Born and raised in Huntington Station, New York, Maureen Toth attended Boston University where she studied voice and began to develop her range. After getting her degree she attended theater school in Manhattan, she then relocated to the Bay Area, where she continued to pursue her musical interests before transplanting to Los Angeles. In LA, Toth eventually took over the reigns of the Eastern Talent Agency, which reps clients that have worked on Breaking Bad, Teen Wolf, Mad Men, True Detective, 22 Jump Street and a hundred more. Ever active in music she plays around LA every month and released her latest album, “Cut Flowers“, this past February.
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Mike O’Keefe: You’re currently based on the West Coast. Was that where you grew up as well?
Maureen Toth: Yeah, I live in Los Angeles. I have business here and do most of my musical stuff here, unless I’m doing a little tour or something. But no, I actually grew up in New York on Long Island. Middle North Shore, Long Island in a town called Huntington. I was there until I left for college and went to Boston University. I was on the East Coast until I was about 22 actually.
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MO: I actually have family that live in Islip and I’m based in Orange County, New York a little bit north.
MT: Oh my gosh! My dad lives in West Islip actually and I love it in Orange County, I get back at least twice a year to see everybody because I still have family there.
MO: How would you describe your hometown? What would you suggest a first-time visitor to see if they were in the area?
MT: So much to see! I mean Long Island is really beautiful, but it’s known for its coastline really. So, I would say the beaches more than anything else probably. My sister lives in a really adorable town called Northport. There’s tons of port towns that line the coast of Long Island and I feel like if you’re going to visit Long Island that is a really nice place to be. Its unique, it’s beautiful and you’re so close to New York City. Maybe go out to the edge at Montauk Point or something at the far end of the island.
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MO: Yeah, that’s awesome. You have the best of both worlds right here.
MT: It really is true, it’s amazing how different it is and how cool it is.
MO: Was being involved in music something you always wanted to do?
MT: Yeah, from a really young age I always loved singing and I started playing the clarinet for a little bit when I was a kid. Then I sort of dropped it as kids do. I wanted to try the guitar, but I didn’t really stick with it too long either. A little later on, not as a kid, but as a young adult I picked it up again, because I loved singing and had always taken voice whenever I could. I wanted to be able to write music and you kind of need to play an instrument. You can collaborate with a musician who plays, but if you actually want to create a piece of music it’s helpful to have an instrument, so I played the guitar and starting writing.
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MO: How’s the atmosphere performing in LA now?
MT: It’s cool you know. LA is interesting, because I think people who are not from here or don’t visit that often think it sounds like an intimidating place. But, really it’s such a large place that you find pockets of cool spots and cool people and you really discover pretty quickly it’s kind of a small-musical world. It’s kind of a small creative world. I mean it’s not really a big place, but you find the little places that work for you. I think people really value creativity here. The right groups certainly do. It’s nice to find those people and collaborate, and hang out with and find great little venues that work.
MO: That’s awesome. I was able to get to San Francisco, but I haven’t been to LA. It’s definitely on my list and I want to get there.
MT: Yeah, I lived in San Francisco for about ten years. Amazing city, so different from LA, but absolutely one of my favorite places. That’s also a great city for music, art, film and creativity. On a different level you know than LA, but so brilliant for that as well.
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MO: You recently returned from a trip from Italy, what were three highlights of that and why?
MT: Wow! Well, Italy was amazing. I get all choked up when I think how beautiful that place is. We went to three places actually so it fits perfect with the question you’re asking. We visited Rome, Florence and then Tuscany. Each place was so unique and fascinating that I loved them all for different reasons. The thing that was epic about Rome was the way the architecture just kind of felt like it was blowing up out of the ground and appearing in front of you in the most intense way! Just stunning, stunning architecture juxtaposed with a normal city in a way, it’s a beautiful-ancient city. But, you have normal-city life and suddenly there’s the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon or the Colosseum. The scope and size of the monuments in Rome are absolutely mind-blowing. I loved that city for that reason.
Florence was a romantic, beautiful city with these magical churches. Much more consistent architecture there. It was just very beautiful and peaceful to look at in a way, compared to Rome which was shockingly stunning. The countryside was amazing, it was just beautiful rolling hills. I think people talk about the light in Tuscany being a really stunning quality of light that you don’t see in other places. I totally agree with that. You visit these beautiful little hilltop towns that are ancient and are fortified with a stone wall that are 5,000 years old and you can’t believe how gorgeous they are.
© Patrick Subotkiewiez
MO: It really sounds beautiful.
MT: It’s stunning, stunning. So, each place is really unique and really beautiful. I feel like we got a good dose of each place, because we were able to stay for a decent amount of time in each locale. It was really great.
MO: That really just paints a picture. I think Italy moved a little bit higher up on my list now.
MT: Yeah, we’ve met this couple that were really well traveled and they’d seen so many places all over the world. They said two of their favorites were Portugal and Italy. I thought that was interesting, because in Italy you have northern, southern, the multi-coast and the islands. There is a lot to see in this little boot of a country. It’s amazing.
© Oliver Clarke
MO: That’s fantastic. What’s the first thing you try and do when visiting a new destination?
MT: Let’s see, I usually put my stuff down and then take a look around to get a lay of the land. Just really trying to understand the immediate vicinity and what is interesting about it. I love walking around a new place. Some places it’s not so convenient to do that, but walking around a place really immediately gets you the vibe, the sense of pace and the people. Then, of course, eating. Especially in Italy, walk around a bit to get a sense of the place and then grab a spot for lunch or dinner that looks interesting.
MO: How did the Eastern Talent Agency come about? I saw you have an office in LA and Brooklyn.
MT: Yeah, that’s true. I landed in LA in 2000, I think, after my stint living in San Francisco. I met a woman that had a small company in the entertainment industry and she was very cool. I learned how to agent through her and eventually I bought the company from her. From there we’ve just been working at it and growing for now close to 15 years. It’s been awhile, it’s been a fascinating ride and we specifically represent a very unique niche of people in the entertainment industry of film and television. We opened the New York branch a couple of years ago, because two great agents were from there and wanted to stay and live in New York. I said that’s great, lets open a New York branch because there is enough activity there for film and TV to justify it.
MO: That’s great to takeover and continue to grow something. How does music and travel fit together?
MT: I think they fit together in a very important way actually, because there’s nothing like travel, in my opinion, to open your mind and experience brand new things on so many different levels — the food, the culture, the architecture of the place, the people. All of that is so different and unique. Every place that you go feeds your experience and thus directly feeds your writing and your perspective on the world. We live in a pretty insular and large country. I feel we get very wrapped up in our own thing in here. Visiting other cultures helps to enlighten and gives you perspective on what’s going on in the world. I think it definitely feeds my writing and my perspective on politics and people.
MO: Lastly, are there any destinations that you have not been to that you must still get to? Maybe three or more.
MT: So many, so many! I would say my top three right now is Spain, because I have a lot of friends who have been to Spain recently and they just can’t say enough good things. I really want to visit that country, it has a close proximity to Italy. It’s similar, but different. I’ve been there once, but very briefly. I was actually there when 9/11 happened, which was crazy. We were on our way to go visit Barcelona the next day and 9/11 happened and everything stopped. A week later I was flying out of France to home and I didn’t get to experience Barcelona because of that time. So, I really want to go back and experience Spain, so that’s the first one.
Second, I haven’t been to London, Ireland or Scotland. I kind of group those together and want to experience that as a culture and a region of the country. So, that’s two in Europe. The last one would probably be I think Australia and New Zealand. I have heard amazing things about those countries. There’s so many others. But, those are the top three for now.
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For more on Maureen Toth click the “Cut Flowers” album art: