as our guest Toni Tennille (born Cathryn Antoinette) and best known
as one-half of the 1970s duo Captain & Tennille with her former
husband Daryl Dragon.
Toni is a classically trained pianist and a prolific song writer who has released numerous solo albums celebrating the romantic music of big band and American standards. Today, Toni can be found working with
her award-winning Australian shepherd dogs in Lake Mary, Florida, and continuing to play the music she loves. She has recently completed her memoir Toni Tennille: A Memoir that will be released in April 2016.
Norm: Good day Toni and thanks for participating in our interview.
Could you tell us about your first exposure to music and how you decided to become a singer and song writer?
Toni: Norm, I can't remember a time when music WASN'T in my life. My father was a big band singer, and my mother was one of the very first TV talk show hosts back in the 1950s. Mother also studied piano, and often played the Steinway grand in our living room.
Norm: How much formal education have you had and how do you value that?
Toni: Although I only completed two years of college at Auburn University, I had a fantastic early education. I attended a private school for girls in Montgomery, Alabama for four years until my family could no longer afford the tuition. At the private school, we studied beginning Algebra in the fourth grade, and French, as well as English grammar. There was also an emphasis on music, which I loved.
Before moving on to high
school, I studied, among other things, Latin Grammar at Cloverdale
Middle school, and continued on with 3 years of Latin
translation at Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama. I
even made it through advanced algebra, plane and solid geometry and
Trigonometry with all A's!! I can't remember any of the math
now, but the Latin helped tremendously with vocabulary.
Norm: What were your earliest gigs like?
Toni: My first gig was playing piano for Idele Brooks, who was the “Exercise Lady” on TV in Montgomery.
Norm: You worked with the Beach Boys. Do you have any good stories about working with them?
Toni: I have LOTS of stories about my time with the Beach Boys and I talk quite a bit about that in the Memoir. Let's say that I learned a lot about what the responsibilities of a headliner act are, and used a lot of what I learned when Daryl and I began to tour as headliners ourselves.
Norm: You've had such a great career as a song writer and singer for several years. What do you love about songwriting & producing, that kept you going so strong? As a follow up, what is your process in writing songs?
Toni: I'll have to say that the one thing that Daryl and I had together that was wonderful, fulfilling and exciting was our ability to create music together. It was exciting to write a song, and then have Daryl produce a recording of it.
Also, readers will learn in
the memoir how important Daryl was as the inspiration to many of my
songs. On the other hand, they will learn how frustrating this
was to me and why. As far as the process of songwriting, to me
it was like “taking dictation” from some ethereal place. It
is hard to describe, but I felt that I was almost like a conduit for
the music that was just floating out there in some sort of magical
space…perhaps you might say I was like a light switch….I turned
the switch on, and the songs flowed through.
Norm: If you could change just one thing about the music industry today with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?
Toni: Oh, I don't know, Norm. Music today is so very different from my time in it. And music tastes and styles are always changing. I always knew that pop music would move on and away from where we were, and we were fine with that. We just felt lucky that we had the wonderful ride we had. And now I am sensing a kind of nostalgia for the music of our era. That is nice.
Norm: Why do you think music is important?
Toni: Music is a necessity!!! It is the way we talk to each other, soul to soul.
Norm: What would you like to say to musicians who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep remaining in the business, if they are good enough, if their music matter enough to share?
Toni: I am not the person to ask about what musicians and performers should be doing to advance their art in today's world. Let me just say that I truly had no desire to be “famous.” That just came along with the territory. What I loved was writing, recording, and sharing the music I loved with others. The “fame” thing was extra, but it came with it's own set of difficulties.
Norm: Could you tell us a little about your memoir that will be shortly be released.
Toni: I would say that my Memoir is in a pretty traditional form. I start at the very beginning, and take it through to where I am now in my 75 years on this planet.
My niece, Caroline Tennille St. Clair, who is my co-author, helped
weave my life through the historical context of life during those
years. For example, I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama in the
segregated south, and was a child at the time when Rosa Parks refused
to sit at the back of the bus when there were empty seats in the
Norm: How did you decide you were ready to write your memoir?
Toni: Norm….I had no plans to ever write my memoir. In fact, I spent the last 8 years in Prescott, Arizona, working with my dogs, and living quietly “under the radar” while trying to figure out exactly what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I didn't feel like I could write anything until I understood that.
Norm: What purpose do you believe your memoir serves and what matters to you about the story?
Toni: Well….I hope it will help other women, or even men, realize that you do not have to stay in a toxic situation….that you deserve happiness, no matter how old you are. A big life change like the one I made is hard…very hard….and I needed professional help and the help of my loving family and friends to do it.
Norm: What was the most difficult challenge in writing your memoir?
Toni: My memory!!!! First of all it was fairly hard to remember exact details of my life as a child and young girl….and it was a very emotional experience to go back to some of the events, good and bad, that made up my life. But throughout it all, I always felt the main thread running through my life was love…and that kept me afloat through some of the tough times.
Norm: If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?
Toni: I have absolutely NO idea!!! I just hope she would be a fine actress who could understand the subtext of my life.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your memoir?
Toni: You can find me on Facebook at THE REAL TONI TENNILLE. I read comments and messages every day, and try to answer as many as I can. I am on TWITTER, too….although I don't really understand quite how it works! And my WEBSITE where I try to blog as often as possible.
I have to give thanks
to my Co-Author, my niece CarolineTennille St. Clair, and her friend
and partner, Michael Donaldson. for helping me understand (sort of)
social media!!! And I also have to say that I would never have
written this memoir without Caroline, who is a beautiful writer, and
who will be a very well-known author someday!!!
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your career, but nobody has?
Toni: Honestly, Norm, I have spent most of my life trying NOT to answer questions about myself! Now, of course, I am answering questions all the time to the best of my ability. I think many of the answers to people's questions will be there in the Memoir. However, the Memoir might possibly give rise to MORE questions!!!
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors