Interview: Indie Pop/R&B Artist + YouTube Star, TONI

Toni Nicole Shepherd, better known as TONI, a fresh-faced bright young singer from Los Angeles, is YouTube famous. Many stars today are using social media and YouTube to gain a following before they get signed to a label or discovered. (Hey, Justin Bieber did it!) Toni’s video for “All I Want is You” put a jet pack on its back and flew from 35,000 views to a staggering 105,000 views in less than a week. She also did the video with her ex girlfriend, which you and I both know sets the stage for some good and juicy lesbian drama. Here Toni sits down with CherryGRRL and discusses her hair, her album, her band, and why Paramore is her pick for someone to play with.

CherryGRRL (CG): How would you describe your music style?

TONI:  My music very much reflects my personal style, which is flowy and unrestricted. I jump through genres, from pop to r&b to soul. As a writer and singer, I make sure that anything that I sing is something I believe in or have gone through.

CG: What did you do when you saw that your video had that many views?

TONI: When I saw my music video views on YouTube jump from 1500 to 35,000 to 105,000 in about a month, I was very excited. I feel like I am on the right path to showing myself and record companies that my music is catchy and people like it. I’m a bit of a dreamer. In the beginning (after all of the hard work just writing, recording the song, and shooting the video) I thought that getting a lot of views would change my life. It really doesn’t happen that way. There’s a lot of more work to do, including getting on the radio and getting the video played on cable TV on major music networks. I guess the views mean that I have my foot in the game a little, but there is definitely more to do.

CG: You worked with your ex girlfriend? In what capacity, and how did that go?

TONI: My “ex-girlfriend” (we’re kind of on a break right now so I don’t know what’s that’s considered in dating land) directed the music video. She also produced it. I helped a lot with finding crew and cast, but it was her hard work and ability to keep the entire team on one page that allowed us to complete the music video.

[Nai Qazi] and I have worked on plenty of things before in the past– short films, commercial specs, small business ventures, etc., so it was no big surprise that we worked together for my first music video.

Working with a partner can be both difficult and rewarding. On one hand you have a lot of differences, your work ethic is different, your creative input is different. You have to work a lot to come to peaceful terms to bring something together. On the other hand, it’s fun. It’s like making a baby together. Well, sort of.

I hope to do even greater things with her in the future, partner or not. She still acts as my project manager for “All I Want is You” and my other music projects. She helps book me shows, find producers, solidify licensing deals, etc. It’s great to work with a talented friend and lover.

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