Todd Herzog never imagined he’d end up writing acoustic, spiritual pop music along the lines of John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Marc Cohn. But then again, he has always had complementary sides to his personality.

In high school, he played violin in a community orchestra and sang in a rock band. In college, he sang a cappella with the Tufts Beelzebubs, and studied Philosophy.

todd-herzog-on-guitarThis was one half of a 5-year double bachelor’s degree program. The other half was spent at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he pursued Jazz Voice. “It was a course of study that my parents must’ve been skeptical of at best. . .Great, we’re spending $100,000 for you to be unemployed. . .”

After losing a girlfriend to Leukemia, Herzog began a search for deeper meaning and spirituality. “I questioned everything. This was not the way I thought life was supposed to turn out, especially for someone so young.”

Searching For Answers

His search for answers resulted in his first album, What I Wouldn’t Give, which talks about grief, healing and coming through the other side of a dark emotional time. The album did well, resulting in film and television placements and winning the award for Best Pop Album in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards. But following this first release, Herzog went through a period of writer’s block. “After composing songs about life and death, nothing else seemed to be important enough to talk about, and so I simply stopped writing.”

It wasn’t until meeting his future wife, Karen, that Todd found a new outlet for his songwriting. Karen was involved in the Jewish community in Phoenix, but moved to Los Angeles shortly after meeting Todd to allow him to continue his musical aspirations. Through her connections, Todd was introduced to Dr. Bruce Powell, an inspirational educator, and he began teaching instrumental music to high school students at New Community Jewish High School. “I though I would play Klezmer music with the kids, but I soon found out that they were more interested in playing Greenday, Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy. I knew I had to try something different to get through to them.” He ended up using his composition skills to write music with the students that connected Jewish texts and ideas to the kind of music that the younger musicians could relate to. “We began writing some really interesting pieces, and at a certain point I started to question if maybe I shouldn’t be giving myself the same kinds of assignments that I was giving my students.”

The result was Todd’s Proverbs album, which takes texts from the Bible and other philosophical texts and puts them into a modern context. “The idea has always been to make this ancient wisdom accessible to myself and hopefully to others.” It seemed that finally his impractical college majors had somehow come together to form the basis for a new approach to songwriting and performance. “It became my goal to use music to achieve a deeper understanding of life and spirituality. . .and to convey that knowledge and accessibility to others who, like myself, had not had the benefit of a more traditional spiritual education.”

Todd & Karen

After spending two and a half years together in LA, Todd and Karen came to an agreement. Karen would take on the role of being Todd’s business manager and publicist if he would move back to Phoenix with her. The business of Dared Knot (an amalgam of their names) Music, LLC was born. Once in Phoenix, Todd appeared at a range of secular and spiritual venues. Eventually, he took on the role of Cantorial Soloist at Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, AZ. His more consistent involvement with the Jewish prayer service led to the release of his first official “Jewish” album, entitled Bridging The Gap. Created with the intention of bringing religion and spirituality together, Bridging The Gap won Best Jewish Album of 2009 in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards. Following the success of this album, there was a demand for material that appealed to a younger demographic, and so the album Everyday Blessings, based on the bookWhat’s Jewish About Butterflies? was created. The album was debuted at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Early Childhood Education conference in Cleveland, OH and received extremely positive acclaim from all of the participants.

Herzog has been fortunate enough to have other meaningful and humbling musical achievements along the way. His song “You And I” (performed by saxophonist Michael Lington) reached #2 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Charts. He has worked with some of the top songwriters and performers in the world, including Burt Bacharach, Dave Koz, Craig Taubman and Harriet Schock. His music and voice have been featured in television and film in shows such as The Young & The Restless, All My Children, One Life To Live, The Osbournes, Melrose Place and Who Wants To Marry My Dad. Todd has been a featured performer at the URJ Biennial, the ECE-RJ Biennial, CAJE, and Hava Nashira. He has been profiled in Chosen magazine, NBC’s Arizona Midday Show and many other media outlets. Todd has been an Artist-In-Residence at the JCC Maccabi ArtsFest and with several of the day schools in the Phoenix area. He continues to impact the Jewish community and beyond with his uplifting music. In addition to his duties at Temple Solel, Todd travels around the country doing concerts, services and artist-in-residence weekends.