The first song stream on Todd Clouser's website sums up his approach to making music. "Serenity Now" begins with an easygoing trumpet melody. Then the song's structure acquiesces to improvisation that grows erratic. At the peak of the sonic tension, soothing melody returns.
Pop and jazz influences run seamlessly through Clouser's songs. From an early age, the Minnesota native didn't see opposition between those genres. He listened to Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis. He says he preferred "all that stuff that just has an inherent scream to it, even when played soft."
Since moving to Mexico in 2006, the Berklee College of Music alum has continued to expand his audience in the U.S. He performs in Madison, as Todd Clouser's A Love Electric, at the Frequency on Dec. 17.
When I caught up with Clouser by phone last week, he was enjoying a warm day in his current hometown of Cabo San Lucas.
How does living in Cabo influence your approach to making music?
It's hard to put into words. I feel like for whatever reason I'm less limited down here. Being here makes me nave about who's getting gigs in the States. It kind of takes the business side out of the music. Here, so much is new to people. The music I create is more shaped by the reactions I get from people when I play.
Did you have an interest in jazz early on, or was it something that came later?
I started Berklee with an interest in improvisational music in general. I remember seeing shows and noticing how musicians were making stuff up. I thought, "That's what I want to do." I went through jazz boot camp at Berklee, but I learned it and forgot it. It wasn't there for me emotionally. Not until after college did I begin to realize you can put styles like rock and jazz together.
Will you be bringing musicians from Cabo up to play your Madison show?
The idea of A Love Electric is to be a collective and have players in different places. This lets me hear different improvisational influences. Sometimes I'll say, "Whoa - I had no idea this song could be developed that way." We'll have a quartet in Madison featuring my Minneapolis players.