Toddiefunk has been the bass player for TobyMac’s Diverse City band since their beginning. Not only has Toddie played for the Diverse City band but he has also released his own music (and will be releasing more music soon!). We recently spoke about his roots, what he’s learned from TobyMac, and how important it is to be transparent.
Gabe: What did you listen to growing up that influenced you as an artist today?
Toddiefunk: To be honest, in the beginning, my mom would play Sly & the Family Stone, the Temptations, and the Jackson 5. Those are the things that I remember that were prominent. My Aunt Karen, may she rest in peace, was playing everything like Bread, America, Janis Ian, Crosby Stills & Nash, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Parliament, the Isley Brothers, and Curtis Mayfield. My grandfather would play a lot of the blue note/jazz stuff from the late 60’s and 70’s. My grandmother would listen to gospel artists like James Cleveland and Andre Crouch. So I was getting influences from all styles and genres! And then there was the music that was being played at church. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up playing in church and I wish I had like so many of my contemporaries. A good many of those guys played bass in church at a very early age…I didn’t go that route. I wish I had..but I’m not gonna cry over it at this point. But those are the influences..a lot of funk music, R&B, Gospel, pop, and jazz.
Gabe: So when did you start playing bass? And is that the only instrument you play?
Toddiefunk: No, actually I started out on guitar. My grandmother and my mother bought me a guitar. The interesting thing about it that I realized is..We didn’t have the knowledge regarding how to set up a guitar. We didn’t know what gauge of strings to use…like what would be best for a young person’s fingers. I just kinda wimped out because those strings were coming high off the neck and were very heavy. It really hurt! So it was really discouraging for me to play. I played as long as I could and then I just kinda backed off. I remember my mom telling me if I quit I was going to be on my own. And so I stopped taking formal lessons at that point. I was still being inspired by the music I was hearing around me. My cousin Ricky, who was like an older brother to us, had an electric guitar. So every time I’d go over to his house, I was playing his guitar. (laughs) So, that desire to play never died. It just changed.
My father bought me my first bass guitar. It didn’t work because the electronics were messed up in it. But I cleaned that bass up and I carried that guitar around everywhere I went. That was somewhere around 5th or 6th grade.
Gabe: So how did you get hooked up with TobyMac’s Diverse City band?
Toddiefunk: When I moved to Nashville, I did all the things I felt like I needed to do as far as being out there and meeting people. Dave Wyatt, who is the music director for TobyMac, and I met when he was still in the trenches playing for a lot of Toby’s Gotee artists. He got me involved in some things there. Dave eventually got the gig with dc Talk and when the Solo tour started he became Toby’s keyboard player. There was a transition in the bass player position and because of my relationship with Dave, he asked me if I’d be interested in auditioning to be the bass player for TobyMac and DiverseCity. Of course I said yes. So the relationship I had with Dave got me the opportunity to audition for Toby.
Gabe: Speaking of that, how is it having Toby not only as a boss but as a friend? What have you learned from him as an artist?
Toddiefunk: Surround yourself with people that are better than you. Surround yourself with people that will speak life and truth into your situation. Because sometimes you can get to a place where all you are hearing is yourself. You need people that love and care about you to help you get outside your self and to tell you what you really need to hear. You might get into a place where you think you have it all together…You need those people in your life that aren’t afraid to tell you the truth.
When it comes to the music, always ask God to do something bigger than I can do on my own. Because music is naturally a part of me. I can hear music and construct music in my head before I even start recording it. And I know that’s a gift from God but at the same time..I want this music to be something that God is speaking to me. I want it to be something that God is ordaining and sanctioning…not just something that I’m coming up with because it’s cool. I want it to be relevant to what the Spirit of the Lord is saying for a specific time.
Gabe: I was reading your bio on your website and there was something that jumped out to me. You want to “explore the artistry that God birthed in you”. Can you explain what that means to you?
Toddiefunk: What that means to me is that I know that God has created me in his image. I have been fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. Even though musically styles may vary, I believe what God has given me is relevant to our culture today. I know what I do is viable because it’s been proven out before…even though you don’t really hear a lot of what I do on Christian radio. That doesn’t mean it’s not needed or warranted.
Gabe: I also saw on your website where you stress the importance of honesty and transparency in your music. For those that haven’t heard your music, what are some of those songs about?
Toddiefunk: It’s more about what I’ve been through with my experiences as a believer. And that’s where I have to start…I have to write where I’m at. In my life, I’ve dealt with pornography and unfaithfulness…and that’s a big issue for a lot of people. And I think you are starting to see more conversation around that topic. But I still feel like a lot of Christians that are dealing with issues like that are apprehensive to come out because they may feel ostracized. But we all have our issues and dysfunctions. It’s only by the grace of God where we can stand before Him blameless. But at the same time, there’s a process where Christians can truly overcome those things in their lives and be Christ-like. Jesus talked about being able to transform us into His image. And we’re not just getting through the situation…we are overcomers! We are more than conquerors!
And we will overcome through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony…And sharing our testimonies with each other through our struggles, no matter what they are, God has a solution for all of that stuff where we can end up looking just like Jesus through His sanctifying power and grace. At this point in my life, I’m not going to lie about where I’m coming from. My past doesn’t have to dictate where my future goes…but it was a part of me. And there are people that are hurting that need to need to hear about that solution that God has for them.
Gabe: You have a single coming out called New City. What’s that song specifically about?
Toddiefunk: Yeah man! New City is just a song about going home and living in that new city, New Jerusalem, forever and ever. It’s a celebratory song. It has a serious message to it but it’s fun! It’s just a reminder for Christians that we need to be mindful that this world isn’t going to last and we need to be witnesses to those that don’t know about everlasting life in Christ. We should look forward and be prepared for that second coming!
Check out ToddieFunk.com for updates on new music! Follow him on Twitter @Toddiefunk for updates and Periscope viewings!