GRAY MATTER #8 - THE UNKNOWN

Well it’s election day as I’m writing this… I have NO idea who our next president is.  By the time you read this, we probably will know!  How strange… Much to write about.  Songs with lyrics about the unknown, anyone?  We are living in a crazy time right now my friends.. I’m not about to pontificate on that or preach my own beliefs because they are that.. my own.  I do however think that I hope only positive things come out of this.  That people will always remember that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave and that we are all welcome to live that American dream.

OK that’s enough about that!

I have decided what I want my next record to be.. So that’s a good start.  Over the years I have noticed a trend.  Well I noticed, but didn’t take it to heart until now. When I am playing shows or chatting with you guys on social media, I have learned one very important thing.  The songs that you gravitate towards are always songs that I’ve written 100% on my own.  Everyday, Bumps in the Road, Better.. Call it insecurity, call it a need to be around other humans, call it a little more inspiring, but ultimately, I LIKE co-writing.  I do it quite often.  A ton of my songs, I’ve written with other people. It helps my brain work.  Writing alone is like a freak of nature. I don’t always have an idea to work on or a thought that I want to sing about.. I have to wait for it.. But when it happens, it’s joyous! So co-writing with others is a way to get there a little faster for me.

That being said, I have had some great moments lately.  Moments that have formulated into songs.  So I have decided that I’m going to follow YOUR gut and write this next album by myself.  Me, myself and I are really gonna channel what is going on my life and believe me, I have a lot to write about.. 

Secondly, I have been around a ton of producers in my career.  I’ve watched them work on Protools, play instruments they don’t know how to play and perfect them, program drums, record vocals etc..  I have watched and learned.. I started to think that maybe I can do that.  Why not?? I have been recording my own vocals for years now and I know how to edit them and make them sound nice and shiny.. Why not try the rest? Drums, Bass, Gtr, Keys…:-/  Challenge is good right?? Oh my god.. what am I doing??  Well it’s settled, Thanks for the pep talk.  I am going to sit down and do this.. Just know that when I finish in 2040, every cymbal hit, every electric guitar part, every bass line.. will be played by me.. hopefully:)  Is this a good idea??? Who’s up for a challenge??  Let’s venture into the unknown together!!

Yours

Toby

GRAY MATTER #7 - The Camp

Well hello:)  I know I have been MIA for a little while and have not held up my end of the bargain on GRAY MATTER and for that I apologize. My head has been a bit clouded with some personal stuff and I decided to take a few months to focus my energy elsewhere.  I tried to write during that time, but I didn’t have the urge! Which is very frustrating.  Writing can be great therapy, but if inspiration doesn’t come, I can’t force it.  Then when you least expect it, it shows up like an old friend.  And it’s like no time has passed.  Sometimes I need a little nudge.  My “nudge” this time was being asked to come and take part in a writing camp down in Nashville.  I literally booked a ticket 3 days before leaving and was off.

This was the end of August and I had not written much in around 3 months and was desperate to be around some creative energy.  My dear friend was putting together what became one of the coolest and most creative things I’ve ever done.  He is a writer of pop and country like myself and wanted to bring together like-minded people from both worlds.  The best part was we were all going to write merely to write great songs.  Most times a camp is put together for the goal of writing for one particular artist or project.  This was more about the joy of writing and writing with new people, and I love that idea.  Don’t write with a purpose of success, write to write great. 

So about 50 or so writers from NY, LA and Nashville all converged upon Starstruck Music which is a publishing company in Nashville that was started by Reba (THE Reba)! It’s the only building on music row that actually has enough rooms to fit all of these simultaneous sessions.  Every day we would all show up, check in and get our assigned writing team for that day.  We had no say in the matter.  We’d eat lunch together and then divide up into our groups which for the most part would be an artist (maybe country or pop) a producer (who leaned country or pop) and a topliner/writer or two (that would be me:)  Then we’d break for dinner together.  After that, you could finish what you started or start something new with whomever you choose. Let me tell you.. It was one of the most inspiring things to be a part of.  I was at that studio until after midnight almost every night!!  I met the coolest most talented writers/singers/producers.. And wrote country songs AND pop songs.. It was amazing. One day I was writing with a super suave country singer named John King and the next day I’m writing a pop track with Jesse McCartney.  I feel truly lucky to have been a part of it and I owe it all to my brother from another mother, Shane Stevens, his amazingly smart and lovable partner Eric, and the sweet Courtney Allen from Starstruck who all put this whole thing together.  How proud I am of my friends, to watch them put this together was truly amazing. The perfect example of having an idea and making it happen.

I wrote 7 songs in 5 days.  I can’t release these songs to you guys for the hopes that we hear John or Jesse or whomever want to release them!  If that’s the case then they need to stay private, but I wanted to tell you about what I did… and how it motivated me to get back.  I now have a bunch of ideas in the works for my next project and am slowly chipping away at them.  It’s funny how life can throw you up and down and just when you aren’t sure inspiration will ever strike again, it’s strikes… hard.  I don’t want to say that my frustrating process of trying to have a baby is the only thing coming through in the lyrics, but it’s playing a major role.. As is the fragility of life and love and wanting to just be ok with whatever happens.  It’s all of the above. I know you all feel me.  So again, music is my therapy.. my shrink.. my release.  I don’t know what the songs are going to be yet, but I can’t wait to hear them:)

Miss you guys.

T

 

 

GRAY MATTER #6 - Don't Get The Flu

I’m baaaaaack!  What did I miss?  I hope everyone is doing well and staying creative.  First off, let me start by saying that I finally released LONG HARD DAY!!!!!  WOOHOO!!! After much demand and emails from frustrated fans, we have released the EP with 5 songs, “Long Hard Day” being the first.  For more on the story behind the EP and my co-writer Marc Copely, see my blog post on it called “Mystery of Long Hard Day”)  Go get it NOW on ITUNES!!!!  Then come back and read the rest of this post:)

Since my last post, a lot has happened and I’m excited to catch you up.  First off, I hope everyone got their flu vaccine because I ended up getting a whopper of a cold/flu which lasted about 3 weeks.  As a singer, that is bad news.. I am still not 100%.  BUT I have come out from the haze (and a marathon session of watching The Affair) and am ready to write! 

The past couple of months, I have had what some would call a “block”.  It could have been from having a fever and being delirious, but it’s always hard to find reasons while you’re in it.  Regardless, I have been hounding my brain as to what I want to do next, while continuing to write pitches and co-write.  No pressure.  In the meantime, my musical theater class I told you about in my last post is keeping me busy as usual.  Our last assignment was to write a comedy song for the play Love Letters (a Broadway cult classic) and I must say, we wrote a funny one!  I have never written a comedy song intentionally.. I have written songs that were so bad, they were funny;-/… or songs that had a funny line or two in them, but never a straight up, funny song.  You’ll understand the difference once you hear the title. “The Secret Life of a Grandma Living at the Beach Down in Florida”.  Enough said.  Also, on the broadway tip, I had the pleasure of seeing Hamilton again and let me tell you… genius. It’s overwhelming how amazing it is. CLICK HERE to check out my husbands amazingly cool merchandise that he made for it, I’m so proud! 

After throwing most of my energy into “Grandma”, I have finally found myself with a slew of ideas.  Maybe it's the inner Grandma in me.. As you know, I am a melody person.  If I showed you my phone, you would be amazed to hear the amount of voice memos I have containing melody and lyric ideas while I’m breathlessly walking down the street or running on a treadmill.  I’m OVERFLOWING!! I think it’s safe to say the block is over.. It always ends.. I just have to keep telling myself that there is an end to it especially when I’m deep in it.  Remember that and try to remind me as well.  We all need some positive reinforcement every once in a while! Thanks! 

The question I now keep asking myself is, what should these ideas sound like??  In other words, if you could make one kind of record, what would it be?? Jazz? Electronic indie? Country meets EDM? How would YOU answer that? I’d love to know!!  I am still trying to figure out what I wanna do with all of these ideas, but first things first, I have to finish them and make them complete songs. To get inspiration, I have been listening to some new artists.. Trying to get a feel for which direction I want to take them.. James Bay, James Blake (not the tennis player), newer Norah Jones, Bon Iver… Have you been listening to anyone new?  Comment and tell me!

In the meantime, I have gotten back to doing my normal co-writing.  I met a new writer in NYC the other day, which is always welcomed news.  He’s a great writer signed to Razor and Tie publishing.  Writing with someone for the first time is always interesting.  It’s like a first date. “What’s your favorite color?” are common things that are asked.. I kid.  You have to go in with an open mind and, and hope that it will be a good use of time and that you will have a mutual respect for what each other brings to the table.  Every once in a while, it doesn’t work out that way, but sometimes, you meet a great partner that you write with a lot!  I love the song we wrote called “Over and Over” and look forward to recording it! 

I also wrote a killer song with Peter Wright, a songwriter based in London.  We write through Skype which I have done a lot.  It’s always better to do it when you are comfortable with the other person's writing techniques and aren’t playing guessing games.  Guessing games are tough enough in person let alone through a computer..  Peter and I have gotten a few international artist cuts together, but now he’s interested in writing more for syncs. So we wrote a super fun song called “Heart Says Yes” and I am so pumped by it!  I plan to record the vocals next week. I’m not gonna lie, but it’s one of my favorite songs I wrote in a while!

Speaking of syncs, I forgot to tell you that I have a song in a commercial right now! Well, it’s only running the UK, but still!  It’s a commercial!!! For Hilary Blinds.. I have no idea.. but YAY!!  They are using a song that I wrote with my buddy Andy Zulla called “Beautiful Day” which was first used in the CW show Beauty and the Beast.  We are planning on releasing the song on itunes very shortly!! If anyone can find a link to this commercial and lives in the UK, SEND IT!

Well, that’s about all aside from the fact that I am literally on a plane to LA right now!  Just when you thought it was over..  I’m heading west to spend a week with my dear Shane Stevens (I got the cut with Sara Evans with Shane). I am always so proud and impressed by his talent and drive and so look forward to our visits! (and his hubs of course and they’re little pup Spike:) He has some super exciting things in the works and I am so thrilled that he wants me to be a part of it!  Can’t wait to tell you all what’s brewing.  CLICK HERE to check out his song “Nobody” that is on Selena Gomez’s latest album.  Amazing.  Our plan is to write everyday and I CANT WAIT! Shane and I are like long lost siblings who write songs like it’s going out of style while laughing and talking in silly voices to each other… all day.  I get my silliness out when I’m with him, which is the best kind of friend.  Anyway, I can’t wait to report what we do on my flight back on Friday!  That’s all for now.  Now that I read it all back, it’s a lot.  I’m a lucky girl just making my own busy.. getting a kick out of watching my fellow fliers, try to sneak into first class to use their bathroom. The flight attendant is not having it.

Hope you all have a great week!!  Stay focused, stay creative and stay happy.  It’s a choice! 

Love always, T

GRAY MATTER #5 - Musical Theater???

Ok, I know the title is bizarre, but that truly is my life these days.  I get a kick out of trying new things and pushing my creative mojo as far as it can go.  Hence, the T Killa Collections, hence the NASCAR theme song, hence, well just about everything I do!  The “mainstream” music business would call me…. schizo.. But I just call it… Me:)

A new activity that I want to tell you about, has certainly stimulated a dormant part of my brain.  Through a series of events, I have gotten into the idea of writing a musical…. as in Broadway.  I know it sounds crazy, but if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I am lucky to see a ton of shows.  New York definitely has it’s advantages and that’s one of them, oh and a husband that works in that industry.  There is no lack of theater in my life!  In the process of seeing so many shows, I quickly learned which kind of shows I like.  Anyway, when we’re at these events, people who know I’m an artist, have approached me and said “You should write a musical!”  My first response is always, “I have no idea what goes into writing a musical and I don’t have 7-10 years to waste”.  But I eventually started to get curious.. What DOES go into the making of a musical.. I know I can write songs in any genre, but can I write musical theater songs?? Inquiring mind wants to know.  Mind, singular.. horrible joke I know..

BMI, the songwriter’s union that I am a member of, offers a musical theater workshop. (I believe ASCAP offers one as well) I was told about it by a theater producer friend of ours.  He said that it was a pretty reputable workshop.. Not to mention that the co-writers / husband and wife team behind the small unknown projects called Avenue Q and FROZEN actually MET in this workshop!! Not too shabby.. Well anyway, he told me that anyone who wanted to apply could.  You basically fill out an application, submit 3 songs (a ballad, a comedy song, and an uptempo song), then a board of industry people review the submissions and ask a select few to audition.  After the audition, they invite even fewer to be a part of the class.. that lasts all year!  If you’re lucky, for 3 years!!  A commitment no less, but I’ve been in the class for 5 months now and I am really enjoying it!

The class is comprised of 2 different types; composers and lyricists.  Most times in broadway these are 2 different people.. Where in my world, it is common to write both, It is rare for someone to write both in the theater.  In the audition, I obviously played my songs on the guitar and wrote the music and the lyrics.  They asked me which one I prefer and I said, well it’s hard for me to separate them.  I can’t think of lyrics without thinking of the melody.  I was officially the only person accepted into the class that was labeled both a composer AND lyricist.  Everyone else is one or the other and is partnered up for each assignment. The first assignment, I was the only one who wasn’t paired up and it looked like every assignment after that as well, so I asked the teacher if maybe every other class, I could be paired up with a composer.  They agreed.  I mean… what’s the point if I’m gonna write everything myself! No one to learn from!  No one to bounce ideas off of.. Half of my classmates have musical theater backgrounds and are way more familiar with what works and what doesn’t.. I, however, don’t play by the rules and would write what feels right, WHILE trying to stick close to the guidelines.. So long story short, I got the best of both worlds..

In the first year class, we are learning the basics of how to write songs for a musical.  The form, the perfect rhymes, the accents landing on the right beat, how to move the story… it’s a lot and has been super challenging, but very rewarding!  I have never had to think this way about crafting a song and am baffled half the time, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.. We are given assignments throughout the year and a date to perform them in front of the class.  Our peers then raise their hands to give feedback.. And if that wasn’t enough, then the 2 moderators chime in as well!!  One focusing on the music and one focusing on the lyrics.. It’s probably the most intimated I’ve been in a while!! And I’ve played for a shit ton of people!!

Just to give you a little insight, our first assignment was to write a broadway formatted song about a “sad hello, or a happy goodbye”.. I wrote a pretty little song about a girl who was spending her last night in her childhood bedroom before moving to the big city to follow her dreams.  Sound familiar? I needed to write a genuine feeling because I had to write in a very different form than I’m used to..  I mean someone wrote about a girl getting her braces off!! How clever! It was called “Unbraceable me” HA Another assignment we had was to pick a scene from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and write what’s called a Charm song.  That’s a moment in a play where the story stops, all of the characters are already established and they just take a number to celebrate something or profess love for someone.  “To Life” from Fiddler is the perfect example.. Charm as in a charm on a necklace.. You don’t NEED it, but it’s nice to look at:)  The assignment I just finished was writing a comedy song for the play “Love Letters”.  I actually found writing a funny song… on purpose!! to be extremely challenging, but we got through it and I performed in front of the class like an 80 yr old grandma.  Who knew I could do that!! Or SHOULD do that for that matter!

My point in writing all of this in the blog is so I can keep you posted on these songs as they are written and to tell you to take chances.. Try new things.. I never thought that I would be in a class like this.. learning THIS! But I love it and I encourage all of you out there to challenge yourself!  If you ever wanted to learn an instrument, or take a voice lesson, or a dance class or whatever! It’s never too late!! DO IT!!  I didn’t grow up with musical theater and have very limited knowledge about it, but I wanted to learn and now I am.. even if I’m 70 by the time I finish writing my first musical:)

x

GRAY MATTER #4 - Songwriting Rounds and More

Hi again! I hope everyone had a good week! I, for one, have a lot to talk about since the last time we…spoke. Last week was a super productive week for me, all concentrated into 3 days.  I got back from vacation and went straight into recording a pitch for a movie the next day.  They were asking for a cover of “Here Comes the Sun” for the new Jennifer Garner movie.  I worked on a version with my friend Andy Zulla (co-wrote “Beautiful Day”, but check out his credentials, pretty impressive)  We submitted it through my film and tv rep and now the filmmakers pick which one they like.. Hopefully it’s ours:)  

Then I got right back into working on the Long Hard Day EP.  I am still honing in on the timeline for the video with my Polish director.  He’s coming up with some really cool ideas.  Between the two of us, these two actors, who he cast, are going to be very busy! They shoot this weekend, so I’ll let you know how it goes.  It will be shot in Warsaw, so I will NOT be attending.

On Thursday, I traveled down to the 30A Songwriters Festival.  This is my second time being a part of this festival that brings in around 75 artists/songwriters.. There are about 15 venues that host rounds along Route 30A in the panhandle of Florida.  A round, for those of you who don’t know, is when 2,3 or even 4 writers traditionally sit in a circle in the middle of the room, facing each other.  Each person takes a turn singing a song, describing the process of the story behind the song.  You listen to each persons song and then go around again, maybe 3 or 4 times.  These days, most writers sit in a row on a stage in front of the room, so it’s more like a line rather than a round.  Just an FYI.

Anyway, It’s pretty spectacular down there near Panama City Beach, I highly recommend going if you can.  The first night, they had an artist welcome party, where I was able to meet up with sooo many artist friends that I love seeing in these random places.. Charlie Mars, David Ryan Harris, Griffin House, Nicole Witt, Shawn Mullins, Jeffrey Steele, Jeff Cohen to name a few.. It was such a blast. My first day, I woke up and went on a run in this beautiful setting, then went to write with Jeff Cohen.  We have written a few songs together over the years, one of which is “Take My Hand”.  We are currently working on compiling enough songs for my next EP release.  Whichever co-writer I finish 5 songs with first will be the next EP after Long Hard Day.  

After that, I went to play my first round with a singer named Sarah Borges.  She was hysterical.  I kept thinking she was from Canada for some reason.. She’s from Boston.. Whoops.  We actually wrote together a few years back, but we never really kept up after that.. Not sure why.. It happens sometimes.  Anyway, our round was super fun.  There were about 250 people quiet as a group of mice, which makes for the best kind of round.  We are there to play our hearts out and they are there to soak it up.  After my round, I went to see Deana Carter play.  I had never heard of her before, but a few people told me to go and hear/meet her.  She’s known for a song called “Strawberry Wine”.  Never heard it before, but always cool to hear new people..

The next day, I woke up and reeeeally had to motivate to run, but I did.  Thank god.  It’s not easy.. MOST of the time.  Then I went to write with my friends in a band called Farewell Angelina (after the Bob Dylan song).  I originally know Nicole Witt, who is an amazing writer/singer out of Nashville.  She is in this band with 3 other equally talented ladies.  You should definitely check them out HERE as they just got a deal!!!  I’m so happy for them.  We wrote a killer song together.. I say that because it was 5 women sitting around a table, chatting and spitting ideas.. I’m surprised we got ANYTHING done. I can’t wait for them to work up our song so you can hear it.  

After we finished, I drove to the main stage to listen to the great Jackson Browne!  I never heard him live before and he did not disappoint! The lineup was Jeffrey Steele (about 40 #1 songs to his name), Shawn Mullins, JD Souther (“Faithless Love”, “Heartache Tonight”, “Best of my Love”.. and so many other Eagles songs..) A pretty sobering thing to hear, knowing now of Glenn Frey’s passing. We are losing way too many icons this year.. I know it’s tough for my buddy Copely who I wrote Long Hard Day with.. He spent a lot of time on the road with the Eagles.. The headliner was the amazing Jackson Browne, who I never got to see live before.  He did not disappoint! It was so amazing to hear "Take it Easy" and "Running on Empty" live! I then waited like a lame o with Griffin to meet him backstage.  Griffin had been asked to record a song for his tribute record and of course wanted to meet him for the first time.  I, on the other hand, telling Griffin, I'll be the friend who takes your picture with him; in other words, I'm only waiting here to make you not look silly, stood there like a moron listening to them talk:) Jackson kept looking over and finally held out his hand and asked where I was from. I said New York, he then asked if I had "them New York values".  I plead the 5th.  He laughed.  I probably blushed at that point.  I ended up getting my own photo with him, taken on some random persons phone.  I'll probably never get that picture, but it was a cool moment.

I also ended up having a super awesome conversation with Jeffrey Steele, whom I'd played many events with, but never really talked that long to.  I told him about my Sara Evans cut and he was psyched.  He said we were way over due for a write and hopefully we can get that together soon! If I can have a little of what he's having, I'll have a number one within the year!! HA  That same night, I played my final round with Reed Waddle, who's amazing.  Definitely check him out and listen to the song "Piece by Piece".  SO GOOD.

Later on, I went to watch my friend Jeff Cohen play his round with Dan Bern and Davin McCoy.  I hadn’t heard of the other two guys, but boy was this a diversely amazing round!! Jeff has had hits with A Band Perry, Sugarland, Big & Rich and more, Dan was hilarious and wrote the wittiest songs and then Davin had this “whiskey sexy” thing going on… that’s the name of one of the tunes he played.. literally.  A man after my own heart.  

The festival took a lot out of me, but that wasn’t all, I then drove up to Atlanta for 5 hours and played my own show! I have to say, it might have been the best show I’ve ever had in Atlanta!  I was tired from driving, but it was the best feeling after sharing the stage with some amazing writers and playing for a bunch of people who weren’t familiar with my music to then play a show for my people and have them singing along…. the best feeling.  After the show, I had to bolt to the airport to catch my flight back up to NY.  Sorry again for canceling Charlotte, I am going to announce the new date this week, so stay tuned.  

Love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions.. Is anyone out there?  If you choose to remain silent, I love you anyway:)  Stay warm. Til next week..

T

 

GRAY MATTER #3 - Love and Light(man)

I hope that everyone had a great holiday and are starting off 2016 with a bang!  I have a lot to tell you and am pumped.  I FINALLY had an actual vacation and it really gave me a chance to plan out my year.  I know it looks like I travel a lot, but it's rarely for the purpose of laying on a sandy beach with a mojito:)  As you know, I do a lot of writing and continue to do so.  You also know that I have a ton of songs that I haven’t released.  I spoke about the song “Long Hard Day” in my last post... Waaay back in 2015.  Well, we finally finished the last song in a grouping of 5, while I was away actually!  It's called Let Love the the Lesson and I LOVE IT.  We then went into the mixing phase the week I was away.  Great timing.  But Marc Copely, my co-writer, has a lot of travel coming up so I had to make it happen!

For those of you who don't know, mixing is really when the recording comes together.. It's when you take all of the instruments that you already recorded and EQ them, play with the levels, add reverb, delay etc, pan things into the right or the left speaker...  Imagine recording is like picking out the colors and painting, and mixing is touching it all up and refining it.  I love giving feedback on mixes.. and I don't hold back.  My producers love it;)  When you mix, you want to listen on WAV files, larger files.. They sound better and aren't crunched down like mp3's.  Although everyone is usually listening on tiny computer speakers so it doesn't really matter.  BUT it's still worth making them sound great as if everyone were going to listen on a surround sound system.  I digress.. My point is, downloading huge mix files was a bit challenging in the Dominican Republic, but it was well worth it.  Marc knocked it out of the park!!  (And surprisingly didn't want to kill me from all of my comments) I can’t wait for you all to hear it.  Which will be VERY SOON!

And now it's full speed ahead!  I have my husband helping me get the artwork together, mixes are being sent around and a guy in Poland is plotting out the video.  Yes, you heard me right, Poland. I found him on a site called Radar Music Video.  On this site, you can post your budget, the song and what you are looking to do with the video.  Directors from all over the world can send treatments (their ideas for what the video would be).  You pick which one you like best!  It’s so amazing, especially since I HATE being in music videos.  (Me and my one good eye prefer still shots that we can fix:)  This guy wrote a treatment for Long Hard Day that was EXACTLY in the character of the girl in the song; a black widow.  It was meant to be!  I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!

I will also have my film and tv rep send the music out in the next few days and hopefully we’ll get some bites!  Not easy releasing new material in this day and age because the world is drowning in new music.  BUT if I can get something placed, it’ll help… And you buzzing about it like little bees does too:)

Once this EP is finished, I am going to move right onto the next one.  I plan to release at least 3 EPs (4-5 songs) of material this year.  Each EP will have a different sound.  For one, I like writing and singing all different kinds of music and I have specific co-writers for specific purposes.  They all can basically write anything, but have tendencies that lean one way or another in production.  Each EP will be called Toby Lightman and (insert co-writers last name).  I plan to do a video for each one, maybe this guy in Poland will turn out to be great! 

On a final note, I am leaving tomorrow to head down to the 30A Songwriters Festival in FL.  Last year, I had the best time hearing/meeting new writers and playing rounds with friends I already know.  This year there are a ton of people going that I don’t know, so I look forward to telling you how it goes!  I am then renting a car and driving up to Atlanta for a show on Sunday night at Eddie’s Attic, one of my favorite places to play.  After the show I have to fly right home.. I had to cancel the show that was meant to be 2 days later in Charlotte.  To give you the God’s honest truth, we have been trying to start a family for a while now and are well into our “more aggressive” phase.  So traveling at the moment doesn’t come easy and adjustments have to be made.  Just wanted to be honest and open, since that’s what this blog is about!  You read it here first people:)  

Love to all of you and may 2016 bring amazing things for all of us,

T

PS Take a few minutes to listen to some Bowie.

GRAY MATTER #2 - Toplines and Such

I hope everyone is gearing down to relax and celebrate a little bit with friends and family.  As I write this post, I am thinking about presents that I need to wrap and ingredients that I need to get for recipes.  I have really grown to love cooking as you can tell by my Instagram feed, but I may like food a little too much that I can’t seem to narrow it down to less than like 10 recipes for each holiday meal…

Switching gears to last week.  I had a show up in Boston on Tuesday that was a lot of fun and then my last show of the year in Macungie PA.  I had never been there before, let alone heard of it, but it was a cool room, filled with people who knew my music as well as a few who didn’t.  I love playing in a new town and hearing people request songs.. It makes me feel good about going out of my comfort zone of cities, that I know I have fans in, and being surprised to find fans there too.  (I also played Long Hard Day again and am starting to get the hang of it!!)

As far as writing goes, I have been finishing up some recordings that I already had started.  Like I said before, I have been trying to get more familiar with producing and creating records.  It’s really fun when you can find the sounds you want and REALLY frustrating when you don’t.  More on that later.  

The only session that I had last week was with a super talented and very motivated writer that I met a few years ago named Jessica Bennett.  She’s actually from the DC area and has written with a few people that I know.  She now splits her time between Hong Kong and London.  I actually was introduced to her through a writer who lives in London and is signed to the same company that used to manage me when I was signed..  He connected us when he knew she would be in NYC a while back and I live in NYC blah blah blah..  Here's an article that talks a little bit about her.  Click HERE to read..

Anyway, Jessica writes a lot of what’s called “toplines” for Chinese artists (I know it sounds a bit different), EDM DJs like Tiesto and Armin van Buuren and other folks in that world. These DJs have massive amounts of views on Youtube and fly around the world performing for insane amounts of people.. Quite the niche, but once you find that thing that you’re good at… Keep doing it:)  Most of the time, when writing this way, we’ll get tracks that are already done and we will write the melody and lyrics on top of the track, hence the name topline.  Sometimes, they will remix a song that is already done and create a track to go around that song. That is what happened with an artist that I know called Mayeani, who used to work with my manager.  She wrote a beautiful song on the piano called “Nothing Inside”.  Her publisher sent it out and a DJ heard it and loved it and decided to take it upon himself to make a track around it.  It became a huge hit in that world. Take a listen HERE

You’ll notice that he literally paused his track to allow for her song to stay pure.  That RARELY happens, but it’s pretty cool how he did it.  On a side note, my very first topline that I ever wrote was over a track that I got from my manager, same manager I spoke of earlier.  He rarely gets these things, but because he was working Mayeani at the time and she had such success from “Nothing Inside”, he started getting tracks from producers and DJs from around the world.  Mayeani wasn’t interested in writing that kind of stuff, but I said “Hey! Let me try:)” He gave me a track from a French producer named Michael Canitrot who was in a DJ group called Reepublic.  I wrote the “topline” in like 20 minutes and as luck would have it, they released it as their first single.  It made it to #1 on the EDM charts in France and beat out Sia and Rhianna!  L.U.C.K. But I am trying to do that more as it’s super fun and takes me out of my own head of writing for myself.  If you haven’t heard “Turn off the Light” you can listen HERE

Back to Jessica. We ended up trying to do the song before the track idea… And we wrote a super emotional song called “Heart Beat”.  Hopefully it get’s heard by one of her contacts in China so I can become a superstar in China!!!  Anyway, now it’s in my hands to record it and mix it, which I will hopefully be able to do at some point before the holidays swallow me up!  I record all of my vocals in my apt these days and have gotten pretty good at making them sound mixed like a record.. ish.  But my nephews are coming to visit in 2 days and that will certainly not make for a quiet recording atmosphere.  When I have it done, maybe I’ll post a soundcloud link of it so you can hear:)

I hope everyone has a brilliant holiday and a Happy New Year!  Stay safe and be creative, always. x

 

 

 

GRAY MATTER #1 - The Mystery of "Long Hard Day"

Welcome to my second blog entry! I feel a little bad that I’m starting a new blog on a week that I didn’t have much going on!  And it’s holiday central.. which means the entire music business completely checks out.  If you ever have trouble with saying “things are a little slow” or “not much going on here”, this is not the right month to get motivated to join in on the music business!  Just a little tip:) 

All that said, I did have a show in DC last week that was so amazingly good for my psyche.  Such an amazing crowd and, boy what an opener!  I am so lucky to have people want to open up the show for me and this couple did not disappoint.  Check them out daveandmandymusic.com.  So that happened.  Now I’m on a train to Boston for a show tonight.

Let’s get back on track.. I have a bunch of projects in the works that I want to tell you about in this blog.  The first one is a project that I have been working on for almost 2 years with my amazingly talented friend Marc Copely. I originally wanted him to play in my band, but he had too much going on and couldn’t make it happen…  I haven’t let him live that down as of yet and don’t plan to any time soon:)  His slide guitar playing is insane!  

We decided to meet anyway, just to jam and see how we grooved in the chance there might be a show he COULD play on.  I left thinking, we have to work on something together. The VERY next day, I got asked by my film and tv rep for a swampy, blues rock song for a “shoot em up” movie starring Robert DeNiro. (more on how that all works later) I knew I had to try and write something new to pitch since I didn’t have anything like that in my catalogue, and within 30 seconds I thought, I have to write this with that slide guy.  He was into it.

On the subway to his apt, I started humming a melody in my head.. When I got there, he said, I have an idea, and I was like, so do I… and mine’s better, just joking!  Anyway, we wrote the song, combining our ideas in about an hour, and it was the perfect fusion of my bluesy melody and lyrics and his americana/rock guitar parts.  We called the song “Long Hard Day”.  We recorded it in his make shift studio in his apt, as us New Yorkers do.. we don’t have large studios at our disposal, especially when it’s just a pitch and there’s no budget.  

The movie ended up not getting the green light, so that meant, our song was in limbo… sitting on my hard drive with the other lost souls/songs.  We decided that we would write more songs in the same style.. They all have a common thread.  A main character that is like a black widow spider who never seems to keep a lover and is reckless in getting rid of the bad in her life.  It’s not about me.

About 3 months later, I got an email saying that they sent it to the supervisor who works on The Fosters on ABC Family and she wanted to put it in an episode.  I had just had the good fortune of her using about 6 of my songs in one episode!  I was literally the soundtrack for an entire episode.. So I said, cool, it’ll probably be background noise and no one will know that they are listening to an aggressive rock song on a family friendly tv show.  

I decided to watch the episode as I’ve done every time I get a song on a show.  I get a kick out of how they use songs that I intend one way and then the visual makes them another.  Well, the last 5 minutes of the episode came and then “Long Hard Day” started playing.  Right at that moment, the main character looked out her window to see a boy standing there ominously staring up at her.  I didn’t even have to know the backstory to know that this was a big moment.  I was stunned… And that’s when the emails started coming…  “Where can I find it?” “I wanna buy it” “I can’t believe you didn’t release it!!”  SHOCKED.  Who knew this show had such a devout following; who knew the show would use it this well; who knew people would search this hard for it???  

My big dilemma was: As an independent artist, it can take up to 3 weeks or more to release a song to iTunes.  I missed my opportunity.. I was bummed… There’s no point in releasing something that no one is looking for.. As time passed, the emails slowed.. I thought to myself, maybe it’ll get used again and then I can throw it out there.  Well it hasn’t….. YET….  I have a feeling LHD has a place in the universe.. My husband has convinced me that it will do more good being released instead of sitting on my hard drive…. waiting for the right moment.  There’s never a perfect moment for anything!  Obviously, he’s right.  I wish I could compete with the major labels and throw a ton of money behind it, but that’s not my music business.. I have to think creatively and put my marketing cap on.  Hopefully the stars align and word spreads around organically about this super unique song that struck a chord with so many people.. myself included.  But I did learn a valuable lesson.  RELEASE EVERY SONG THAT GETS PLACED ON TV!  FROM NOW UNTIL ETERNITY!  Even if it’s just in T Killa’s Workshop on my website.

So here is my announcement: Shortly after the New Year, I will be releasing an EP called “Long Hard Day” under the name Toby Lightman and Copely.  Cause after all, it’s always better late than never! Learn from your mistakes people and think BIG! Every song is it’s own lightening in a bottle… ready to strike.  Be ready.

Gray Matter - The Writing Blog

Welcome to my new blog!  Today, I am making a vow, mainly to myself, but to anyone who's reading this:) I am going to write updates here and only here about the ins and outs of "my" music business..  Not the business that we see on Tv or the one that lives on the radio.. But the gray area in the middle where there are so many of us who are lucky enough to make a living doing what we love, but riding a little under the radar. I think I wanna call this blog GRAY MATTER, but that could change, cause after all… I am a writer.  Open to suggestions:)  

I have been very lucky to have been signed to a major label, to have had my songs play on the radio, to tour with amazingly talented artists and more. I realize that not many people will be able to experience that and I don't take it for granted at all.  I am constantly getting emails from fans that ask how did I do this and how did I do that etc.. This blog will hopefully answer those questions.  So feel free to comment below with any thoughts you have! 

Here is the main idea: What can I do today to keep this train rolling? What do I have control over without the big machine behind me?  After I left the label, I did a lot of soul searching.  I started doing anything and everything that I could to stay creative.. Some of you may know that I write a ton of songs all the time.  Some of them I try to get used on TV shows and in movies, some never see the light of day!  Some of you may know that I write songs to pitch for other artists, some of you may not!  Some days I sit in front of my computer and teach myself how to program hip hop beats... just cause:).  Some days I write on the piano (And I don't even play piano….:-/).  Some of you will know that sometimes, I got nothin'.  Nada.  On those days, I want to roll up into a ball and roll down a hill.

On this blog, I am going to be open and candid about the highs and lows on writing, singing, performing, life... As there are a bunch of us floating around in this crazy business, in this crazy world for that matter.. pedaling hard to make shit happen. Some days I'm on flat land, some days I'm coasting down a hill while some times it feels like I'm hiking up the Pyrenees.  Highs and Lows... 

I hope to be able to write here once a week, about all I did the week before.. publishing on Tuesday. Hopefully you will find it interesting, hopefully you will get questions answered, but know that sometimes there are no answers.. It's all chance and luck.. I can tell you one thing, I won't hold back and will try my best to be open and honest.. In this blog :)  Just a little caveat, I won't be able to post most of the songs that I write about here because once a song is released, it's released...  and sadly, it makes it more difficult to get it cut by another artist or used on TV.  Sooooo I will have to be a little cautious about that BUT I will hopefully make you laugh and shed a little light on this music business that reads like a John Grisham novel.  Stay Tuned!!

 

2015 Tour Dates and House Shows!

 

From January through the spring, we will be hitting the road like crazy! If you look at the dates, you will see that we are hitting PA, NY, MA, OH, IL, WI, IN, NC, SC, GA, TN, CO, and TX, just to name a few! As you can see there are gaps in between cities and moments before and after runs where we are not performing at venues. We did that on purpose because I have had an crazy amount of people ask if we'd ever play a private house show.. I've also gotten emails asking me to visit areas that we haven't been in a while... Soooo I've decided to craft a tour that allowed us to do both! The answer seemed clear: House Concerts! That means, we could potentially come and perform in YOUR living room or backyard or local event space etc.. Any place works as long as you meet certain very simple criteria! 

If you are interested in hosting a show, but don't see a date near you, don't fret! We are open to hearing your ideas and are game to hitting most areas of the country if its a fit!! See below for more info on how you can get involved and book a show near you!

Toby

House Show Info
Here's how it would work.. Imagine you and 20 to 50 of your friends in YOUR living room, backyard, local event space, basement etc; a potluck dinner, and a 45 minute private acoustic performance by me and the guys! What do ya think? You can totally do it!

If you want more information on how to host a house show, check out this great link www.concertsinyourhome.com. It's a resourceful site that teaches you how to host a concert. This website is only to show you more information, we do not book shows through this site.

If after doing a bit of research, you think you might be interested in hosting us, please email us at TobysHouseShow@gmail.com

We will get back to you within a few days with more information and available dates.

NYC Residency

My last residency show is coming up!  Nov. 20 at 8pm will be the final show in my series "Night for..."  We had amazing success with "Night for Soul" a set filled with my own soul songs and soul covers that I love, and "Night for Love" which was comprised of songs about the pros and cons of love.  This final show will be my own songs and covers that make you truly think about life.  How to make each count.  I hope to see you there!

1 more week til the record comes out!! #EKOP

NEW ALBUM "EKOP" RELEASE DATE, UPCOMING TV PLACEMENTS & TOUR!

EVERY KIND OF PEOPLE
It's almost here!! Thanks to all my pledgers again for all your support! My new record will be available everywhere digitally on Oct 27!! Stay tuned for an iTunes link reminder!

T KILLAS WORKSHOP
As you know, I write songs all the time. I love doing it.. And not all of my songs can go on my records, there's just too many of them! So I pitch them for film and tv placements while they sit and wait in my workshop:-)

I am so thrilled to tell you about 2 that are happening very soon! Let's all watch together and cheer! Be sure to tag me on twitter when you hear me!
@tobylightman

Sunday Oct. 12
"Never End" by Toby and Chris Perry
Total Divas on E! Network

Tuesday Nov. 4
"You're My Best Friend" by Toby and Vlad Holiday
About a Boy on NBC

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN AND BUY

 

x

Toby