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I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
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I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
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I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
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Unveiling the Journey: Toni Childs’ Road to Creative Triumph

Based on the Podcast Episode: “Unveiling the Journey: Toni Childs’ Road to Creative Triumph ” – Episode 44, The Magic of Songwriting with Francesca de Valence

Toni Childs, the powerhouse behind hits like “Don’t Walk Away” and “Stop Your Fussin’,” isn’t just a singer-songwriter; she’s a force of nature. Toni’s inspiring journey from open mic kid to international sensation is a testament to the transformative power of music.

Let’s rattle off the accolades and positions to get a rounded picture of Toni Childs. Emmy Winner, three-time Grammy Nominated recording artist, installation artist, environmental activist, Artistic Director for Big Mother Entertainment, and for good measure, opener for Bob Dylan at Radio City Music Hall. It’s an artist’s dream resume.

We sat down with Toni at the 2023 Whitsundays Songwriter Festival to learn about her creative journey for ‘The Magic of Songwriting’ podcast:

Why it’s ok for you and others to exploit your music

In reflecting on the notion of exploitation in creative expression, it is important to acknowledge the varied motivations behind creation. Not every creator seeks widespread recognition or validation; some are content simply to explore, express, and grapple with the complexities of the world. 

Toni’s journey mirrors this sentiment in many ways. Growing up, she experienced life with an intensity that often felt overwhelming yet exhilarating. Joy was palpable—she would dance down the street, singing without inhibition. Yet, during moments of sadness and alienation, she sought solace in nature, in music, in the act of creation itself. Singing became a cathartic release, a means of grappling with the pain and confusion inherent in existence. 

Through writing and storytelling, Toni found a way to navigate, and even exploit, her own experiences and observations, to weave them into a narrative that felt authentic and meaningful. In doing so, she discovered the power of expression—not only to heal and to understand, but also to connect with others who share similar struggles and sentiments.

The power of the open-mic 

Becoming a storyteller can be a sanctuary and a source of solace. For Toni, discovering her love for singing opened up a new world of possibilities, but it was an unconventional journey. Raised in a strict religious environment where popular music was forbidden, she found herself drawn to the vibrant sounds of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin when introduced to them by an older friend. 

This newfound musical awakening led her on a remarkable journey, hitchhiking across California at just fourteen years old, guided by the kindness of strangers. Standing on the sidelines, watching musicians perform at open-mic nights, she felt a pull deep within herself—a yearning to take the stage, to seize the microphone. Despite her nerves, she mustered the courage to join an open-mic session filled with talented artists and found herself as the only female in a lineup of seasoned performers. 

Despite their initial reluctance, she was given the chance to sing, and as the blues melodies filled the room, she felt a transformation wash over. It was as if someone else was guiding her voice, and she surrendered to the music, singing with every fibre of her being. Though initially met with skepticism, her raw, improvisational performance captivated the audience, affirming her own belief that she had found my calling as a singer-songwriter. In that moment, Toni Childs realised the power of music to transcend boundaries and create something entirely new in real time—an exhilarating form of expression that she would embrace wholeheartedly.

The Evolution of Creativity  

A single decision at the age of 16 set the course for Toni’s musical career. Despite her lack of instrumental skills, she was determined to pursue her passion for singing and songwriting. Collaborating with various musicians in Los Angeles, she embarked on a series of musical endeavours, bands that would provide platforms to explore creativity and perform original music. 

Surrounded by a community of talented artists and bands, including iconic names like The Motels and Van Halen, Toni found inspiration and camaraderie. As she continually sought to innovate and push boundaries, her bands attracted attention from record companies due to their dynamic performances and unconventional stage antics. The value of experimentation and fearlessness in pursuing an artistic vision would become traits that define her musical journey moving forward.

The London Interlude  

The pivotal moment of realisation struck while contemplating a future in the music industry. Despite the allure of potential fame and success in Los Angeles, Toni recognised that staying there might confine her to a fleeting moment of stardom, producing a single record before fading into obscurity. 

Determined to pursue a deeper artistic journey focused on timeless storytelling, she made the bold decision to leave LA behind. Consulting with Lionel Conway, president of Island Music Publishing, she outlined her vision for honing my songwriting craft and gaining invaluable experience in London. Requesting a simple, three-page contract, she secured a publishing deal that allowed her to explore the vibrant music scene across the pond. Settling in London, she immersed herself in the rich tapestry of musical culture, rubbing shoulders with iconic musicians and honing my skills both in the studio and on stage. 

Working part-time as a cook at Virgin Studios, she found unexpected opportunities to collaborate with renowned artists and create the demos that ultimately led to a signing with A&M Records. Although her penchant for exploring new sounds earned a reputation for frequently changing band lineups, it was this spirit of experimentation that propelled her forward, shaping her musical journey in profound ways.

A Meeting of Minds  

Toni gained invaluable insights into the intricate workings of the music industry and the importance of strategic decision-making after securing a publishing deal that provided her with the financial stability to embark on an artistic journey. She finally had the space to refine her songwriting skills and expand her musical horizons. 

Despite the deal’s finite duration, its impact reverberated throughout her career, particularly during her time with A&M Records. Perry Watts Russell, a key figure in her transition, leveraged his industry connections to garner interest from major record labels, ultimately leading to her signing with A&M. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of a transformative chapter in her musical evolution. 

Collaborating with David Ricketts, whose creative vision resonated deeply with Toni’s, she delved into a profoundly collaborative songwriting process that yielded some of the most meaningful music of her career. Their creative partnership flourished as they embarked on a journey of exploration, traversing sonic landscapes and delving into uncharted musical territories. These experiences shaped the trajectory of her debut album and deepened her understanding of the power of collaboration and creative synergy. 

The profound connection forged during this period extended beyond the realm of music, transcending into a deeply personal and transformative journey of self-discovery. Through the highs and lows of this creative odyssey, Toni learned invaluable lessons about the importance of authenticity, resilience, and unwavering dedication to one’s artistic vision.

Shamanic Sonic Journeys  

Exploring the depths of creativity often leads us to unexpected and profoundly transformative experiences. The genesis of Toni’s musical collaboration with David Ricketts left her struck by the powerful influence of what can only be described as “shamanic openings.” These moments of profound connection and creative synergy ignited a creative fire, propelling Toni to produce some of the most inspired music of her career. 

The journey was marked by an intense immersion in the creative process, characterised by endless hours of songwriting and soul-searching drives through diverse landscapes. During one such journey, fueled by the effects of plant medicine, Toni experienced a profound revelation—an auditory tapestry of African voices echoing in her mind, beckoning her to Africa. 

This epiphany served as a guiding light, shaping the direction of the musical exploration and leading Toni on a deeply personal and transformative journey of self-discovery. The subsequent creation of the song “Zimbabwe” became a pivotal moment in her artistic evolution, embodying the fusion of her creative expression with spiritual healing and cultural exploration. Indeed, this epic creative odyssey not only defined the sound of the album but also left an indelible mark on Toni’s identity as both an artist and a human being. Through the twists and turns of this journey, she discovered that creativity is more than just a craft—it is a profound and deeply spiritual journey of self-discovery and healing.

The Publishing Puzzle  

The pivotal nature of Toni’s publishing deal became evident as she navigated the complexities of producing her record. Initially, signing with Kathleen Carey, whose label was linked to MCA and later acquired by Universal, marked the beginning of a significant chapter in her career. 

With a clear vision of having David Ricketts produce the record, Toni faced resistance from her A&R representative, who feared competition between David and Toni. Despite a willingness to wait for David to complete his own project before beginning hers, pressure mounted for Toni to work with another producer. Faced with the ultimatum of compromising an artistic vision or risking a record deal, Toni chose to stand her ground. 

The support of her publisher and manager ultimately alleviated the pressure, allowing a solution that honoured both David’s creative journey and Toni’s. This experience taught the importance of staying true to the artistic vision and advocating for creative integrity, even in the face of external pressure and uncertainty.

Ready to bring your wildest creative dreams to life?

I Heart Songwriting Club is all about helping you achieve your songwriting goals, creative dreams and career heights, step by step, no matter where you are in your journey. Check out our programs to help you, and let’s begin!

By |2024-05-02T16:52:24+10:00May 2nd, 2024|0 Comments
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