Toby Madigan is and up-and-coming recording artist who is getting involved and coming out for marriage equality. His song Stand for Love is one of four finalists in the Equality Song contest for the October 11th National Equality March.
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: How big of a culture shock has it been moving from Michigan to Los Angeles?
Toby Madigan: I grew up in Michigan, but I went to high school and college near Toledo, OH, which was a fairly decent-sized city, so I'm not a total country boy, but LA is way different than anything in the Midwest, that's for sure.
Toby Madigan: First of all, we have seasons . . . but who's complaining? It's basically the weather they die for where I am from every day in LA.
Toby Madigan: I would say the biggest cultural shocks were positive ones. There is much more diversity in LA and it seems like a place where everyone is following some kind of dream or passion. Of course, with that comes a little bit of ambition and self-centeredness that you can sometimes run into, but it's much more exciting and much more open-minded.
Toby Madigan: The only thing I miss is the spaciousness and fresh air . . . oh yeah, and the leaves, I love the fall leaves back home . . .
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: How would you describe your musical style? How is it evolving?
Toby Madigan: Good question. I would say that I started out more pop, because that's what I grew up with (you had to be really cool to know about the indie stuff when I was in high school, and I was never that edgy . . haha).
Toby Madigan: But on my new album [in progress] there is much more of an alternative and folk feel. Sometimes I say I sound like a threesome between Stevie Nicks, Jason Mraz and Bob Dylan. My new songs are much more specific and not afraid to deal with issues of sexuality and politics.
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: Who are your biggest influences as an artist?
Toby Madigan: Well, don't laugh, because I think sometimes your "sounds like" and your "influences" are two different things. Although I love the lyrical beauty and depth of Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel, my all-time favorite group is the Carpenters . . . really. I'm really into vocalists with a deep, deep connection to the melody, not just the lyric, if that makes any sense, and I think Karen Carpenter was one of the few people that really had that. To me it's all about interpretation and making it your own from the soul, not being an imitation. So, early 70s and late 60s, and of course, I grew up with Madonna and Michael Jackson, brilliant music to grow up on really, neither was at all a shallow product that we sometimes get bombarded with today. It was always exciting!
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: Who are your biggest influences as a human?
Toby Madigan: My lord and savior, Lady Gaga. Just kidding! Well, there are the people we meet and the people we just read about. My dad always encouraged me to think outside the box, and my mom always cared about me, in a personal, day-to-day way, which I think is so important because sometimes we slip into the tendency to try to save the world but then we don't lend a hand to the person right in front of use, so those are huge influences. As far as larger than life figures, I would actually have to say Madonna, because I love that she is never ashamed about anything sexual . . . I think our shame about sex and our bodies is probably holding us back as a society more than anything else. The nonviolent activists have also been a big influence, and I have a lot of respect for MLK, Jr. and Gandhi, especially now after moving into a more intimate role in the gay rights sphere. I admire the original Quakers a lot, and anyone who tries to find a way to make spirituality accessible without the entanglements and limitations of mass religion. And I really think Ann Boleyn was not as big of a bitch as they say, so I like her a lot too.
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: You recently came out amongst the Proposition 8 turmoil in California. What went through your mind as you were coming to that decision? Was it a difficult choice to come out publicly?
Toby Madigan: I think all the important decisions had taken place over time in the months and even years before Prop 8 happened. I had for a long time been out to my friends and family (most), but I had never seen the NEED to be out as an artist, because I thought it should be all about the music. But the MUSIC is an expression of who I am, and I cannot be honest in my music if I am editing out any references to sex with men or anything that might make people know that I'm gay. That's not to say that my primary identity is a big, gay singer, but I think anytime we hide something, we are doing a disservice. So . . . when Prop 8 happened, I just jumped into action. I was soooo emotional at the time because I was shocked and depressed at the same time. I remember walking down the street and looking at strangers (LA County voted against gay marriage) and thinking, "was it you?" "do you think I am less than you?" It was and is just such a crazy thought to think that people that I interact with every day don't believe I should have the same rights as any other citizen because of their religion or prejudices or whatever. So the short answer, NO . . . it wasn't difficult, it was time. I am glad I went to every protest, I am glad I made new friends that see the need for change, and I am glad to still be talking about it and making my life a positive example for those to come.
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: Is being a gay artist even a downside anymore?
Toby Madigan: I don't see it as one, I embrace it and don't regret it for a minute. In fact, it's way better for me because now I have a specific audience that feels connected to me in a special way. There are people who aren't as optimistic as me though. There are very few out artists mainstream radio. People don't always like risk, but I do. So, I'm happy to take it.
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: Has Prop 8 or your new openness about your sexuality changed your music?
Toby Madigan: Yes, I think I answered that earlier, but specifically, I have a new song called "Mr. Teacher" that is about a young gay man dealing with all the authority figures in his life. That's just one example of what's coming up. I still want to have certain songs that ANYONE can relate to, but I will no longer shy away from being a faggot.
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: What would be your dream gig? (Location? Openers? Collaborators?)
Toby Madigan: To have a duet with Stevie Nicks.
Chris M, Lead Hunkologist: Where does your hunger, your fire to succeed come from? What is going to propel you to success?
Toby Madigan: I am not ambitious in a cutthroat way, but I am dedicated, honest, and passionate. I sing and write because it seems natural to me. I think that being myself has opened and will continue to open doors for me. My goal is to do what's right, and what makes me happy and then I will be able to enrich the lives of other people along the way. And I think the fact that I sleep with so many people in the higher echelons of power will cause me to rise pretty quick, no pun intended! J/K . . . really! I am just happy to have gotten this far and to be talking with people like you! Thanks Chris!! Let's do a phone interview sometime! Or live! ;)