Today’s installment of Real Life Glam features Dominique Toney. Dominique is a singer-songwriter who has performing in her blood (read on to find out what we mean). She’s crazy talented and super down to earth and we dare you not to fall in love with her – and her hair! We were lucky enough to pick Dominique’s brain. Here you go:
GLAM Life Blog: So, we know that you come from a musical background. Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and how you decided to pursue music?
Dominique Toney: Well, I started playing classical piano at the age of six. Growing up, my family lived in an apartment building and Andy Garcia’s voice teacher happened to live on the floor above ours! I started taking lessons from him. Those two experiences definitely laid the seeds in me that would eventually grow to be music and songwriting as a young adult.
Additionally, I was fortunate to watch my parents work in the entertainment business. My father, Kevin Toney, was one of the original members of the 2x Grammy-nominated jazz-funk group he Blackbyrds – some of their hits were “Walking in Rhythm” and “Rock Creek Park”. And my Mom Phyllis is a costume designer and wardrobe supervisor. She’s worked with Madonna, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and currently tours with Sting and Diana Ross. I’ve been surrounded by music and musicians for all my life. Witnessing my parents’ success has given me the faith to pursue it myself.
GLB: What was your inspiration behind A Love Like Ours? Walk us through the creation of this album. You’ve been working on it for over five years, why did you decide to release it to the public now?
DT: I fell in love my senior year at New York University. I came out of nowhere, and it hit me hard! I started writing songs in one of my music classes as a way to express all these new emotions I felt. It took 5 years because up until 2012, I lived in New York. My Dad produced and co-wrote a lot of the songs with me, so we only got to record when I visited him in Los Angeles, which was about twice a year.
And then the relationship ended, and I fell apart. Have you ever been broken up with for another person? It was so painful! So the second half of my album is the “grieving and moving on” part. I had a hard time finishing the album. It was like closing a huge chapter in my life. I decided to release it now because I’m finally ready to move on. It took me awhile to get here though!
GLB: What was your reaction to your successful Kickstarter campaign to fund your album? You beat your $7,500 goal!
DT: I know!!! Ahhhhh! I still can’t believe it. I was so shocked. I was actually in the car with my Dad on the way up to Santa Barbara to see Sting in concert (my mom was working the show.) I woke up from a nap to a slew of texts and emails saying, “You did it! You reached your goal!” It was a huge sigh of relief.
GLB: How is it working with your father, a musician in his own right?
DT: It’s been eye opening. It’s also been frustrating, not gonna lie. Eye opening because I’ve learned so much from a first-hand experience. He’s literally done everything I’m currently trying to do. He’s toured the world, he’s had record deals, etc. I feel so blessed to be able to have someone I can call on a whim if I need ANY advice. And frustrating because, ya know, it’s my Dad! Working with family has its own set of unique challenges, as I’m sure you can imagine!
GLB: We can imagine how happy you are that your vocal surgery was a success and you can keep doing what you love. But what would you do if you weren’t singing?
DT: Yes, so grateful my surgery went well. Vocal nodules are no fun. I couldn’t eat anything acidic, I was on vocal rest for days at a time. Sheesh! I’m glad those days are behind me. If I weren’t singing… I’d be a chef or a baker. I cook several times a week. In fact, I just made Acorn Squash Soup and am getting ready to make Dulce De Leche cupcakes (Editor’s Note: Now to get Dominique to share the recipe…)!
GLB: Who are your musical inspirations? Were there any artists, books, movies, that compelled you to create?
DT: I love this question. In my house, we listened to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Donny Hathaway, and Stevie Wonder. Lots of soul and R&B. However, in school I was listening to the Spice Girls, No Doubt, and the Cardigans. Vastly different. Honestly, I wanted to be in a girl group all my life because of the Spice Girls, and I wanted to be a pop star because of Whitney Houston. These days I’m inspired by Brits: Adele, Sam Smith, Amy Winehouse, Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas. They can do no wrong in my book!
I’m always inspired to create when I read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I think it’s so precious and innocent, the way I want my creativity to remain. I’m learning that simplicity can be beautiful and poignant.
GLB: What is one tip you would give anyone seeking to live a marvelous life? Do you have any advice for aspiring singers?
DT: Oooo! I would recommend dating yourself. Yes, date yourself. I treat myself to things all the time, and I always feel marvelous afterwards! Whether it’s a cupcake at my favorite bakery (Sprinkles Cupcakes), or a solo lunch, or a matinee movie, or a walk in the Botanical Garden – I’m always finding dates to go on with myself.
My advice for aspiring singers would be to keep learning a new craft. I’m currently learning to play guitar. Next up, I’m going to delve into Pro Tools. I think it’s super important and impressive when a singer, especially a female, is well versed and knowledgeable in different aspects of the business. You gotta have more than a voice!
GLB: Where do you see beauty and wonder in your life? The sea? The sun? Art?
DT: Oh my, I love water. My astrological sign is Cancer, so I gravitate towards the ocean. I also love grass. A large grassy knoll with flowers!!! My favorite thing ever. A place where I can sit and hear my thoughts listen to what life is saying to me, ya know?
GLB: How do you look at your career trajectory? Life is definitely a journey but are there any milestones you hope to achieve? (Like, say… a Grammy?)
DT: A Grammy would be great! I’d love to be nominated for Best New Artist in the coming years. I’d also love to open up for Janelle Monae or Solange. I’d love to work with some of my favorite songwriters – Dallas Austin, Diane Warren, Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins, Pharrell.
I’d love to collaborate on a song with Esperanza Spalding, Kimbra, Mayer Hawthorne, Drake, or Ellie Goulding. A personal goal of mine? I’d love to sit at a table with Katy Perry and eat Truffle French Fries as we discuss our love lives.
GLB: What’s next for Dominique Toney?
At the end of July, I’ll be going on a four week tour, visiting D.C., New York, Detroit, Cleveland, Palm Springs, and ending in my album release show in LA. I’m working on another music video as we speak, and will be opening up for En Vogue at the end of August. After that, who knows!
Can’t get enough of Dominique Toney? Check out her website, Facebook, and Twitter – and don’t forget to pick up her debut album A Love Like Ours on August 12!