If you ask Tonja to recall her earliest vocal performance, she would take you back to a little blonde haired, blue eyed girl singing “Jesus on the Mainline.” From the first time that three year old little girl stepped on stage to sing with her Daddy and his gospel quartet, anyone who knew Tonja would tell you that music was her destiny. While growing up Tonja and her dad would travel to every homecoming, family reunion and revival they could get to and share their love of God and music to all who listened.
Hailing from the not so big town of Pinetown, North Carolina, it didn’t take Tonja long to become a local favorite, and by the time she graduated from high school Tonja had traveled all over Eastern North Carolina singing with her dad as well as entering and winning several talent competitions. Tonja has a musical gift that has taken her from the stages of hometown churches to auditoriums, amphitheaters and everything in between.
It was her love of performing and a hope of pursuing a career in music that gave Tonja the courage to move to Nashville and chase her dreams. Fueled by the love and support of her family she packed up and began the journey. Tonja quickly realized the ups and downs that go along with trying to break into the music business. No stranger to hard work she concentrated on developing her skill as a vocalist and though she fought it at first, fell in love with the art of songwriting.
For Tonja writing is not just about the next big hit, it is much more personal than that. “I want my words to touch people’s hearts,” Tonja says, “I want my songs to have a positive effect on people and give them exactly what they need, exactly when they need it. It’s that kind of emotional connection with my audience that keeps me loving what I do!" Tonja celebrated an important milestone in her music career in 2008 when she signed her first publishing and recording deal with Identical Entertainment. Garnering Billboard charting success in country music, Tonja started to gain attention for her writing skills and had her first Top 20 hit with "Who I Am Ain't Who I Was" Recorded by Ivan Parker and co-written with Mark Narmore and Rob Harris.
Tonja joined the group Crosby Lane in 2012 and traveled all over the United States as lead vocalist for the christian acoustic folk group. The group would gain national attention in 2014 from airplay on CMT.com, GAC and the Daystar Network with their first charting single "Crucified" On April 1, 2016, Tonja’s husband suffered a stroke which led her to stepping away from Crosby Lane and away from music. In the interim of her husbands recovery, Tonja struggled with her purpose and why God would let her experience so much in her musical career only to have her husband become sick, making her feel music maybe was not what God had in His plan for her. During this time, she continued to write songs which she called her therapy. Tonja says, “As a caregiver, you have to have a way to take care of yourself, a way to let out some of your feelings and a way to heal from the events that have turned your life completely upside down.” The songs that Tonja wrote from 2016 thru 2018 from this experience are what led up to her current album “Me, Jesus and The Highway” which she recorded with John Mathis at Mansion Entertainment / BlueGrass Valley Records. Tonja will tell you that God must have had different plans, and He usually does, because her plan was to walk away from music and His plan involved her having her first Top Ten Single in Singing News Magazine with “When The Mountain Can’t Be Moved”.
If you ask Tonja what music means to her she would say this, “Music is part of my yesterday, my today, and God willing…my tomorrows. But along with the music there is also a message, a testimony and a praise for what God has done in our lives”. This message and music is what she carries to churches, women conferences, fairs and festivals to bring hope to those that may be hurting. “Surely God did not let my husband and I walk down this road if we were not suppose to share our story with others that may bring healing in some manner”.
Thankful for the blessing of this opportunity Tonja reflects on her favorite bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” As she always has, Tonja continues to put her hope and trust in Him and looks forward to a long and successful career in the music business! .....