"If we have a purpose in life beyond being a cog in the human machine, mine is to help inspire people and that's pretty cool. I would like to motivate the world."
The quote above is credited to former New Orleans Saints player, Steve Gleason, but it's a viewpoint that local hip-hop/soul artist Toobe Fresco shares as well. He has been creating music since he was 16 years old, and as he nears his tenth year of making music, he's coming to realize that his purpose is also to inspire.
In his younger days, the moniker he went by was slightly different, but he found himself needing to switch it up to foster a better connection with his listeners.
"It used to be C-Ro Del Fresco, but the name pretty much lost all of this meaning as I got older," he says via phone. "It was a combination of different names. But Toobe is my family name, and I figured I wanted people to be closer to the music and really know who I am. So why not use something as intimate as that name with everybody else? I want to bring you in."
Fresco is set to hit the road this week. His trek will begin with two shows on back-to-back nights in Cleveland. He's opening for PJ Morton at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at House of Blues
and headlining at Grog Shop
at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Locals Uptowne Buddha, Jul Big Green and Curly Chuck will join him for the Grog Shop show.
"Man, there's high energy, excitement and soul," Fresco says of his live shows with his band, the Living Sound. "That's really it. All the guys in my band do such a great job delivering the songs the way they were meant to be and it just feels right. Performing live is an incredible and exhilarating experience. It's crazy, but it's a good time for sure."
Musically, Fresco does it all — he writes, he produces, he engineers. He looks to some of the titans of music and surprisingly one newcomer as sources of motivation.
"Stevie Wonder is my top guy," Fresco says. "That's who I look to from keyboard playing to song composition. He's still such an incredible force and tremendous talent. Then, from there, it's Prince. He's such another huge inspiration for me. He literally forged his own path of producing and writing and engineering all of his own music which is so amazing to me. Chance the Rapper is another influence. I like how he came and took over the whole indie world."
Fresco describes his latest single, "Eddie Bauer," as a "hard-style beat with a triple flow."
"But the purpose of the song is complete irony," he says of the song. "I wanted to do something that wasn't really what it seemed. So, I'm talking about how cool and popular I was in high school, but then it completely twists from me thinking I'm the super-cool popular guy to everything I thought was cool actually really being the insecurities that were deep down inside of me. There's this one part of the song where I'm talking about all my friends who had their girls, and I'm saying that I didn't have any because I didn't want them to distract me, and if I [were to] approach one, she couldn't handle me. That's not how it happened at all."
Fresco's album, Never Better,
is due to be released shortly, and he promises an abundance of truth, soul and encouragement.
"People can expect to hear most importantly, truth," Fresco says of his forthcoming album. "It's soulful. With the production, I wanted to make sure that it was all as soulful and as hard hitting as can be. But overall the most important thing is to be truthful because there is a message inside of me that can be helpful to other people. That's my biggest goal. The overall message and intent of this project is coming from a humble, personal place. It's hard to explain, but I really feel like these are things that people may think or may feel, but they may be afraid to say it or they may feel stupid for thinking it. This might give them the courage to be more of themselves."
Fresco's aspirations are lofty, but they don't come off as if they are unattainable. He sees himself as a dutiful messenger.
"I just feel like it's a greater purpose than me, especially on this project," he says. "I feel like it's reaching beyond Toobe Fresco, I'm just a vessel. The message is the actual art."
Much like Steve Gleason, who battles Lou Gerig's Disease, leaving a positive mark on the world for years to come in spite of is what means the most to Fresco.
"At the end of it all, I just hope that whatever I do inspires the next person because none of us are going to be here forever," he says. "So what we leave for the next people to come, is really what matters. I just want to see people do better, ask questions and continue to grow and that's the type of message that I feel like God has put in my heart. I hope that someone finds inspiration what I do."