A model citizen

Toni Childs: "I love this area. Of all the places in Australia I've been, this place speaks to me the most. It's very much like Hawaii, where I come from."

Hawaii is where she wrote the album, after retiring from the public eye in the wake of a bout with Graves disease, a serious thyroid disorder. Here she became an organic farmer, acted in a local production of The Vagina Monologues and committed to writing a song that would inspire people to end domestic violence for all time.

Lofty goals, perhaps, but coming from a woman who's sold nearly a million albums, had three Grammy nominations, and whose most recent album, Keep the Faith, came after she'd cured herself of Graves disease, not surprising. It gave her the momentum to embark on her most ambitious project yet, the fan-funded Citizen of the Planet and world-spanning tour, Because You're Beautiful.

"My fans contributed $170,000 to make this album. It's amazing and it's scary and I love it."

But it was not enough. To fund the tour she envisaged, Childs found investors to cover a $3 million shortfall that would finance state of the art production, including interactive LED flooring and the best technical people she could find.

"I wrote a business plan three years ago and I've just completed it. I've never done this kind of thing before and you need a team of talented people to do it - people who are experienced and really good at their jobs."

Now in its final mixing and mastering phase, this entirely independent project is due for release early next year.

"This album was born out of several things," Toni said. "In my 54 years on the planet I feel like I've gained some wisdom and experience that has given me the right to question.

"We are surrounded by these incredible technologies and we live in these remarkable bodies on this amazing planet and we could squander it all in our time. I have nieces and nephews who for various reasons are going down angry, bitter roads and I wanted to sing to them, I wanted to talk to Planet Earth and say, 'Whats going on?'"

The space-age technologies in the Because You're Beautiful tour are intended to inspire positive action in audiences and empower them to similar feats of imagination.

"On my last tour I was looking out at people in the audience who looked like they'd left themselves on the side of the road and I wanted to talk to them," Toni said.

"I believe in humanity and I believe there are some apps we came in with that we're forgetting we have and we need to activate them."

As part of her on-going crowd-sourcing, Toni is touring Australia with a young band of Lismore-based musicians, Cameron Spike-Porter, Brendan Lees, Dave Tweedie and Harry Nichols.

Although she seems fearless, Toni admits to some trepidation about this intimidating project.

"Whenever you do something like this you're faced with fears, but you just gotta jump," she said. "The worst thing that can happen is you fall on your arse."

Toni Childs plays the Lismore Workers Club next Thursday, July 19, from 8pm. Tickets are $69 (6621 7401) or at www.lismoreworkers.com.au.

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