Toad the Wet Sprocket has had a career that many bands dream of but an incredibly small amount get to experience. Multiple platinum albums containing songs that are well-known by millions around the world highlight decades of memories made. For all the glory they’ve received, the band is most excited to go deeper with their songwriting and play together as a band after nearly two years without a live show. They’ll get to do both of these things when Toad the Wet Sprocket takes the stage at Iron City Wednesday, October 13th, to play their medley of anthems, including songs from 2021’s Starting Now.
“We waited a long time to be able to do this,” said lead singer Glen Phillips, going on to tell the story of drummer Randy Guss commenting that it had been 551 days between them playing live together due to the pandemic. “We were really ready to get back out and get to play music for people, and it’s been really great so far."
The band stayed busy with their extended break from touring. Glen, for example, livecasted multiple shows a week and pursued some of his other writing adventures. Perhaps the most impressive feat of all though, is that they were able to record an entire album while recording in separate homes and using Dropbox to share the tracks. The album had already been planned and the band even spent two days in the studio recording basic tracking when the world shut down.
“We had planned on making a record, we just planned on making it in the same room," he said. "Didn’t end up doing that part.”
The process took a while longer, as edits and feedback were sent through email instead of real time. However, it also let the band members appreciate how talented their bandmates are and fully see the value each member brings to a new album. The album is one of their most sincere releases yet, and features a great collaboration with fellow hitmaker Michael McDonald. Toad has crossed paths with him a number of times of the years, and decided to reach out after bassist Dean Dinning mentioned McDonald would be the perfect voice for a background vocal Glen had been picturing. They reached out “and a couple months later he was in the Dropbox,” he said.
After years of hiatus in the early 2000s, the band has a deeper appreciation for the success they’ve had as well as the ability to not be defined by just one venture. This freedom can be felt on the new record.
“Since Toad got back together it’s been really wonderful to have it be one of the outlets instead of the only outlet. It gives me a better opportunity to ask what Toad is and bring something special into it, instead of ever feeling held back by it. I’m just grateful to have the band, grateful to have music,” shares the group’s lead singer.
That gratitude comes from a unique life journey that started with humble beginnings as a high school band, before eventually getting signed with what they assumed would be a short-lived deal and releasing songs like “Walk On The Ocean”, “Fall Down”, and “All I Want” that would thrust them into the national spotlight.
“Here we are 30 years later kinda going ‘Huh, so that happened,’” the band reflects.
Decades later, they are happy to match their talent with an emotional maturity and nuance that comes with experiencing more of life. Younger authors often think in terms of causality, and while those feelings are valid, older writers tend to be more open and contribute less blame while discussing a subject, truly impacting a listener and giving them something that resonates has more meaning than ever.
“I’m making records where I feel like we’re not reaching many people, but I know we reach people pretty deeply still,” Glen said.
Fans at Toad the Wet Sprocket shows so far this tour seem to appreciate this growth, as the rows as far as Glen can see (he light-heartedly claims to have bad eyesight now) are singing the songs from Something New along with the bands established hits.
That could be because many of Toad’s listeners have experienced similar maturity as the band over the last decade. This can completely reshape how the songs they’ve grown up with impact them today.
“The great thing about music is it is this constant. It hits you to different degrees and to different depths at different points in your life,” reflects Glen. “Something can make you feel strongly, make you cry, make you remember something and really hit your heart. And years later it can do it in a completely different way, and even at a completely different level of maturity.”
When not on the road, one of Glen’s joys is music that is the opposite of the rock and roll genre he grew famous in – community singing. This is where a group of often non-musicians come together to make beautiful moments out of easy, uplifting songs.
“It has nothing to do with being cool. It’s specifically actually not cool in a way that makes me love it, and for me makes it the coolest thing on earth. Nobody’s trying to be sexy, nobody’s trying to have the best voice. It’s just about sharing with other people and making a sound that’s bigger than any individual can do, and kind of losing yourself in that. I’ve really fallen in love with it. I love that there’s no performance involved," he said.
The singer fully believes in the power of singing as a group, and believes history shows this importance.
“It’s a way of smoothing over little differences and little arguments," he said. "Make a little music with people and you’ll be amazed at how much more tolerant you are of their little annoyances.”
While the Iron City show won’t technically be a community choir experience, there’s no doubt that some goosebumps will rise as fans sing along with their favorite Toad the Wet Sprocket songs. And the band is just as excited to return to the Magic City. Glen reminisced of WorkPlay shows, shared his love for Birmingham band Remy Zero and Jeffrey Cain, and detailed a fun evening with Birmingham Mountain Radio’s Scott Register where “everybody was really excited because Alabama was finally allowing high gravity beers, so it was one of the more inebriated afternoon radio experiences I’ve ever had.”
The most powerful moments of this tour for the band have been getting “to see just how much music in general means to people, and to be able to give that gift. Really to have the gift of having anybody want to hear what we do. It’s rare to get the ability to go and play the songs you wrote for people, and have them want to listen. We’re so grateful for that.”
And Birmingham is grateful that gift once again brightens the Magic City.
Cover Photo Credit: Toad the Wet Sprocket