TONI PRICE: I call all my music soul music. An artist is just expressing herself and there is not a why or a who or nothing-we are just trying to express ourselves. These are songs I want to sing and songs that I want to hear and hear them played right. And there are not a lot of those out there these days.
I’ve interspersed this kind of music with my acoustic music before and never felt I had to pin it down because I didn’t want to. This time I felt that I could without having to compromise anything and do all those songs with that instrumentation. Now, “Sunflower”, is sort of an exception, I really wanted that to be on this record and it’s only been played acoustically all its life -which is like 15 years. But I thought, I can translate this to a big band, I just have to show the drummer what I heard the drums doing because there was nothing for them to learn from. It’s all music whether you put on a bunch of clothes or just enough clothes to go out.
AD: You had some talented contributors. I understand Anthony Ferrell of the Greyhounds is on several songs.
TP: Yes. On Anthony by the way, I had never met him before this record. Derek O’Brien, my co-producer, said I had to hear this young man. Coincidentally, I had heard him the night before at the Continental with the Greyhounds. I was so impressed. I thought they were a band from out of town and just thought, “Wow they are great.” I danced to them. And then when Derek and I were having our meetings he suggested Anthony and it turned out to be him. So I said, “Great if you can get him call him up and we will have a practice.” And it worked out great. He was so helpful and so soulful and so sweet and all about the music. I hate that I left right when they came here. He was my best new discovery for me. He played on just about every song so that was a great new flavor.
AD: How is California?
TP: I made a decision. I’m 46; I’ve done this for 15 years. I’ve got to do something else now. I have the rest of my life and the whole world to see and I can’t see it from here.
AD: The rest of the world has to see what you do.
TP: I don’t really care about that. If they need to see me they will find me. But I’m saying, myself personally, I’ve got to go and be selfish and do for me and soothe my own soul. And refresh my artistic spirit. That may sound selfish and I’m sorry maybe it is but I feel like I’ve done everything I can do and now I have to reevaluate and see what else I can do. I know that there are a lot of things I can do.
AD: You always have to keep moving.
TP: And growing. And that whole gypsy thing, when I sit here and say, “What, I stayed here for 20 years?” I can’t even believe it. But I stayed here for 20 years because I loved it and it was beautiful. But then the past 7 years have been really sad and hard for me and I didn’t even realize that until it reached a point when I couldn’t take it anymore. And I thought, This is silly, there is the whole rest of the world to explore.
AD: It’s great that you had the courage to step up and do something else.
TP: It’s more of a survival thing. You’ve got to save your own life. I’m a very emotional and sensitive person and I had given more than I was getting back and that’s when it’s over–in a love relationship or a work relationship or anything. I’m not a self-sacrificing person. I give and am very generous but when I feel like it’s turning into sacrifice that’s when I divorce or change jobs or whatever. I recommend that everyone do that too. We’d all be happier people. People sit around and complain and I heard myself complaining for many years-years–and I hate complaining and I hate whining. I don’t want to hear myself saying that anymore so I changed it. So the things I’ve been saying lately are, “Oh I’m happy. I feel so much better. Hurray for the ocean.” Now I’m going to see what you have to endure out there to live by the beautiful ocean.
AD: You have seals out there.
TP: Yeah, I was sitting there last week and a little seal pops his head out and I’m like, “Here honey, come here.” But he didn’t come here. He just looked at me funny and swam off. But there I’ve seen dolphins and there are lots of birds. It’s just interesting for me to observe nature in a new terrain and a new climate. That’s why it says “aventura” on my arm-adventure in Spanish. What that means is you’ve got to go for the unknown. You’ve got to take a chance.
AD: You’ve got to keep questioning.
TP: Absolutely. Keep questioning.
AD: Will you start touring out there?
TP: Yes. I’m going to start touring from there, I think. There’s lots of things to do in California itself. In spring and summer I’m going to start getting out in America. Maybe Canada but not outside America for now cause my daughter is still 13 and I don’t want to be in another country and leave her here and I can’t take her with me because it’s too hard to lead a band and be a mother and do everything you need to do in another country.
AD: The really great thing about California is there are so many places to go within a few hours.
TP: And I also recommend the Amtrak train. I’m just learning about it and it works really well. It even kept running the whole time with the fire, you know?
AD: And good scenery.
TP: Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s like you’re sitting in your living room watching this rolling panorama that goes by the ocean. Sometimes it has to go inland a little bit and when you get up to LA it goes way inland but it’s all interesting. But when you go into LA you see, I guess it’s the drainage ditch that goes for miles and it’s covered with amazing graffiti. I don’t know what it is saying, I don’t know the language of it, but it’s stunning; it’s art. It goes on for miles, some of it is so high I don’t know how they got to it-they must have risked their life in the middle of the night. I don’t know how they do it. It’s very moving. But these people have to risk their lives like deviants to do art-they are criminals for art.
AD: That’s what we all do.
TP: But at least I don’t have to risk my life. I think that’s valiant. I wonder if I should be scared of what it says, but I’m not, it’s beautiful.
AD: What do you think about Arnold Schwarzenegger being in charge of California?
TP: I have always kind of poked fun at Arnold Schwarzenegger and also the government and Republicans and there I was in San Diego County about to burn down and I didn’t know what to do-I had never experienced that. People who live there have some experience with such things. So we turn on the TV and here comes Arnold Schwarzenegger in his jacket looking like a working professional man. And he goes to right to the evacuation site which was called Qualcomm Stadium and everyone is fearful and don’t know what to do, many had already been evacuated from their homes and some homes had burned right down to the ground. So here’s Arnold, and he steps right up and says, “This is the time for leadership. We are going to make sure that we have toilet paper and that the old folks can lie down and that there is enough water.” I was like, “Wow, somebody is in charge of this.” And I instantly relaxed. I know he’s an actor and I know that a lot of this is for show maybe, but I have a feeling he knows what power he has and he is going to use it for the good of the people and show them and himself that he can do this. And all the police, firefighters, the mayor, they had daily press meetings on TV and everyone came and reported their progress. The communication between the factions and the orderly block by block evacuation of people was incredible. And then Arnie calls up Georgie and tells him, “Get over here and you’ll get your picture took looking like you was helping. And you actually can help by signing us as a federal disaster”, which he did do immediately. That I know. He implemented everything and got us everything we needed-the marines, the navy-everybody was watering that fire and moving people and guarding the homes so there was minimal looting. The houses were guarded, pets were taken care of, large horses were boarded here and there, hay was donated-I’ve never seen civilization tell me what it was good for and it was that-it was helping a large number of people in immediate danger. You have to be organized or else there is panic and people get killed and left behind and that’s what happened in New Orleans. That was horrible. Those people were pretty much left to die. We were not left to die. They have this thing now called reverse 911 where there is such a crisis, if you have a land line they call you and tell you it is time to evacuate. They have this thing where everyone is on ready with their birth certificate and family photos and whatever else and when they tell you, you grab that shit and you go to wherever evacuation place you need to go.
I really can say that I’m scared of fire and I didn’t know where I was. I was disoriented but I didn’t panic. I felt like, I took stock and all I’ve got is junk except my birth certificate and family photos and didn’t have to worry about a pet and I felt like I was ready to go and was informed and knew where to go. And no one tried to stay behind and water their house and a few that did got in trouble for the most part. For the most part people cooperated and got out. They moved half a million people around-out and then back in or whatever-and I think there were maybe 6 deaths. Three of them were very old folks who didn’t last through the evacuation experience-it’s not like they were left in their homes to burn like in New Orleans. I have to say I am impressed.
AD: You mentioned you were impressed by the police.
TP: The cops were saving the stuff that people left by their doors. Because when they had to run they knew that was all they had left. And people would try and thank them and they just said, “No that’s our job.” And I was just about in tears. And here’s another thing about Arnold Schwarzenegger, he came out today and said that “Pot was not a drug and that it should be legalized.” He smoked in the 70s.
AD: Bottom line, Toni Price. What’s next for you?
TP: Probably just traveling a lot.
AD: Will you cruise back this way and play the Continental?
TP: Yes, of course–as long as they will have me.
AD: A lot of people will be happy to hear that.
TP: What I told people when I left that were a little bit sad was, “I’ll be back before you can miss me.” And I was and here I am again.
AD: And you’ll be back here for the release.
TP: November 9th and 10th. I’ll be back at the Continental with the electric band which we call bread under the table. This is plus Anthony. Actually Anthony and Andrew are supposed to play. That’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to dancing around.
AD: I wanted to sit down with you for a long time and never quite got to it, so thank you.
TP: Thank you. This is a good time because I have something new to say.
AD: What advice would you offer a musician just starting out?
TP: I will tell you what my voice teacher tells all her students. Her name is Renee Grant- Williams. I thank her first on every record of mine and always will because if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be singing anymore-I would probably dead of suicide because I would get so depressed because my voice would get hoarse because I wasn’t using it properly. But before you even think about that here is what she said: Sing only because it comes out of you and you can’t stop it. It’s not because you want to meet girls or get rich or look cool. It’s because it comes out of you and you can’t stop it. And only in that case should you pursue that because otherwise you are fooling yourself. She doesn’t say all that, that’s me, but she does say, “Unless it just flows out of you and you can’t stop it, I wouldn’t advise it.” All of those other reasons are false and you are going to be disappointed. We are artists because we can’t be anything else. We have to wait tables to make a living but that is not who we are. That’s all I know; that’s all I do. I am an artist, a singer, and I have to sing. If I was on a deserted island I would sing to myself and the birds or whoever would listen. I sing because I have to-that’s my joy. I want to be able to make a living that way because I don’t want to be a waitress anymore. I’m too tired. And I don’t think I should have to, I think I should just sing, and be able to but so does every other artist. You have to make it happen and do it for yourself. Make it happen. Nobody is going to hand you a job singing the blues.
AD: You can’t let anything stop you.
TP: You can’t because then you are stopped but it is still in you. Ever since I was a little kid I knew I would be a singer. I didn’t know how to be a singer, I didn’t know any singers, I was not from a musical family but I saw people on TV singing and I heard records and I thought, Well I’m going to grow up and do that that too. Just like a doctor or teacher or fireman or computer analysis.
AD: How did you get started singing?
TP: I used to sing my sister to sleep. When we were little we would have talent shows and I always knew that’s what I would be when I grew up. Then if you go always in a straight line for it, you are going to become it–you can’t fail. If everything you do is towards become a working singer then you will become one–or painter, or writer or gymnast or whatever you are going to be. Don’t say, “Oh I can’t because of this, or because someone said it,” chances are la la la. The hell with all of that. Who said it? That positive thinking guy, he said “Attitudes are more important than facts.” If the fact is that you are poor but your attitude is positive then you will get some money. You’ll overcome any fact with a good attitude. If you have a bad attitude you’ll have nothing. I believe in positive visualization. And action. You can pray or wish or do a spell but you have to go and do something. I’m in the real world too. You have to manifest it too. I think that’s what I’m all about. I listen to what I’m supposed to do as an artist and then I go do it. You’re going to have obstacles, you’re going to have doubters, you’re going to have draggers saying, “Oh you can’t; you shouldn’t.” I don’t listen to that.
AD: Anything else you want to share with the community?
TP: Nope. I just sing my songs and say everything I want to say in my songs.
AD: Good. Then we will all listen.