by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces
‘Gonna stomp our boots till the neighbours call the cops’. The opening line to Tim Hicks’ latest single “Loud”, and one of a dozen songs you’ll find on his new release “New Tattoo”, gives you a great indication of the wild ride that’s in store for you. The song is about tearing it up and taking no prisoners, and it’s no surprise that the NHL picked up on the raucous anthem and used it during the playoffs last spring. The accompanying video is also a wild mash-up of big noise images with Back To the Future overtones. The song sets the tone for the record and is the perfect number to kick off his live set, and that’s exactly what the Niagara Falls native does a couple of hours later at an exclusive show at the Hideout club in Toronto.
“Loud came about because we were actually trying to write a song that would be a show opener,” Tim says pre-show, hunkered down on one of the club’s comfy couches. “When I work with those guys, Todd Clark, Gavin Slate and Travis Wood, as we’re writing the song we’re laying it out in the studio. By the end of the day I was singing it and Todd did a guide mix, sent it around to everybody and I got a great response. We’ve had days where we try to write something specific by design and it never goes well. This one kind of fell out ass-backwards and luckily enough my management team was able to get it to the NHL and they used it a ton over the playoffs. If you can get a song out there like “We Will Rock You”, how cool is that? I’m not saying that Loud stands up to that kind of classic but it really was something to be watching a game and hearing it.
“As far as videos go, they’re not my favourite thing to do when it comes to this job because you have to do them over and over again. But for this one we had a great time and the concept was really cool, doing that Marty McFly thing like building that speaker and plugging it in. Also, we don’t often get to have the band in the video because it costs more money, but I insisted. It’s Loud…I just can’t be dancing with my acoustic guitar.”
The album is all over the map musically including the R & B feel of “Getting’ To Me”, with its funky guitar and alto sax sample, while the middle section of “Easy” offers a tip of the hat to Tom Petty. There’s also a bit of a New Wave throwback on “If The Beat’s Alright”, in which the opening guitar/drum combo reminds one of a vintage Police record.
“That’s exactly what we were going for, that kind of retro sound with the Elvis Costello organ. I actually said ‘Can we get that “Pump It Up” organ on this?’ It has such a retro vibe, and that’s just us being silly. We wrote that after a couple of Margaritas to see if could write a song that was good with
the least amount of words possible. This isn’t a slight against anybody, but I’m always looking for simplicity in music and at a time when Music Row in Nashville is trying to write these choruses that have a thousand words, I’m going to write one with seven. At a show I’m trying to get people to sing along and it’s hard to do that when the song has a lot of words, so that’s really where we were coming from.”
While New Tattoo offers a potpourri of musical styles make no mistake that it remains a country record at heart with its banjo licks and acoustic guitar riffs, and there’s at least one classic country song on the record in the form of “Drunk Me”. The tune opens with the sound of a classic steel guitar over the din of saloon chatter, followed by the singer’s testimonial that it’s been ‘Forty-seven nights, shootin’ ‘em back.’
“That song stands out from the rest of the record because it’s so traditional,” Tim says. “I wrote that with Nashville’s Jeff Copeland. He had the concept worked out, the double meaning of the expletive in the title, so it was an easy write. To get Charlie Judge to play piano on it to try and make it more barroom was very cool. It tied what we’ve done in the past with what we’re doing now. I was trying to write it from the perspective that I witnessed over the years playing rooms like that. You’re always watching some jackass dude going from table to table, wasted out of his tree, trying to pick up women. That was all the guy was there to do and we were trying to make a joke of that in a light-hearted way.”
The album’s title track is a three-minute blast in which the singer has a double-pronged reason for acquiring some new ink, as he wants to feel like a ‘new man’ but at the same time rekindle the flame of when he first met his main squeeze. This time around the song didn’t receive the thumbs up from his co-writers but rather his five-year-old daughter Anna. Tim’s other child, six-year-old JJ, was the catalyst for another number, ‘Throw a Ball’.
“I look for songs to act as signposts to point me down a road and New Tattoo captured the essence of what I wanted to do with this record,” he begins. “There’s nothing heavy about it in terms of the subject matter and I just thought it was a lot of fun. When I was playing the demo I caught my daughter singing the chorus ‘I need a new tattoo’. I thought if my five-year-old can remember that, we’ve got ourselves a hook.
Tim recently received the Nielsen Compass Award at the 2018 Country Music Association of Ontario awards show, an honour that recognizes an artist for the most total content plays including streams (audio, visual), single and album sales and total social media following. New Tattoo is bound to keep the momentum going as there are a slew of potential singles in the offing including “The Worst Kind”, his lovely duet with Lindsay Ell. (‘I had the idea to do the guitar solo in harmony and get Lindsay Ell. She could do the lead and I would do the lead with her, so we’d be duetting singing as well as playing. Her voice is great and her playing is stellar’.) Another candidate for a single is the lead-off track “1975”, which sums up all of the record’s nostalgia and sentiment by going back to a special time and place, even though it was before the singer was born.
“I was born in 1979 but when I was growing up my parents and friends would say I was born too late because the kind of music I like is classic music. So at a time when Nirvana was the biggest thing going, I was busy trying to figure out how to play the acoustic opening part of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. I’ve always been fascinated with things like the film ‘Dazed And Confused’, and I watched ‘that 70’s Show’ until I couldn’t watch it anymore. When we were writing 1975, that’s what we were talking about. People ask me what I’m listening to and I think they’re always disappointed because I tend to reach back. I tend to like acts that ride the country line, for instance I love the Stones’ “Exile On Main Street” because it has a bit of a country element to it, as well as Zeppelin’s “Goin’ To California’ and of course I love The Band.”
So with this fondness for all things Seventies, does Tim actually roll down the street in an El Camino as the first line of 1975 suggests?
“No, I don’t own an El Camino, not even close,” he laughs. “But it made for a good rhyme.”
Look for Tim on selected summer festival dates in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario, followed by a tour to support the new record.
CCMA-winning duo The Lovelocks announce the release of their latest EP, “20 Dollars In My Pocket”, available July 13th via MDM Recordings Inc./Universal Music Canada. The fun-loving lead single “Staycation” has already enjoyed success via streaming and on the airwaves. “We are very excited to be launching 20 Dollars In My Pocket and to show a different side of our band with this album”, say The Lovelocks. “Last year was the toughest we’ve experienced as artists, struggling under the pressures of the industry. We decided to use the last year to experiment with different sounds, styles and song ideas and the resulting EP has brought us through the fire, emerging from the ashes. Although it was a difficult journey, we are so thankful to have gone through this important creative process to get to where we are today.”
After 16 years of supporting and growing the careers of other artists, Scotty Kipfer has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight with his first album “Taking My Time”. Having worked in many facets of the music industry, Kipfer developed the urge to branch out and focus on his own songwriting. From there, he started to spend more time working with a community of writers in Nashville and was soon performing throughout Southern Ontario and the American Midwest. “When I started writing, I really only wrote for other artists,” explains Kipfer. “I think the biggest evolution in my music was finally finding my own voice. When we wrote the title track on Taking My Time, I knew we had found me. Once we had that direction, the rest of the record came together very naturally.”
Don Amero, a three-time Juno nominee who is primarily known for his folk work, is turning over a new leaf and stepping into the country music genre with brand new material that he considers his strongest yet. For the Winnipeg musician, his sixth album “Evolution”, set for release on Aug. 24, is all about embracing the change and the result is a seamless blend of rock-tinged country and roots. The single “Give It To You,” precedes the album’s release and is set to hit radio in mid-July.