love the direction we went with those. I think those songs are a perfect combo of our two styles. As for nods to the other genres, I'm thrilled to hear that, but I'm not sure I set out to do that. I'd have to credit the band for really taking these tunes to new heights. I think I've always written songs in the more traditional songwriting style, so perhaps it's when we put our heads together as a band that those "nods" kind of took shape.
Be sure to follow Todd on Spotify and Apple music, where his EP January is available. Also, keep an eye out for his next show in New York at Rockwood Music Hall on January 25.