A Spotlight Interview with Toy Taha
A brand-new record from Toy Taha brings on a flow of R&B and allure in the form of a st of tastefully woven songs that breed a smooth vocal approach and an honest backbone that makes the album freeing and addictive.
The album is called Eight and it features some lush and soulful performances that come through robust with organs, piano, keys and synths, and massive vocals that just feel sultry and silky with harmonies and attitude that all fit in perfectly.
The songs have some heated grooves and the percussion and rhythmic timing on some of these tracks are just outstanding and showcase such a gorgeous variety of songwriting styles and performances that really let the artist shine.
Taha's presence is something that rivals the big leagues as she is able to grab you and pull you right into her world in seconds flat. And it feels great to be there with her.
The songs have passionate performances and her character on this record is something that you become quicky attached to and want more of.
You get an array of approaches and feels throughout the record and it all fits together like puzzle pieces. Almost like these are chapters from her life.
This release is packed with heart and genuine realness that you come to love, and it has this thing about it that makes you feel like you know her better after it's over.
It almost feels like a concept album in a way. Like the songs connect to each other and display a personal experience that was lived and drive the record on an emotional level.
With the release of such a beautifully performed release, we wanted to talk to Toy Taha about this one.
Here's what happened.
RAG: Okay so let's start with the Eight album. This record has soul and such a powerful voice!! Where did this album come from?
Thank you so much. This album was actually recorded two years ago in 2020 during the pandemic and I was triggered to create it by coming across a quote that basically stated how one shouldn’t withhold their gifts and talents and how that dishonors The Creator and it struck me because that is something that I’ve been doing for the longest time. Keeping the art to myself. For myself. So my project EIGHT came from a space of needing to create. Needing to have escapism and an outlet because I was working nonstop as a nurse during one of the most difficult times because the pandemic was new and it was stressful. Also I had just ended a relationship by choosing not to settle. So all of those factors incited the creative process and compelled me to write about sexual liberation, self-love, nostalgia, heartbreak and more.
RAG: So how did this all begin for you? When did you fall in love with music really?
I fell in love with music at a very early age. Probably four or five years old. My mother would play big vocal records on vinyl by Anita Baker, Phyllis Hyman, Stephanie Mills, Shirley Murdoch and Teena Marie and I’m told that I would sing along verbatim and in key and with the theatrics as if I had experienced the love or heartbreak I was singing about. I also fell in love with soul music because my paternal grandfather would play Muddy Waters, Bobby Blue Bland, James Brown, Aretha, B.B. King and Ray Charles on vinyl and many other artists with really soulful voices, so it became embedded in me and I just loved it so much and wanted to hear more and more. My father introduced me to a more eclectic side of music and he would play Bob Marley, N.W.A., Patti LaBelle, Jon Lucien, Rachelle Ferrell and Public Enemy on cassette. So as far as I can remember, I’ve been a singer and a creative and an avid music lover my entire life because I was always surrounded by music and it gave me so much joy and something to look forward to.
RAG: Who is in your headphones right now?
There’s always Beyoncé in my headphones. She is one of my biggest vocal inspirations. Also, Dawn Richard. She is one of my absolute favorite artists of today because she really pushes the envelope and bends genres and is unapologetic in her art and that’s what I aspire to do with mine, especially as an indie artist. I’m also currently listening to Remy Shand, Alex Isley, Ro James, Aretha, Stevie Wonder, Jazmine Sullivan, Solange, Silk Sonic, Nina Simone, Brandy and many, many others. Everyday it’s something different.
RAG: What inspires you to write a song?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. My art can be inspired by my life or friends and family’s lives or simply something from my imagination, but now I’m really cognizant of the fact that my creativity is not just mine. It is a vessel and I didn’t exactly think this way when I created my first promotional project, I Am Woman, in 2013. So now I’m fully aware that all of my creations come from God and so it doesn’t matter if I’m writing and singing about love or sex or heartache or whatever. It’s all from a source greater than me. So with that being said, I allow the music to tell me what to write and if I hear a track and the chords sound melancholy, I’ll write about that and use that emotion or if the chords sound passionate, then I’ll write about romance and sensuality. I no longer hesitate on it. It’s much less contrived this time around. I was inspired to create different sonics with EIGHT and I believe I touched on it all from pop to orchestral to jazz.
RAG: I'm hearing some great styles on this song. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Thank you. My biggest musical influences are: Prince, Michael and Janet Jackson, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Amel Larrieux, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Jill Scott, Teena Marie, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Luther Vandross. The list really goes on and on and on. We would be here all day, but those artists in particular are who I tend to learn from most and study.
RAG: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
When I’m not working on music, I am working as a nurse and if I have down time, I love to support fellow artists (local, underground or mainstream) by attending their concerts or just spending time with my loved ones. I also love a good spa day or a chill movie day and I love fine dining and experiencing different cuisines and cultures.
RAG: Would you say live performances are a big part of what you do?
I’ve just recently began performing live last year in 2021. So that part is very new to me and still quite scary. Shout out to a dear friend of mine Keith Simpson, who is a professional musician and producer and basically he invited me to a local open mic here in Philly and I initially thought he just wanted me watch everyone, but to my surprise, he was inviting me to sing. I made excuses and I told him no because I didn’t feel prepared, but the truth of the matter is I was just petrified because I had never sang live in front of anyone. So with his encouragement, as well as, my mother’s, I did it and several times after. So I do think people want to experience the live element from me as an artist, but I am so shy when it comes to singing that it really takes a great deal of courage for me to do it live. Therefore, working through the anxiety and fear is a factor. However I am looking forward to finally performing my original music live for the first time and getting the response because EIGHT has been received well, thankfully, so it makes total sense to perform my own creations.
RAG: This song feels like a big undertaking, is there any advice you'd give to other up and coming artists out there?
Absolutely. I would just love to inspire any upcoming artists with my journey because for a really long time, I was resistant to sharing my gift and it was a challenge for me. I was disobedient. Primarily because music is so spiritual for me and it makes me feel naked. Singing exposes you in a way no other art form does. So it was frightening for me to push past fear and be that vulnerable with the thing I loved most of all. When you feel completely stripped it requires a level of bravery to open yourself up. Of course, there’s criticism, there’s disapproval, there’s haters, there’s people that just may not connect with what it is that you have to offer as an artist, so I definitely struggled with allowing others to see this most authentic side of me. But what I now know is my music will be accepted by whomever it is meant to impact and whomever it is supposed to inspire. And music is my refuge. It is me and I am music. All day, everyday. So I simply want to encourage any artist who’s holding their gift hostage or keeping it closeted and being fearful of what’s on the otherside of the unknown to just do it. Just leap!
RAG: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
I’ve already starting creating the next project and I am currently loving the direction. Most importantly, it really is a big deal for me to create art that is cohesive and that is a body of work. Soul is forever my foundation, so you can expect that no matter what genre I choose, but I think my supporters will be pleasantly surprised with what’s next.
RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
To anyone who is a fan of my music, I would like to say that I really appreciate your support. I am so grateful for all of the love my supporters, DJs and radio stations have shown here in the USA, in the UK, Italy, Germany, France, Brasil, Canada and Switzerland. You all have exceeded my expectations with this project and welcoming me back to the industry after an eight year hiatus. Every purchase, every stream, every download, every merch sale is greatly appreciated and anyone who shares my music with someone who’s never heard of Toy Taha and anyone who is just looking forward to hearing more. I am thankful. I promise to continue to be as authentic and intimate as possible and to continue to write music from a genuine place and to give my best.