Toney Rocks
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Toney Rocks

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE | AFM

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2011
Solo Americana Singer/Songwriter




"Toney Rocks to exorcise ‘Demons’ in Camden"

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. - Dover Post


Since dance music became mainstream, many musicians have given up their guitars and drum kits for synthesizers and mixers. Singer-songwriter Toney Rocks actually did the reverse. “I used to produce dance music, and I loved that,” he says. “What got me out of that was when I tried to be a DJ. I was getting paid a lot of money to just twist knobs and thought, this is bullsh*t. I want to play instruments.”

One might scratch their head at his transition from dance to Americana and folk (by way of the blues). But becoming a singer-songwriter is the logical conclusion for the musician whose longtime favorite musicians care as much about the lyrics and narrative as they do the authenticity and craft of the music—James Taylor, Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo’ and especially Jackson Browne. Rocks follows in that same tradition of storytelling on last year’s No Road Too Long and recent single “Run to the Night.” Since he moved here from Delaware last March, he’s been sharing those stories on the local open-mic circuit, along with playing on his own at venues like Boulder Dam Brewing Company and Artifice, assisted only by his acoustic guitar.

Rocks refuses to believe Las Vegas isn’t a town for singer-songwriters. “There’s a pocket for the genre anywhere,” he says. “It’s not an issue of getting gigs. It’s an issue of rooms paying you. It’s a matter of finding the people.” Which he’s positioning himself to do with his active YouTube channel and goal to play 200 shows—here and on tour—this year alone. “I’m about quantity. I want to work as much as possible and reach as many people as possible.” –Mike Prevatt - Las Vegas Weekly

"Toney Rocks ... rolls and plays the blues as well"

It wasn’t an easy thing, moving from the drums to the guitar, but Toney Rocks had to do it.

He grew up in Hampton, Va., and his mother’s status as a performer opened doors in the area’s club scene. He started out behind the drum kit, but after almost a decade, he was ready to switch it up.

“The reason I never played guitar as a kid was because I was intimidated by the strings, but I had this sound I wanted to get out,” Rocks told The Daily Times recently. “I had gotten burned out on drums, and I figured I had to figure out something, or I was going to go crazy. I knew I didn’t want to be a bass player, and I didn’t have the confidence to just stand up there and sing, and I didn’t want to sit behind the piano. So I started my own band, and I started playing guitar, and the blues just kept coming out.”

There are flourishes of Robert Cray and Keb’ Mo’ to what Rocks does, but he’s doesn’t limit himself to a particular pigmentation when it comes to his playing — meaning he’s not a stereotypical black blues musician. He draws equally on forebears like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Bonamassa, and his experience as a kid hearing his mother sing R&B and soul gets thrown into the mix as well, he said.

“I’d say maybe 60 percent of what I do comes from having that experience and listening to Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack and Al Green and the Staple Singers — and even further along, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson and even gospel and Prince,” he said. “It’s in there, and I can’t get it out. My mom had all those records.”

His shows run the gamut — from fun material made for dancing, like “Ain’t Gonna Laugh” — “It’s about moving too fast in relationships, because my last one was hell on wheels, man,” he said with a laugh — to more serious subject matter, like the homelessness he addresses on the song “Miss You,” which is dedicated to a friend who died on the streets.

“He was killed one night because he couldn’t make it to the shelter before they locked the doors,” Rocks said. “I wrote it thinking about homelessness and what it means to be a man working two jobs and struggling.”

East Tennesseans can get a double dose of Toney Rocks on Friday — at noon on the WDVX-FM “Blue Plate Special” and that night at Brackins Blues Club in Maryville. East Tennessee is receptive to what he does, he said ... as long as he doesn’t have to get too specific about what his music sounds like.

“I usually say ‘progressive blues-rock,’ and nobody knows what the heck I’m talking about,” he said. “So mostly I say, ‘Just imagine if Pink Floyd went blues.’ I think that’s pretty close.” - Steve Wildsmith - The Daily Times

"Toney Rocks: Winter NAMM 2016"

Performance video from Winter NAMM 2016 performing "Don't Look Back" with the Teton 5th Anniversary Acoustic Guitar. - Acoustic Guitar Magazine




“Listening to Toney Rocks is like driving down a long desert highway”.

After two years on the scene, Toney Rocks suddenly left Las Vegas for a round-the-clock commitment to the road. 

"For years I really tried to have the best of two different worlds, and it consistently fell apart. It was just time to decide how I'm going to live my life as a creator", Toney says on his abrupt Las Vegas departure last August. "Simply put... a three-year relationship that drove me to move from the east coast to Vegas ended. The road, my tenacity for the business, and probably my inability to balance that took its toll on a relationship that was built of a faulty foundation to begin with. But I've known for a long time that what society would call a normal life just isn't for me", Rocks continues. 

As frustrating as the experience was, the misfortune of the relationship's demise gave way to a wealth of new deeply interpersonal songs and a redefined commitment to a lifestyle; not just a career path. Over the past several months, Toney Rocks has been chipping away a scheme to tour relentlessly and deliver his unapologetic truth through music, writing, and social commentary. "I'm really coming into myself as an artist now. It's something I believe can't be separated. For me, it's all or nothing. After releasing DRIFTING, I saw exactly what the last five or six years had been building up too. I was finally telling my truth and not playing to what I thought people wanted to hear and see.", Rocks says about his growth as an artist. 

DRIFTING, is the latest album the singer-songwriter has been touring in support of since 2018. It features five songs performed by Rocks on acoustic guitar, ukulele and piano, recorded primarily in Las Vegas at The Tone Factory with producer Vinnie Castaldo.

Toney Rocks also has a new music releases on the horizon. In a few weeks he will release a music video from a live recording session called, RED PLANET SESSION, that was performed with his band The Rejects. This session features two songs from the DRIFTING album, "Not Gonna Run" and the titled song "Drifting", as well as a new unreleased song, "Goodbye". This session will be available as an EP as well, which will lead into a studio album slated to be recorded this fall and released in 2020. 

Back in 2017, The Las Vegas Weekly included Toney Rocks as one of the Top 10 Las Vegas Based Artists to Watch. Outside of music, Toney is soon to launch a podcast aimed at using his travels across the country to show Americans how similar we are at the core, and help take blinders off of social-political sigmas and stereotypes that hold us back from mutual understanding.