Published on The Scene
Soulful singers and soulful music has become a rarity on top 40 radio charts in recent years but up-and-coming artist Mike Toddis looking to change that. Affectionately known as “a giant teddy bear” Mike is a funny, charismatic and easy going person but when it comes to music he is deadly serious. Although Mike is only just emerging as a solo artist he’s been a professional musician for 13 years working and travelling with various artists. Mike has been described by other musicians as someone with a natural ability to “feel” music as well as create a sense of authenticity in his songs. With his reserves of soul and a powerful voice, Mike is able to deliver ferocious vocal performances that not many would expect from a “white boy” from Guelph. In addition to his impressive voice box Mike also endears himself with audiences with his humour and enthusiasm. Last month, Mike had a couple of shows at Cameron House in Toronto to promote his upcoming debut album “Good Man” where I had a chance to take in the show as well as catch up with him afterwards.
Mike was accompanied by a three-piece band who opened up the show. The band, The Matt Weidinger Trio, are some of Mike’s closest friends and he loves what they do; as did the audience. After just one song toes were tapping, heads were bobbing and people were ready to hit the dance floor. As the Matt Weidinger Trio jammed on stage, the crowd sang along while buying drinks and getting settled, the energy buzzing in the room was fantastic. I thought to myself “If this is the appetizer then the main course must be a real treat.” And it was.
After three songs, Mike joined the Trio on stage and as soon as he began talking the energy level in the room spiked. Mike’s energy and charisma aren’t limited to his personality either, his music is funky, bluesy, fast-paced, fun to sing along to and full of killer solos to jam to. His first single “Liar” is the perfect example of that; a fun song, with catchy lyrics that are easy to sing along to, smooth harmonies and wicked guitar riffs. The song is just as fun as the music video. Musically Mike reminds me of a fusion of Led Zeppelin, Gary Clark Jr. and The Black Keys and like these artists Mike’s soulful delivery can help convey a range of emotions.
Mike describes his music as “fun R&B and funk influenced rock n’ roll” and he draws inspiration from iconic musicians such as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind & Fire. Mike was motivated to make his own music because he couldn’t find as much fun music as he used to which he found frustrating. When making a song Mike wants to make his listeners dance and if he can’t dance to it, it doesn’t make the cut.
“Sometimes it’s like ‘ah, it made me stomp my feet but it didn’t make me shake me shoulders’”, he explained. “It’s easy to a room full of people bob their heads but it’s a whole different story to make a room full of people shake their shoulders,” he added.
But it’s more than just making feel-good funky music for Mike, he also wants to make music to make people “really feel their feelings.” For his upcoming album “Good Man”, which is set to be released sometime in May, Mike wanted to explore a range of moods and emotions. He compared the album to a live show because of it’s ups and downs:
“It allows listeners to get up and boogie but also take time to get a drink and contemplate on life for a while”, as he put it.
Mike gave the audience a taste of what he meant by a song to get a drink to and contemplate on life when he gave the band a short break to perform his song “You Don’t Know How to Love Me.” The song shows off Mike’s versatility as he went from bouncing around on stage and having the whole room rocking with him standing completely still and captivating the audience with sultry notes from him and his guitar. Effortlessly, Mike was able to take all his energy and enthusiasm and channel it in a way that his performance was calm yet still very powerful. While he sang, no one moved and no one made a sound. Mike brought the entire room into his world for a couple minutes through his emotional lyrics and well-paced delivery and the crowd loved every bit of it; that song garnered the loudest applause from the audience that night.
When asked why he decided to pursue a solo career Mike chuckled and replied “I was ready. It was time to have a kick of the can.” And although he is still working on fine-tuning some of the small details such as how to handle business with your friends and how to interact with the crowd, Mike is ready to make it in the music industry and he has all the tools to succeed in it.