In Conversation With Toby, Part I
Volume 21 Issue 18 2013-05-17
The Creative Value of Twisted Emotional States
“Nobody’s eyes should have seen what your eyes have seen,
Should have felt all the pain and all of the sadness from all of those years.
But now I’m on the outside, now I’m looking in,
Not able to touch you, not able to hold you—I’m helpless back here.”
Toby Beard, from “Stay”
Toby Beard is a singer-songwriter from Perth, Australia. Loved by audiences for her rich, husky voice, her infectious smile, and her heartfelt, frank lyrics, she’s performed at major festivals all over the world. She recently recorded her fifth album, Coming Home. Currently on her 11th Canadian tour, Toby still took the time to chat with Wanda Waterman about life, songwriting, and the music business.
A Charmed Childhood
Toby’s ability to write and perform with such amazing confidence may have developed in the petri dish of a happy, boisterous extended family.
“I was a very lucky child,” she remembers, “with loving parents who are still madly in love. There was loads of love in the home. There was camping and holidays and sports and lots of great music—Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Beatles, Queen, Jethro Tull, etc.”
She adored school—but not necessarily for the cipherin’. “I mainly loved the social aspect of it,” says Toby. “I loved being a part of any social group—any charity group, any music group—anything which meant getting out of the classroom scene for a while!”
Not Another Trained Monkey
Toby wrote her first song at the age of nine. “It was terrible,” she says. “I wrote songs all through my teenage years—also depressing and, well, kind of dismal. Then I started writing seriously at around 23 years old.”
She studied for a Bachelor of Classical Guitar Performance for two years at the Western Australian Arts Performing Academy, but dropped out short of a degree: “I realized I didn’t want to be another trained monkey,” she says. Instead, she began to travel and collect experiences. She even joined a children’s band called Dragonfly The Funky Fairy Band, where she got to dance around on a stage in a pink tutu, smothered in glitter.
Seeing The Doors
What was her most moving musical experience? “I would probably have to say watching The Doors,” says Toby, “with two original members. It was mind-blowing and I felt like I was right there back in the ’70s. Such powerful music! The Doors have been a favourite for a very long time, so the fact I could stand there and be a part of it all was incredible.”
Twisted Emotional States
Toby has had an extremely tight schedule for the last seven years; she’s performed over 1,000 shows all over the world and released five albums, two live DVDs, and several EPs. But when asked whether or not she considers herself a well-disciplined musician, she’s remarkably self-effacing:
“No, definitely not. I wish the answer were yes. I find it hard to make time for my instrument. With running my own business and touring non-stop, there’s rarely any time free for me. And when I have free time, I like to be with friends or family. So unfortunately the answer is no.”
What does she need in order to be creative? “I’ve written what I consider my best songs when I’m in some twisted emotional state. That’s when I write many songs. They just flow. When I’m in a happy state, I don’t feel like writing. It’s very strange and sometimes very frustrating. These days I’m getting more inspiration from other people’s stories. I think this is what the next album will have a whole lot more of— stories from other people’s points of view.”
“I think my career has made me more humble, more interested in people, more aware of who I am and how I present myself to the world,” Toby says. “It’s made me learn so much about relationships—mainly with band members, audience members, and love relationships—to be on stage night after night, really making myself vulnerable to a crowd.
“It’s a full-on thing to do, and you have to be very careful to not let things go to your head, whether it’s from people applauding you and wanting to hang out after your shows and get your autograph, or whether it’s dealing with rejection from people in the music industry. I’ve learned you never know what’s around the corner, so don’t give up and don’t allow this industry to destroy your soul! And mostly, give your all no matter how big or small the crowd is.”
To be continued . . .
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