Toni B (as in Brillantes) is a good storyteller, this much I already know. We met at a third-wave coffee shop somewhere in BGC for the first time, and I already felt like she was my friend. This is the same energy and smile she welcomes her audience with.
I was first introduced to the 25-year-old singer-songwriter at a Satchmi event, and since then, I was drawn to her electrifying and sultry music. She plays the piano with as much passion as anyone should; making eye contact as she does it. “One of the things I try to avoid doing a lot when I perform is closing my eyes. I want to make eye contact. Because when you you do, you’re like locking them into a secret agreement,” she says. That’s a bind that we don’t mind being a part of. Listening to her perform is like listening to a friend tell a story about her hateship and loveship. The only difference is Toni does it in a way that really makes you feel that you’re the one falling in love or getting your heart broken.
Every word, note, and melody she writes contributes to the overall experience of her song. If she’s singing about a love unsure, she’ll make you feel it in her staccato. If she’s reeling in anger, she slows the tempo down making sure that you feel every moment of it. (Listen to: Bang! Bang!) “It’s not a matter of singing more loudly or yelling or trying to show off your vocals. It’s more so just singing more passionately,” she shares.
This is the same type of storytelling she puts in her first album “Carnival.” “I wanted it to be a cycle of a broken heart. Sa ‘Carnival,’ there are video games. They show you that it’s attainable but when you try it, it’s actually hard. My next album is called “Mischief” (coming in June 2017). Because what happens is that song continues from Carnival. [When you listen to the song with your eyes closed], it seems like lumalayo yung camera from the carnival scene. And the lights are slowly shutting down except for the merry-go-round, kasi nga cycle eh. That merry-go-round slows down,” she asks us to visualize. “Imagine a girl standing in front of it as the carnival gets darker; it’s like her feelings are like ‘f*ck this shit. I’m gonna go from heartbroken to heartbreaker.'”
This passion for storytelling comes from the fact that she — like everyone else — loved Disney as a kid. This was further proven upon recalling the very first song she had ever written, which had heavy Pinocchio and Cinderella references. (Random fact: she’s her favorite Disney princess.) Unlike her songwriting history, her beginnings with playing piano weren’t exactly a fairytale. At the age of four, she was enrolled in a piano class and she hated it. And now she’s playing the piano in front of big crowds. The irony of it all is not beyond either of us.
That particular song led her to where she is now. Every artist goes through that process of figuring out the memories they want to immortalize in a track. And the good thing is, Toni is a constant work in progress. There is no one genre she can fit in, and that’s what makes her interesting. “When you’re writing you’re starting to figure yourself out as a musician. I realize, I did try. I tried writing slower songs, and they sounded so freaking lame. They’re so lame because it’s not my style” she laughs, recalling.
Whether it be singing in a quiet coffee shop or a crowded bar or hopefully a music festival some time in the future, she can command the attention of her audience. She only needs one person to put up a good performance. Toni B. is here to tell her story, and we’re all here to listen.