“Man…I grew up loving Robert Johnson. And the Doors! Grew up loving blues music. And the Muscle Shoals sound…don’t get any better than that!”
– Toby Hartleroad –
At first glance, you’d expect comments like this to come from someone maybe 50 years old…or older. But those comments came from 21 year old Toby Hartleroad, a young local Columbus musician who fronts his band, ‘The Motions’.
Hartleroad said the band was formed near the end of 2006, when he was only 16 and drummer-brother Max was around 11 or 12. Cousin Miles Jordan is the bass player of the band and Toby says he was also about 11 at the time. Toby also tells me that the bands’ formation was inspired by his love of music (Elvis, Tom Petty, The Doors, etc, introduced to him by his mother) and old Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson (introduced to him by his grandfather, Jimmy Jordan). “Our grandfather tours with us. He’s a great inspiration to us”, added Toby.
‘The Motions’ won a ‘Battle of the Bands’ at Ricks in Starkville. As a result, got to perform at Mississippi State University during a ‘Super Bulldog Weekend’. Longtime local musical icon J.Dee Mckay, who also handles sound duties for visiting bands and performers at Ricks, put it best in his description of the young rockers…”The Motions rock, man!”
The ‘Battle of the Bands’ win at Ricks and subsequent appearance at Ms. State opened the door for many more appearances. Because of their ages, performing in many night clubs is out of the question, thereby limiting the bands’ opportunities to perform in the area. The Motions were one of the performers back in May of this year at the C-Town Cares Benefit to aid Smithville after the tornado struck the town. The Motions also played on the WCBI stage at the Market Street Festival in 2010. An appearance at The Junction (4987, Hwy 182 East, Columbus) will be announced soon, possibly in early January, 2012.
“I really like the family atmosphere of The Junction”, Hartleroad said recently. “The fact that there’s no alcohol or smoking allowed really appeals to us. Just a really cool family place to go.”
Hartleroad said that when he was around 15, he and cousin Miles took lessons from a local tutor who lent them a bass guitar. Later, the tutor quit but left them with the bass. “We still have that bass,” said Toby. “Miles still plays it. It’s a Peavey, but it’s one of the Peavey’s that appeared to be made in their overseas operation…like Korea.” Hartleroad said that he, Miles and Max all got guitars for Christmas during this time, but Max later took up the drums. Toby stuck with the guitar, Miles the bass guitar, and Max, the drums. That, he said, was a band right there. Later, the guys added a keyboard player and another guitarist. “At first, we searched for a singer…then we decided we’d handle the singing duties ourselves,” said Toby. Toby, Miles and Max all sing, he said.
The Motions have a set list that includes about 15 originals. The band is currently working on a new CD at a studio in Oxford. “Most of the tunes have a Beach Boys sound to them,” Toby said. “I love that old Beach Boys stuff.”
It’s rare to find young musicians with such a love for music that goes back more than 50 years. Hartleroad is even into the music of Eddie Hinton, a Muscle Shoals area singer who died many years ago at a young age. Hinton sounded like a white version of Otis Redding. You can ask icons like Vernon, Alabama singer-songwriter-producer Dan Penn about Hinton…he knew him well – even worked with Hinton at Fame Studios. And speaking of Penn – a goal of Hartleroad is to meet the legend. We hope to make that meeting happen sooner rather than later.
What a pleasure it was to interview a young, aspiring musician like Hartleroad. This young group of musicians who make up The Motions has such a great, enthusiastic attitude about music that has real meaning. You can see that enthusiasm as you watch them perform…and can feel it in their music. If you’re interested in booking The Motions for a party or any other gig, you can contact Toby Hartleroad at 662-889-4501.