Story and photos by Sara Kuefler
Todd Stewart’s six-song solo album, Everything You Want, is an intimate, moonlit ramble through the heart of the artist. With heavy use of steel guitar, acoustic meanderings, and, of course, Stewart’s whispery, smooth-as-butter vocals, the listener is guided through musings on personal relationships, the pain of tragic loss, and the melancholy and anxiety that can be so much a part of life for many these days. Despite the personal—and sometimes sad—subject matter, the album has a vitality that creates a lovely balance.
Musically, Everything You Want is very pleasant to listen to, ebbing and flowing naturally like the cool breath of a gentle breeze, filling the space around the listener with the colours of the night sky, highlighted with stars or city lights. Through the course of these six songs, Stewart displays lyrical bravery in his willingness to share his vulnerabilities. Ordinary Love opens the album with a lively rhythm and addresses Stewart’s family ties. Past psychedelic experience is relived in Out of My Mind. Liable to cause goosebumps, Kerry Anne is a beautifully poetic and haunting ode to Stewart’s wife. Vivid pictures are painted with Stewart’s words as he touches on moments and experiences shared and remembered between he and Kerry Anne. I Don’t Want to Fight confronts the dying of a relationship and the necessity to admit when it is time to let go. With no subject off limits, Stewart uses his craft to cope with the suicide of a family member in Everything You Want. The heartbreak is tangible on this track, again causing a physical reaction, like raising the hairs on your arms. Many of us remember the growing pains of childhood; however, We Ache Before We Grow is a poignant reminder that we continue to grow in adulthood in a myriad of ways, and it is frequently not without pain. Sometimes a pause and breath are required to put it all in perspective. Originally inspired by a conversation with a friend, We Ache Before We Grow contains good advice and a reassurance for us all.
This solo project arose out of a desire to find a space for some of the more deeply personal compositions Stewart was gravitating towards. He was able to stretch a little vocally and lyrically on these songs since he was on his own. Stewart, however, wants to reassure fans of the Northern Beauties that the launch of his solo career is no indication that the band is not alive and well. Everything You Want simply gives us an additional view of Stewart’s musical artistry, and that is nothing to complain about.
During the recording of this album, producer Shawn Cole favoured authenticity over the perfection and intense editing that is often seen in the music industry. This tactic suits the artist’s style and perhaps is a part of the shift that seems to be gaining ground with musicians lately. Stewart’s guitar work is effortless and natural. When listening to the record you almost feel as though you are at a live performance, leaving little doubt that Stewart’s vocals and playing would be every bit as well-executed and moving at one of his shows.
All in all, this album is beautifully composed and only gets better with multiple listens, as you fall deeper into Stewart’s lyricism and emotion.
Catch Todd Stewart’s album release show on Saturday, March 31 at The Ironwood Stage & Grill with Lighter Than Arrows.