Michael Tobin

This week’s featured artist is Michael Tobin, who participated in Jazzology in 2007.

A native of London, ON, Michael now calls Toronto home. After studying saxophone performance and jazz composition at York University, he has built a multifaceted career in the creative industries.

For many years he led the rock band The Short & Curlies which garnered a humble cult following. As a singer / songwriter, he’s released an EP of original music, THROW AWAY YOUR FANCY, which displays his brutal honesty, critical observation, and a desire to explore new ideas. Often compared to Jeff Buckley, Freddie Mercury, Jacques Brel, and Nina Simone, the recording is firmly based on the philosophy that every recording should be a genuine and unique performance, rather than a contrived attempt at perfection.

He has toured with countless projects including The Midway State, Elise Legrow, Carleton Stone, The Heavyweights Brass Band, The St. Royals, and Jane’s Party. He is also co-owner and operator Body Parts, a boutique production house based in Toronto that makes commercials, art videos, and music videos.

Michael took a moment to reminisce about his experience in the Jazzology program and provided an update on his more recent activities:

1) Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was your favourite aspect?

I was just excited to be on the air and to have a conversation with an adult who seemed to be interested in my music and my life story. It was surreal.

2) What is your strongest memory of the Jazzology program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?

Naturally, I was nervous. I can vividly recall my mouth being pasty and dry. I would say certain things and immediately think, “why did I say that?!”

3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?

I’d absolutely recommend this program. It forces one to learn how to speak about one’s work. If an artist has any interest in promoting her/himself, it’d be wise to learn the delicate balance of speaking eloquently and humbly.

4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?

It reinforced an instinct that my passion lay heavily in songwriting and composition as opposed to playing. I lacked the discipline to practice my sax for 8-10 hours a day, which I believe to be a direct result of my love and curiosity for other instruments, other music, and other art forms. I felt my voice was truly heard through my writing, and specifically, through the brilliant musicians who honoured me by interpreting my music. 

5) This program is made possible by our generous donors and sponsors who strongly believe in the importance of arts education initiatives. If you had the opportunity to thank them in person, what would you say?

Thanks for helping to foster young talent, and thanks for getting our voices heard.

6) Why is music education important?

Education is everything. The transmission of knowledge, love, and lore is what connects us to our past and what catapults us towards the exciting unknown. It’s important that we honour our musical predecessors through active listening and analysis. The more we know, the closer we can get to realising our creations and our dreams.   

7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?

I continue to write music and lead my own band. I’ve adopted the philosophies, principles and ethics that I learned from studying jazz and now apply them to my own music. I also co-own and operate a video production company, Body Parts Productions. It’s currently my main passion and career and it’s taken me to some wonderful places. As I’m not formally trained in film production, I heavily rely on my musical education to inform me on matters of all sorts such as writing a script (like a song), leading a crew (like a band), and editing a project (like mixing an album). 

8) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?

I’m deep into Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Resound, Soul Stirrers, and Fairfield Four. I can’t listen to gospel right now without crying and feeling inspired. These folks aren’t singing to make a buck or to be popular, they’re singing at the top of their lungs so a higher power can hear them – how heavy is that?!

I’m also never far from Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, Jacques Brel, D’Angelo, and Sarah Vaughan.

9) What are your plans for the future?

Besides the nurturing of Body Parts Productions, I’m simply attempting to achieve all my various goals and have fun all the while. Some goals are to write and direct a short film and a feature. Also, I plan to record two albums – one with my acoustic trio and one with my R&B group, Tasteful Nudes.

10) How can people learn more about you and your activities?

Body Parts Productions posts new films/videos every few weeks: www.bodyparts.la
I always post new music to my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MICHAELHTOBIN

11) Is there anything else that you want to add?

Just a friendly reminder that nothing is more important than openness, kindness, mindfulness, and love. If you practice those things, good things will come. I promise.

Jazzology is proudly sponsored by RBC Emerging Artists Project.

About RBC and the Arts
RBC sponsors a wide-range of grassroots and local initiatives that contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. Proud to support events and passions that resonate with our clients and all Canadians, RBC provides opportunities for up-and-coming artists through programs such as the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world; and the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition, part of our commitment as the Official Bank and major sponsor of the world’s top public film festival – the Toronto International Film Festival®.

Learn More about the RBC Emerging Artists Project