MUSIC Toothpick at The Cellar
Young artist hopes to 'super size' his career with song for popular documentary.
YOUNGSTOWN -- When filmmaker Morgan Spurlock approached his friend Doug Ray (a k a Toothpick) to write a song using the words "Super Size Me" in the lyrics, the New York City-based musician had his reservations.
"About a year ago, he came by the studio when we were recording our latest album and he told us his movie idea where he was going to eat a whole lot of fast food and get fat," Ray said. "We told him he was nuts, but we definitely made a song for him."
And what a good idea it was for Ray, who contributed the title track to Spurlock's surprise independent documentary hit "Super Size Me." Already a touring force on the concert circuit for years, Toothpick now had the nation's ear, which is more notice than he ever received with his original '90s band Bad Ronald.
"We recorded it, and it's been nothing but great ever since," Ray said. "Kids want to hear the song because they've seen the movie, and it got some mainstream media attention. So, we've got a whole lot of momentum."
This whole project is new album "Time Travelin' Couch," which is Toothpick's solo debut. While many albums are positioned as offering variety, this 13-track disc does exactly that, with a seamless array of hip-hop, pop and roots rock that epitomizes the new millennium melting pot of music heard on the radio today.
More impressive is the fact Ray's music has been embraced by audiences from multiple genres, thus classifying him as a chameleonic artist with universal appeal.
"I've opened up for Busta Rhymes, and I've opened up for O.A.R," Ray said. "I've opened up for Ziggy Marley and for Robert Randolph. It's like all ends of the spectrum. And people have been, for the most part, very receptive. Some songs don't have any rapping on them, they are just songs that I sing. They are either rock songs or alternative or punk type of songs. And some songs don't have any singing in them and are straight up hip-hop songs."
Still early in his career, Ray is touring incessantly to get the name Toothpick to as many audiences as possible. Having racked up 30,000 miles driving over the past few years, including dates opening for Buckeye bands such as O.A.R. and Red Wanting Blue, the New York City-based Ray returns to Northeast Ohio with a show Saturday at The Cellar.
As far as his musical drive and his live presentation, Ray points toward his hip-hop influence and stage ad-libbing as his calling card of sorts.
However, when it comes to rapping, there is one style he eschews.
"I'm not really the in-your-face, angry stuff [rapper]," Ray said. "I don't have a problem with the style, whether it's fast or slow or upbeat or downbeat, but I think a lot of the time, there's been a lot of negativity involved in hip-hop music, which is not the way it was when I first became a fan. Then it was Slick Rick and Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, and more positive, more party atmosphere and more just about being entertaining and having a good time."