This singer-songwriter blends strands of Soul, Jazz and R’n’B with a British sense of languid ennui. Having beguiled the Pride crowd from the Trafalgar Square stage, he’s here with his new single exploring queer conversion therapy, My Religion. His brand new video JUST dropped. We sat down with him to hear all about it.
Hey there, Toby. Summer’s coming to a very sudden end, how are you doing?
Isn’t it just! I wouldn’t mind a couple more weeks of warm weather, but I’ve got a cupboard full of coats to be worn so the cooler weathers welcome.
You’re based here in London. Do you find it as a source of inspiration for your music?
Yeah for sure, I tend to find inspiration wherever I am. But there is definitely a lot happening in London to be inspired by, both musically but in wider creative terms too.
Where are your typical haunts here in London? Where do you head for a heavy night on the town?
I rarely do a heavy, HEAVYY night out, but I tend to stay East and North. If I want to dance I enjoy Savage at Metropolis, or anywhere with a bit of disco and old school stuff. Otherwise I’m a drinks at me mates kinda guy, I’m over having to mortgage my organs for a pint.
When did you know that music was something you wanted to do? Did you always have a knack for it or is it something you had to hone in on?
I think its always been something I have been interested in, (cut to me doing shows after Sunday lunch in our living room when I was 7). I’ve always had a love for music, which was actively encouraged at home whilst growing up, and I like to think my family gave me a great musical education. They showed me so many different artists, so I’ve had some great people to watch and learn from. But it’s definitely something that grew as I’ve got older and something you have to hone.
You’re a really stylish guy. Is that something you’ve had an interest in?
THANKS! Like music, I think I’ve always been into clothes too, and many of the artists I admire I appreciate them visually as well as aurally. I’m quite a visual person.
You played the stage at Pride in London last year. How was that whole experience? Is Pride still important?
It was quite mad! Incredibly fun and I was on a high of the rest of the following week. It was nice watching the video back and hearing people singing along too… I didn’t really take that in at the time. It was nice being back on the stage briefly this year too, no way near as nervous either.
And YES, of course it is! I think it’s an important time to celebrate how far we’ve come but also a moment to recognise and focus in on the work left to do. It is also an opportunity to educate people and give voice to stories that are often marginalised and forgotten in our everyday society, as well as further a field.
We all have heard those rumours of hugely successful musicians being closeted queer people. Why was it important for you to be so upfront with your queer identity?
Because, simply put, when I looked at musicians growing up, I don’t remember seeing “someone like me”.
The connotations of that to a young queer person are massive. And you have so many questions, as to why there is nobody like you. It then leads to you drawing negative conclusions, when sexuality becomes the subject of rumour it makes you feel like it is something you should hide. This shouldn’t be the case.
My sexuality impacts upon my experience of life, which ultimately and proudly informs some of my music. I’ve got no shame in it and I want others to feel no reason to either.
A large amount of gay guys are often drawn to those super-produced, commercial pop songs. You know, your Britneys, your Madonnas and your Gagas. Why do you think that is?
I really don’t know!!!
But… if I were to get all cultural studies degree on you, I’d say it is the strong femme power. The feminine energy that as gay men perhaps we are more open to and freer to embrace, compared with straight men who have this bollocks masculine (not an official academic term) image to uphold.
Plus, some of it , is really well made pop music.
NOW, let’s talk this new single, My Religion. We love it. Tell us how Mike Pence came to be a source of inspiration for the song.
He has always been an icon of mine, and I wanted to sing a tribute to what a top guy he was!
Jokes aside… at the time of writing I was seeing lots of news about support for gay conversion therapies amongst Trump’s republicans, Mike Pence in particular. And I thought that the whole religious justifications for it were complete nonsense. This was combined with seeing anti-pride protestors at pride.
I wanted to explore this idea of religion, and how as a non-religious person I have no desire to subject anyone to the harm that such “therapies” can cause – just watch Dusty Ray Bottoms on S10 of Drag Race. Yet, Mr. Bloody Holy of Holy’s Mike Pence as a “Christian” supports the, frankly put, mental abuse of young people. I wanted to say, I’m not religious, but if the Devil exists I know what he would look like.
The music video for My Religion features a broad range of queer people all banding together against a rather bleak landscape, is queer kinship something that is important to you?
YES! I think what we have is special as queer people. The embrace of difference, yet recognising the things that bind us together. I wanted to show our vibrancy and diversity in what can sometimes be quite bleak scenarios.
I saw The Inheritance in its previews at the Young Vic, and I think it had an very important message. As queer people we inherit the legacy of those that have lived before us, that have fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. We have a collective duty to remember, and how is this possible if not collectively through kinship?
I think Queer kinship is an essential part in queer education also. Who was going to teach me about Stonewall or the Gay Liberation front? Sure as hell not the English state school curriculum.
Right, what can we expect next from you? Anything we should keep an eye out for?
I’ve got music on the way, a couple more singles and an EP. We are also going be having an EP launch party – which so cleverly coincides with my Birthday! It’s down at the Windmill in Brixton on the 26th November, and some of my favourite queer performers and friends are involved.
Further forward, we’ve just been in the studio over summer and laid down another 6 tracks… so plenty more music to come!
Fantastic, well thanks for taking the time to talk to us! The BRAND SPANKING NEW video of New Religion is out TODAY!