Canada born but UK raised singer-songwriter Toby Uffindell-Phillips cut his teeth in the ‘00s with acoustic electronica group Sound Sanctuary and then as frontman of eclectic indie pop band Burning Shapes in the early 2010’s. The Kent-based musician subsequently began writing songs in his home studio that would form the backbone of a new solo project - Summit Of The Big Low.
Occasionally, he would post songs online for airplay or review, with positive feedback from the likes of BBC Introducing’s Abbie McCarthy and Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net offering an indication that they were resonating with listeners.
Toby began bringing new and familiar faces to his studio to add guitar and harmony parts, but it was a decision to offer production duties to previous Sound Sanctuary collaborators Bombay Monkey that had the biggest impact on his music. Toby’s intimate and by now mature acoustic songwriting style aligned perfectly with Bombay’s atmospheric electronic treatments, allowing all the constituent parts to fall naturally into place.
A selection of these songs were posted online during the 2020-21 lockdowns, while Summit Of The Big Low also found new ears via a series of online performances dubbed the ‘Cabin Fever Sessions’ as well as select appearances at local festivals. His debut album 'Thin Air' was eventually self released in March 2022, with a limited edition vinyl release also made possible thanks to Sugarbush Records.
Less than a year later in February 2023 a brand new collection of songs has been announced influenced by recent world affairs (Brexit, the rise and fall of Trump, epidemics, a global warming tipping point and the threat of nuclear war) and his own journey navigating through them. The cover to the new self-titled album depicts a Yin-Yang sign comprised of discarded cigarette butts. "My friend Lucy Pook was doing a series of these cigarette illustrations during lockdown and as soon as I saw this particular piece I knew I wanted the image to represent the music I was writing,” he explains. "From a distance, the artwork projects this beautiful ideological symbol of perfect harmony and balance, but up close you realise it can be broken down into these discarded objects that elude to an uglier, more sinister truth about humanity. Much like the songs on an album, it’s as if there is a story associated with each cigarette butt, where, for a snapshot in time, they were props in people's lives.”
Toby’s songwriting and finger picking guitar style has evolved into a signature sound with a hazy, golden hour vibe. Transitioning from band to solo artist, he has increasingly flexed his muscles in the studio and this time around, he has produced the entirety of ‘Summit Of The Big Low’ himself, as well as playing and/or programming all the instrumentation.
“This record comes at a time when the world is in flux. I feel that at any minute another curve ball could come at you,” he muses. ”At times it is disconcerting and scary, while there is mistrust and confusion as old structures seem to be collapsing and it is unclear what will take their place. However, I am fascinated by the idea that in human endeavour and experience there is no beauty without ugliness, no simplicity or order without complexity and chaos, no integrity without corruption. Likewise, there is no despair without hope. In essence, life is not spent in the extremes, but in the journey that ebbs and flows between its summits and big lows. Making this new album has helped me process some of the challenging moments in recent times. If others can relate, I hope it will help them feel connected in some way and that they are not alone on this ride. The big picture is made up of little wins, so if it can pay forward any kind of positive action then that has to be a good thing.”