The former Dover artist talks new fall album, Lil Nas X and Nipsey Hussle.
Last year, singer-songwriter Toney Rocks released his latest album, “Drifting,” and relocated from his home in Las Vegas to living on the road, becoming a real gypsy.
While his nomadic lifestyle hasn’t changed, the multi-instrumentalist does have plans to drop a new album slated for this fall, titled “Demons.”
“I’ve got my demons and my issues and I’m not afraid to say it. I feel like I have to say it, because most other people are afraid to,” said Toney Rocks, a former Dover resident whose real name is Toney Robinson.
Joined with the rootsy psychedelic band Trio of Rejects, Toney will serve up new tunes off “Demons” at The Rockshop Performing Arts Center in Camden on Friday, April 26.
Toney, who specializes in blues/folk and Americana, dished on battling his own demons, why he’d prefer to work with the late rapper Nipsey Hussle over the trending “Old Town Road” trap-country artist Lil Nas X, and more.
Can you explain some of the unapologetic truth you’re sharing on "Demons?”
On a song like “Demons,” we all have them. For the most part, society makes us want to be perfect. But in that quest to be perfect, we constantly say, “I’m just human. I’m not perfect.” But when we try to put ourselves out there in front of people, we try to make it look perfect. We try not to show people where we’re [messing] up at. I’ve never been a happy-go-lucky writer. I’m a happy person in life. But the way I express myself through art is in a dark way. What comes out of the pen are my struggles and pain.
What’s one of your demons?
Women. I’ve let relationships with women get in between my passion and drive as a professional. And I’m talking about it’s been like that for years and years. Another demon is I’m quite absent-minded. If I’m not really passionate about something, it’s neither here nor there. That can be problematic.
But that can also be a strength, right?
It’s definitely a strength. Anyone you look up to who’s accomplished great things in their business, art or whatever, it’s because they zero in on that one thing and pour as much of their time and energy into that one thing. But when you do it, it means you’re taking away time from your kids, family and your friends.
My world revolves around making music and touring. I love that. But when you’re trying to include people in your life, you kind of suffocate those other relationships. But if I didn’t do that, those relationships would suffocate my art and my business. So it’s like, which one do I take? My natural inclination is to take the art and business, but it’s a sacrifice. You can’t have it all.
Would you be open to doing a song with Lil Nas X?
No. I love Nipsey Hussle. When he died, I was in Tahoe, Nevada, going to an Offspring concert. I saw it on my phone and just cried. My friends were like, “Dude, what’s wrong?” And I was like, “You don’t get it. This is like our John Lennon.” For me to do a collaboration [with a rapper], it would have to be a conscious-type rapper. I’m not saying it has to be like Common. I like some tinges of “ratchetness.” Make it fun. I’m more interested in that, than bubblegum rap.
You said Lil Nas’ “Old Country Road” was more pop than country. Why’s that?
There’s not enough elements of country. The only thing country about it is it has a banjo sample. X is kind of singing monotone with a country twang. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Brad Paisley and LL Cool J collaboration. But at least it was country.
What’s your definition of country?
It has enough of the traditional elements to let you know where you are. It’s a stupid analogy, but if I see enough sand and water, I’ll know that I’m on the coast. If I don’t see enough, I’ll have to say, “Maybe this is a stream or a river. Is this a pond or lake?” It just has to have enough of the traditional elements to tell us this is a country song. That can be the way the melody is structured. It could be the instrumentation or the twang in the voice. There’s a bunch of things that go into that.
What are you hoping “Demons” accomplishes that “Drifting” didn’t?
The goal for “Demons” is to definitely position myself in the eyes of the major, independent music world. I want to throw the record in that room so at least they see it. If they don’t gravitate to it, great. That’s fine. But I want to put this album in their face and show them, “this is competitive and I’m here. I’m serious about this, and this is what I’m doing.” I’m looking to further establish a sound/brand and make a really classic album for myself that people will listen to. With this record, I want someone in their house smoking out, cooking on the grill or driving down the road listening to my album. I want hundreds of thousands of people doing that.