What inspires you to make music?
There isn’t any particular ‘thing’ that inspired me to sing. I Just love to sing and always have ever since I was little. It just comes naturally to me, it is part of me.
Your debut album, “Echo in my Soul” is out now. What was the song selection process like?
We started working on my album over a couple of years ago. I had a big input with what songs I wanted to have on the album because the album started out as our own project. I have been working with Gray Bartlett (he started Hayley Westenra’s career) over the last 3-4 years, and he also suggested some songs that would be suitable for the album and I really liked his suggestions.
Later down the track when we were close to finishing recording for the songs, Robert Rigby (who owns Ambition Entertainment Record Label in Australia) was invited by Gray to see me in Concert in New Zealand. Robert must have been impressed because he asked me if I would want to sign to his Fanfare Record Label. Fanfare record Label is another part of the Ambition Entertainment label.
Once I was signed to the Label, Robert suggested some more songs for the album and possibly replacing the new songs with some previous ones. I really liked his suggestions and was happy to scratch a few songs that didn’t quite work and flow along side the rest of the songs on the album.
I wanted to create something that hasn’t really been done in the classical-crossover world before. I wanted to add not just light elements to the music, but also darker elements. To mix them together in such a way and create a spiritual atmosphere within the music. I also like lots of different styles of music and wanted to bring some of these elements into the album to. You will find traces of Rock, Celtic, gothic, classical, musical and even a bit of country through out the journey. Yet I feel all these elements work together and flow and this has been a challenge over the last 2-3 years. We didn’t want the different elements to be confusing and make it unclear on ‘the type of artists that I am’. I am a classical-crossover artist with a bit of an edge, that is the best way I can explain what I am trying to do :). The music is honest. I like to think that the album is an expression of my soul.
Your first music video for the album is “She’s like the swallow.” What made you pick that song and how much influence did you have on the video itself?
During a singing lesson with my singing teacher Ellen Barrett, she found the sheet music to ‘She’s like the swallow’. I learnt the song and decided I really liked it because the music has a beautiful melody and yet the lyrics paint a vivid picture of a loss of a loved one. There is so much love in the lyrics and yet so much sadness, I felt I could express these feelings through my voice. Even though this song has quite an eerie feeling to it, it also has beauty and I thought this would be the perfect song for my first music video.
Through out the video process I was lucky to have a big say in how I envisioned the video and how I wanted it to be. I first emailed the 90 seconds video crew and painted an outline for them of how I wanted the video to be. When it came to recording for the video, they followed the outline of what I had asked for and with there professional eye created something that I couldn’t be more happier with 🙂
Growing up you took part in a lot of competitions. How do you think those experiences impacted you as a performer?
All the performances I have done over the years have helped me to feel more confident in my ability today.
I used to be so scared to perform on stage but after forcing myself past all the nerves I eventually learnt to control them. I still get nervous all the time but I am in my ‘happy place’ when I am performing on stage and I can feel the energy’s from the audience and I feel like I am doing a good performance. No doubt the road ahead is scary but it is because all of my years growing up and performing through many different situations, I feel that I am ready for what is ahead. I am also very excited and blessed to be in a position now where I am heading down the right path to achieving many of my dreams that I have had ever since I was little. It is quite surreal.
Which artists or composers would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I love many different types of artists. To name a few Michael Bubble, Adam Lambert, Pink, Hayley Westenra, Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford and one day I would love to sing for Andrew Lloyd Webber! And so many more
Social media is obviously a very important medium for the singer these days. How did you use it to launch your own career?
Social Media is very important. I was not really into all the social media stuff, it’s not really my cup of tea but one day when I had some free time I recorded myself singing and then decided to put it up on YouTube. Not to long after that, my Dad was looking through the internet and came across classical-crossover.co.uk website. After looking through it, he decided to contact Nicola Jarvis (owner of the site) regarding my singing. She replied shortly after and said ‘is this your daughter singing on YouTube?”, and dad said ‘yes’. Nicola then said she wanted to make a profile on her site for me! We couldn’t believe it because we often contacted people trying to get them to listen to my music and they didn’t always reply let alone want to make a profile for me. My profile is a long side all the famous classical-crossover singers- It was very exciting for us! That incident helped with gaining heaps of fans around the world. I then started using Facebook and started up a twitter account. Social media is definitely helpful when you are trying to get recognized with your music.
You have been mentored by Gray Bartlett. What has that experience been like?
We first contacted Gray when I was around 12 yrs old. I had won a competition and the prize included studio time in Capital E in Wellington. I was lucky enough to make an E.P CD with 3 songs on it. Shortly after I had finished my E.P CD, the family and I went to a Hayley Westenra concert. Dad noticed in the back of the program that Gray Bartlett’s contact details were there. Dad decided to contact him and give him a copy of my CD. Gray replied and said ‘come back in a few years, she is a bit young at the moment’. So that is what we did. A couple of years passed and I made another E.P CD at Capital E. We sent it to Gray and he replied with the same thing ‘come back in a couple of years, she is to young’. Obviously we were disappointed but we tried again… We contacted him when I was about age 16 and he recommended for us to come up to Auckland and record in Manuka Studios with Mike McCarthy. I recorded ‘A bit of Earth’ and ‘Wild Horses’ and then we sent that E.P CD to him. He then finally said ‘I want to take Toni on!’ 🙂
I have really enjoyed working with Gray, he has taught me a lot and he really believes in me. He has opened many doors for me due to many contacts he has within the music industry. Gray and Trish ( Gray’s wife) are both so lovely to me. They make me feel welcome at there house and Gray drives me around to meetings and gigs and Trish makes me yummy food :). I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to work with Gray and get to know Gray and Trish. It has been great for my music but I also feel that they are part of my family now.
You played Joanna in a production of Sweeney Todd. Are musicals something you would like to pursue further in the future?
One of the best times in my life was playing the part of Johanna in the production of Sweeney Todd. I just loved it so much and I would really love to play that part on the big stage one day! I love the musical Sweeney Todd because the music is so fantastic and unusual and the story line fascinates me. I loved playing the part of Johanna cause she was the little bit of light in the darkness 🙂
My ultimate dream is to play Christine in the Phantom of the Opera in Westend or Broadway!!!
On a non-musical side, I heard you really like self defense? What else do you like to do when you’re not singing?
I love martial arts. I like the discipline and I like how it makes me feel strong. I like to challenge my mind. I do Taekwondo and I am currently on Blue Belt, Red Stripe. In my free time I love to spend time with my animals, go for walks or bike rides. Hang out with my friends and Family and my partner and I like to watch TV and eat 🙂
Where would you like to see yourself 5 years from now artistically?
In 5 years time I would like to be overseas, hopefully making a name for myself. I would like to be travelling and performing in my own concerts and selling many CD’s and opening more doors for my career. My mind is set on achieving my dream of becoming a well known successful recording artist, performing in my own concerts around the world and one day playing the part of Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and/or Westend. With such an amazing group of beautiful people supporting me and my dreams I believe I will achieve all my dreams one day 🙂