Todd Richard will be performing at Kent Elementary and Harrison Hot Springs Elementary to spread the word about his song for Variety Children’s Charity “Follow Your Heart.” (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Harrison country singer teaches kids to ‘follow your heart’

Todd Richard will be performing his song ‘Follow Your Heart’ for students on Feb. 1

If anyone knows the true meaning behind the words “follow your heart,” it’s Todd Richard.

The 47-year-old plumber-turned-musician has risen from relative obscurity to share the stage with singers as well known as Dierks Bentley, Aaron Goodvin and Randy Bachman. He’s been pronounced the BC Country Music Association’s humanitarian of the year two years in a row, and is gearing up to release his third album in April of this year.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

Although Richard had been musical as a kid, following in the footsteps of his musician father, he dropped the art after high school. It took his father’s death from cancer in 2007 to push him back into it.

“I used to tease him and say I was going to go further than him in the music business,” Richard said, sipping a cup of coffee beneath his black-brimmed cowboy hat. “People were going to know how to say our name.”

(Richard’s last name is pronounced the French way, like famous hockey player Maurice “Rocket” Richard, he explained.)

His father brought up that promise before he died, and it stuck.

Through an audition with a karaoke talent show, Richard saw his career as a plumber take the backseat and his music push ahead. Now living in Harrison Hot Springs and working for the Fraser-Cascade School District in the maintenance department on the side of his music career, he’s keen to have his music give back to the community.

RELATED: Harrison country star wins award for humanitarian work

On Friday, Feb. 1, Richard will be performing concerts at Harrison Hot Springs Elementary and Kent Elementary. The theme will be “follow your heart” — not only because of his past, but also for the song he co-wrote in support of Variety Children’s Charity.

Three years ago, Richard approached country music producer Jeff Johnson about writing a song that would support the charity. Together, they wrote the song “Follow Your Heart.”

“I barely got up the stairs to (Johnson’s) condo, and he just looked at me with his guitar and he goes, ‘What about follow your heart?’” Richard said about deciding the title of the song.

“I bet the song was on paper in an hour, not even,” he continued.

“And then there we were, recording it onto both our phones, getting a feel for it, and just going ‘Wow, we have something really exciting here.’”

The pair gifted the song to Variety Children’s Charity, which supports B.C. kids with special needs. From then on, every time the song was downloaded from iTunes Variety would get the proceeds.

“Because there’s not a lot of marketing and promo that went behind the song when it went out, we’ve had to do that ourselves,” Richard explained.

That’s how the school concerts started.

Richard did his first concerts with the Fraser-Cascade School District last year, in elementary schools in Hope. The main goal, he said, was to spread the word about the song “Follow Your Heart.”

“That’s my goal, to show the kids what Variety does, tell them about the song, ask them to tell their parents about the song,” he said. “Then I let the kids at each school hear some of my other songs.”

The 45-minute set is geared towards inspiring the students through stories in his songs. Some of the songs Richard has written won’t be played during the school concerts — “King of Crown” is about Richard’s love of Crown Royal, for example — but many that share positive experiences or lessons will.

“They just soak it up. They’re so attentive. It’s pretty neat,” he said.

“In the past we’ve ended with ‘Stand Up,’ and that’s a song where it’s a little faster and the kids are up dancing and singing along,” he added, noting the song speaks about struggles with bullying.

RELATED: Harrison country musician fights quarry with ‘Stand Up’ music video

In the future, Richard hopes to bring his concerts to schools across B.C., to share his stories and raise awareness for Variety. But for right now, he’s ready to share the message of “Follow Your Heart” with the students in Harrison and Kent.

“These little kids have all these dreams,” he said. “So it’s cool talking to them about their dreams, and then having them relate these songs to their dreams.

“It’s just a really powerful, powerful thing.”

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