In the world of pop stardom it is rare to find an artist who writes his or her own music and lyrics. But Toby Lightman, a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate on the verge of pop stardom, writes expressive, heartfelt lyrics in her newly released soul-drenched album, Little Things, released by Lava Records.

In a music world where many compare and contrast musical and artistic styles, Lightman’s music is not easily anchored or categorized within one specific musical genre. Her album fuses elements of soul, folk, hip-hop and pop in one mixture of alternately mellow and upbeat songs. Lightman will be returning to Madison tonight for a free performance at the Memorial Union’s Rathskeller, courtesy of the University Bookstore and radio station Z104.

Growing up in Cherry Hill, N.J., Lightman studied violin and performed in choral groups while attending high school, but it was not until she came to college that she even considered a career as an entertainer.

“During my four years at Wisconsin, I played at about 20 open mic nights at the Rathskeller,” said Lightman. She was also active in Humorology as a member of the Chi Omega sorority.

“I played in a band and did the open mic night, but Humorology was definitely my thing. I was in the cast all four years and directed my senior year,” said Lightman.

Lightman left Madison the fall semester of her junior year to be part of a band promoting their original music. However, she was adamant about graduating from school and returned for the spring semester.

After graduating from UW, Lightman decided to test her luck in New York, where, like most aspiring artists, she bartended to make ends meet. After a coincidental meeting and collaboration with musician and producer Wyclef Jean, Lightman landed a record deal with Lava Records. Her eclectic music has been compared to famous female mainstays like Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys and Joni Mitchell.

Toby Lightman has a lot to celebrate and be proud of. Her debut album is fueled by her sassy first single, “Devils & Angels.” The song is a bonafide Top 20 hit at Hot AC and is currently crossing over to pop radio.

The album scanned over 6000 times its first week available and it appeared at No. 11 on Billboard’s New Artist Chart. Lightman is looking forward to her first homecoming visit to Madison since she graduated in May of 2000.

“I have wanted to come back with my friends for years, but I have been too busy. I am looking forward to sitting on the terrace, walking along State Street and showing my guitar player and label rep everything,” Lightman said.