In Conversation With . . . Toby Beard, Part II

Toby Beard is a singer-songwriter from Perth, Australia. Now on her 11th tour of Canada, She’s performed at major festivals all over the world, supporting notables like Sheryl Crow and John Cougar Mellencamp. Toby recently recorded her fifth album, Coming Home. (Read Part I of this interview here.)

?It’s time to dream a new dream; It’s time to get some sleep.
It’s time to put myself back on the mountain peak,
Stop looking backwards and take a whole new stride.
It’s time I look at myself with a little pride.
I wanna say, ?Welcome back to the good old days . . .??

Toby Beard, ?Good Old Days?

The Care and Feeding of a Singer-Songwriter’s Soul

Lyrics, tunes, and musical arrangements don’t emerge from a vacuum. So where does Toby turn for inspiration in her down time? ?I’m a big Paulo Coelho fan,? she says. ?As for music, Tracey Chapman’s first album has always been a massive inspiration. Also the Waifs? first album. Hearing these female singers led me to believe that I could do it, too. This week I’ve been listening to Indian music from the CD Sacred Spirit, Crowded House, Ani DiFranco, Ray Charles, and The Beatles.?

Her hectic performing schedule necessitates a careful management of down time. Because it takes Toby so long to calm down after a show, she tries to be kind to herself. ?I need to just chill, have long showers, and talk about the ups and the downs of the show. My down time is spent just being with the people I love.?

It’s certainly not the life of your typical Australian debutante, so a life of comfortable apathy is out of the question. Has Toby’s career changed her?

?Yes!? she exclaims. ?I tend to hear more now and listen more, and I think It’s because I tell my stories to people and they tend to tell me theirs. This has opened my eyes to what other people experience in their lives, and It’s opened me up to how huge this amazing world is, to watching and learning and listening and taking in my surroundings.?

Writing a Song

Hearing other people’s stories also provides more fodder for her songwriting, inspiring her and giving her more to think about. Her personal songwriting process is natural and organic:

?There is no set process; it simply happens. I sit, I start strumming, and words spew out of my mouth. This is the only way it works for me in general. It has to be the right place and time and feeling. For me, as soon as It’s forced, it just won’t be a great song. A few songs have been a process of music first, then, sometimes years later, the right lyrics come to me. But mainly it all happens at once, as if It’s been just sitting in my mind waiting to jump out.?

More Spiritual Than Religious

Toby doesn’t feel that she owes her artistic gifts to ideology or belief. ?To be brutally honest, I’m not really a political or religious person. I believe there’s something like a universal god out there, but I wouldn’t even call it a god?I’d call it a force. I’m way more spiritual than I am religious. It’s not that I’m against religion; It’s just what works for me. I believe you meet your soul people over and over again in the different lives you live.?

Echoes of Etta James

Etta James came very close to being one of these ?soul people? for Toby, whose musical journey once brought her into the inner circle of the blues legend.

?I actually worked with her band members and her manager?not Etta, unfortunately. But seeing her live was amazing and it was her last show, and somehow I knew this straight away. That show was fabulous to watch . . . her band is made up of amazing musicians?so humble and talented and lovely to be around. I worked with her piano player, David Matthews, on my album, plus her trumpet player, Mike Almos. Both were just amazing to work with.?

Canadian Tour

Toby’s open and friendly nature also resonates with Canadian audiences. ?I love Canada, so I love my experiences here. Canadians are such friendly, warm, and welcoming people, and that makes me feel so lucky. The tour is a quick one, just a whirlwind fly in and out, but I’m enjoying it for sure. I have a new band again and we’re working so well together. It’s my first time working with slide guitar, which is beautiful, and also the harmonies from my band are just sounding beautiful.?

What’s Next?

In spite of enduring a hectic touring schedule, Toby has found the space in which to fashion some life goals that for her look pretty achievable: ?I want to keep doing what I do, to spread my music far and wide, to get an incredible manager, to be on the world festival circuit, to finally have that radio hit, and to keep enjoying what I do. That last one is the most important part of my future?enjoyment and satisfaction on a personal level.?

So what’s next for Toby? ?Next, home! Finally, after a six-week tour and thirty shows (Europe as well). But . . . I’ll be going straight back into touring Australia, then back here for your summers. No rest for the wicked!?

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