Interview - Ava Toton

Ava Toton is a 12-year-old guitarist, songwriter and vocalist from Northern California, USA. She has been playing guitar since she was 5 years old.
Tell us about your latest release Wake Up the Neighborhood - How would you describe your sound?
I would say my sound is a blend of 80s hair metal with classic rock and contemporary stories. Big guitars and drums and raspy vocals. Wake Up the Neighborhood is a song I was working on for a very long time and trying to figure out the best sound for it. It is about rocking out and having fun. I wanted to write a song to use as a show opener. It's definitely a throwback 80s style song and I was so lucky to have Gideon Berger on drums for this EP. We were all blown away listening to him as he recorded this track in the studio.

What do you write about?
I write about real experiences in my life. Every song has a back story. My first song, on my A.V.A. EP called Are You Out of Your Mind was about the pandemic. We thought it would be lockdown for 2 months and then things would return to normal. It's years later and things are finally starting to seem like I won't need to wear a mask all the time (my school requires it). My song Charm School Dropout from my latest EP is a song about not fitting in or living up to other people's expectations of how I should act. I'm not sorry for who I am. This is me. I'm ok if people don't like me because I'm not changing to make someone else happy.

What do you listen to when you are home?
I listen to 80s hair metal bands, classic rock, metal. I love it all. My commute to school is 45 minutes so my mom and I try to listen to an entire album of a rock band each way. I love exploring new music. My favorite lately is The Warning. When I am home I spend a lot of time composing music and playing around with new riffs and sounds for future songs.

Your favourite live performance so far?
I saw Def Leppard live a few years ago when they toured with Journey and I loved it. I think I was 9 and it was my first big stadium concert experience. For my own performance, it was easily one I did recently after I finished a songwriting fantasy rock camp in Nashville TN. I was able to perform a new song that I wrote called Like A Girl. It was the first time I have been on a big stage since COVID started and it felt like I never left. The vibe was great. I can't wait to record and release that song.

Tell us a funny story that happened in studio or on stage.
I'm not sure if I have any funny stories. I'm probably too serious when I'm in the studio and on stage. One time I was doing a solo in my rock school performance for You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC and I like to walk all over the stage during my solos and I walked too far away from the amp and it reeled me back towards the amp. I'm surprised it didn't unplug.

Your favourite albums?
Metallica - the black album, AC/DC Back in Black, Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction, and can I say my own? There are so many great albums out there. I'm still trying to find a more recent release that has as many hits as those albums had. 🙂

A musician you would like to meet for a beer?
I'm 13 next month so I have 8 years before I can meet someone for a beer but I would absolutely love go for some cupcakes or something with Angus Young, Nikki Sixx, Tom Morello, Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield (who I actually met briefly while he was getting ready to perform the anthem at an SF Giants game but I was too shy to ask for a photo), Dave Grohl, Jon Bon Jovi, Joan Jett. The list could go on forever.

What would you ask for backstage, if you were the most important band on earth?
Chocolate anything and everything, video game console and tv, good air conditioning (or a fan), bottled still water (I hate carbonation), a quiet space to relax before and after a show, and my family.

What are your plans for the near future?
I am writing more music and haven't decided if I will release an EP or an LP. I want to release Like A Girl soon and may even do that as a single. I would love to do some more live performances this summer across the US. Once school gets out for summer next month I plan on sleeping in as much as possible. I also plan on making more social media content. I am not great at making interesting posts but I am going to work on that this summer.
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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