Creativity, longevity and relationship advice with Toyah Willcox
by Kay Green
There aren’t many things that make me nervous these days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can pretty much hold my own in most situations. I’m rarely intimidated and I refuse to treat anyone any differently because of their status. It would seem strange then, that as I’m sitting at my desk watching the clock ticking ever closer to 11am, my palms are sweating and my heart is beating so fast I have to take deep breaths to stop it from leaping out of my chest.
I have a fairly solid reason for the nerves mind you, at the aforementioned time I’m scheduled to do a telephone interview with Toyah Willcox. The prospect of dialing her number and asking to speak to her is doubly scary because I have loved her work since I first saw her perform on Top Of The Pops, and if the truth be told, I’ve never done anything like this before – I didn’t tell her that though and I hope she didn’t realise!
The purpose of the call was to talk to her about her sharing the stage with the fabulous Marc Almond for the Last Night Party at the Grassington Festival of Music and Arts that’s taking place June 17th to July 2nd. It sounds like it’s going to be a fantastic festival (and why wouldn’t it be, it is in Yorkshire after all). Toyah is supporting Marc Almond for the final night of the event July 2nd at the Festival in the Field Marquee.
To be honest after we’d established between us that Grassington is in North Yorkshire and that Toyah expects to get lost on the way to the gig, we didn’t really get chance to discuss it much.
Once I go over the shock of her saying “Yes” to my question “Hello is that Toyah?” we got on rather well. We made each other laugh and I almost forgot my nerves. The conversation was easy and its clear from speaking to her she’s an incredibly bright and thoughtful woman.
It would be impossible to expect to have any kind of conversation with a musician, actress, author – and she’s accomplished in all three genres – without the subject of the unexpected and shocking deaths of so many of her peers in the last few months. We’d already touched on how busy she was with 130 concerts to perform in 2016 and four movies that she’s working on being given the ‘green light’. She also mentioned in passing, something about her involvement with a London musical where her music has been put to a very well-known story, when I asked her to tell me more about it she said she couldn’t in case she ‘jinxed’ it. So instead, I asked her how the untimely deaths of so many talented people in her industry affected her.
A long distance relationship is tough. You have to be absolutely sure he’s the one for you and then stick it out
“Everyone is just too young. I think everyone who’s passed this year had more to do, I always think that when anyone passes away from 80 upwards you can say they’ve had a good life, but not 50s and 60s, that’s far too young. It makes you really evaluate your time. It’s made me want to get on and do things. It’s made procrastination a really unhealthy concept.”
This is a statement that completely supports her thoughts on how she and Robert (Fripp), her husband for 30 years, managed to stay together despite long periods of separation. (I must confess that my asking her how they coped with their time apart was selfish in many ways. I was looking for a bit of advice!)
“Well I can’t recommend it, a long distance relationship is tough. You have to be absolutely sure he’s the one for you and then stick it out. I was busy myself, there were times when I missed him (Robert) and couldn’t talk to him because he wasn’t in the same time zone as me, but I just keep myself very busy and very creative. When I think about both Robert and myself, creativity is our number one priority.”
Her voice is very gentle; at times I had to remind myself who I was speaking to, she was incredibly open and honest with her answers, and without seeming crass, I couldn’t detect a trace of the lisp I’d expected. Despite the fact that Toyah talks about her many projects and being incredibly busy, she doesn’t seem frantic or stressed. Even over the phone she exudes a quiet confidence. She has so many strings to her bow it made me wonder how she juggles everything, personally and professionally, and if Toyah the actress is a different woman from Toyah the musician.
“I don’t look on my job as work, it’s an absolute joy, I love doing the shows, I love singing, I feel my voice is getting better and better. I haven’t got a hard labour job, this is a job I do because I love it.”
“Toyah the actress is very different from Toyah the singer. With acting I’m continuing to learn and observe as acting styles change. The acting profession I started in 37 years ago is nothing like it is today, it’s a completely different thing. I am two people in that way. When I write I write in isolation, we get the music down and then I do the lyrics alone. When I act I’m a completely different person. Acting is so hard. The bar has been brought up considerably. Acting is something that you’re always catching up with. I don’t think you ever arrive there.”
Personally, I think it’s a comfort when someone as accomplished and successful as Toyah admits to having to work hard to achieve something they want. It shows humility and I admire that. At one point during our conversation she gave praise to Victoria Wood. “I think she was one of the greatest comedians of all time, not as a woman but as a comedian. She deserves to be mentioned as such.”
The accolade she gave to Victoria Wood was a sincere comment and that word sums up the Toyah I met perfectly. While we spoke she showed a great deal of sincerity, the answers she gave to my questions were considered and intelligent. Even the one about her preference for tea or coffee. When she nominated tea I promised her I’d take her Yorkshire teabags to the gig at Grassington. That was my poor attempt at a hint for a press pass, but it seems I’ve still got a lot to learn about this interviewing lark!