Interview: Mustang Sally, Tobi Lee

(Aug 2009) For years we’ve been featuring an artist on our August cover that will be performing at the Havelock Jamboree. It’s always been our chance to feature some “country music”, a chance we rarely get. When I asked the promoters who’d they’d like to see I was met with a resounding ‘Mustang Sally!” “Not Loretta Lynn or Kellie Pickler”, I asked? “Nope” they said. “These girls will take the stage like a storm and here’s your chance to introduce them to everyone!” So introduce them I will. They hail from Nashville and have been kicking up the dust where ever they play. Their first single “C’mon DJ” has hit the American country airwaves and they’re out touring their self titled debut album; “Mustang Sally”. Known for their good time attitude and down to earth personalities, I spoke with lead singer Tobi Lee while she was on her way home to Indiana…

Mb: I hear you’re traveling today. Are you in the car right now?
Tobi: Actually I pulled over to the side of the road so I can give you my undivided attention and not kill myself while trying to talk.
Mb: So how are things going?
Tobi: It’s going great. We just got done shooting our video yesterday. We drove down to Alabama and shot our first music video and it was absolutely a blast.
Mb: What track?
Tobi: “C’mon DJ”… the first single. On our youtube page, there’s a live version of us doing the entire song. That’s the single that has just hit radio.
Mb: How’s it doing for you?
Tobi: You know, we’re new artists and it just came out so it’s going to take a while and we know that. The video hasn’t even been edited yet, so probably once the video hits in a couple of weeks that will be when things start taking off for us.
Mb: Looks like you have a lot of live dates. You’re playing a lot.
Tobi: We stay pretty busy, which is great ’cause there’s nothing better than being on the road playing music.
Mb: You’re big fans of the live experience?
Tobi: I love it! I love the people. I think when you’re on stage you feed off of the crowd. It’s not fun to be in a studio where you’re just in there and it’s cold and there’s no crowd or atmosphere, so I love playing live.
Mb: Would you rather release live recordings?
Tobi: I think we’d be happier actually. There’s a whole different energy when you’re in front of people.
Mb: And what about being an all girl band? How’s that being received?
Tobi: You know it’s awesome. If you forget anything to wear, somebody’s got it… except for underwear! We don’t share that! But if you get out and you’re wearing white pants and you spill coffee all over, somebody’s got a pair of pants you can borrow. (laughs) You can’t beat it. We actually get a long great. We describe it as a “slumber party on wheels”.
Mb: And the audience gobbling it up? There’s not a lot of all girl bands out there.
Tobi: You know, we just have a good time. The guys get to come and hang out with a bunch of girls and the women get to come and hear women’s songs. We write songs for girls, I’m not going to lie. We flirt with the guys and write songs for the girls. (laughs)
Mb: So you’re playing with both ends of the stick…
Tobi: You have to. In this industry you’ve got to be likable. We’re just normal girls that love to play music. So if you want to have fun, come on. If you just want to get out and forget everything, then come hang out with us.
Mb: So you’re all about the good times, no sorrows?
Tobi: No, we’re all about the party. We’re about living life and having fun. In today’s world it’s been so difficult… life’s so hard right now, that it’s nice to just forget everything for how ever long our show is. It works for us too. When you’ve got a crowd out there and they’re laughing and having a good time, we forget everything too.
Mb: Have you noticed a difference with the crowds in the past year since the “meltdown”?
Tobi:, You know, I really haven’t and that’s good. It means we as a group are doing our job. People are forgetting their troubles while they’re at our show. For me, when I get home and all the bills are there, reality sets in but for those 30 days on the road you can forget all that. They can’t find you or send you bills when you’re in a tour bus! (laughs)
Mb: And what about when you get home? Any hobbies?
Tobi: I think for the first little bit all you do is sit at home and lay in your own bed. But everyone does a little of everything. Some of us go golfing, some of us go to sporting events, some of us just go downtown and hang out at clubs where other friends play, or go home and see family. That’s where I’m going right now. I’m actually in the car on the way to see my family in Indiana. The band will leave Nashville Thursday night and pick me up on the side of the road. I’ll be hitch hiking trying to get them to pick me up! (laughs)
Mb: Sounds like your next video!
Tobi: Wouldn’t surprise me, we might try that. We’ll just have random people pick us up and we’ll shoot their lives.. “How’s today going?” (laughs)
Mb: I was reading some of your bio. Live theatre by age 5, your own cable show at age 12…you started in the biz very early!
Tobi: I think when I came out of the womb I was singing. The way to punish me as a child was to say I couldn’t sing! Seriously, Everything I would make into songs. We were traveling on the road one time, my mom and dad, and every time they’d say something, I’d make a song out of it. And my mom kept saying “Shut up! I’m going to pull this car over”. And I’d think “whatever” and keep singing and my mom turned around and said “Enough is enough”.So I started singing “Enough is enough” and they pulled the car over and whooped my butt on the side of the road and I didn’t sing another lick the rest of that trip! (laughs)
Mb: Have you written a song about that yet?
Tobi: (laughs) No because it’s not fun to sing “You’re momma whooped me on the side of the road” (laughs) She’d still do it if I did something wrong. I’m scared! She say’s “I can’t believe you’d tell people that story, I’m going to whoop you again!”
Mb: Wait til it turns up in print.
Tobi: Ya than I’ll really be in trouble. It’s a good thing I’m going home right now so I can be like “Mamma I love ya!”
Mb: So I get the feeling you don’t have kids.
Tobi: I do have a dog!
Mb: Well you wait til your dog starts singing everything you say.
Tobi: My dog is the kind of dog that when I sing or when I first started to play saxophone, he’d just run and hide. But now he can’t hear any more so he doesn’t even care!
Mb: So you’re playing the Havelock Jamboree. I imagine a show like that is a great way for other bands to see you and maybe invite you onto their next tour?
Tobi: Ya, you always hope that happens. We’ve been out with a lot of artists so that’s a good thing for us.
Mb: What’s been the best tour?
Tobi: Oh wow…We went with Dierks Bentley and what I’ve got to say about him, “What a man”. We get to the venue, and we’re still at the stage where we’re unloading our gear and Dierks jumped out of his bus and started helping us unload. then we did “Big & Rich” and we’re playing our show and what’s more flattering than having John Rich standing at the side of the stage watching us. We’ve had so many great opportunities, you just can’t beat it.
Mb: Well it doesn’t hurt that girls are attractive! I mean, why a musician jumps out of a bus to lift anything they don’t have to, is beyond me! Must be the sex appeal!
Tobi: Musicians are musicians, but I wouldn’t call us sexy! We’re just real women. We don’t really go for the “sex” thing. Every time we try to do a serious picture in our photo shoot and try to do the sexy not smile, not one of us could keep a straight face. We just can’t be serious. It’s not what we’re about it.
Mb: So music looks like what you’ve wanted to do your whole life.
Tobi: I honestly wouldn’t know what else to do. The only time I’m truly at home, is when I’m singing. We’ve worked so hard with this band it’s so nice to see it come to pass finally. When you see your dreams manifest in front of you and they’re happening it’s so nice. I don’t know how to do anything else. All the girls in the band went to college and I literally graduated high school and went straight into honky tonk. It’s what I do and what I know and I think God just put it in me. I just have to keep hoping and praying I make a living at it!