US born singer and Emmy Award winner, Toni Childs, has given the world some beautiful soul-stirring music in her career with such powerful songs as ‘Don’t Walk Away’ and ‘Stop Your Fussin’, just to name a couple but it is her latest album, Citizens of the Planet, and her amazing concept for an inspiring interactive show to present this music to the world, that is her true passion these days. And Toni is very eager to share this passion with the world and hopeful that others will support her dream and enable it to be brought to life.
Childs now lives in the northern NSW region of Byron Bay, a popular and picturesque part of Australia’s east coast, known to many for its spiritually enriching atmosphere and the move seems to be a good fit for her. “I love it!” she tells me. “And this Byron Shire has been so beautiful, just opening its arms to us. It’s really an embracing community and it just feels like our home.”
Toni is talking to me about her latest project which is to raise money for fourteen animators who will create animations for the set of her new show, the Citizens of the Planet Live Experience. “I’ve already crowd funded for my album so my album is completed and finished,” she informs me. “Now I want to do a new show which is the Citizens of the Planet Live Experience and I’ve created a very different kind of show which I am calling a world first. It’s an immersive, technology-driven show, with multi-media technology, audio and visual. We’re using 3D mapping. We’re using a very complex three dimensional set so it’s a hexagon pattern and the visuals will be mapped on it so these fourteen animators are going to create animations and motion graphics for this set.”
In addition, there will be a 30 x 16 ft interactive LED floor. As Toni explains, “This means that I can be standing on the surface of the moon, looking down on Earth and we can all be looking together and then we can follow threads of what it is to be following a platform across a synapse of a brain. My Citizens of the Planet is ‘Ted Talks meets Music’. I want to create a show where, when you walk out of it, you feel ecstatic with possibility about it and hopeful for our future and realise that we’re going to have a really great time evolving with each other.”
In order to make this all happen, she will need to raise some serious money. $100,000 to be exact and that is where crowd funding comes in. For those who are not familiar with the concept, Toni gives an overview of how it all works. “Every crowd funding site works a little differently,” she explains. “The one that I’m working with is Kickstarter and it works this way. You sign up and decide how many days you feel you’re going to need to raise the money to fund your project. You can choose from one to sixty days. They recommend thirty days because the tighter turnaround really gets people galvanised and people don’t lose interest. Sixty days just doesn’t seem to work because things end up fizzing out.”
She goes on to explain about the rewards that can be offered in exchange for a pledge. “The person who wants to support the artist or the project, will make a pledge and a pledge can be anything from $1 to $10,000, which is the maximum pledge that you can give. In exchange for that pledge, you receive a reward and that reward can range from anything like a pledge of $1 for a download of one song or $15 for a download of an album or a hard copy of an album for $25 or you can get a T-shirt and a download. In my case, I’m offering for $450 you can come and join me on tour and have breakfast in bed with me and we’ll have room service in my hotel room or stay two nights at my home with me for $1500. Or if you send a photo of yourself or maybe if you allow me to come and take a picture of you, then I will turn that into a painting.” Even U.S. comedian and TV personality, Rosie O’Donnell has pledged $1,000 to Toni’s Kickstarter campaign.
Toni has already proved that crowd funding does get results, as it did when she used the Kickstarter program to make the album. “I did that just through Facebook and my newsletter. I didn’t go through another outlet. I just went directly to my fans. That was my first level of crowd funding so my really close fans are the ones who really made the album. Now we are reaching out beyond that.”
Toni’s enthusiasm for her project is contagious and, listening to her spirited description of what has clearly become her passion, I could almost feel the goose bumps myself. And now, working with a team of people who share and believe in her vision, she is close to making this dream a reality.
“It’s amazing!” she says. “Once again, it’s a collective group of people. All of these different people are very passionate about it and I feel so honoured. I think that all the artists and all the different people that are involved in this project are feeling this same sort of drive to evolve personally and wanting the best for the planet to evolve as a group of human beings going forward now. It’s a beautiful time. I think we have so much of the media that focuses on what’s wrong and we get where it is polarising and it’s not really about our greater self. It’s focusing on our lower self and the parts of ourselves that are greedy so we are not looking at where our strengths are. What we focus on, we create. I’m just saying: Pick up this compass and look this way!”
The inspiration for this dream, as is often the case, came when the singer was at a very low ebb in her life. “You hear it over and over again, don’t you? It gives you a way of connecting to what is important and it makes you understand.” And that low ebb came for Toni in 1997, when she was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, which affects the autoimmune system. Her condition forced her to take a decade away from the stress of her busy lifestyle and she sought refuge and recovery on the beautiful island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. “I believe that the journey of Graves’ Disease brought me to a speck in the middle of the ocean called Kauai in Hawaii and on that speck, having a decade off and time to just let go of everything completely and focus 100% on my healing, it gave me some distance. I think that, seeing the planet from that spot, and being so contracted out of the world, it gave me a perspective of what we are not focusing on and so Citizens of the Planet was born out of that.”
Preparing for this adventure and piecing it all together has been a real learning curve for the singer in many ways. “I have grown as an artist so much,” she tells me, “because I’ve had to become incredibly independent, write a business plan, understand the financial ins and outs, timelines, the gathering of people that are not only good at what they do but excellent at what they do, so we can have a really intelligent, smart, fun group of people who resonate together in this really great way and all feel like we are contributing to something which is meaningful, as citizens of the planet.”
She pauses for a minute, before summing it all up. “For me, this is a simple thing. If this is going to be my last year on planet Earth, what do I want to say that I feel I need to say? And that’s what it boils down to.”
by Sharyn Hamey
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Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved.
If you would like to contribute to this very special production and be a part of Toni Child’s Citizens of the Planet Live Experience, please click on the link below to read more about the project and to find out how you can make a pledge as a citizen of the planet…