Lightman’s magnetic personality matches her music

By Loretta Nuccio

Toby Lightman has a voice that is as soulful as Janis Joplin, yet smooth and sweet and perfect for her bluesy rock style. If you have not gotten her new album, Bird on a Wire, at least get to her website and give it a listen.

After this interview I was as sold on the humble singer’s humble and honest personality as her equally charismatic music.

CM: Much of your musical career has been spent on the road. I don’t need to read you the list, but I know you’ve toured with Rob Thomas, Jewel, Gavin DeGraw, Train, Prince, etc. Who was your favorite person to tour with?

TL: As a person, Rob Thomas was one of the nicest I’ve met in the business. People either make an effort to meet and talk to you, or not. Rob or Pat Monahan. I met Pat and thought that he might be a smart ass, but he turned out great.

CM: What are you looking forward to with your current tour with Taylor Hicks?

TL: I’m keeping an open mind. I’m flattered whenever I’m asked to tour with someone. As I told Taylor, I can’t wait to meet all of his fans so that I can win them over and steal them.

CM: Do you watch American Idol?

TL: No.

CM: (Laughs) How do you feel about that route to stardom versus a more grass roots approach like the one you took?

TL: As I told another interviewer, it’s easy to be cynical and hate on it. But my thing is, let others do their thing; I don’t care, just as I do my own thing. It’s cool that people are finding a way to get out there.

CM: Fair enough. “Maturation” is often used to describe your new album, Bird on a Wire, as compared to Little Things. Do you think that that’s accurate?

TL: It’s hard not to mature from one album to the next. Time keeps going and it’s kind of hard not to… thinking of myself, my confidence starting to build… I didn’t know what to do at first. I like to say this: ‘It took me 25 years to finish my first record, but I got my second out much quicker after learning from myself and everyone I’ve worked with.’

CM: I’ve heard a lot about the culture at The University of Wisconsin—Madison. How did the musical culture of Madison help you?

TL: Being in Madison and in college, feeling all of the creative energy… I started meeting people, writing songs… I tried an open mic at the Student Union, but it was too nerve wracking to play real shows in the area. I didn’t do that until I released my first album and came back to play a radio show. It was nice to be back and be comfortable.

CM: What is the most irritating or frustrating comparison made about your albums or performances in reviews?

TL: I’ve been lucky with what people say. To me, any comparison is weird. Everyone is their own person, no one is the same, so why compare? Sheryl Crow, Lauryn Hill, Bonnie Rait have all been said, but they’re amazing, so I don’t mind. Watch you print this and I’ll end up getting some bad ones. I may have jinxed myself.

CM: Well I will print that you’re practically Britney Spears with a guitar.

TL: Before or after she shaved her head?

CM: Good point. Britney Spears with a guitar and a full head of hair (laughs). So what do you wish interviewers would ask about?

TL: Ask about the world, normal stuff you’d talk about with a friend. When my boyfriend or my parents call and ask ‘What have you been doing?’ Sometimes it’s just like ‘Talk about you!’

CM: Do you get any weird questions in interviews?

TL: One guy tried to be creative, and asked me about my pet peeves. And, since my last name is Lightman, what superpower I would have. I said I’d like to make people have to be honest.

CM: My personal favorite random question is what movie have you watched at least 15 times?

TL: Hmmm…. Trading places. It’s the kind of movie to watch on a Saturday morning, every Saturday. Others might be, The Money Pit, Tommy Boy, Anchorman, Stranger than Fiction… the silly ones that aren’t stupid silly.

CM: Back to you going to college in Madison. A decent amount of U of C students make the trek up there for the Halloween festivities every year. Do you recommend grabbing some friends to go to the Halloween Party?

TL: They say that just for that weekend, there is an influx of 100,000 people into Madison. I tried to go with some of my guy friends, and for whatever reason, all of the parties turn away guys. I’d say if you’re a girl, yes.

Nothing like college party tips from Toby Lightman. I’m in for Halloween next year, any other takers? But seriously, get to her site and check out her music—you will not be disappointed.