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Brady Toops said he didn’t pick up a guitar until he was in college and was looking for “an escape” from the stress of high-stakes collegiate sports. “I’d devoted 20 years of my life to a game that now seemed to be pretty irrelevant,” said Toops, who said he went on a journey to find out what to do with the rest of his life. Submitted photo
Brady Toops said he didn’t pick up a guitar until he was in college and was looking for “an escape” from the stress of high-stakes collegiate sports. “I’d devoted 20 years of my life to a game that now seemed to be pretty irrelevant,” said Toops, who said he went on a journey to find out what to do with the rest of his life. Submitted photo

NLS grad and former professional athlete hits stride in Nashville music scene

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entertainment Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Brady Toops has definitely lost his how-to-talk Minnesotan dialect.

In a recent telephone interview from his home in Nashville, the 2000 New London-Spicer top academic graduate, star high-school and college athlete and former professional baseball player carried the lilt of the southern community where he is hitting his stride as a singer and songwriter.

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After producing several extended play (EP) recordings, Toops is releasing his first full-length album this month: the self-titled CD "Brady Toops."

He's launching the new album at the same time he begins a multi-state tour of southern and west coast states.

The album represents Toops' mesh of traditional folk, rock 'n roll, and gospel music.

He said he's striving to "fill the gap between secular and spiritual" music in a style he calls "hymn-like melodies and organic tones" that "blends modern sounds with a vintage feel."

Fresh start

Toops, who is 32, didn't start his career in music until he was 25 years old.

Although music was a hobby and truly his "first love," Toops spent most of his life on athletic fields.

He said he didn't pick up a guitar until he was in college and was looking for a "an escape" from the stress of high-stakes collegiate sports that led to a two-year stint with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball organization that ended in 2006.

Toops said he knew his stretch in professional sports was done at that point.

"I'd devoted 20 years of my life to a game that now seemed to be pretty irrelevant," said Toops, who said he went on a "journey" to find out what to do with the rest of his life.

"I felt I hadn't accomplished anything yet," he said, later realizing that school and sports "instills in the heart the character of a person that is really irreplaceable."

Although unsure at the time if he could make a living with music, Toops said it was the obvious choice for a new career.

"In the summer of 2007 I decided what I loved the most was playing music," said Toops.

Through his past experiences and education, Toops said he "learned how to be fairly resourceful and I learned how to set your heart on something."

He said he moved to Nashville not to "make it" but to develop his craft.

Toops said there is a "creative synergy" in the town and he's thriving on collaborating with talented musicians.

Just as in baseball, Toops said if you "play with great players, you become greater."

Team player

With a strong faith in God, collaboration with other artists and with the help of new technology that has shifted power away from big money music labels and into the hands of the artists, Toops has carved out a career in music.

Not only does he write, perform and record original songs — which he said involves "story-based lyrics" — he is also a regular church worship leader.

He fills vital business roles of being his own producer, promoter, booking agent, accountant, secretary, web designer, strategist, social media consultant and manager.

"It's just like a good baseball game. You have to have the right guys in the right position," said Toops.

"What's challenging about the current situation is that I'm trying to play all nine positions at once," he said.

Toops finds it humorous when people ask "what I do all day."

Combining the creative aspects of writing and performing with the "boring, tedious tasks" is all part of the business.

"From a distance, it looks like my life is pretty glamorous," said Toops. "But 90 to 95 percent of what I do is not very cool."

But playing music in the remaining 5 to 10 percent of his time is the reward that makes it all worthwhile and "really fuels me for the 90 percent that I don't love that much," he said.

New album

Toops' new album will be released Tuesday.

It includes 11 songs that he wrote or co-wrote.

"It's a very organic, rootsy vibe that blends the old with the new," he said. "It has an old vintage feel but a fresh sound as well."

Toops said the lyrical themes of his songs are of hope, love, pain and redemption.

"The record was really made to shoot straight to the heart," he said. "I like to make music that appeals to the soul."

It can be purchased on iTunes or any digital retailer. It's also available on Toops' website: www.bradytoops.com. A free download of one of his songs is also available at that site.

Toops' tour to promote his new album does not include Minnesota. He said when he travels back to New London to visit family, including parents Skip and Kim Toops, he likes to spend the time visiting instead of looking for venues to perform.

When asked where he hopes his career will take him, Toops said success for him doesn't necessarily mean selling lots of albums and performing in front of thousands of fans.

"It looks like the pursuit of something I love with people I love in a way that I don't lose my soul," he said.

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