Susan Toney is in her element with guitar in hand and audience before her. She has a rare talent and diverse sound; drawing on pop, country, pop/rock, alternative and rhythm and blues. Susan captivates her listener with brilliant lyrics and unexpected melodic twists and turns. Solo or with her band, her music explodes with raw edge and intimacy; her pure, passionate, voice compels attention. The band features Susan on lead vocals, keyboard and guitar along with veterans Arno Lucas on percussion and vocals (Al Jarreau, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Ricki Lee Jones) and Chad Watson on bass and vocals (Janis Ian, David Arkenstone, Delaney & Bonnie, Charlie Rich Jr. & Sr., Ronnie Milsap).
Music News Nashville caught up with Susan to talk about her new CD “Love Is The Cure”, her inspirations and the message behind her music.
1) You recently announced the formation of The Susan Toney Band. Can you explain how you chose these renowned musicians?
I have been extremely fortunate, when it comes to attracting extremely gifted musicians to work with me, recording and performing the body of work I have created. I work with some of the most talented musicians in the world, who work with the most talented artists in the world. I have been able to choose from many renowned, studio and touring musicians, who either approached me, or were musicians my producers knew, worked with frequently and were right for my music, genre, what I was creating and me as an artist. I have also been approached, by musicians who were recording in the studio or touring with top artists and requested to work with me, after they saw me perform or heard me in the studio. I believe producers and musicians will be attracted to me as an artist, my music, my love of music and the reasons I’m doing it. I chose the musicians I work with, because of their immense talent, their beautiful heart and humble acceptance and trust that their desire to work with me is my prayer, continually answered. The gift of many talented people working together to shape and deliver my music, for the good and enjoyment of others, by the producer, musicians and myself, is a tremendous blessing.
2) Your music has been described as a mix of Pop, Country/Rock and Rhythm and Blues – what are your musical inspirations?
My musical inspirations are broad, because I lived in a household that listened to both ends of the musical spectrum. My mother’s father, Henry Bredendick, was Dutch German and he loved classical music. My mother’s mother, Mary, was English and loved both classical and pop music. She loved Liberace, classical music, hymns, and big band and pop music. My father’s father, William, was the lead singer in a country band, played guitar and was a real cowboy. He owned a dairy farm in Oklahoma and held me on his lap, when he played the guitar and sang to me, on those hot, balmy, Oklahoma nights. My father, Bill, loved music and played the tuba in high school. He appreciated classical music and opera, but his favorites were Sinatra, Elvis, mariachi, jazz and country music. He loved the traditional country music of Charlie Pride, Charlie Parker, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. My dad and I watched Dean Martin, Hee Haw and listened to Country Music. My mother, Jan, liked all styles of music. When I was young, she took me to the ballet, symphony and opera. At home we listened to the radio, the albums of folk, pop, r&b and blues artists, to classical music and watched Barbara Streisand, Glen Campbell and Sonny and Cher on television.
My musical inspirations came from listening to many styles of music. These varied musical styles, became my early and continuing influences and the foundation of my vocal and songwriting style. I was inspired by Broadway musicals, ballet, symphony, opera and the great composers Beethoven, Hayden, Mozart, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff and Leonard Bernstein. The great country artists, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Sr., Charlie Pride, Charlie Parker, Roy Orbison, the great r & b, blues, jazz and pop artists, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Leon Russell, Elvis, Roberta Flack, The Supremes, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Judy Garland, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and the pop, rock, folk artists, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette, Cheryl Crow, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mommas and Poppas and Peter, Paul & Mary. Beginning in 1st grade, I went to the symphony once a week and fell in love with classical music. I taught guitar and music theory, while I was in high school. I went to college at SMU, in Dallas, TX to study classical guitar, composition and voice. To my music theory teacher’s dismay, each morning, before music theory class began, my fellow students would inquire and ask me to play my latest classical composition and popular song.
3) David Z produced your new CD “Love Is The Cure” - what was it like working with this multi-platinum producer?
Working with David Z was an extraordinary experience, that fortunately, we both decided we would like to repeat, many times together; with different songs on each album of course. David is a Grammy award-winning, multi-platinum producer and every note, bar and relaxed breath, had been carefully, calculated and thought out. He is a genius, because of his talent and vast experience in bringing the musical texture and raw edge of the parts and instruments being recorded together, perfectly. He is known for his mastery of connecting and combining musical influence, from multiple styles, into one simple and elegant musical statement. Nothing crowding anything else out, just the right notes played at the right time, with the right effects and the right choices for the guitar, bass and vocal effects. David has a great wit, is very gracious and easy to get along with and talk to. He is very focused, intelligent, relaxed, thorough, well planned and organized. His engineering and mixing, has won many Grammy’s and numerous, legendary artists, a very long career. He again executed his engineering, mixing genius and wise musical direction in the studio at Ocean Way on my project.
4) We hear there is a Grammy Buzz around “Love Is The Cure” – that must be very exciting?
I am very excited about the Grammy Buzz around my album, “Love Is The Cure.” I am very grateful for the opportunities and nominations and look forward to playing at the Grammys. It will be a dream come true, to perform and win multiple awards at the Grammy’s. Last year Adele won multiple awards and I felt a feeling of Déjà vu. I was happy for her and also felt deep inside, that I would be winning multiple awards. With a sigh of relief, feelings of deep gratitude and victory over many difficult trials, I’ve overcome in the past, it will be received humbly and graciously; but it will just be the beginning of my victory.
5) At what age did you pick up your first guitar?
I picked up a toy guitar at the age of 3 and then a larger, children’s guitar, from Sears, at the age of 6. I loved the way a guitar felt when you held and played it; the way the guitar rested in your hands, the way it sounds and the way it smells.
6) You are both a songwriter and an artist. Do you identify yourself more strongly, with one or the other?
I would have to say I am a songwriter, when I am struck with an idea, a thought, a feeling and the need to express the deep moan, urgency and battle in my soul, that has to be expressed and delivered. It can’t be kept inside any longer, just like you can’t delay the birth of your child, when it’s ready to come out, it has to be delivered; you’re no longer able to keep the baby still, quiet, waiting inside and patient. I am the artist when I deliver the child, the gift, the song, the message, to the listener, the friend, the audience, the people, that have gathered around me, because they need to hear the message, I’ve come to deliver and share with them. When I’m the artist, performer, you’re at my home, I’ve invited you over and you’ve come inside. I’m giving it to you, I’m your friend, a minister and it is important I give you the message, the soothing balm to help you through your trials in life. Writing is a necessity for me, but I am the artist with something to say and something to give; it is vital for me to deliver the message.
7) For your albums, do you co-write with others or is most of it solo?
I write solo mostly, because the writing process is very fast for me. I have worked tirelessly on my craft of melody and lyric writing and studied with the best. I started off with a tremendous God given gift that compelled me to listen carefully, learn quickly and work very hard. I co-write as well, but find I have usually written most of the song, whether I’ve started an idea and taken it to someone, someone brings me an idea, or we both start at the same time. When I write with others, I continue to learn and approach the craft in a new way, with another person’s perspective. I write many different styles pop, country, rock, blues, Americana, alternative, r&b, folk, classical music, film, television scoring, jingles and musicals.
8) Is there a message behind your music?
There is a message behind my music. I have a very strong faith; I have gone through many difficult trials and deepened my compassion and empathy for people who are suffering. I have tremendous respect and love for others and believe everyone is deserving of respect and dignity. I believe in forgiving, laughing, caring, giving, listening, sharing, helping, loving, patience, compassion, mercy, grace, generosity and prosperity. I moved to different parts of the country, when I was growing up and saw that everyone has similar needs and wants. Everyone wants to be listened to, understood, needed, valued, cared about, respected, loved and wanted. Everyone has dreams, something to contribute and a purpose. I want to share the love, mercy and grace God has given to me and remind people they can get through trials and gain wisdom, patience, humility and perspective. We can get along, love each other and work together, with mutual respect, love and concern for each other. We are our brother’s keeper.
9) Can you tell us about your non-profit organization Love, Hope and Health?
This is an exciting non-profit organization. Its message, cause and programs are based on humanitarian and Judeo-Christian ideals, principles and God’s unconditional love for us. The message is, the importance of faith, the message of hope, don’t give up and demonstrating Gods love, mercy and grace can unite the world. I am being offered a book deal for my autobiography, which will be used, as a vehicle for healing and a fundraising tool, for this cause. We have several lead agencies that will be working with us: Music Cares, Susan B. Kohlman and The American Cancer Society.
1. Love of the Community: Bring Music Education and Instruments, back into schools (grants & scholarships).
2. Hope for The Future: Educate in the home, community and schools, to address and change the cycle of bullying, assault, battery, domestic abuse and rape.
3. Health For The Earth: Bladder, Brain and Pancreatic Cancer; Cancer and Stem Cell Research (grants & scholarships).
10) Can we expect to see The Susan Toney Band on tour anytime soon?
You can expect to see The Susan Toney Band on tour by the spring, that is the timetable we are shooting for. As a businesswoman and entrepreneur, my team and I are aggressively launching my label, Strange Child Records, first quarter, 2013. We are currently securing major distribution, through WEA or UMG. I also recently signed and exclusive management agreement with industry veteran John Bokowski, Jr., of Kings Road Group, Intl. who’s Marketing Team’s platinum and chart topping successes has helped such artists as Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Lionel Richie, 50 Cent, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Kenny G, Nas, The Fugess, Xscape, Mariah Carey, Da Brat, Vanessa Williams, Brian McKnight, Toni! Toni! Toni! etc., soar to multi-platinum success.
For more, visit www.susantoney.com
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