With a new EP out, the soulful Londoner embraces lockdown reminiscing – all in the name of serving the song
Toby Corton’s new EP Don’t Blame Me is a masterclass in soulful modern pop. Managing to exude both an insouciant charm and a clear purpose when it comes to a production that bursts with colourful splashes, his breezy but heartrending vocals expertly straddle both sides. The EP’s four tracks present a time capsule of Corton’s experiences during lockdown; drinking margaritas in a world on fire, going on dates instead of staying in watching Drag Race. The song All These Little Things tackles the feelings of nostalgia that flooded so many of us during the pandemic. Here, he takes us through its creation…
The idea for this began in lockdown, and after jamming over some chords I had this vision of a smoky, neon-lit Soho street. I think everything was quite hazy during the lockdown, and it was inspired by the idea of how very small things were bringing back memories with so much time to reminisce. It was one of those that just flowed out when writing and I wasn’t thinking too much. But then the production by Maverick Quest, to quote him is inspired by the song itself, trying to serve the song’s narrative, so it moves through quite a few genres and it’s hard to pinpoint a singular musical inspiration.
This one all started with the, ‘All these little things,’ hook, and I just had that going around for a while, which ended up being sung subsequently by a pal and one of my favourite artists right now, Sophie Faith. The opening verse is all about my being reminded of the beginning of my relationship, the memories of which had been made quite dreamy by the lockdown. It describes the beginning of our first encounter, one night in Soho, London in 2018 – and I try to evoke that idea of first date jitters, that we get.
We then have London rapper Life (@lifelinesmusic) on the verse, who spun the lyric/song in a different direction. I love the way he took my first-date nostalgia and then used that to bring it into a darker kind of, ‘Actually, no this is what it’s like.’ place. That’s one of my favourite things about collaborating with other artists and lyricists. It’s kind of like passing the ball and you don’t know where they will take it. There’s something exciting about that for me.
There are so many different touchstones in this tune, musically. It was done over the course of a few sessions spread out over a year. So it came together piece by piece, but with the intention to, ‘serve the song’. Akin to the title, there are lots of little musical moments, wide-ranging, and it’s been created to take you to different places, almost like musical windows into the memories.
There are some amazing players and musicians involved, with David Mrakpor of Blue Lab Beats, on some keys, Nick Walters on the trumpet, and obviously Sophie and Life, as I’ve mentioned. Then the wizardry of John Hendicott and Clinton McCreery on the mix and master respectively, who contribute and have an immense impact on the final feel of the song.
IN THE STUDIO
This one was worked on over a year period and took a couple of tries to dial in on, but when I began working on it with Maverick, he really enabled us to capture the essence of the song in the production, and I love working in the studio with him. We kind of go into a really nice flow state where we know what we need and what each other needs before we even say it. But that is ALL DOWN TO PREP, we are meticulous, especially when you’re on the clock in a studio, you a) don’t want to be wasting time and b) leave the studio, having not done what you set out to.
It’s about being intentional, and what that does is allow the space for you to expand into and be creative. This is even down to not wasting time on the likes of organising food. We’re on residential and I love to cook for everyone, so I do a bit of prep before we head to the studio and then we are all well-fed and happy at all times. Last time we were at the studio, I may or may not have cooked a whole gammon joint…
I’m not always great at reflecting on previous works, because I’m always quite forward facing and looking to the next thing.