At just 16-years-old, Toby Lee has experienced more than many musicians do in a lifetime. He has performed with everyone from Joe Bonamassa and Buddy Guy to McFly, appeared on some of the world’s biggest TV shows, and enjoyed viral moments that have resulted in over 400 million video views. The immensely gifted guitarist, vocalist and songwriter is now set to achieve another landmark moment when his long awaited debut album ‘Aquarius’ is released on June 11th. The album has today been launched alongside its lead single ‘Take The Wheel’.
‘Aquarius’ underlines exactly why Toby has become the most hotly tipped blues guitarist of his generation. But while the blues provides the beating heart of the album – see the emotional epic ‘The Search For Happiness’ or his take on the Leiber/Stoller classic ‘Kansas City’ – it demonstrates that he’s a truly versatile musician. Performed with finesse, feeling and a youthful exuberance, ‘Aquarius’ covers everything from frenetic rockabilly (‘Love Bug’) to swaggering hard rock (‘Real Love’) and the pulverising Royal Blood meets Black Stone Cherry attack of ‘You Don’t Know Me’.
“I don’t just listen to blues, I’m into all sorts of stuff,” says Toby. “I love modern rock and I take some inspiration from it, which is why ‘Aquarius’ also has a newer approach to it. I wanted to do something that could fit for a younger audience, but that has the blues and rock roots in there. A lot of people say, ‘You’re a kid, you can’t have the blues.’ But I don’t have to have gone through some trauma, I just play the blues because it’s what I enjoy.”
His eclectic sound is best encapsulated in the new single ‘Take The Wheel’. It’s a Gen Z answer to an old school driving anthem: the purity and immediacy of a classic AC/DC riff within a blues-tinged hard rocker that recalls Bad Company.
Toby explains, “I’ve always been a fan of AC/DC. I mean, who isn’t? That riff came together at the first attempt in just five minutes. The song is about going away, being free, and just having fun.”
The release of ‘Aquarius’ fulfils another lifelong ambition for Toby. After releasing the low-key instrumental EP ‘Ten’ in 2016, the timing of an album release had to be right. He took the time to develop both his songwriting skills (half the album was written or co-written by Toby) and his vocals (fans were expecting an instrumental album until he released ‘The Search For Happiness’ in January).
Toby called upon a selection of talented collaborators to help realise his full potential. Wayne Proctor and RavenEye frontman Oli Brown are key producers, co-songwriters and musicians on the album, while another youthful blues guitarist, Laurence Jones, produced a selection of tracks and wrote ‘Real Love’ specifically for inclusion. Another of Toby’s early champions, the Whitesnake veteran Bernie Marsden, wrote the ‘Platform 15’ instrumental for Toby to add his own flair to.
Toby Lee first started playing music when he was just four-years-old, when his grandmother gifted him a ukulele. He was eight when he received his first guitar, a day in which he also coincidentally met Mick Box of Uriah Heap. Word of his talent went global when he posted a ‘get well’ guitar message to BB King, which proved to be his first viral moment. Since then, he’s been a young guy achieving big things: being cast as Zack in the West End production of ‘School of Rock’, again going viral for his Blues Heaven festival set, and performing with Joe Bonamassa at the Royal Albert Hall.
The limited edition double-vinyl and double-CD formats feature the ‘Jams’ bonus disc, which includes a series of instrumentals inspired by Toby’s Sunday jam sessions video series. It will also be released on standard vinyl, CD and digital formats. All pre-orders receive instant downloads of ‘Take The Wheel’ and ‘The Search For Happiness’.
- Real Love
- One Foot On The Path
- Key To The Highway
- Kansas City
- Platform 15
- Take The Wheel
- The Search For Happiness
- It Could Be So Easy
- You Don’t Know Me