There’s an unmistakable buzz around Toby Sebastian at the moment that’s hard to ignore.
Currently preparing to take Oxford’s O2 Academy by storm, the actor and singer/songwriter is returning home to play on Cowley Road, a stone’s throw from his father Clinton Pugh’s restaurants Cafe Coco, Kaz Bar and Tarifa.
“Game of Thrones tends to trump everything because it was such a huge series. We had no idea how big when we filmed it”
So what can we expect? “Some brand new singles that I haven’t performed before, some songs with my band, some with just me and an acoustic guitar, and my little sister Raffie doing the backing singing. Lots of friends are coming and the gig has nearly sold out. It’s going to be great. I can’t wait.”
And Florence (his famous film star sister Florence Pugh who did the backing tracks on his recent single Midnight)? “No not Flossie, but it was great recording with her on Midnight. My mum suggested she’d be great, and I realised it was a genius idea, so we went off to the recording studios and she nailed it immediately,” he says.
Anyone who has listened to Toby’s recent singles Number One Lover, Toothpaste Kisses, Midnight and Sitting On The Water on Toby’s recent album Hamliar will be familiar with the 30 year-old’s stripped back musical honesty, charm and unadulterated melodic passion. On Spotify alone Toby’s music has been streamed 2 million times in 145 countries, and he has 60,000 Instagram followers.
So what do people like? “I think it’s the melodies, they are quite nostalgic. So when an idea for a song hits me, ideally I’ve got my guitar with me and I can write it down, but usually I’m in the supermarket or something and have to sing it into my phone with everyone around me thinking I’m bonkers. It’s all or nothing with me,” he laughs.
“We are bonkers as a family. I don’t even know where to start with that really. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s what defines us”
“So I’ve really enjoyed finishing stuff off in the past few years, Covid was good for that. Getting it off my chest and out of my head wasn’t easy, although I’m always very sure of where I want my music to go. And when it all comes together at the same time there is nothing like it, it’s really exciting.”
Not that Toby has ever restricted himself solely to music, his acting career equally as impressive, landing him film roles in After the Dark, Barely Lethal, The Red Tent (with Hailee Steinfeld and Sophie Turner), as Andrea Bocelli in the biopic The Music of Silence, and more recently Trading Paint with John Travolta.
However, his role as Trystane Martell in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones tends to dominate however. “Yes it trumps everything because it was such a huge series. We had no idea how big when we filmed it,” he says. Filming his episodes in Croatia, Seville and Belfast, Toby was eventually killed off by being stabbed in the head, although “it could have been worse” he notes.
He also has a new film Coffee Wars out in the next few months with Hugh Dennis, Kate Nash and Sally Phillips.
So how does he choose between films and music? Well it depends on the part obviously,” he grins, “but the music is always there, it just takes more time.”
Toby was spotted while still at Cokethorpe School, near Witney, aged 16, appearing on singer-songwriter competition Channel 4’s Orange UnsignedAct. Toby didn’t win but still managed to leave with a record deal with A&M records (Universal) and spent the next four years rocking between London, Los Angeles and Nashville, producing his debut album Into the Light with award-winning country producer Chris Lindsey.
His next album Hamliar in 2019 was another high – his EP affiliated to artists such as Dido, Paolo Nutini and Ed Drewitt, most of which he played when headlining Islington’s O2 recently.
Now living in London but returning home to Oxford on a regular basis where he hangs out with his sisters Florence, Arabella, and Rafaela, are the Pugh siblings all very competitive?
“Competitive?” he asks in surprise. “Absolutely not. There is no rivalry. Never has been. It’s fairly healthy. We all do things in different ways.
“We are bonkers as a family. I don’t even know where to start with that really. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s what defines us,” and with that he’s off, back to rehearsals, preparing to entertain us with his home coming gig.
Toby Sebastian is at Oxford O2 Academy on April 14. Tickets at: https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/toby-sebastian-tickets/artist/5354230