Even if you haven’t heard Toby Lightman’s name, you’ve probably heard her music. Since her first album, “Little Things,” debuted in 2004, the 35-year-old singer-songwriter’s music has been virtually everywhere. Lightman will be in Baltimore on Nov. 2, when she performs at Eutaw Place, a venue that has featured up-and-coming singer-songwriters since spring 2012.
Although Lightman, who grew up in a Jewish family in Cherry Hill, N.J., performs live regularly and has made four albums since “Little Things,” her music is heard most widely on television shows including “Brothers and Sisters,” “Eli Stone,” “Bones” and “The Vampire Diaries” and in movies such as “P.S. I Love You,” “17 Again” and “Mean Girls 2.”
“[TV and movie] placement is really the best and most realistic way to get your music exposed to new listeners,” she said. “I still get emails from people who see “P.S. I Love You” and say they love my song. They [the filmmakers] used the song so well, and it made the scene so good.”
Lightman’s style has been compared to legendary singer-songwriters Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell and to contemporary artists such as Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill. Her songs combine elements of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz and hip-hop with thoughtful, evocative lyrics.
Earlier this year, Lightman released her newest extended-play album, “Holding a Heart.” Five songs from the EP were featured on an episode of ABC Family’s “The Fosters.” She will release a full-length album of original music — her first since 2008 — in early 2014.
Lightman’s love of music first revealed itself when she was 6, and she was inspired to study violin after watching a PBS program about Itzhak Perlman. In high school, Lightman’s interest shifted to voice, and she began taking vocal lessons and singing in choral groups.
At the University of Wisconsin, Lightman taught herself to play guitar and began writing music and performing with local bands. After college, she moved to New York City and a year later landed a record deal with Lava Records. Once Lava released “Little Things,” Lightman’s career soared. She appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Good Morning America” and “The Early Show.” Her appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” was seen by Prince, who asked her to be the opening act for one of his concerts.
When it comes to songwriting, Lightman said she is a “melody person 90 percent of the time. First I hear a melody, then I pick out the chords and then I write the lyrics. I still have no idea how it happens.”
But happen it does. And Lightman feels fortunate that she has been able to thrive in the uber-challenging music industry for more than a decade. She attributes her success to the honesty of her songs and the fact that she enjoys performing.
Also On Tap
Toby Lightman is one of several singer-songwriters performing this fall at Eutaw Place. On Oct. 5, it’s Aoife O’Donovan with The Sweater Set, and on Dec.14, Liz Longley performs with Bob Sima.