With 5:01 (Open Road Recordings/Universal Music Canada), Tim Hicks is sure to cement his reputation as one of Canada’s most dynamic new Country artists.
On this, the follow up to his hugely successful 2013 debut, Throw Down, Hicks serves up ample helpings of the grit, humour and good time anthems his audiences have come to expect, but still finds room to stretch out some; showing substantial growth as a singer, songwriter and recording artist. “Throw Down was very much a party record,” Hicks says, a product of the fact he and his band spent so many years playing the bars and providing the soundtrack for countless other people’s party nights.
On 5:01, however, Hicks was determined to show off a different side of himself.
Featuring co-writes with A-list songwriters including Todd Clark, Phil Barton and Jaron Boyer, 5:01 offers up standout ballads like the tongue in cheek ‘She Don’t Drink Whiskey Anymore’, a beautiful duet with Madeline Merlo entitled ‘Not Ready to Say Goodnight,’ as well as straight from the hip, rock fuelled, country tunes like ‘Dust and Bone’ in abundance.
Front to back, with it’s wailing guitars, screaming B3s and the St. Catharines based, country singer/songwriter’s signature, high energy vocal performances, 5:01 never lets up. Put bluntly, it’s a seamless blend of rock and country and the perfect accompaniment to kicking back with a few beers after a hard day, which, Hicks explains, was the inspiration for the album’s title in the first place. “5:01 is the time you’re getting off work, but it’s not specifically 5:01 PM – it’s about whatever time you’re getting off your shift and it’s time to play.”
Right from the top Hicks sets the tone with lead single ‘Here Comes the Thunder,’ a raw, take no prisoners, rip it up country rock track that relies heavily on both his hard rock and country influences. “It’s like AC/DC meets Eric Church,” he says, laughing. “My folks were big fans of classic rock and growing up I learned all those songs. When I played live I did everything from Garth Brooks to AC/DC and I can’t help but bring that to the table when we’re writing.”
Nowhere does that come across more clearly than on ‘A Little Drinkalong’ (featuring returning producer Jeff Coplan’s band Blackjack Billy and The Road Hammers’ Clayton Bellamy), the stomping, swamp rock story tune, ‘My Baby’ and ‘So Do I’ – a howling good time party track that’s already a live staple for Hicks. “And that’s why I picked it, because it says to the crowd, ‘you guys are here for a good time. So are we. You like to pop a couple tops. We like to pop a couple of tops.’”
Although Hicks’ award-winning debut garnered him a large and dedicated following in short order, he actually developed his substantial songwriting and live performance chops the old fashioned way, by putting in his 10,000 hours, and then some, on stage. “Since I started playing the bars in high school I never looked back,” he recalls. “For years I played all kinds of music full time to get gigs, keep gigs and put food on the table. I played solo acoustic shows early in the week, picked up my band and drove some place to play the weekend and then on Sunday I’d do a duo or something like that.”
Back then, he adds, “5:01 AM was actually the time I’d be putting my head down on my pillow, but my stepfather has a saying; ‘When you work really hard, you get real lucky.’ For me, saying no to gigs was a no in and of itself and there was a point when I was younger, and crazier, that we’d do three gigs a day. Not only because we could, but because it was beaten into me early on that, in music, you take everything that comes your way.”
That meant spending most nights playing to small crowds where it was a grind just to get paid for playing five hours, but it was worth it, he says: “I’ve never stopped and now I’m just so blessed to be in a position to sing my own songs to people who are really interested in them.”
Interested is putting it mildly. Since signing to ORR in 2011, Hicks has captured the hearts and minds of Canadian country fans in a huge way. Throw Down garnered him critical acclaim, debuted at #1 its week of release and spawned four Top 10 hits, including three GOLD Certified singles; ‘Get By,’ ‘Hell Raisin’ Good Time’ and the YouTube smash viral sensation ‘Stronger Beer.’
In 2013, after 200,000-plus downloads, Hicks became the #1 highest selling digital Canadian Country Artist of the Year as well as the Most Played Debut Artist overall at Country radio. Since, Hicks has been honoured with a 2013 CCMA Award nomination for Rising Star, 2014 JUNO nominations for Breakthrough Artist and Country Album of the Year, a 2014 Canadian Radio Music Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year, 2014 CCMA Rising Star winner, and a Country Music Association of Ontario Award for Male Artist of the Year.
Already ‘Here Comes the Thunder’ has cracked the Top 5 on the iTunes Canada Country chart, become the #1 most added song at Canadian radio and is now gaining traction on SiriusXM’s The Highway channel in the United States. This summer Hicks also received a SOCAN Country Music Award for ‘Get By’ and nominations for four 2014 CCMA Awards including the coveted CCMA Fans’ Choice Award.
While Hicks loves to bring the rock on stage and on record, 5:01 also features more introspective, personal songs like his co-write with fellow Canadian songwriters Gordie Sampson and Steven MacDougall, ‘You Know You’re Home.’ It’s a track he describes as “three chords and the truth” and one that dwells heavily on his experiences growing up in the Niagara region; a theme he picks up again on album closer ‘Too Young to Care.’
“You have to understand something about me,” Hicks says. “It took me a real long time to be comfortable in my own skin as an artist. I always hid behind a band name growing up, but now, as a grown man with a wife and two kids, I thought it was time to tell some more of the truth about who I am and where I came from and ‘Too Young To Care’ really is about how I was growing up.”
What sets Tim Hicks apart, beyond an ample sense of humour and his depth as a songwriter and performer, is his ability to tell those kind of truths in a way that anyone, whether they’re a country fan or not, can relate to. His songs resonate with so many people because, just like his fans, he works hard, plays hard and recognizes that chasing your dreams – whatever they may be – takes a toll that often requires taking some time to cut loose, and that, more than anything, is what 5:01 is all about.