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Meet Ian McPherson of Toulouse Control in Lincoln Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ian McPherson.

Ian, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
For me, there’s nothing like the love songs of the 70s, 80s and 90s: everything from the sincere to the sentimental. A great love song can spark a fire in your heart or bring a tear to your eye. We can find our own past romantic experiences in the words, or use them to glean unrealistic expectations for current or future ones. Without doubt, they have some special power, and I love to sway and swoon under that power – whether it’s taking me to a happy place or a sad one. I’ve always been a romantic.

I’ve never learned an instrument, though I excel at karaoke and that’s no secret to anyone who knows me. So one year, I met Peter Nichols from Nicey Music when we were both living in my hometown of Brattleboro, VT: a Northeast hub for artists, DIY musicians, punks and weirdos. Peter wanted a singer for his entry into an annual Halloween cover band show. I sang five Blondie songs with our band and it was one of the best nights of my life. It was my first time in drag and I felt gay and powerful in a way I’d never touched before. Peter suggested we try to collaborate on original music after that but I didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t think I had the ability.

But those were carefree days and on one of them, we found ourselves together in his room with a drum machine and a guitar. I brainstormed lyrics and hooks and he cycled through some loops and licks and within a few hours, we co-wrote our first song. My songwriting process came to me a few days later. I was listening to this Roches song “Person With a Past” and I heard the word “moonlighting” in it, a term I’d always liked. I set out to use it in as the hook in a song about someone who’ll never take on another serious relationship, their heart was that broke. A lot of great love songs tell this story, particularly “Goodbye To Love” by The Carpenters. I started singing different lines and soon I’d written the whole song using just my voice and a pen and paper. I sang it to Peter until he created a track around it. And that’s the way we’ve always done it. I come up with songs in my head and sing them to Peter until he has something to play. I found a talent I never knew I had and it turned into a mode of self-expression that has changed my life. I never had to play a single note to get it neither.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My music may be the thing in my life I self-sabotage the most. Losing control is easy, but being Toulouse Control is different. He requires me to own the room, work the crowd and make love to the camera. He’s everything I am on a good day…or a good night. But I’m not always comfortable being the center of attention, even when I’ve earned it. Inside of me, there’s still a bullied gay kid from a small town who’s convinced himself that an unpotentiated life is a safer one. So there’s another side of me that impulsively turns away from the spotlight, sometimes I turn away from love. These are places of healing, places where growth and change take place and I may be loath to admit it but sometimes I’m reluctant to go there. So I find some other project to put some energy towards and I obsess over finishing it until it’s done. As an artist, I also work in sculpture and video, so sometimes it’s that. For the money I pull together art gigs and handyman work, so sometimes it’s that. I’ve still never forsaken my talents for a man because that’s not what love is about – incidentally, I’m single and there is a first time for everything…

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Toulouse Control is a music-based piece of performance art – kind of my go at a cabaret act. I perform original songs and I monologue in character as a career diva and icon of popular music. I’m inspired by formulaic love songs and the media platforms that prop them up: variety hours, TV specials, countdowns, music videos, infomercials, and drag. Think Barry Manilow meets Klaus Nomi.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
In some of my songs, I’m cocky about my wants and needs, and in others, I’m very vulnerable about my feelings. I think balancing these two attitudes is essential to pop music. When I fall in love with a great, catchy song it’s either because it brings me to a fantasy version of myself, or it uncovers my private emotions and experiences and puts them into words that are deep and true.

Getting lost in a great song like that can make your emotional life feel more real and I want to deliver that experience with my songs. To be successful I’ve gotta bring it in a package that’s sincere but playful, saccharine but dry.

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: toulousecontrol

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