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From Open-Mic To International Success: Former FSU Music Student Returning To Tally

Tori Sparks

For a former Florida State University music student, this Thursday marks a homecoming to the town where her world-wide music career began. Singer-songwriter Tori Sparks is performing in Tallahassee for the first time in at least four years.

It’s been 10 years since Tori Sparks started studying music and theater at FSU. Since then, she’s toured in more than 20 countries and released four albums. But, she said, she never thought she’d make a career out of music back when she started playing open-mic nights at Lake Ella’s Black Dog Café.

“It was actually a surprise that people would come back to see me specifically,” she said. “I didn’t know if I should take it seriously or not, but after a while, I got a pretty good fan base there, and hopefully some of those people still live there and will come out to the show.”

Sparks has been living in Barcelona, Spain, for the past two years. She says you can definitely hear the Spanish influence in her latest album set, “Until Morning” and “Come Out of the Dark.” She describes her music as mostly a mix of rock, blues and folk.

At 29 years old, Sparks is a music business success story. She’s been able to live entirely off of her art since college. But, she says, the journey hasn’t been easy.   

“It’s definitely not a career for somebody who needs to control every aspect of their life. Otherwise you just would implode. It’s impossible,” she said. “But it’s been really interesting, for sure. It’s never been boring, even when it’s kind of complicated.”

The complications have included unexpectedly losing her Nashville record contract and paying top dollar for promoters who haven’t filled the seats at her shows. That’s why, she said, she tells up-and-coming artists to take business classes. And, she said, musicians have to build their own careers instead of waiting to be discovered. That, way, if a record exec or a manager does show some interest, “If you say, ‘Well, we’ve toured in the eastern half of the U.S. We’ve released two records,’ then you’ll be able to be in a better position with that person, as opposed to being the new band who’s begging, ‘Please, please help us.’”

Sparks says, she’s looking forward to coming back to the place that inspired her to launch her career.

“After touring all over the U.S., I’ve seen them, some of these places are just university and nothing else. You’re lucky if you have a cool sandwich shop somewhere and that’s it,” she said. “But Tallahassee’s cool.”

Thursday night’s show will be at Atmosphere Bar on West Pensacola Street at 7.