For Toni Childs, it was an open mic night in Huntington Beach that she sung at as a child which saw her driven to be involved with music forever.
“I don’t know what happened, but my little spirit just let it rip, and these words came out of my mouth, and the smattering of people that were left at the end of the day came right up to where we were playing, and they were pointing and laughing, and I got really upset. I kind of got really upset and growled even harder,” she said.
“When we stopped, everybody was like, ‘Holy shit, who are you? You sound like an 80-year-old black woman!’, and to get that, and to feel all that power in my little spirit was really quite something else.”
Toni went on to earn herself an Emmy, three Grammy nominations, and a top five hit in Australia, which was only made more special when she moved here in 2012, and became a citizen earlier this year.
“It’s great to go to the grocery store and hear your songs,” she laughed.
But, for Toni, music has always been about more than just her singing chops.
“Music and storytelling is the way I come to decide how I’m going to navigate what is the most difficult to navigate, and it’s a way of me singing my way through trauma, and it gives me a way to actually understand the impact of things,” she said.
“I think I was born feeling life a million times greater than itself, and when you feel life so full on, you need an outlet, and I think music and storytelling is my outlet.”
It’s because of this that Toni has since worked as an installation artist, and in new media and technologies, pulling those elements together to create larger productions.
In her tour, ‘The Toni Childs Retrospective’, audiences will be getting a sneak peek into her new work.
“In The Retrospective, I play all the fan favourites in the beginning, in the first hour, and I call it ‘Dessert First’,” she said.
“Then, we have an interval, and in the second half, I play music from the three productions that are rolling out this decade.”
Toni said that there’s never been a better time to invite her fans into this new world, and it seems they can’t get enough.
“They’ll be seeing some of the animations, footage of me underwater, all of that stuff that really helps to connect the music and understand why the new music is in the direction it is and what’s inspired it, so there’s some deep dives,” she said.
“What I love is the feedback from the shows. It’s just off the hook, it’s so fantastic. I do realise that people are really needing to be loved up, and I really put that front and centre, and I feel like that’s being received wholeheartedly, and that’s the best!”
‘The Toni Childs Retrospective’ will be on at The Joan on Thursday, October 27 at 7.30pm. Tickets are $72. For more information or to book, visit thejoan.com.au.
Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.