By Johnny Griffith
East Texas has a disproportionate amount of talented musicians you can find on any given weekend at venues all over the region. While places like Austin, Dallas, and Houston give you the chance to see national acts on a regular occasion, the talent you see in East Texas is overwhelmingly homegrown and consistently as good as anything you’ll see in any of the aforementioned destinations. Admittedly rock and country dominate the mainstream musical landscape in this part of the state, but more frequently you can find artists performing blues, R&B, and pop in the area. Sabrina Toole is one of the up and coming pop singer/songwriters native to East Texas who has taken a leap of faith and decided to make a career out of her talents.
Originally born in Dallas, Sabrina moved to Lufkin when she was six and now, after a brief detour to Nashville, lives in Tyler. Naturally gifted in music and athletics, Sabrina not only played basketball in school, she would sing the national anthem at home games.
A product of a musical family, she began embracing music at an early age and thanks to a great support system around her, has translated that talent into numerous accolades, awards, and her very first album released this past November. We recently caught up to Sabrina to find out more about her path to this point:
Johnny: So I’ve read somewhere that you got your start in music singing in church when you were very young. Do you remember anything about that first performance?
Sabrina: I don’t remember the first time I ever performed in front of an audience or what the song was, but I do remember my very first play I was in for a church event. I was a Raggedy Ann doll, and I had a vocal solo. I was probably around the age of nine.
Johnny: How influential was your family in the development of your talent?
Sabrina: My parents have been and are a huge influence. They are my number one support system. From going to all of my shows to paying for vocal lessons when I was starting out, they’ve always been there. The older I’ve gotten the more I realize how important family really is.
Johnny: Your bio says you began writing songs around the age of 13. What inspired those early songs?
Sabrina: I went to a church youth camp when I was in the eighth grade and the female pastor approached me one night and told me she felt that I would be a songwriter. At the time, I never thought about writing a song. I thought I wouldn’t be very good at it. After about a month from the night she told me I should write songs I decided to try it out, and I’ve been writing ever since.
Johnny: How would you describe your music now?
Sabrina: My music is primarily pop, but I definitely try to throw in some blues, rock, and soul vibes.
Johnny: When did you first get the idea that this music thing could be more than just a hobby?
Sabrina: I first realized that I wanted to pursue music when I was a junior in high school. Before that, it never occurred to me that I could actually make a living off of music, but as I started growing up and talking with musicians, I realized that music is something I really wanted to do professionally.
Johnny: How tough was it to jump out and commit to trying to make a career out of music?
Sabrina: Pursuing music definitely has it’s trying times. They don’t call it “starving artist” for nothing. Even though there are times where I do feel it gets rough, it still all goes back to having such an incredible family to rely on and keep me sane.
Johnny: What have been some of the more memorable gigs you’ve done over your career so far?
Sabrina: Great question. It’s hard to only have one answer, but some gigs that come to mind are when I performed in South Dakota at a big event called Hills Alive. There were tons of people and the energy from the crowd was just insane. Another memorable moment I had was a fairly recent gig back in November at Lago Del Pino in Tyler where I hosted my album release party. All of my friends and family came out and it was a really amazing night.
Johnny: Do you have a band you perform with regularly or are you primarily solo?
Sabrina: I’m a solo artist. I was in a rock band a few years ago called Kindred, and after we parted ways I took on a solo career. I mostly play acoustic sets with my acoustic players, Joey Cefalu and Mariah Childress.
Johnny: What have some of the challenges been from that first gig as a singer/songwriter to the point last year when you released your own album?
Sabrina: One of the challenges for me was getting the confidence to let my own songs be heard. I used to be very self conscience of my lyrics and wonder if people would even connect with it or even like it for that matter. The more I’ve written, the more I’ve improved and gained more confidence to try new things and not be so intimidated by what people might think.
Johnny: How has the reception been for the album so far?
Sabrina: People have been so positive with their feedback about the album. I’m so proud of my album, and I’m so thankful my fans are enjoying it!
Johnny: You moved to Nashville for a while writing this album. How different was that from what you were used to at the time, and did that contrast help in the writing process?
Sabrina: I moved to Nashville in 2015 and lived there for the whole year to focus on the album. My time in Nashville was incredible. I feel like the change helped my writing process and helped me grow not only as a musician but as a young adult trying to navigate through life. I had major writer’s block for about six months, but when I moved to Nashville to start writing for the album, the songs just came so easy for me. That may sound like the cheesiest thing ever, but it’s a true story!
Johnny: During that time, did you have any “fan girl” moments when you found yourself face to face with an artist or band you’ve been a fan of over the years?
Sabrina: I didn’t meet any big time musicians unfortunately, but my guitar player was at a coffee shop in Franklin, TN and met one of my favorite front woman vocalists, Hayley Williams of Paramore. I’m still so upset about it!
Johnny: What are your goals for 2017 and beyond?
Sabrina: I hope to go on a small tour in the near future and maybe even start working on a second album in a year or a year and a half.
For more info about Sabrina and upcoming projects and gigs go to: