Toward the Sun is a musical collaboration featuring Fort Worth-based songwriters Simone Nicole and Mike LaColla.
In her solo work, Simone is well-recognized for her poetic lyrics and pure vocal tone that carries out infectious melodies. These are qualities she generously infuses into her partnership with Mike, whose earnest, understated musical style and lyrical voice are making their debuts in the Dallas-Fort Worth music scene.
The two bring forth traditional folk elements in the lively essence of grippingly sincere Americana that their work is doused in. Leaning into their single “Open All Week,” we feel an ambush of lush guitar strums that emit jaunty energy full of optimism and varied perspective. Through the clear and present drum patterns that keep an impactful tempo throughout the song’s lively grooves, we can’t help but tap our fingers and toes along to the music before us.
As we get lost in the whirlwind of sentiment that comes flooding in from the lyrical motifs heard in “Open All Week,” the velvety embrace of the lead vocals takes us under a blanketed wing of security. Providing a comforting sense of belonging through intricate soundscapes is no easy feat for musicians, but Nicole and Mike LaColla manage to pull this off effortlessly.
Incorporating an impeccable balance that resides in the ratio of purely instrumental instants throughout this record, we’re exposed to a well-rounded display of therapy that knows exactly what we need at any given moment. Filled with anticipation for what’s to come next for Toward the Sun, the whispers that surround this dynamic duo being back in the studio in mid-August to record their follow up single, ‘A Cup of Tea,’ has us ready to embrace the reassuring sensations that Toward the Sun conveys.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, Toward the Sun! We loved tuning into the striking performance that you two put on in “Open All Week.” What does this song mean to the two of you as the creators?
TTS: Thanks for having us! Well, it may not come across in the song, but when writing it, we were thinking about the pandemic and the impact it would have on someone who is normally very social and outgoing, in a certain way, and how their lifestyle and profession would be scaled back by lockdowns, social distancing, travel restrictions, and the overall economic situation. If you strip away that as a backdrop, though, the song is really about loneliness, longing, and a kind of resilience and resolve in the face of a challenge — things everyone experiences at one time or another — and that was what we wanted to come through in the song.
Could you please bring us into what the creative process looked like when structuring this vision? What role do you both play when it comes to music?
TTS: When we first met in person at one of Simone’s shows [Note to the Editor: for more info on Simone Nicole’s solo career, see her website at simonenicole.com], we talked about making music, and Mike mentioned that he was having some problems finishing songs. Simone said, “I can help you with that!” And that’s how we began writing together and how things evolved into recording together as Toward the Sun.
The song started off, really, as a writing exercise, which we do regularly. We each write our thoughts and impressions separately on a given topic or theme, and then we read them back to each other. We’ll pick and choose lines and work to structure them into the verses and chorus.
For this song, we were in a coffee shop on a cold winter’s day, and we decided to brainstorm based on the last text messages we had received. One of them was… “I’m open all week”. This was during the height of the pandemic, and for us, being around a community of artists, performers, and others whose schedules and livelihoods had been hit pretty hard, that message resonated and seemed like fertile ground for a song.
We got most of the lyrics down during that coffee shop session, and the melody lines and musical ideas came fairly quickly after that, so we decided we’d go into the studio with it, without even having played it much. There, we were able to capture the vibe you hear on the recording.
Although we write with the idea that either one of us could conceivably sing a particular song, in practice, it’s Simone’s voice and delivery that is a big part of our music’s overall quality and feel.
With a follow-up single coming to the ears of listeners soon enough, can we expect similar themes and sounds to be released? What can you tell us about ‘A Cup of Tea’?
Yes, definitely. We wanted to choose a song that had a similar feel to “Open All Week”. We’ve written a lot of material together, and “A Cup of Tea”, although it’s written from the point of view of a completely different character who is in a completely different mental space, shares the same fundamental sense of longing and aspiration, and that’s what we’re aiming for. We’re pretty excited to get back in the studio this week to try and capture that.
What is the main message that you aim to send out through your music?
TTS: There’s not one main message, really — and although it sounds trite, it is really more about the process of exploring themes and then stripping things down to try and construct solid songs out of them. And it’s an ongoing process.
We enjoy listening to one another’s ideas, and we are able to be very personal and candid with one another. That helps us individually as songwriters and as a songwriting team. A lot of the lyrics we write together will likely never make it into a finished recorded song, and the same goes for a lot of melody lines and riffs — but the time we’ve spent on those is just as valuable to us as the time we spend on the ones we do record. And really, the recorded music would never happen without putting in that time, those cycles, with one another.
What's next for you?
TTS: Our plan is to release 4-5 more songs by the end of the year. The clock is always ticking, so the trick will be managing the logistics of that — time, space, and, of course, money. And along with the recording, the goal is to keep writing and building up a catalog. It’s a long game. Neither of us is tied to a particular genre of music for this project, so we’re pretty free go in any direction we want. We’re lucky that the Fort Worth music scene we’re a part of is very diverse, so it really suits us. If we’re doing our job well, regardless of genre or labels, we’ll write songs that someone, somewhere needs to hear on a particular day, either the words themselves or a mood or feeling that we are able to get across.