Toni Childs – American singer/songwriter

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Celebrated American singer/songwriter Toni Childs returns with her Because You’re Beautiful tour, which sees her performing tracks from the recently released Keep the Faith album, along with a mix of well-loved favourites such as Don’t Walk Away and Stop Your Fussin’.

 

Audience members will also enjoy a special preview of her new album, Citizens of the Planet.

Embarking on a savvy social media campaign, Childs called upon her legions of fans across the globe to help raise money to produce Citizens of the Planet. She is immensely proud of the album, considering it “the best of her life”.

Inspiration for Citizens of the Planet came over a 10-year sabbatical from the music scene, in which Childs healed herself of Graves Disease. During the decade out of the spotlight and while living on the beautiful island of Kauai in Hawaii, Childs “jettisoned” her drive to define herself wholly as a musician, instead taking the time to “ground” herself and eventually to reinvigorate her creativity.

With her career firmly back on track, Childs now happily calls Australia home, residing on the North Coast of NSW. Manning-Great Lakes residents will enjoy a performance by the Emmy Award Winner and three-time Grammy nominated recording artist at the Manning Entertainment Centre on Friday 27 July.

Karen Farrell spoke to Toni Childs about her new album …

I love that you raised funds for your new album, Citizens of the Planet, over a relatively short period of time via a savvy social media campaign. Did you have to drive the campaign 24/7 to ensure its success?

Yes, it’s a whole new ball game. I also had a really good fan base before I released the last record, Keep the Faith, and so there was a real bonding that happened between my audience and me. I wasn’t really into Facebook, and then I kind of ‘got it’ and set up my own page. It’s been a learning curve in terms of how to engage with people and how to reach them.

What I found was really effective was to explain what I was doing on video – that I was about to go into the studio and make a record and explain my intentions for the album. I called out to fans for support.

I also had my husband, Mick, who is a documentary filmmaker, help me. I don’t really feel comfortable on camera or with the fact that you’re asking people directly to do pre-purchases but it’s a new world, and I’m really glad that I did it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to make Citizens of the Planet, which I feel is the best album of my life. I’ve had this massive growth spurt creatively because of this whole process.

Throughout the campaign you talked via Facebook directly to your fans, unlike a lot of other celebrities who have their Facebook comments done for them …

Right. 

The experience of being ill has clearly been life-changing for you and has taken your music to a whole new level. What is it that makes you so proud of this album?

The purpose of the recent Keep the Faith album was to get something out there and to start again. It was a hotchpotch of material over that decade before I became ill and stuff that I had randomly been doing, almost like a journal.

It didn’t have any focus. Normally when I do an album, it will have some focus and a kind of creative ‘pregnancy’ that occurs over time. Citizens of the Planet got to have that time by having the decade off and living on an island basically in tree houses and very close to nature. For the first four years on the land, there were no neighbours at all – I had an entire valley to myself. I got a chance to really connect with nature in a way that gave me some distance and perspective from the madness of my ambition of my life, which had been music and my drive.

 

Citizens of the Planet is addressing some of those things. I’m into quantum mechanics, and I’m into activating these applications that I feel we all come in with, but we’re not using. We’ve been doing the same things over and over again for millenniums. When do we get it? When do we actually evolve as a group on this planet, as the world becomes smaller? I think we’re all kind of feeling it.

So that’s where Citizens of the Planet has taken me. It’s still in progress. We’re working on developing a state-of-the-art performance piece … it’s a very different type of concert experience. It’s music meets TED talks …

It seems that by being ill and subsequently living on the island and getting back to nature helped to rid you of that artist mentality, where you’re frenetically occupying yourself with a drive to succeed and prove yourself? This sort of angst just seems to have left you…

(Laughs) I totally jettisoned it! I was defining myself in this way, and then I totally let it go and I was OK with it. It wasn’t until Eve Ensler (of Vagina Monologues) showed up on the island (we were rasing money for a sexual assault treatment centre on the island), and she asked me to write a song for her documentary … then it kind of kick started everything again, and I loved it.

You are living on the far North Coast of NSW. Are you living there permanently, or splitting your time between Australia and Hawaii …? 

We’re here permanently. I’ve been holding off totally committing, but we’re here, and I love it.

Australian’s kind of gobbled you up in the ‘80s, so there would be a good vibe for you out here, I’m sure.

(Laughs) I don’t know why, but this place – all of Australia – speaks to me.

Thank you Toni.

Interview by Karen Farrell.

This story was published in issue 65 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus

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