Many musicians hightail it down to Nashville, hoping to make it big on Music Row. Others flock to New York or Los Angeles and other industry hubs. But one talented musician is proud to make the 815 area code his home base and plays tirelessly in places like Kankakee, Bourbonnais and Bradley.
Todd Hazelrigg has played in Peoria and has a college following in Charleston. He recently shared a bill with Vanilla Ice and is a local festival favorite. But despite the attention and accolades this busy young musician stays grounded in Kankakee and is proud to be a part of its burgeoning arts and music scene.
Hazelrigg said that, “I have worked very hard with a group of music and art lovers in Kankakee to create the kind of scene we have. Kankakee is like a hidden gem of art and music. People don’t really understand what we have here. Kankakee has more heart than any town I’ve seen.”
In addition to the emotional connection with his city, it also makes sound financial sense to play in “K-3.” Hazelrigg noted that, “Chicago is a hard scene if you don’t live there, and even if you do, city clubs tend to pay based off of a door price rather than give a guaranteed price as they do in the clubs I like to play.”
He added that, "I'm still shooting for the dream...record deal, tours, etc. The problem is the music industry is so wrecked now because of illegal downloads it is almost as if there is no music industry. Some of the finest musicians and songwriters I know are doing the exact same thing as me...play the smaller Midwest venues because there isn't much of a chance for advancement. But, I'd rather play around small bars that pay well and take care of their musicians than big clubs that don't care.”
Despite the miscues in today’s music industry, the beat goes on for Hazelrigg and his compatriots in and around Kankakee. He said that, “For us musicians who decided to go against the grain and do what we love for a living, its not that we just want to play in little bars every week, we are just barely staying above water and need to play wherever will pay.” He added that, “it’s something that I HAVE to do, whether it’s in little bars or in front of crowds of thousands.”
Hazelrigg teaches guitar on the side but making music is his full-time job. He does cop to the fact that, “I spend probably 10% of my time actually playing music and the rest booking, promoting, making posters” and all the other pre-requisites for getting gigs and keeping his name out there.
Although he has yet to hit 30, Hazelrigg possesses an old soul’s musical sensibilities and writes all his own songs. He said that, “I originally wanted to be a screen writer and an author, but I have ADHD so a four minute song is easier for me. I love writing lyrics and I feel that lyrics are the most important part of the song. I like to write and to listen to lyrics that are brutally honest and sometimes even hard for me to say…. But it’s real.”
With such a focus on the lyrics, it’s not surprising that the singer/songwriter plays many acoustic shows in places like Sammy’s Pizza in Kankakee and The Spot on Broadway in Bradley. But a look at Hazelrigg’s busy summer tour schedule also shows the vitality of the downstate music scene. He recently opened at the Nippersink Music Festival in Spring Grove and he also has an upcoming gig at the Putnam County Music Festival in Peoria.
He must have made his mark at the Nippersink festival as Patrick Donovan recently posted the following on the event’s Facebook page: “Todd Hazelrigg is my new fave artist after the weekend and I’d say that says a lot because there was a lot of great new ones for me.”
Hazelrigg noted that, “The Midwest Festival scene is a very tight-knit community of musicians. I keep my connections tight by booking bands in my area.” This “I do you a favor, you do me a favor” brand of reciprocation makes for a harmonious relationship between the musicians and Hazelrrig believes that “musicians have to stick together and create their own local scene. In this profession nobody is going to do it for you. If you want something to happen, you have to create it."
One of the most intriguing musical creations on Hazelrigg’s tour schedule is the end-of-summer “Shoe Fest” in Manteno, Illinois. This festival will be held from August 29th through 31st at Camp Shaw Was-Nee-See, which boasts some of the region's most beautiful scenery and is also the site of a former Pottawatomi Indian camp. It is named for the chief who did not make the trek west with the rest of his tribe. The chief had asked to be buried in his beloved area but the whereabouts of his remains remain a mystery to this day.
On Friday, July 18th, Hazelrigg and a tribe of Kankakee-based musicians will make the trek north to Chicago to play at a brand- new venue in Lakeview called the Throne Room. Hazelrigg will be sharing the bill with 5000 South, Animal Honestly and Pilgrims with tickets going for $5 in advance and $7 dollars at the door. The Throne Room is located at 2831 N. Broadway in Chicago. Get more ticket information at Throneroomchicago.com.
You can also keep abreast of Todd Hazelrigg’s many gigs by following his Facebook fan page via the link below: