February 6, 2017
TULSA - At fifteen, Houston native Rich O'Toole saw a Robert Keen concert that changed his perception on country music. Until that time, O'Toole had been a fan of mainstream pop-country, but after hearing Keen's performance, his outlook changed.
"I remember thinking, ‘Man, this is different,’" O'Toole said. "’This is rock and roll.’ He sang about the odd and true stuff that happens in life. Right then and there, I decided that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
O'Toole purchased a simple acoustic guitar and decided to give it a shot. He began by teaching himself three simple chords. From there, he started learning covers, — mostly Keen songs that he admired — and toyed around with writing his own material.
In high school, O'Toole played baseball and would often bring his acoustic guitar along for bus rides to play and entertain his teammates. His friends and teammates would call out suggestions for O'Toole to sing about, and he would make up lyrics as he played along.
"I'd just write a song then and there," O'Toole said. "It came very naturally. I'd write funny songs about [whomever] or whatever somebody suggested. I had always been a bit of the class clown, and making things up on the spot just came naturally. That was my first hint that I could be a singer and songwriter."
Following in the footsteps of his idol Robert Keen, after high school, O'Toole enrolled at Texas A&M. He began playing open mic shows, house parties, and wherever else he could around College Station. O'Toole soon gained a following by playing at different venues around the campus.
He became a staple at The Dixie Chicken, performing on the back porch once a week. Aside from The Dixie Chicken, O'Toole happened upon some luck; the owner of The Dixie Chicken also owned an establishment across the street, Shadow Canyon, which had a big marquee that overlooked the campus on which O'Toole's name was displayed when Shadow Canyon shut down shortly thereafter. The marquee remained with O'Toole's name still on display for another year.
"I basically got free advertising because of that," O'Toole said. "The sign read: 'Every Sunday Rich O'Toole.' Because of that, people started catching on and more people remembered my name. Cory Morrow and Robert Keen came to town that year and saw my name on the display and started asking around about it. That really helped me gain a following. I started playing at The Tap on Tuesday's with Josh Abbott and Ryan Bingham."
When O'Toole graduated from Texas A&M, he decided that he was going to give the musician's life a shot. His parents assisted with getting him off the ground, but in 2006, it was still pretty expensive to record an album, and without the assistance of crowd-funding, O'Toole had to find alternative ways to fund his career.
"I ended up taking my Camry to a bank for collateral," O'Toole said. "I got ten thousand dollars for that, and made my first record. One of my singles, 'Queen of Misfits' happened to get a lot of airplay, and I was able to pay back the bank note within the year, but it was very close."
Over the next several years, O'Toole continued to release records and singles that found their way onto the Texas Radio Chart. He performed as an opening act for Randy Rogers, Eli Young, and Willie Nelson.
O'Toole recently finished recording his sixth album, “American Kid,” which is currently available for presale and will officially release on March 17.
"The new album, in my opinion, is a humbling rock and roll country album," O'Toole said. "This is my “Born in the USA.” There's a track called 'Springsteen Gold.' A lot of the album is dedicated to my love of Springsteen. The songs are true stories, but altered with different characters. It's a pretty aggressive album. I tried to cover a lot of deep issues on this record; Heartbreak as a currency; going through divorce; losing money; a lot of deep things. This is kind of a masterpiece I've worked on for three years."
O'Toole has booked a series of live shows throughout the spring to promote the release.
"We're picking and choosing where to play," O'Toole said. "I think sometimes people play too much in Texas. It's hard to play Ft. Worth, Dallas, and Arlington all in one month. It doesn't give a chance to bring everyone there at once — the crowd ends up splitting — and I don't think that's fair to fans or the club, because most people will only go to one of the shows. I'd rather have fewer larger shows, and allow for a bigger turnout."
O'Toole also plans to release several more singles and music videos. Currently, the title-track is accompanied by a music video, and O'Toole wants to make more videos for "Back to Back" and "Casino Lights."
"Maybe even a couple more," O'Toole said. "Focusing on video content, I think, is a great way to make new fans. But all in all, the goal is to keep humble and simple and let the music speak for itself — it's country and rock and roll — saying too much gets lost."
For more on Rich O'Toole, links to pre-purchase “American Kid,” tour dates, and more, visit www.richotoole.com