Vp Issue 2: "Toshi Reagon: Firestarter"

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Vp Issue 2: "Toshi Reagon: Firestarter"

[Originally published in Vp issue 2 by Kent Martin & Shelly Waldheim and photos by Matteo Trisolini (2002)]

"I hate having my picture taken," declared the 38 year old musician as she walked into The Rising Cafe in Brooklyn, NY where Velvetpark was preparing to photograph and interview her. Bracing ourselves for turbulence, we went about our jobs. Our worries proved groundless, however, when moments later we sat beside her; as she tinkered on her guitar. We discovered that Toshi loves to laugh, and amidst her joking, she also has some serious opinions about this world we live in.

Underneath the fire of social consciousness that was instilled in her by her mother, is a kindness, a passion and a love for being alive. Reagon is the daughter of Bernice Johnson Reagon, the founding member of the Grammy Award-winning singing ensemble Sweet Honey in teh Rock that originated in the peak of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 60s and continues to perform today! Following in her mother's footsteps, Toshi has embarked on her own music career, making herself known as an electrifying performer and song-writer, and taking her place among the best of up-and-coming female rock artists out there today.

We chatted amiably about life, her upcoming tours and how she worked at overcoming her fear of flying after last year's tragedy on September 11th. "I realized it was all about my need for control," she admitted, "so I helped myself by learning everything I could about the technicalities of flying, so I could understand what's happening at any given moment." It was easy to imagine the powerful singer taking over a pilot's seat and manning a plane herself! When it comes to recording her music, though, the singer is becoming more comfortable sharing a little control. Case-in-point: while her previous four albums were self-produced (Kindness, The Rejected Stone, The Righteous Ones, and Justice), her recent release Toshi (Razor & Tie) was done collaboratively with producer Craig Street.

The partnership allowed her to focus more on her music writing process. "When you enter a scenario of trust," she said in a recent Billboard write-up, "the boundaries disappear; you're more free to enjoy the ride." And what a ride it is. Brilliantly blending rock, blues, gospel, and reggae, the resulting album is so polished that its radio-ready songs are poised to light up the mainstream [charts], without alienating her loyal cult following.