What do you get when you tailor both music and lyrics to a tenor of brilliant clarity? A profound, cerebral, sensuous and at times even mystical experience, as demonstrated by vocalist Timothy Stoddard on his riveting new album TAROT. Born out of a year-long, close-knit collaboration between Stoddard, pianist Ellen Fast, and a diverse assortment of composers and librettists, TAROT proves the Aristotelian assertion that the whole is even more than the sum of its parts.

Today, Timothy is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about his dreams of performing back-up vocals in Prince’s band, and his inclinations towards works with a vulnerable and subtle nature…

Tell us about your first performance.

I remember my first pivotal moments of singing taking place in the Magic Valley Children’s Chorus. Each year in my hometown of Twin Falls, young people could audition to be a part of this ensemble. Rehearsals began in the fall and culminated in a series of Christmas concerts. I was a soprano, but I wanted to be an alto since they got the cool harmonies. I was 11 years old. I just remember feeling these treble high notes flowing out of me in the music, and really sensing in a deep, intrinsic way that something important was taking place, something beyond me.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

I could see myself as a landscape designer. Gardening is one of my hobbies, and I enjoy discovering or imagining aesthetic themes in green spaces. I’ve also always been a writer, even as a child. My first career aspiration was journalism until I became completely enamored with vocal music. But I have circled back as I have recently finished my first novel — yet unpublished (paging all literary agents!) — and have been doing light research for my next book.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

If we are talking present-day industry, hands-down Sir Simon Rattle. I was a fellow with the Lucerne Festival Academy, and he conducted our final performance of Berio’s Coro. He was very congenial — the kind of conductor who makes one feel at ease. But if we are talking in dreams, I would be a backup singer on a Prince tour and study voice with the late, great Jerry Hadley. 

I remember when I lived in Boise after grad school and was renting a room in a friend’s house. We lived next door to Gayle Chapman, who was one of the original members of Prince’s band. This is also when I was first learning about manifestation. I was like, “I am going to sing backup for Prince one day. I’m gonna speak it into existence.” I asked. The Universe said no.

As for Jerry Hadley, I am such a huge fan of his recordings. Our voices couldn’t be more different, but I really feel drawn to him. He was such a smart singer, so stylish and robust. I remember when I recorded a program on WQXR and was so nervous. I found a picture of Hadley, and it looked like he was in a sound studio. I printed it out and taped it on my program binder. He’s one of my totem singers. I have a whole pantheon, to be honest, which includes the likes of Jessye Norman, Tatiana Troyanos, Luigi Alva, Jussi Bjorling, so on and so forth.

Take us on a walk through your musical library. What record gets the most plays? Are there any “deep cuts” that you particularly enjoy?

I listen to a little bit of everything. Naturally, classical vocal repertoire takes up a lot of my attention, especially singers of past generations. I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of the voice (tosses scarf). It’s the kitchen sink after that. Country, rap, crooners, metal, chamber music, Beethoven symphonies, all things Mozart. Minimalists get a lot of play on my devices — I can listen to Philip Glass all day. Early Penderecki and Alfred Schnittke. Indie hits from the early 2000’s are a popular go-to for me, as is classic rock, oldies and 90’s hip hop and r&b. I love pop music in general, and often find myself captivated by folk and world music.

What emotions do you hope listeners will experience after hearing your work?

I am not sure what emotion I would hope any listener has in regards to TAROT, but it is my desire that at least one moment in the album — be it only brief — rings true to them. I don’t want to be in the way either. There is this great discussion between celebrity mezzo-sopranos Dame Janet Baker and Joyce DiDonato where Baker talks about there being an invisible glass between the singer and the audience. It is the singer’s job to prepare every bit of the score by way of fundamental musicianship, musical scholarship, and dramatic intent, such that nothing smudges this pane and obscures its intelligibility. I hope I’ve done my job to the best of my abilities so that the listener has a clear view to the purpose and intention of the composers’ and poets’ works.

How have your influences changed as you grow as a musician?

When I started my singer’s journey, I believe those formative experiences were spent reveling in excitement — singer’s with opulent, animalistic voices, music with a lot of dramatic impact. Verdi’s Requiem, Maria Callas and Tosca, Franco Corelli, and anything from a Classical Thunder album all come to mind. But now that I’m getting longer in the tooth, everything with more subdued and elegant capabilities inspires me. There’s a mystery in that which I find seductive. Expressivity and sensitivity lure me in a more meaningful way. It might be a reflection of my pensive, introverted nature or it could be the type of music-making that suits my personal vocal instrument. I mean, I certainly still love powerful music that makes my pulse race — I just feel more drawn to the risks of vulnerability and subtly in creative impulses.

What musical mentor had the greatest impact on your artistic journey? Is there any wisdom they’ve imparted onto you that still resonates today?

Fate has planted an awful lot of teachers on my path, and I don’t just mean those who call themselves teachers. I’ve been grateful for each of these individuals who have all shed a little light on the route forward; who have shown me there is no one, true way to a destination — if there even is a destination in the first place. But then again, I have always liked the one bit of business advice that says “be prepared, show up on time, and don’t be an asshole,” and the one bit of artistic-spiritual counsel which says “make all musical decisions based on love, not fear.”

Explore Timothy Stoddard’s Latest Release



TAROT is available now from Navona Records. Click here to visit the catalog page and explore this album.