When you think country musician, a city lawyer that was born in Brooklyn probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, Sondra Toscano is breaking those stereotypes, as she represents the changing face of country music.
The Carle Place resident recently released her debut country music EP, City Zipcode, Country Heart, a collection of five songs that she hopes has a positive impact on people.
“I want to inspire people and affect them with my music,” said Toscano, who goes by the moniker Big City Cowgirl. “I hope my music becomes the soundtrack of their lives because I write songs about people’s experiences.”
The EP originally began as a collection of songs for her young daughter, but took on a life of its own once her family and friends heard the songs and encouraged her to get it out to a larger audience. Toscano said lyrics and melodies always come to her, and she’s often inspired by real life events. Most of her songs are about situations that she, or someone she knows, has gone through.
“I’m blessed because people tend to talk to me, so I always describe my music as real life in music,” Toscano said. “People come up to me and tell me stories and I’m able to translate that into a song.”
Toscano’s been a country music aficionado since a young age, influenced by her mother who would play classic artists like Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s, country music wasn’t always easy to find, but her mom would hunt down records and the music would fill their home. The genre’s honesty and relatability appealed to Toscano from a young age.
“Country music is so real and pure and talks about life,” Toscano said. “The great thing about country music is that even growing up, there was always a song that related to whatever situation I was going through. It helped me get through my years as I was growing older.”
Toscano taught herself how to play the basics of guitar and keyboard during high school. After graduating, she spent time in local rock bands and a dance group, as well as time in Greece writing and recording with a European producer.
She eventually took a musical hiatus to pursue a law degree, get married and eventually began working as a public service lawyer. When her daughter was born and showed a natural inclination toward music, she picked up the guitar again.
She said her experiences as a young musician have fueled her desire to do music now.
“When I stopped, I really missed being involved with music because it’s a great outlet for me,” Toscano said. “And I missed being in a band and because there’s a camaraderie, you can be with other people and get involved.”
Today’s country music scene is vastly different from it was when Toscano was growing up. The music is more widespread, enjoying nationwide popularity. No longer restricted to the South and rural areas, the genre enjoys a strong New York presence.
And for Toscano, this is great news.
“Country music is more accessible. There’s a chance for someone like me to get my music out there to everybody. Back in the day you didn’t have all these streaming services, but now I can get to a wide group of people of all ages,” Toscano said.
City Zipcode, Country Heart features Toscano’s raspy voice crooning out honest, raw lyrics that are easy for listeners to relate to. Highlights on the EP include “Electric,” “High Road” and “Lies in the Dark.”
For Toscano, the most important thing isn’t making lots of money, rather she hopes her music can be an inspiration to people
“I try to write with a positive message,” she said. “For me success doesn’t mean money, but having people listen and knowing that my songs are an inspiration for people to make positive changes in their life.”
With her first EP under her belt, Toscano is hoping to get a band together and start playing gigs. Listen to Big City Cowgirl’s City Zipcode, Country Heart now on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.