It was just two months ago that Toby Rand took the stage on the season finale of the hit CBS show "Rock Star: Supernova."
At stake for the 28-year-old Australian was a chance to front a new band composed of drummer Tommy Lee (Mtley CrÃ¼e), bassist Jason Newsted (Metallica) and guitarist Gilby Clarke (Guns N' Roses).
While Rand eventually lost to Canadian Lukas Rossi, his stout voice and whirlwind stage presence already had made an impression on an international audience of millions. Now the Melbourne native is putting the finishing touches on an album with his longtime hometown band, Juke Kartel, which is enjoying its first tour of the states.
"A lot of the world forgets about Australia," Rand says from a tour stop in Salt Lake City. "Only two or three bands will break in America every three years - we've got Wolfmother and Jet. In Australia you get forgotten a lot, and I wanted to take our music to a bit broader scale. Doing a show like this, it paid off beautifully. Now the work starts."
Q: Were you relieved in any respect by not getting the Supernova gig?
A: Yes, because I knew that the only thing I could do from then on was what I wanted to do. I didn't have to be on anybody else's schedule. I knew I was going to be singing my songs and touring with my band. I wouldn't have to be pushed or pulled or molded. That being said, there's always the thing of not playing in the band with Tommy Lee. For me, he was my draw card. He was the guy I wanted to spend time with.
Q: How did the other guys in Juke Cartel feel about your involvement in the show? Were they nervous you were going to ditch them?
A: Yes. We speak about it quite often. ... They always go, "When you joined the show, we thought you wanted to leave and join another band." But I never thought I'd make it to the show. I didn't think I'd make it to the top 20 (contestants) in Australia. But as things started getting better and better, they started getting more nervous.
Q: What was the best advice you received from anybody on the judges panel?
A: I don't know if it was advice, but I learned to be myself. At the start of the show I was a bit overwhelmed. It's not every day where you're supposed to sing rock songs in front of 18 cameras and a studio audience that has been told to clap at a certain time. It's not very rock and roll to me. Rock is to have half a dozen beers then play to a dirty pub with 100 people. But for me it was just getting into a comfort zone, and that's what took me far: just being myself.
Q: Have you kept in contact with anyone from the show?
A: Tommy Lee and Lukas came down to our gig at The Troubadour (in Los Angeles) two nights ago. They partied with us. I'm still in touch with Stormy (Large) - she's a great friend. Magni (Ãsgeirsson), Dilana (Robichaux), Josh (Logan), Chris (Pierson) - all the boys I keep in contact with. Ryan (Star) has gone off and is doing his own thing. It's funny; he's all professional now. He's giving me advice and stuff, and I'm like, "Thanks mate."
Q: Have you ever been to Kansas before?
A: No. But I'm looking forward to it. "There's no place like home," right? I've spoken to a few people on the phone, and their accents are really cool. There's going to be a few communication breakdowns when I get there, that's for sure.
Q: What do you miss most about Australia when you're on tour in the states?
A: Just being away from the beaches. I grew up surfing. I've always lived within 500 meters of the beach. And I miss the relaxed vibe of Australia. Living in L.A. for the last six months, it's a lot more high-energy. People are a lot more "go, go, have to get it done." And I miss the fact of people being real. There are people who want to get their claws in you and use you for the wrong reason.
Q: When you're not playing music, what's your day job?
A: I was working for a carpet company. I used to get measurements from like hotels of what they needed, roll it up, put it on the back of a truck and deliver it to them. It was an awesome job - that's being sarcastic. I used to get up at about 3:30 a.m. and get there for a 4:30 start and say to myself, "Hmm, I think I might join a reality TV show. (laughs)"
Q: Would you have been a better fit on the first "Rock Star" season with INXS than with Supernova?
A: That's interesting. I don't know. I probably would have been uncomfortable being in INXS. And I thought (winner J.D. Fortune's) voice really suits Michael Hutchence's voice."
Q: What's your ultimate goal for Juke Kartel?
A: The ultimate goal is to get this record finished - I've got six more tracks to complete; get that out in stores; sell well; keep on touring; create a name for ourselves without "Juke Kartel with Toby Rand" - just make it Juke Kartel. And be able to keep writing albums and have longevity in a music career. It sounds like a good plan, and it all starts at The Bottleneck in Kansas.