Even Musicians Get Stage Fright: An Interview With Keyboardist Todd Stoops

Crowd cheering and watching a band on stage, shallow DOF.
Crowd cheering and watching a band on stage, shallow DOF.

Musicians are badasses. Think about it. They do what they love pretty much all day everyday and probably in their sleep too. They travel the world sharing their gifts with whoever is willing to listen. Sometimes they play to full rooms and other times they play to five people. They leave their families and loved ones for weeks and months at a time and live in hotel rooms and on friend's couches. All of these reasons are why I love hanging out with musicians because they are a passionate and inspired breed. I feel honored when I get to interview them and show people what makes them tick, what turns them on in life and what obstacles they've overcome.

I'm so grateful Raq and Kung Fu's keyboardist Todd Stoops took the time out of his busy life to share what makes him tick, turns him on in life and the obstacles he's overcome.


Taraleigh: Thank you so much for being here and for making such beautiful music for all of us Todd. What's your big why for doing what you do?

Todd: The simplest answer would be that I am chasing the feeling of that very first spark, the very first time I played music for an energetic, moving crowd. I'm chasing that feeling, that spark inside my mind that was a sort of crystallization, where I felt for the first time in my life I was exactly where I was meant to be, and I wanted to keep playing forever. I'm still chasing that spark every night! At some point in everyone's life they have an epiphany, where everything comes together for a second - It was powerful enough for me at that moment that I'm still trying to recreate it today.


Taraleigh: As someone who loves to be in the crowd at your shows, I can tell you sometimes I feel that that same feeling where everything comes together perfectly, even if it's just for a moment. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It's the reason I keep coming back for more. The coolest part is that what you do is a constant evolution of awesome that is always changing. The music never stops. What role does music play in your life?

Todd: I know I am running the risk of sounding trite here, but music is as present in my human life as my blood. It is my sanity and my insanity. It's really weird and sometimes amazing and sometimes not always comfortable. At rest, I often have trouble turning off the constant little melodies or beats or whatever that's going on inside my head, which is exhausting. On the other hand all of the music I have written has been done in silence usually driving - just hearing it in my head. I have a habit I picked up at a very young age of mentally attaching music to life events. Some of the earliest childhood memories I have are mental snapshots of an old house I lived in or one of my parents old cars or something, and each is also set to a clip of music. For example "Being for the Benefit Of Mr. Kite" off of Sgt Pepper's is attached in my mind to the memory of a haircut I got in Baton Rouge when I was 4 (my parents were big Beatles fans and would play the 8-track cassettes in our cars). Sort of bizarre how the mind works! I was scared to get my haircut, and that tune is sort of freaky for a four year old, and I've attached that emotion to that clip of that song - most of my memories are embedded with these little clips of music. And now I spend a large portion of my time performing music. So it's all encompassing.


Taraleigh: I thought I was the only one who did that. Haha. What's a big obstacle you've faced in your life and how did you overcome it?

Todd: Stage fright!! I used to vomit every single time I would play. It was the worst stage fright, really incapacitating. It didn't matter if we were playing a college party for our close friends or strangers at a club or a bigger show. I would always get a rush of anxiety and nausea about 5-10 minutes before we would hit the stage. My band would always laugh and ask "why" I was anxious and I couldn't answer them. I couldn't figure out why this anxiety would wash over me at times where I should have been the most confident, like when we had a sold out show or something like that and instead of enjoying the moment I was throwing up in the greenroom! I have it mostly under control these days, just a ritual of breathing and of clearing my head and reminding myself to be "in the moment" seems to have helped a lot over the years. Work in progress!

Taraleigh: Thank you so much for bravely sharing that. I can relate. I used to throw up every time I had to speak in public too. Thank you for sharing what worked for you. Reminding yourself to be in the moment is a golden piece of advice. What was one golden piece of advice you received from someone that changed your life?

Todd: When I was younger I was hanging out with a very famous musician. We were talking about music lessons for children and how I wished my parents had made me take piano lessons as a child so I would have had that foundation now in my career, whether it was applied to performance or writing, etc. He said "But why? Any other experience would have altered the end result which is where you are right now. Always remember that originality sets us each apart and it's working for you. Go with the grain." And he was right. No one can do "you" better than you! Great advice for a young musician that was trying to stand out in a pack of extremely talented musicians.

Taraleigh: Hell yes! That famous musician nailed it. I'm grateful you had him in your life to share such life altering wisdom with you. What are you grateful for in your life right now?

Todd: I'm extremely grateful to have healthy children and a beautiful, understanding wife. I am grateful for my family and their support and love. Also, the ability to travel and perform the way we have been is a blessing. I try to remind myself daily how lucky I really am.


Taraleigh: You are so blessed. Anything else you'd like to share?

Todd: I would love to plug the annual Toys for Tots benefit we are hosting in New Haven, CT on 12/19 and 12/20 at Toad's Place. Every year we host the benefit and our fans to donate toys to support the Yale Children's Hospital and the Marine's Toys For Tots Drive. The last couple years we raised around $10K worth of toys and since this is a two-night event we hope that will double the donations! It's a great cause and we always create one of a kind experiences to bring people together during the holidays and celebrate, all the while giving back to the community. This year we're going to cover the entire album of Steely Dan's "The Royal Scam" the first night. One of the most prolific drummers of our time, the amazing Bernard Purdie will be performing with us, along with Steely Dan's musical director and long time guitarist, Jon Herington. Our good friends Consider the Source and Twiddle are also taking part.

Taraleigh: Thank you so much for using your platform to make the world a better place. You're amazing!!! I'm so grateful you took time out of your busy day to talk with me. I'm so excited to see you do your thing soon.

Watch Todd do his thing sitting in with the String Cheese Incident

The awesome in me sees and bows to the awesome in you,


Taraleigh Weathers guides people who are in love with live music to merge a little bit of their "festival-selves" with their "real world-selves" so they can stop feeling like they're living a double life. She is also a published best selling author and retreat and event producer. Basically she loves rocking people's lives!

Don't wait for the next show to feel that festival high. Feel it right now. Get Taraleigh's playlist >>> here.