Verge gets to know Michael Tolcher

Colleen Curry

This weekend’s Concert for a Cure is one of the biggest in Villanova history, and joining the great headlining bands of Guster and The Roots is Michael Tolcher, a singer-songwriter with catchy guitar-driven melodies and challenging lyrics.

Tolcher comes to ‘Nova after spending years touring around the country with such acts as OAR, Michelle Branch and Gavin Degraw. His strong lyrics and messages tell his journey over the past decade, including playing in a state prison, touring the country by himself, and the release of his debut CD, “I Am.”

Tolcher’s story begins in Lovejoy, Georgia, where a running injury sidelined him from his Olympic dream and inspired him to pursue a career in music. His father, a chaplain at the state penitentiary, allowed Michael to hone his skills in front of the prisoners.

After that, Tolcher set out on his own to tour the country, playing in bars, clubs, and as a street performer at the Summer Olympics.

In 2003, he recorded “I Am” as a reflection of his journey on the road, and the philosophical lyrics and catchy music are evidence of a journey worth listening to. Michael sat down to talk with us before the concert about a great many things. We definitely recommend getting to the show early to catch this opening act, as he is surely on his way to the top.

Verge: What artists are you listening to now? Who is your favorite?

Michael Tolcher: I actually just got hooked up to iTunes and got a Mac recently, so I’ve been downloading like crazy. I’m really into soul right now – Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, all that good stuff.

V: Does a lot of soul go into your music? What music influences you most?

MT: Oh I’m sure it does. But I listened to everything growing up, everything Top 40. So I’m a mix of everything, I’m sure.

V: Your debut CD “I Am” implies the songs are very much focused on you/your journey. What has this been like for you?

MT: Those songs were written during about six years where I was really focused on removing the veil, trying to see beyond man-made illusions. I wanted to discover my own truth. I realized that I am my own person, so its kind of a statement of individual existence. “I Am.” I do exist, me as an individual.

V: Your father was chaplain at a prison, and you played guitar in church growing up. How has religion influenced your music?

MT: I’m sure it has, I went to church for twenty years. Even now, I don’t go to church anymore, but I have spiritual practices. But I try not to analyze my own music, it’s not a math equation. It’s me. The analyzing is for the people outside, but for me its just a reflection of who I am.

V: I read that you wrote “Mission Responsible” in Philly. How long ago was that and how do you feel being back here now compared to then?

MT: That was written around the Spring of ’99, so about six years ago. I’ve been back several times, and Philly is really like an old home for me. I have a lot of friends and memories here and that life is very important to me. It was here that I discovered that I was an artist.

V: Your music is very lyrically challenging. What do you hope people get out of your songs?

MT: I hope they’re stimulated by the words, the rhythms, and the meaning. I hope it invokes free thoughts, creative thoughts. I don’t want them to adopt my way of thinking, I’m not pushing a perspective.

V: You’ve been touring a lot over the past four years and you’re pretty booked now. Where do you hope to go with your music career?

MT: Eventually down to Latin America and Europe, all over. I really want to take my music to Micronesia. Do you know where that is?

V (embarrassed): Nope.

MT: It’s this great little group of islands right off of Indonesia, these little dots. I want to take my music there.

V: What is your proudest moment of your career?

MT: It could be opening up for Crosby, Still, and Nash sat Lincoln Center in New York. Or the day my CD came out. Or when I performed with OAR on stage. They were all pretty great.

V: Who is your favorite artist of all time?

MT: I don’t really do favorites, but in the 80’s, I was a huge fan of Michael Jackson – the way he sang and danced, I loved it.