With sixteen top ten hits on Texas radio, Rich O’Toole is no stranger to chart success, but like many artists, he is always looking for ways to challenge himself and broaden his horizons. Currently, O'Toole is involved not only with music, but his clothing line, his successful app and penning the theme song for the Corpus Christi Hooks. While out on the Almost Famous Tour with Johnny Cooper, O’Toole graciously took the time to talk about TexMoji, “I’m Hooked,” 17 Army and of course…tacos.
Last week you performed at a rally for Senator Cruz. Is this someone you are supporting for a 2016 Presidential bid?
He and I come from the same hometown and share the same views on God and religion, but I don’t try to get behind any one person when it comes to politics because I feel that I would be gaining or losing fans for the wrong reasons. Senator Cruz is a great guy and I was lucky and honored that he asked me to play for him, but to quote Elvis, “I’m a musician, not a politician.”
Understood. So onto the music. “Talk About the Weather,” which was released in April, is now a Top 10 hit on Texas charts. Congratulations! What’s the story behind the song, which is a pretty poignant one?
I wrote it with Stephanie Lynn and Evan Gamble, who are both actors in LA. Stephanie is the assistant to Ryan O’Neal, so we went to his house and wrote it right on the beach in Malibu. I came up with the lyrics, which are about an ex. I still want to call and talk to her, but after you fall out of love, there is nothing much to say. The clever line is “I don’t have much to say, let’s talk about the weather.” It’s a really emotional tune and I asked Stephanie, who has a couple of albums out, to sing on it as a duet and it worked out great. We just shot a music video with Taylor guitars, a live session out on Venice Beach, for it. The song is our sixteenth top ten since we started and our fastest rising single so far. Hopefully, if we play our cards right it will be another #1 for us.
Will that song be on an upcoming album?
It will. I have to add a few more songs and then we’re ready to go back into the studio. I would like to release another single and then have the record out maybe next spring.
We’re really excited about it. I wrote the majority of the songs with Evan and I think they are the best songs I have written so far. I split my time between Texas and California and the songs are about the differences between living in both places and falling in and out of love. It’s shaping up to be a cool record.
A few weeks ago you tweeted that your next single was going to be an odd cover that might win or lose fans. Can you elaborate on that?
It’s hard to talk about it because we changed the song so much. I am not going to tell anybody what it is because I want people to be like “wow, why did he do this, this is crazy.” I will say that it is a major pop song put out by a giant artist about thirteen years ago. It’s a country cover with mandolin and fiddle that we did it for fun. We’ll see how it shapes up; we want it to be perfect before we release it.
Sounds intriguing! There is another song that you recorded recently, “I’m Hooked,” which is the theme song for the Corpus Christi Hooks. How did that song come about?
I am a huge baseball fan. I was a pitcher until I threw my arm out and then picked up the guitar at sixteen. The Hooks are my hometown team and their big campaign is called “I’m Hooked.” I wrote the theme song for it in about an hour with Billy Decker, who produced it. It’s just a really fun ballpark anthem.
In addition to the music, you launched the TexMoji app which has been the talk of Twitter. Was this something that was a long time in the making?
It was a long time coming. My partner, Sean, who runs the Sorry I’m Texan Twitter account, and I were out in LA talking about how we should really do Texas themed emoticons. We launched it a few weeks ago and the state really showed up--we had twenty-eight thousand downloads in the first weeks. Anyone can get Texas themed emoticons like Whataburger, Dairy Queen and other things that represent our state. It’s a lot of fun and people seem to be loving the app.
We plan on updating it with about twenty to twenty-five new ones within the next couple weeks. We also want to add Texas country bands and some of my other favorite bands in the near future. Having iPhones ourselves, we didn’t recognize that much of our fan base has Androids, so we got a lot of slack for that. In about three weeks though we’ll launch the Android version.
In addition to all of that, you also have the clothing line, 17 Army. Can you explain a little bit about what that is?
I think it’s so hard to sell someone a shirt with your name on it and not feel like you have an ego, so I stopped printing a lot of tour shirts; I typically only do one or two per tour. 17 Army is my logo; it is about promoting something I’m about, but not having my name on it. Seventeen is my favorite and lucky number for my baseball idol Mark Gray and that goes along with the American flag. 17 Army is about giving back to, and raising awareness for, musicians and the arts. 10% of all proceeds go back into the community to buy say, sculpting materials, paints, and things like that.
Being that you are involved in so many different areas, does any one take precedent over any of the others?
Music is always first. I am a songwriter first, but if I only have one thing going on, I get bored and when I am bored half the time I’m drinking wine and going to a bar. It’s good for me to keep busy, thinking of new ideas to help put more money back into my music. I don’t want to seem greedy or like the P. Diddy of the scene, but I like exploring new creative outlets that help form the foundation of my music career.
Switching gears to social media. You’re very active on Twitter, Snapchat and other arenas. You’re very funny, honest and positive. Is that part of who you are?
I came to the realization, especially like in 2013, when I totally got frustrated with the scene and had a meltdown, that I didn’t want to be fake. That’s why I talk about bug butts, I think girls with big butts are attractive, that’s why I tweet rap lyrics and talk about tacos. I don’t talk about anything that’s not real. I am honest and tell everyone who I am so it doesn’t come as surprise to people and bite me in the ass later. I could fake it and say I love cowboy boots and I love cowboy hats just so people would buy the music, but it’s not true. For better or for worse, even if I lose followers, I cannot tell people something that’s not true to me. It’s better safe than sorry because I don’t want people down the road, if my music career gets bigger, saying he lied or he’s different than he said he was. That’s why I really appreciate people like Johnny Cooper and Sunny Sweeney, they are both so honest and want to make sure people know who they are so they have a fan base that likes you for you. Always keep it honest you know.
You mentioned tacos. Anyone who follows you on social media knows you love tacos. Where or when did that all start?
I don’t know what the obsession with tacos is. You know how it started, my mom moved into this townhouse complex and I lived with her before I bought my own place. They were doing construction and every day the workers would stop at noon for lunch. I was twenty-four, drunk and hungover so I would wake up and eat with them. This went on for like six months straight. I thought, man I can eat lunch for $3 at a taco truck! It turned into my diet, but it’s more like a hobby, kind of like collecting baseball cards. There are a million taco trucks in Texas, so it’s fun if I see a truck on the side of the road to whip over, try it and judge it. I love talking about tacos.
I see a book in your future.
I would love to do a taco book! We talk about it and I have gotten hundreds of emails about places to eat and have been to about seventy trucks. I could do it, but that’s six months of work, plus I wonder if someone would buy it. I think it would be interesting though and I would love to do that.
I am sure there are more than a few people who would buy it.
So finally, as you and Johnny are driving around to the venues on this tour, what are you listening to?
I’m about to turn on some Jay Z and Justin Timberlake. We listen to 90's country, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen….and Johnny says some NEEDTOBREATHE. Anything that has a good beat and good lyrics, I’m into it.
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