Jon Toogood is the founding member of two bands, Shihad and The Adults, a solo artist, multi instrumentalist, radio presenter, mentor, theatre performer and voiceover artist. Shihad formed 25 years ago in Wellington New Zealand and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 albums. Jon Toogood though, is heading out on a solo tour and Samantha Morris had the chance to fire off a few questions.
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It’s a deviation from Shihad, but you’re a multi-instrumentalist and song writer, so it mustn’t seem so weird to you to be setting out on a solo acoustic tour, right?
Not at all. I’ve always been a complete show pony from when I was a kid so give me a mic and a stage and I’m a happy man. As far as the differences between doing a solo show and playing in Shihad goes I’m actually finding the whole thing liberating and really exciting as, even though I’ve been playing acoustic guitar since I was 7 years old, it’s a completely new experience being onstage on my own. In a way it’s even a little more raw and rock’n’roll for me as there’s nothing to hide behind. No loud drums, no amps turned up to 11. Just me, my guitar and a bunch of songs to play that I love. I’ve just finished a 3 week tour of New Zealand which I totally loved. I finally get a chance to talk to the audience, tell them about each song and why it’s special to me and why I’m playing it. The response has been awesome!
Is it much of a stretch to go from full band to solo artist and back again?
Like I hit on above. I’m just happy performing. Over the last few years I’ve made it part of my manifesto to say yes to different things and place myself outside of my comfort zone. This has included playing with different musicians in a project called The Adults, performing in a theatre show based on the life of Jaques Brel and now doing this. I do it because I’ve never done it before and it forces me to be completely in the present moment which makes me feel alive! Based on how the Shihad shows have been after I’ve done anything outside of it, going back to playing with the band is always refreshing and a complete blast! It’s like it teaches me to appreciate what a great band Shihad is to play in!
You’ve been the front man on Shihad for some 25 years. Wow. You must have some stories to tell. What are some of things you’ve learned about yourself on such a long musical journey?
I feel useless if I’m complacent and not challenging myself. Anytime I get too comfortable I get bored and depressed and my creativity suffers. I need to be constantly stimulated and pushed. Shihad have made 10 albums, all of them different and if they weren’t I reckon there wouldn’t be a band left to play with. When I say yes to new things the World tends to open up and life is so much sweeter!
Is it hard to disassociate yourself from Shihad? I mean, everyone just says Jon Toogood (Shihad) and that’s the point of reference that people have. If you wanted to be remember or talked about in one other way – what would it be?
I have no problem being known for my work in Shihad. I’m so proud of all the albums we’ve made (especially the last one FVEY!), all the live shows we’ve smashed out and all the amazing experiences we’ve had together travelling and playing with some of our childhood heroes. We always prided ourselves on putting on a great live show and on a good night I reckon Shihad are pretty unstoppable as a live act. I loved music from when I was a kid and I ended up ‘living the dream’ and doing that for a job. So I’m pretty happy being remembered for that.
There’s a heap of great music coming out of NZ now – and you collaborated with some great artists for ’The Adults’ but are there some emerging NZ artists we should be keeping an ear out for?
Marlon Williams has got an amazing voice, I’ve been thrashing Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s new album and Silicon’s new record is cool too!
And finally, what are you hoping to bring to the stage for your solo acoustic show at the Surfers Paradise Beergarden next month?
A bunch of awesome tunes that I love, some I wrote and some I’m just a fan of and the crazy stories behind them. It’ll be gold!
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Jon Toogood plays at Gold Coast venue, Surfers Paradise Beergarden on Sunday 15 November.