Tim Hicks has carved out a nice niche for himself as a barn raising country rocker with seemingly endless energy and charisma. Born out of St. Catharines Ontario, Hicks has risen to prominence in Canada rather quickly. He started off his career with back-to-back gold certified singles with rocker “Get By” and “Hell Raisin’ Good Time,” along with another gold song in “Stronger Beer,” which wasn’t even released as a single. His “Got a Feeling” was also used on Hockey Night in Canada during the Stanley Cup Playoffs (major Canadian cred there). His sophomore album, 5:01, debuted at #1 on the Canadian country albums chart, and he recently won the Rising Star award at the CCMA’s. He’s rising rapidly fast, don’t be surprised to see him overtake Dean Brody as the face of Canadian country in the near future.
First of all, congratulations on your Rising Star win at the CCMA’s! It was very well deserved.
Thank you! Yeah it’s very, very exciting, it’s one of those things man, where it’s so nice to be recognized on a national level, I can’t even explain. It’s just one of those things where like, the Canadian country scene is kind of a tight knit group and everyone’s buddies and I feel like they’ve just sort of really gotten behind what I’m doing and I’m just so thankful that I can come to the party [laughs] for lack of a better term, it’s just so cool.
Do you feel any pressure having won that award, to just continue to rise?
I feel confident pressure [laughs] this whole thing is so bizarre. Since “Get By” came out, every time I go to release a single and prior to “Get By” coming out I lose sleep, like I’m kind of an anxious dude as it is so, y’know I’m always like ‘oh god is this the end, is the train gonna fall off the rails?’ and that being said, being six singles in at this point and with everything that’s gone down I’m so grateful to have this opportunity that should it stop tomorrow I would die a happy man. Like, I played in bars for almost twenty years man, like just trying to plug it out and I tried to get a record deal all through my twenties and couldn’t. I feel like Canadian country fans just sort of like, scooped me up and said ‘OK, this guy gets a chance now’ and so every second I get to do what I do right now is a blessing and I don’t take a second of it for granted.
Have you ever considered marketing your music to the American scene?
Yeah well that’s starting to happen a little bit. I don’t know if you know this but SiriusXM The Highway, they randomly started to spin “Here Comes The Thunder,” and so all of the sudden I started getting tweets from Oklahoma and Texas and all these places in the States and when we looked into it we found they were spinning it, which was really exciting. Then from that NBC college football down in the States just picked it up so they’ve been playing it at their games, and in highlight reels so y’know, it looks that’s gonna be the next evolution of what happens. I’m gonna start doing a little bit of touring in the States, but that being said I feel a loyalty to Canada y’know, I live in Canada, I’m Canadian and I feel like it’s the Canadian country fans that have really put me in this position so I’m not going anywhere.
So you’re going on tour with Dierks Bentley and Randy Houser on the Riser tour. What are you most looking forward to about that experience?
I’m looking at this opportunity, like you gotta understand, we’re going to play some of the biggest venues in Canada and one of them in particular is close to us is a place they used to call Copps Coliseum – it’s called First Ontario Center now – but it’s in Hamilton, Ontario… It’s the place that me and my band guys would go to see our favorite bands play, and now to be able to have this opportunity to play with two of the biggest country stars in the world, it’s like a dream come true to be able to step on that stage. But what I think I’m most looking forward to is learning as much as I can from those guys, you know, how to conduct yourself in the arena show, what are the differences between that and when you play clubs, and I’m just gonna ask ’em lots of questions. I know Dierks has three kids at home, like I wanna know how he balances his career and his home life because it’s hard man, I’ve got two small kids at home and I miss them when I go and I’m not home a whole lot and when I am it’s really special time, so those are the kinds of things that I’m gonna ask. I’m really looking forward to learning from them ’cause both of them have a track record a mile long.
If someone were to base your music off of the radio output, they may think you lean heavily on rock stylings, but after listening to both albums, it’s actually quite a diverse set. Who are your biggest musical influences?
I listened to a ton of different stuff growing up. There was music in our house all the time, everything from Hank Snow, to Blue Rodeo, to Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. I wear those influences on my sleeve pretty heavily, like you’re gonna hear that rock, the flying guitar from Zeppelin in all our stuff. I always explain to people that what we do is sort of Southern Rock really, it’s Country-Rock, and that’s why I loved band like The Eagles and The Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I really feel like if those bands were to come out today, they would find their home on country radio, which is where I’ve sort of found my home, and sort of taking a page out of their book.
What was your first reaction upon seeing that 5:01 was the #1 country album in Canada?
Total relief [laughs]. ‘Cause like I said, I was losing sleep over it. Like, Throw Down was very much a party record and that happened kind of by accident. Y’know, when you go to do a record, you write a ton of songs, and then everyone sits in a room and you kind of sift through them and everyone picks their favorites and then it goes up on a whiteboard and your managers are there and your radio people and everybody gets their say and so the first record was definitely a party record which is why I called it Throw Down. But on this album I wanted to show people a couple things, number one, that I’m not just a one-trick pony, and number two, that I could go down a few different roads, and I felt it was important for me to show some growth, because a ton of stuff has happened over the last couple years, and it would have been easy to go out there and write Throw Down Two and throw all the “Here Comes the Thunder”s on there and call it a day. But I didn’t want to do that, I wanted give people something more, I wanted to show them that I could sing a ballad and that I’m not just about screaming and yelling, and that there’s more to Tim Hicks than just the party. That being said, there’s a good solid dose of that on 5:01 with the “So Do I”s and the “Here Comes the Thunder”s and the “Hands Up”s and stuff like that, but I get a little more introspective on “Too Young to Care,” “She Don’t Drink Whiskey Anymore,” and “You Know You’re Home.” What’s exciting to me on all those songs is that it’s very much the truth about where I come from and how I grew up and all those things, so y’know, I was anxious about releasing 5:01 so it was such a relief to when people sort of got behind it right away and it went to #1, it’s such an unbelievable feeling.
What’s the inspiration behind the title 5:01?
Yeah 5:01, it’s just the time of day when you’re done work and you can meet your buddies and clink a few glasses or just chill out, and it was something that my friends and I would say ’cause we all had bizarre jobs. I have one buddy who works in food and beverage so, his 5:01 might be Sunday night after a catering gig at you know, 2:30 in the morning, but that’s his 5:01 ’cause he’s done his shift. That’s the time when all the boys would sit in the back alley and crack a beer right, and reflect on the service. It was sort of the same for us and the band y’know, we’d be out playing until 4, 4:30 in the morning, and after you drive home – I never drank when we played because I always drove the van – so y’know I’d always look forward to getting home and making a sandwich and cracking a beer, and ironically for me, that was usually around 5:01 AM [laughs] so that’s kinda where the title came from.
I see you have eight co-writing credits on 5:01, how long did it take you to write all these songs?
Yeah, the cliche rings true man, I have my whole life to write the first record and I had six weeks in Nashville to write my second [laughs] so I literally moved my wife and my two babies down there and we rented a two bedroom apartment and just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote with anybody and everybody and wrote a ton of material, and picked what we thought were the best twelve. Like I said, I wanted to show a little bit of growth on this and so y’know, when you’re under those kind of time constraints, you have to look at outside songs which to me is just as exciting as writing. When I heard a song, for instance like “She Don’t Drink Whiskey Anymore,” like I just loved it, like the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I thought ‘I have to sing that song’ so that went to the top of my list. It’s one of those things where we had to write for six weeks but wrote as much as we could and I think we picked the best material that we could, and I’m just so thankful and relieved that people are digging it.
At what moment in your life did you know you wanted to become a musician and go into the music industry?
It just kinda came out that way, like I’ve been singing my entire life and my great grandmother would put me on her knee and sing church hymns at her organ, she played the organ, and I have vivid memories of that. My folks put me in lessons and right away the guys that ran the place, that ran the lessons, would put kids in band, thinking that they would learn faster and have more fun, and I just got the bug real early man, I just never stopped, I’ve been in the band ever since. I started singing professionally for money at 15 and y’know, doing acoustic gigs and doing band gigs around where I live, and just, for whatever reason I just knew this was what I wanted to do. I didn’t know at what level it would peak out at, whether it would be in bars or whether I would have the opportunity to play at a national level, but I just knew that music would always be part of my life.
What’s in heavy rotation on your iPod right now?
I downloaded Dierks’ Riser, I mean I had to check it out, I love “Drunk on a Plane,” so I’m listening to that a lot. There’s a band from the nineties called Arc Angels, I listen to them a lot, it’s kind of a go-to for me, and the new Eric Church record’s on there too, I mix them all up. I’ve got a lot of classic stuff on my iPod too like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Wing’s, and things like that but I’m also heavy into the new country, I love to see what people are coming up with and how the genre is changing as we speak and it’s just really exciting to me.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today Tim, and once again congratulations!
I appreciate that man!