By David DeRocco
When you hail from Niagara, you know that September is time for the harvest. So it makes sense that a country star like Tim Hicks would pick September to harvest the crop of songs he’d been tending too during five months of intensive writing and recording in Nashville. The results can be heard on Tim’s recently released third studio album, SHAKE THESE WALLS, and if you’ve seen the video for the first single “Stompin’ Ground,” you’ll know he’s proud of the roots he’s planted right here in Niagara.
“For real, in that video is my paper route, my grandmothers’ house, my cousin’s pool, my high school, all the places we kind of hung out at when I was a kid,” said the Niagara Falls-born Hicks, whose new album is his third release in three years. “That variety store, Leo’s Variety, that’s the store my brother and I used to ride our BMX bikes to buy nickel candy in the 80s. All those places that are in that video, they really are my old stomping grounds.”
When the first single from SHAKE THESE WALLS became the #1 most added song at Canadian country radio, it was just another indication that Tim’s star was continuing on its meteoric rise into the country music stratosphere. The follow up to 2014’s CCMA Award nominated sophomore album 5:01/5:01+, SHAKE THESE WALLS once again showcases the guitar-driven rock-inspired country that has becomes Hick’s signature sound. However, it’s the lyrical growth Hicks displays on this record that has him most satisfied with the release.
“I can tell you “Forever Rebels” is probably the most amount of truth I’ve ever put into three minutes of music,” says Hicks, who wrote over 70 songs before deciding on the final 10 tracks that made the record. “There’s something about that song, the vibeyness of it, the lyrical content, that you’re really getting 100 percent raw Tim Hicks there. All the things that people told me that I couldn’t do and shouldn’t do, how crazy I was for following this dream – it’s kind of an anthem that speaks to people who follow their dreams.”
As expected, the man responsible for the smash hit “Stronger Beer” has delivered another great alcohol-inspired sing-along, this time in the form of “Let’s Just Drink.” It’s an easily relatable message for anyone dealing with the stress of everyday life, but Hicks says that fact doesn’t stop the temperance tyrants from red-flagging the song on social media for its seemingly pro-drinking refrain.
“I get that all that time, but I don’t let it bother me,” said Hicks, who sparked a wave of Canadian pride with his “Stronger Beer” hit. “For me and anyone that knows me, and my fans know this, my tongue is always planted firmly in my cheek when I’m singing about that stuff. You can’t sing a song called “Hell Raisin’ Good Time” and take yourself too seriously. So especially with these songs and “Let’s Just Drink,” it’s a joke. It’s meant to purely get a chuckle out of people. And that comes from listening to John Prine all those years. He just had the ability to write these songs that were just a little bit humorous. That’s what I’m trying to do with songs like “Stronger Beer” and “Let’s Just Drink.” I’m not saying the world is terrible let’s get drunk.”
The process for whittling a catalogue of 70 new songs down to the eventual 10 on SHAKE THESE WALLS was no easy task for Hicks, who ultimately gave the last song choice to his manager. “We had nine chosen, but there were a lot of different opinions on what should go last. I relented and let my manager pick the last one, “Don’t Make It A Love Song” which I co-wrote with Deric Ruttan. He was so clear about that one and I’m so glad he did. It might not have made it if I was 100 percent in charge. I had to give him that one.”
Despite the difficult choices to be made over the final track-listing, Hicks says songs just have a way of coming together for an album, especially when he keeps the focus on how they will sound in concert.
“Sometimes you just know, you get a feeling right away that something is going to work. Which was the case with a lot of these. For example, “Stompin’ Ground” we just knew. “Slowburn,” we just knew they had to go on this record. The rest of it just came down to, do these songs fit together as a package, does it sound like it’s the same body of work. And how are we going to perform these live. That’s really the litmus test for me, do these fit in the live show.”
With the release of the new album, Hicks is itching to get back the band back on the road, which should be happening later this fall. In the meantime – despite the fact SHAKE THESE WALLS has only been out since September 9th – Hicks is keeping his songwriting skills sharp by plowing forward into the writing of his next album.
“In terms of keeping the train rolling, I’m already booked to go down to Nashville in October to start the next record. It never stops. For me, the best way I can put it, especially for me; it’s a bit of a muscle you have to work out. It’s what I’ve learned from my writers and buddies in Nashville. For me I feel like I’m a tortured songwriter. I love to play and sing live. It’s hard to write good songs, which is why I had to write 70 songs to get 10 good ones. I think that’s true for a lot of people. It is a bit of a reality check when all this stuff sort of happens and I’m like oh man I have to do another record, the pressure. At the end of the day I still thank my lucky stars that I have a career and I have people who have enabled me to make records in real studios with real players and real producers. I’m just having fun.”
What’s not fun to Hicks is the business aspect of his career, which becomes more complicated with every heightened level of success he achieves. Thankfully, the affable country star is lucky to be surrounded by a great team of people who can take some of the pressure off.
“I’m 100 percent involved, but they take care of a lot of things. There’s a great deal of it that I’m not privy too, my brain would explode. I’m heavily involved in all the decisions that get made when it comes down to that time. It’s kind of exciting, but you know I’m not a business guy. I play guitar and sing. I tell that to my wife all the time. I hate all this stuff, but it comes part and parcel with having a career in music. Otherwise people will take advantage of you. You’ll wind up doing stuff that doesn’t feel natural . It’s important to keep your finger on all that stuff.”
At this point in career, what feels natural to Hicks is simply soaking up every moment, and relishing the success he’s had since the release of his 2013 debut, Throw Down. When it comes to the future, Hicks says his goals are modest and have everything to do with enjoying making music.
“If I could continue to make records and just have people interested enough to listen, that’s enough at this point for me. For a guy that came out of bars and clubs playing covers my whole life, to have the opportunities that have come up the past few years, this is all just gravy. My mantra always it to enjoy it, to try my best to put smiles on people’s faces and hopefully that will just translate into a career. At some point I may be able to look back in ten years and just say wow. I hope that happens.”
To order your copy of SHAKE THESE WALLS, visit: http://timhicksmusic.com/
1. Shake These Walls
2. Slow Burn
3. Stompin’ Ground
4. Slide Over
5. We Came Up
6. Let’s Just Drink
7. Don’t Make It A Love Song
8. The Night Gets Us
9. Too Fast
10. Forever Rebels