Anthony Toner Sails Into Town
Click 'Play Audio' to listen to a live version of 'Sailortown'
Anthony Toner has a busy week ahead of him. With the release of his second album, A Sky For Every Day, and a tight schedule of promotional engagements to fulfil, you'd forgive the singer/songwriter for coming across a touch antsy, a tad uneasy, ever-so-slightly diva-ish.
He's got a sore throat and he's just driven from Coleraine to Belfast in a rainstorm. Where's his lukewarm soda water, for heaven's sake? The man's an artist!
'Not a bit of it,' says Toner, acoustic guitar case in one hand, Vocalzone throat tablets in the other. 'Sure this is what it's all about, isn't it?'
A Sky For Every Day was recorded at No Sweat Studios in Coleraine, produced by Clive Culbertson (ex-Van Morrison Band) and features performances from some of Ireland’s top session players including Rod McVey, Johnny Scott and Linley Hamilton.
Perhaps Toner's strongest work to date - following on from his 2002 debut Eventually - it's already been championed by the likes of Radio Ulster's Gerry Anderson, Alan Simpson and Ralph McLean, and features the bittersweet, standout, first radio single 'Sailortown', a tune so admired by Anderson that the veteran radio presenter saw fit to play it twice in one show.
'We put the first single out as a little taster to a few of the radio stations just to see what reaction there would be, and a few of them have really picked up on it,' Toner notes. 'It's fantastic to get radio play, it can be a great help when it comes to promoting an album. I'm very grateful.'
With songs covering subjects as wide ranging as disoriented astronauts, urban renewal, paranoid jilted lovers and Ian Fleming’s links with Northern Ireland, A Sky For Every Day is evidence of Toner's fluid storytelling ability. He cites authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, as well as old hand lyricists like James Taylor, as key influences on the album.
'I take a lot of care with my lyrics. As well as listening to other songwriters and musicians, there are other artforms that can seep into your writing, if you allow that to happen.'
Born and raised in Coleraine, Toner began writing songs in his late teens before drifting into live work with a country showband in his mid-20s, playing dates throughout Ireland and Scotland.
Moving back to his native Coleraine/Portstewart area, he left the country and traditional Irish scene behind to concentrate on live work in acoustic duos and trios, focussing on blues and jazz material.
More recently, Toner has worked as a solo acoustic performer, supporting the likes of Frances Black, Juliet Turner, Brian Kennedy and Bert Jansch as well as playing in a number of bands, including the Henry McCullough Blues Band, Big Ankles, and rythmn and blues outfit Yap Yap Yap.
A man of may talents, Toner has also written for the theatre and in November of 2007 provided comic songs, incidental music and sketches for the Nuala McKeever stage comedy It’s Not All Rain and Potatoes, which opened at Belfast's Grand Opera House Baby Grand Studio before touring throughout Northern Ireland.
'I do enjoy playing in bands, and I had a great time writing comic songs for It's Not All Rain and Potatoes. But I think I'm happiest writing and performing my own material as a solo artist,' admits Toner. 'I don't mind playing with only my acoustic guitar for company, even if my throat is killing me!'
Anthony Toner's A Sky For Every Day is available by mail order from Toner's website, or from any of the major online outlets. Check out Toner's website for upcoming tour dates.