For Claire Tonti, leaving her first career as a primary school teacher to become a pioneer in the podcasting world was a big leap. Now she’s transitioned into music and songwriting, and has just released her first album. This is her career change story.
“I was a primary school teacher until the age of 30, when my husband and I both left our teaching jobs to work on our podcasting business full-time. The business had been steadily growing in revenue while I was teaching, so it felt very natural to progress.
We were one of the first teams to begin advertising on podcasts in Australia and we could see that it was a burgeoning massive market. In 2015, we launched a podcast network called Planet Broadcasting, which grew to become one of the largest podcast networks of its kind.
I now host two podcasts – an interview show called TONTS and a review show called Suggestible. I’m also a mum to two incredible little humans and two doggos who regularly fall asleep in our pod studio.
What sparked my career change
At the beginning of 2022, I contracted Covid (and then long Covid) and became very unwell. During that time I had to rest a lot and couldn’t even watch TV, so while I was in bed I started listening to music.
At this time I also went to a women’s circle run by Erin Plueckhahn from Kindred Women where she encouraged us to meditate on what we wanted to call into our lives for the year. I wrote down music.
Around the same time I decided to get singing lessons with the wonderful teacher Bianca Fenn to get some breathing techniques and to help with the cough I had contracted due to Covid, which was causing issues during my work as a podcaster.
I then started writing songs and I put one on Instagram. My teacher saw it and told me that I should do something with them so she put me in touch with her nephew Ezekiel Fenn who is a music producer.
I had no idea from there that I would end up writing a whole album of 11 songs called Matrescence about my transition into motherhood, but it was like my brain had been waiting for permission to sing. And the songs came pouring out of me. Songs about birth trauma and love of our kids, falling in love, heartbreak, escape, loss and the complexities of mothering as a creative.
How I made my career change
It’s been life-changing for me to launch into this new career. I employed more people in our [podcasting] company to run admin for me so I could concentrate completely on music.
If I’m honest it’s always been what I’ve really wanted to do but I didn’t think I was good enough or that my voice was good enough. Bianca helped me to unlock so many of those ideas and walls I had built up about my sound.
I just released my album into the world and I can’t stop crying. So much has changed for me but the biggest thing has been sharing my story and realising there are so many other women who feel the same way as I do. That matrescence is an incredibly momentous, life-changing step for a person to take and that we are forever changed afterwards in so many unique ways.
Just like adolescence, matrescence should be honoured and acknowledged as a huge time of growth, mood swings, awkward hormones and body changes and it can also come with pain and trauma. Singing and writing about my experience has been so incredibly healing.
What my workday looks like now
Every day is different. I’m not much of a routine person but as my son is seven and at school, I usually wake up at 6am with him and my two-year-old daughter. We make breakfast together and then we all get ourselves ready for the day.
I bought a really good coffee machine during lockdown so I make a strong Allpress coffee while I stand at the bench in the kitchen, making lunches and answering emails or quickly posting on Instagram and chatting to the kids.
My husband and I share looking after my daughter during the week and she’s also in childcare two days. So if it’s my day with her, we will walk to school drop-off and catch up with lots of incredible locals at our favourite coffee shop and then head off to an activity.
Really my work blends so much with my home life as we have a podcast and video studio in our back garden. I work from home often at the kitchen table or a local cafe unless I’m in rehearsal for a live show or at a music session with Bianca or at the studio writing or recording music.
I always at some point in the day take the dogs for a really long walk by the river. That’s so important to me. I used to be a gym junkie but since Covid, walking is as much as I can manage at the moment. Being in nature and caring for my nervous system by moving slower and breathing deeply really helps me to stay well.
Then it’s school pick-up, after-school activities, hanging with some of my son’s friends after school at our place, dinner, bath, bed.
I’ll usually do a little bit of work or writing or listening to music once the kids are asleep. Once a week my partner James and I will record our podcast Suggestible together in our backyard studio.
That’s a long way of saying I’m lucky that I can structure my work around my parenting responsibilities and my music.
What’s next for my career
I’m a planning a national tour of my album. Lots more singing. I’ve also started writing another album. And I’m planning the next season of TONTS, my interview podcast.
It’s not lost on me for a second what a privilege it is to be making art as a mum of two at 37. Being completely absorbed in sounds and singing and songwriting, finding new artists and new ways of collaborating, performing my songs, connecting through music… all of it has been the biggest joy.”
Claire Tonti is a Naarm-based singer/songwriter and host of both the award-winning podcast Suggestible and her interview show TONTS, where she speaks to writers, activists, experts, thinkers and deeply feeling humans about their stories. Now she is taking her storytelling in a new direction, having launched her debut album Matrescence in February 2023.
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