Featured on BBC Introducing repeatedly and plans for a brand new EP, we decided to get to know the Worcester born Toby Charles.
We first heard from Toby Charles with the release of his debut EP ‘All My Words’ in 2017, featuring romanticed lycrism and back to basics guitar sure to grip listeners at their seats. And now in 2019 Toby has returned with his ever growing and maturing sound, capturing the likes of Andrew Marston on BBC Indtroducing and us here at Born.
We sat down with Toby to get to know the artist behind the music and an insight to his latest single ‘Same Old Thing’.
Welcome Toby! So to begin, could you tell us a bit about yourself and where you’re from?
Thank you! I’m Toby, I’m 21 and I’m a singer-songwriter from Worcester. I’ve always been super into music, and I remember being a kid and singing along to Take That and The Beautiful South greatest hits CD’s in the car, as well as the Top Gear driving album and Lily Allen’s first album and sort of just falling in love with all these songs. We always had a piano at home that I had a few lessons on and I think I did my grade one, but I found I just wanted to play along with all the songs I was listening too rather than going down what I guess is the more traditional route. I remember going to this little music shop in Worcester with my mum and getting my first guitar on my 11th birthday and going straight home and teaching myself to play I’m Yours by Jason Mraz. I spent so much time online just looking up guitar chords and working out how to play my favourite songs and sing along with them, and it really wasn’t long before I started writing my own.
This year you’ve released your second single ‘Same Old Thing’, what was your inspiration behind it?
The song’s inspired by a friend of mine’s relationship, where they were always arguing and upsetting each other, hurting eachother over and over again, and it’s me imagining myself in that situation. It’s one of the first songs I’ve written that’s not really based on my own experiences, and I found it took me a lot longer to get it to a point I was happy with than other songs I’ve written, I’m not sure whether that was because I was writing from a different point of view or not, but I’m really pleased with how it came out.
How have you found the reaction to your music so far?
I’ve been really pleased with the reaction to everything I’ve released so far. I was never very confident or open about sharing my music with people until I moved to London for uni and started gigging, and it was a massive confidence boost when people told me they enjoyed the gigs and my first EP, which I released in April 2017. Support from radio stations have been really important to building my confidence, especially larger stations like amazing radio and BBC introducing, who have played something from all of my releases so far. I loved the Born Music review of Same Old Thing as well, thank you for that, it’s another big confidence boost to see blogs you follow and respect covering your music, especially when you see the calibre of artists also being covered!
Who inspires and influences you, not only in your music but in life too?
I always find it difficult to pinpoint my musical influences because of the way I listen to music. I tend to become obsessed with a particular artist or album for a few weeks or so and I’ll almost exclusively listen to that before moving on to something else. I do always find myself coming back to the same artists or bands though, like Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Ben Howard or Arcade Fire. I always cite George Ezra as one of my main influences because he was one the main artists I listened to when I was writing my first EP, and it was artists like Jamie T, Jason Mraz, and even Kanye that I was mostly listening too when I first started playing guitar and writing my own songs for the first time.
Outside of that I’m inspired by things that happen in my life or to the people around me, as well as bands and artists who I know and love like Nth Cave and F.F. Ivanovski, who’s just released the most beautiful album that everyone should go and listen too!
Where do you see your sound progressing to?
I’d like to incorporate a lot more into it, different instruments and arrangements, things like that. I’ve been writing a lot recently using a synthesiser for the first time, and it’s sort of teaching me to be creative in a whole different way, using the guitar in tandem with it to make music has been something I’ve found really interesting and enjoyable. I’m not sure how well it will work with the sound that tended to go for so far, but it’s definitely something that I’m eager to include in my music in some way.
Andrew Marston recently played your song on his BBC Music Introducing in Hereford & Worcester show, what was your reaction?
I love hearing my songs on the radio, and I’m really thankful for the support from Andrew Marston. Like I said earlier, he’s continually played something from all my releases so far, My Love from the first EP, the single I’ll Come With you, the new single Same Old Thing and Shades of Green from the new EP. The last time I was played, Shades of Green, was the first time that I’ve been able to listen to it live. I was stood in the kitchen with my mum and she was so exited to hear it, I think it’s probably her favourite song that I’ve written so far, so it was a really special moment to be able to listen to it on the radio with her.
Can we expect an EP from you this year? And if so, what topics do you encounter?
Yeah, my second EP, Spaces in Between, is coming out this month, 22/2. It’s sort of a project inspired by breakups I think, not only mine but other peoples as well. In that sense it’s very different from everything I’ve released so far, which have mostly been love songs. I don’t necessarily see the songs as being sad though, even though the subject matter might not be the happiest, I think they’re more about moving on from relationships rather than dwelling on the the negatives. It’s five tracks long, with three of them being brand new songs that I’d never gigged before so I’m excited, and a little nervous, to see what people make of them! Hector Brazier, the drummer from Nth cave and one of my oldest and best friends, played the drums on the tracks and I really love what he’s done with them.
If there was something you could change about the industry, what would it be?
I think it’s so much harder to make a living out of music now than it was in the past. Things like Spotify have made it so easy to put your music out there and into the world and that’s an amazing thing, especially for artists like me, but it does mean that no one buys music anymore. I think there’s something special about having a physical copy of something you love, I’ve had a short run of CD’s made for this EP that I’m going to try and sell at gigs and things, but in reality I don’t think that anyone really buys music anymore, and I guess why would you when you can stream it all for free!
What do you hope to learn in 2019? Or are you just taking it as it comes?
I’m kinda just taking it as it comes so far. I moved back home to Worcester after living in London for uni at the end of September and I think I’m still acclimatising to that change. I’ve been focusing on my music a lot though, that was always sort of the plan when I finished uni, to give my music a real go for a couple of years to see what happens. So yeah, I just want to keep writing, keep gigging and keep releasing, maybe travel a little bit as well if I can save enough money!
Are there any gigs on the horizon?
Yes! I’m playing at The Underbelly in Hoxton Square (London) on 13/3/19, it’s a venue I’ve been wanting to play for a while so I’m really excited, hopefully it’ll be a good one!