Payin' Dues: Malted Milk & Toni Green

Memphis-born Toni Green is a singular talent with an astonishing voice, deft at R&B and funk. Her father was a jazz musician and growing up in a household where Stax artists would congregate, she always wanted to sing. Last year she teamed with French soul blues group Malted Milk, led by Arnaud Fradin. The result, Milk & Green, is quite simply ace.

What’s the story behind Milk & Green?
The producer Sebastian Danchin told me he had been wanting to work with me for 15 years, he was just waiting for the right moment. First thing I asked him was: ‘What took you so long?’ He wanted to put me with Malted Milk. I listened to their past albums and realised how talented they were, their sound was like the authentic blues sound I had grown up with, so immediately there was a music bond which drew us together. We then recorded the album over 10 days last March at Bonison studio near Nantes in the French countryside.

Our home was always open to musicians.

How did you approach covering Ann Peebles’ Slipped, Tripped And Fell In Love and Syl Johnson’s That Wiggle?
The Ann Peebles song was an automatic for me because it’s raw Memphis funk with horns – this is my heritage. As for Syl Johnson’s That Wiggle, this is a song I have loved for many years, it fits so well on the album, and is one of my favourite songs on there. Plus I love performing it live.

You grew up surrounded by music in Memphis. What are your recollections of your formative years?
My father was a real fan of jazz, he loved Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday. He played too. My mother was also a big music fan, so our home was open to musicians for rehearsals, and you’d get The Bar-Kays, The Mad Lads, The Temprees all hanging out. My cousins sang in The Jones Boys, they sang gospel, and my other cousins sang in an R&B and doo-wop group called The Knights. I was so fascinated by this music thing, I wanted to be a part of it after watching them all perform.

Who inspired you and how did they impact on you?
My family and cousins, of course, also Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Gladys Knight, David Ruffin to name just a few. I listened to them for their interpretation and originality and I wanted the same for myself, to develop my own original sound.

Milk & Green is released on October 30 on Nueva Onda Records.