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All Music Guide:
Tori Sparks, a folky singer/songwriter graced with a fiery, gutsy delivery worthy of Ani DiFranco, emerged in 2003 with an EP called Tidewaters, which she recorded while she was a student at Florida State University. Her debut full-length, Rivers + Roads, followed in 2005, released on the now-defunct Nashville label Pure Platinum. She spent the following year touring and promoting her album, and succeeded in generating some buzz in mainstream outlets like Paste and The Village Voice. She returned to the studio in 2006 and had her third full-length, Under This Yellow Sun, ready to go the following year. The disc was released on Sparks' homemade label, Glass Mountain Records; the album featured performances by Steve Bowman (Counting Crows) and Aaron Sands (Jars of Clay).
Tori Sparks (born December 5, 1983) is an American singer-songwriter known for her unconventional lyrics and her blending of folk, rock, and blues influences. She based in Barcelona, Spain, having recently relocated from Nashville, TN. Sparks has released five recordings: Tidewaters, Rivers + Roads, Under This Yellow Sun, The Scorpion in the Story, and Until Morning/Come Out of the Dark. The intensity of Tori’s recorded music contrasts with her often humorous approach to her live shows, which usually includes audience interaction. Tori is also known for her advocation of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) work ethic., Tori Sparks: Live on FOX 17 "Tennessee Mornings" (December 29, 2010 - Nashville, TN) , Savvant Music Blog, “Tori Sparks Sets Fire in Austin” by Anny Randel (April 7th, 2008) , “About,” http://www.torisparks.com
Tori was born just outside of Chicago. Tori later moved to Sarasota, FL, and lived there until she graduated high school at the age of 17. During this time, she started classical training on the piano and cello, both eventually traded in favor of guitar at 13. Tori became heavily involved in theater and independent film in college. She attended Florida State University on a full academic scholarship, majoring first in Theater, then in Music. She graduated in three and a half years. It was during her time at Florida State that Tori’s focus shifted from theater to music. She started playing open mic nights and worked her way up to touring as a solo artist. It was during this time that she developed her trademark guitar and vocal style. Tori moved to Nashville for several years, and now lives in Barcelona, Spain., Florida State Times, “Sparks’ Second Album Receiving Rave Reviews” by Jeffrey Seay (April–May 2008) Pg. 8 (Apr/May 2008 2008_04_FSTimes.pdf)
ContentsMusic career1.1 Tidewaters EP1.2 Rivers + Roads1.3 Under This Yellow Sun1.4 The Scorpion in the Story (2009)1.5 Until Morning/Come Out of the Dark (2011)1.6 Other Releases
At the age of eighteen Tori recorded her first release, the Tidewaters EP. Different versions of three of the four songs on the EP (“One in a Million,” “Red Letter Day,” “When I Said”) would later appear on Tori’s first full-length album, Rivers + Roads. The EP eventually attracted the attention of a small label based in Nashville, Platinum Plus Universal Records. Sparks signed a developmental deal with PPUR in 2003.
Rivers + Roads
While still in college, Tori recorded her first album, Rivers + Roads, in Nashville. Tony Migliore was the artistic producer on the album, as well as a Juilliard-educated pianist known for his work with Don McClean, KD Lang, and Chet Atkins. The album featured a number of Nashville session musicians, such as Kerry Marx, who has played with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. This was the first and to date only time that backing vocals were included on any of Tori’s recordings.
During the post-production of Rivers + Roads, Tori toured in France and England. Upon returning to the United States, Sparks graduated from FSU and moved to Nashville in January 2005. Sparks was selected as a Unisong International Songwriting Contest Finalist for her politically charged song "The Poster Child” later that year.
Soon after the official release of Rivers + Roads, Tori broke with her record label, Platinum Plus. Tori started touring heavily in the United States. Radio and video airplay in the U.S., Belgium, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, France, and England resulted. These included Music Choice (on demand), as well as military and commercial reels. One of the eight months was devoted to The Feed Your Soul Guitar Project, a 27-city tour and folk art auction benefiting Oxfam America.
The Feed Your Soul Guitar Project and tour attracted attention from The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Collected Sounds, Savannah Morning News, Media Search (Australia), Blues in Britain Magazine (UK), Northeast InTune Magazine, NBC, ABC, FOX and NPR affiliates. Tori's debut music video, "Rivers + Roads,” was screened at the Flint Film Festival 2006, and was selected "Best Pop Video" at the Indie Gathering 2006. Songs from Rivers + Roads were included on compilations such as KSYM-FM Camp Victory Compilation for the Troops (SCOOP KSYM-FM, 2007), MSMF Multiple Sclerosis Music Fest 2006 Compilation CD (Montel Williams MS Foundation, 2006), Canadian Music Week Best Unsigned Artists of 2006 (Tunetank, 2006), and A Taste of Triple A #16 Compilation (A Taste of Triple A, 2006).
Under This Yellow Sun
In 2007 Tori started work on her third release, co-produced and recorded with indie rock veteran David Henry (R.E.M., Ben Folds, Josh Rouse, Cowboy Junkies) as co-producer. The album features guest musicians Steve Bowman (Counting Crows), Aaron Sands (Jars of Clay), Pat Buchanan (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dixie Chicks) John Deaderick (Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams), Daniel Dennis (Prime Cut Records), Matthew Burgess (Brandi Carlile, Third Eye Blind), Joe Rathbone (Prime Cut Records) and producer David Henry.,
During the production of the album, Tori continued to tour in the United States. Tori once again collaborated with Rivers + Roads director Wayne Hall to create the music video for “Cold War,” which was screened at the 2008 Florida Indie Film Jam.
Under This Yellow Sun is the first release on Tori’s own record label (Glass Mountain Records) and publishing company (Hand Over Foot Publishing). The album has been favorably reviewed by Relix, Harp, Maverick, Skope, The Nashville Scene, Popmatters, and many regional newspapers across the country. After breaking the Top 100 on the RIYL Weighted College Charts, the album was licensed by MTV, Lifetime, and the Oxygen Network for use in their 2008-2009 television seasons.
A subsequent feature by XM Radio Unsigned prompted Universal Music France to contact Sparks. Universal included the album’s first single “Cold War” on their double-disc compilation Country Vol 2., released internationally in March 2008. The compilation sold 30,000 copies in Europe.
Tori was featured on the April 2008 covers of City at Night Magazine and Triangle Live in conjunction with her participation in the Tin Pan South music festival and non-profit fund raiser in Nashville. “Cold War” was selected a Unisong International Songwriting Contest Finalist (2007), and was later included on the Paste Magazine New Music Sampler in June 2008 (Issue # 43). Other artists on the compilation included Elvis Costello, She and Him, and Nada Surf.
The song “Caged Bird” from Under This Yellow Sun was selected one of the Top 12 DIY Downloads by Performing Songwriter magazine (2008), and one of the Top 10 Tracks of 2007 by Cashville 411.
The Scorpion in the Story (2009)
Tori’s third full-length album, The Scorpion in the Story, was the second album she co-produced with David Henry. Players on the album include Steve Bowman (Counting Crows), Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell), Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett, Mindy Smith, Allison Krauss), Fats Kaplin (Mark Knopfler, Kevin Welch), and Barry Walsh (Gretchen Peters).
The Scorpion in the Story is the first of Tori’s album to be called a “concept album.” Each song is a true story written about an individual Tori met while on the road in 2008. There is a map of the cities where the songs were written inside the album art.
The Scorpion in the Story includes a French version of the song “Merry Go-Round,” (“Le Manege”), and was released on Glass Mountain Records in June 2009. The video for “Merry Go-Round” was filmed with the participation of the National Carousel Association and the City of Shelby, NC, as well as the Nashville Rollerderby Girls.
Scorpion was featured in the book Mobile Web Design for Dummies (Janine Warner/David LaFontaine), and was listed in various “Best-Of” lists for 2010 in the US, the UK, Germany, Sweden, more. Her albums and website were featured in 2010 by the Los Angeles Times tech blog, Americana UK, and others.
The album has been praised by Folkwax, Americana UK, many others, and was a Nashville Scene’s Critic’s Pick. In July 2009, it broke the Top 100 on the U.S. Americana Radio Charts, and in April 2010, the Top 20 on the European Americana Charts. The song “Tall Towers” from The Scorpion in the Story was featured on the Paste Magazine Music Sampler # 54 in July 2009, which also featured songs by Son Volt, Rhett Miller, and Dinosaur Jr. “Tall Towers” was also a highlighted track CMJ.com in the same month, Tori donated proceeds from the song “Leaving Side of Love” in the Campaign to Save Paste, a program launched by the magazine when it was in financial distress, and again to Paste’s Hurricane Relief Fund benefiting Wyclef Jean’s Yele organization. Tori was the featured cover story for the inaugural issues of two magazines in April 2010: Dream Row Magazine, and bilingual English Spanish publication TN 4U.
Throughout the last few years, she has continued to tour heavily, sometimes playing as many as thirty shows in thirty days on the road. She has played at festivals such as Bele Chere in Asheville, RedGorilla in Austin, Folk Alliance in Memphis, Springing the Blues in Jacksonville, and others. Tori has appeared on the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour with Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell, NBC Channel 10 in Philadelphia, Lightning 100’s Nashville Sunday Night, and many other radio and television shows. Tori was one of the singers considered for the role of Arachne in the upcoming Broadway production of Spiderman, directed by Julie Taymor.
Until Morning/Come Out of the Dark (2011)
Tori Sparks’ fourth album, Until Morning/Come out of the Dark, is her third musical collaboration with producer David Henry and her first with Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Elvis Costello, Velvet Underground, Gypsy Kings, Paula Cole, Rosanne Cash). The recordings feature the band from her previous recordings, as well as guest vocalists Shawn Mullins (Grammy nominee, #1 on the US Americana Charts), Mike Farris (Americana Music Association Artist of the Year, Dove Award Winner), Paris DeLane (Sonia Dada), and David Mead.
Until Morning/Come out of the Dark was recently released in August 2011, on vinyl and as a double CD. This record marks the first Spanish-language song that Tori has recorded, a Cuban song from 1947 called “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás.” The album art was a design by noted New York visual artist Joe Petruccio, best known for his work with the Elvis Presley Estate and Graceland in Memphis.
Sparks is currently interviewed monthly on the subject of DIY in the music business by Dream Row magazine, and in Spring 2011 was a guest on nationally syndicated Music Business Radio hosted by David Hooper. She regularly speaks on similar topics at universities, performing arts schools, music conferences and festivals. She was a guest on a panel as well (as a performer) at South by Southwest 2011 on the topic of booking and touring. Tori will be a guest on Madrid’s Radio Tres Television in September 2011.
Tori released the digital-only Little Stories EP at the same time as Under This Yellow Sun. It includes four previously unreleased acoustic songs, as well as the original demo for the song “Under This Yellow Sun.”
In late 2007, Tori released a Christmas single, “Hope for Me,” as well as two behind the scenes videos: Tori Sparks with Producer David Henry: The Making of Under This Yellow Sun (Glass Mountain Records, 2007) and Behind The Scenes: Screen Printing Madness with Tori Sparks (Glass Mountain Records, 2007).
In 2010, Tori debuted a new song called “Letter to a Wretch #2” (featuring Shawn Mullins), which was made available only as a free download on the mobile version of her website, a.k.a. ToriMobile. The mobile site was featured by the Los Angeles Times tech blog “Not Quite”, and on the Sin City Sampler: Volume 13.
Tori has sung duets with D.W. DeHart on his song “Pale Sorghum Lo-Fi Blues” from Pale Sorghum Lo-Fi Blues (DeHorn Boys Music, 2007), and with Jeff Kuykendall on his single “Mr. Bickle” from Wooden Music for a Plastic World. (In Production, 2009). She co-wrote the song "Blackbird" with Caroline Brewer, which appears on Caroline's album "A Me-Shaped Hole"., All Music > Tori Sparks > Singles/EPs , All Record Labels: Platinum Plus Universal Records , “Rocker Tori Sparks Releases Hot New Single to Radio,” PRWeb Press Release by Platinum Plus, February 28, 2005 , Tony Migliore American Federation of Musicians Discography/Awards 2004-2005 , Unisong International Songwriting Contest Winners 2005-2007 , MSS Vision Featured Artist: Tori Sparks (January 4th, 2008) The Village Voice “Voice Choice: Tori Sparks” by Joe McCombs (September 20th, 2006) Vol 38 Pg 91 , All Music Guide, “Rivers + Roads” by J. McCombs (July 2005) , Collected Sounds “Album Review: Rivers + Roads by Tori Sparks” by Amy Lotsberg, (August 12th, 2005) , Media Search Australia “Tori Sparks – Rivers + Roads” by Carmine Pascuzzi (October 5th, 2005) , Blues in Britain Magazine (UK) “Women in the Blues” by Jon Taylor (Vol. 1, Issue # 42) , Northeast InTune Magazine “Tori Sparks: Album Review” by Brooke Welu (October 2005) , Tori Sparks Live on ABC 22/ FOX 45 (January 22nd 2008) , Interview with Michael Stock on WRLN, Miami (May 24th 2004 - Archives) , Flint Film Festival 2006 Festival Selections , Indie Gathering 2006: Winners , KSYM-FM Camp Victory Compilation for the Troops (SCOOP KSYM-FM, 2007) , MSMF Multiple Sclerosis Music Fest 2006 Compilation CD (Montel Williams MS Foundation, 2006) , Canadian Music Week Best Unsigned Artists of 2006 (Tunetank, 2006) From Tori Sparks Discography , A Taste of Triple A #16 Compilation (A Taste of Triple A, 2006) , “Credits: Under This Yellow Sun album insert; also listed under “Members – Studio” from http://www.myspace.com/torisparks , All Music > Tori Sparks > Discography > Main Albums , FMF Indie Film Jam Schedule 2008 , Glass Mountain Records, Artist: Tori Sparks , Relix magazine “Tori Sparks – Under This Yellow Sun (Glass Mountain)” by Nancy Dunham (October 2007 - Archives) , Harp Magazine “Reviews – CD Reviews – Tori Sparks – Under This Yellow Sun” by Jeff Tamarkin (December 2007) Pg. 15 , Skope Magazine "Features: Tori Sparks" by Bill Kopp (December 3rd, 2007) , The Nashville Scene “Critics Pick: Tori Sparks” by Bill Hurt (April 3rd, 2008) Pg. 31 , PopMatters, “Tori Sparks – Under This Yellow Sun” by Jason MacNeil (November 16th 2007) , RIYL Weighted College Charts: Week of September 19th 2007 , The Daily Kenoshan, “Nashville Rock 'n' Soul Chanteuse Tori Sparks to Play Gateway Technical College” by Lisa Loring (October 2nd, 2008) , XM Radio Unsigned “Featured Tracks: Most Alone by Tori Sparks” , “Universal France Compilation Featuring Tori Sparks Sells 25,000 Copies in First Weeks” by eMedia Wire (July 18th, 2008) , City at Night Magazine, “Tori Sparks: Nashville’s New Shade of Blues” by Joyce Arnold, (Vol. 2, Issue 5 - April 2008) Cover Story, Continued on Pgs 10, 11, 13 , The Herald Sun Triangle Live “Sparks Takes DIY Approach to Music Business” by Dawn Baumgartner (April 11th-17th, 2008) Cover Story, continued on Pg D4 , Paste Magazine New Music Sampler (Paste Media Group, June 2008) , Performing Songwriter “Top 12 DIY Downloads: Tori Sparks” by Editor Mare Wakefield (June 2008) , Cashville411 Top 10 Tracks of 2007 The Shelby Star "Tori Sparks Makes Video in Shelby" May 14, 2009 by Graham Cawthon Pg. 8  The Next Best Thing: Best of 2010, Posted by Aaron English  Rootsy: Best of 2010  Los Angeles Times Tech Blog: Musicians Slowly Migrate to Mobile by Peter Milligan.  Americana UK: Tori Sparks’ The Scorpion in the Story Album Review by Paul Kerr (March 29, 2010)  Folkwax "Words Fail" June 4, 2009 Sparks, Tori - The Scorpion In The Story by Evert Wilbrink Americana UK "Tori Sparks: The Scorpion in the Story" March 29, 2010 by Paul Kerr  Music News Nashville "TOP ALBUM REVIEW: The Scorpion in the Story - Tori Sparks" May 5, 2009 by Jenny Delamotte Nashville Scene: Critics Pick "Tori Sparks CD Release Party: Firestarter" June 4, 2009 by Jewly Hight Pg. 26  Americana Terrestrial Radio Chart (July 12, 2009) by The Americana Music Association  European Americana Chart: April 2010 Paste Magazine: Issue # 54 "Stuart Murdoch" Sampler (July 4, 2009) Track # 17 by Paste Media Group  The Campaign to Save Paste  Songs for Haiti  Dreamrow.com: Tori Sparks TN 4U “Tori Sparks: Songwriter” by Billy Ramirez (Vol. 1, Issue # 1)  Rome Sentinel "Sparks returns to Art House Cafe Monday, Promoting New Album" July 2, 2009 by Ellen Dunkel  Shawn Mullins: Rock on the Net Biography  MikeFarris.com: Biography  Paris Delane: About  Meet Joe Petruccio: Biography  ToriSparks.com: Discography  Dream Row Magazine: Tori Sparks, Beyond the Labels (August 2010)  Dream Row Magazine: Tori Sparks, All By Herself (May 2010)  Music Business Radio: Live with Host David Hooper  SXSW 2011 Panel: What It Takes to Get and Promote Gigs  Radio Tres (Madrid) , Little Stories EP (Digital Release Download Site) (Glass Mountain Records, 2007) , On The Horizon Radio Network “Episode 269: Playlist” posted by John Anderson , Tori Sparks with Producer David Henry: The Making of Under This Yellow Sun (Glass Mountain Records, 2007) , Behind The Scenes: Screen Printing Madness with Tori Sparks (Glass Mountain Records, 2007)  Los Angeles Times: Not Quite “Musicians slowly migrate to mobile” by Peter Vidani (February 17th 2010)  Sin City Media: News , D.W. DeHart website www.dwdehart.com , Hodge and Podge and the Polyester Goo by Jeff Kuykendall “Mr. Bickle” (Track 3) , Music City Unsigned “Introducing Caroline Brewer” by Johnny T. (October 20th, 2008 - Click on “News > Caroline Brewer”)
Tori has been part of benefit concerts on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, F.A.C.E., the March of Dimes, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Operation Troop Aid, Project Cure, Hope Clinic for Women, MusicCares, Gilda’s House, Harmony Republic, the One Campaign, and others. The Feed Your Soul Guitar Project’s auction of a guitar decorated by Tori raised awareness of the One Campaign and money for one of their partner organizations, Oxfam America.,
She has given guest lectures on the music industry in English and in French in high schools and universities in Tennessee and Florida, and is the author of two educational courses for ProMusicU. She is interviewed monthly for a column on DIY in the music business for Dream Row Magazine., Tim’s Befuddled Universe “”Tori Sparks Auctions Folk Art Guitar to Benefit Benefit Oxfam America”by Tim Null (May 18th 2006) , Athens Banner-Herald, “Sparks’ Career Shines on Its Own” by Beth Jones (September 12th, 2008) , ProMusicU: Advisory Board Cite error: The named reference dreamrow.com was invoked but never defined (see the help page).