She’s 5 feet 1 inch tall with a big voice that can bring an audience to its feet. She’s opened for Prince, Howie Day, Gavin DeGraw, Josh Kelly, and Edwin McCain. Her soulful, “bluesy” voice has been compared to Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, and Alicia Keys, but her style is all her own. She writes her own music, plays the guitar, and sings her heart out at her shows and on her album.She’s Toby Lightman, and she’s coming to West Chester University on Friday, Nov. 19, to perform a free show as part of the Schick Intuition National College Concert Tour.
Lightman’s first album, Little Things, has been a huge success since its release in March 2004. Her first single, “Devils and Angels” has been climbing the Billboard charts. Her cover of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love,” is called “dazzling” and “soul-smacked” byBillboard Magazine.
Lightman, originally from Cherry Hill, N.J., has been making music since she began to play the violin at the age of six. Her skills with the bow helped her learn how to play the guitar during her college years. Lightman found her vocal talent in high school. In her Lava Records biography, she says “a friend suggested they enroll in a vocal workshop class so they could just fool around, sing and hang out.” Her teacher, however, had other plans.
After noticing Lightman’s talent, she encouraged her to audition for advanced choral groups. After being accepted to each group, Lightman to noticed she had something. She moved to New York where she supported herself by bartending, and got a deal with Lava Records.
Having seen Lightman perform live over the summer, I can say that on stage, despite her small stature, she is nothing short of impressive. Her raspy, mellow voice holds the audience in rapt attention, and her lyrics are so easy to relate to that every person feels like she’s singing specifically to them.
In fact, sometimes she does. In her flirtatious song “Front Row” she sings “Are you making passes/While I’m pleasing the masses/Well, I know all about you/You’re the guy in the front row.” Lightman often chooses a guy in the audience to sing to during this number.
She is a presence on the stage with great guitar skills, a sultry, powerful voice and poignant lyrics. Overall, she is the whole package. Toby Lightman will be performing in the Sykes ballrooms at 8 p.m. on Friday Nov. 19.