Tim Hicks Can't Wait To Rock Out For Fans

Tim Hicks laughs when he’s told that he makes “turn-up” songs — the kind you can’t help but turn up the volume on when they come on the radio.

“That’s a kind compliment,” he said. “I would say that.”

Fittingly, Hicks’ third album is titled Shake These Walls, which has spawned the hit single “Stompin’ Ground,” an ode to the singer’s carefree youth in Southwest Ontario.

“We definitely have the rock-country thing going on,” Hicks told iHeartRadio.ca.

“The genre itself has just exploded so you get all these fringe versions — you got guys like Sam Hunt doing sort of pop hip hop almost-country and you have your traditional elements and a guy like me.”

Hicks was raised on a musical diet of everything from Simon & Garfunkel to Led Zeppelin as well as homegrown acts like The Band and Blue Rodeo.

“So all of that is going to come out,” he explained.

“I’m lucky that I’ve been able to find a home on country radio. So when somebody says those are ‘turn-up’ songs that’s a huge compliment to me.”

Shake These Walls comes only three years after his debut album Throw Down, which put Hicks on the Canadian country music map even though he had been a working musician for most of his life.

His success “really is gravy” because, he said, it happened when he stopped fretting about whether he’d land a record deal.

“I was happy just to work and play music,” said Hicks. “Once I stopped caring, that’s when things started to fall in line. All that anxious uptight energy that I had within myself, once I sort of let that go, everything else sort of fell in line.

“I’m happy that it happened the way that it did.”

This is not to say that Hicks takes his success for granted. In fact, he said coming up with a new album was stressful, sleep-depriving work.

“It’s sort of this weird dichotomy because I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin as an artist,” he explained, “but it really is nerve-racking when you work on a record and it’s the third album in and everyone’s going ‘OK, this has got to be good.’

“You work so long to write the songs and then record them and when you let it go out into the world you just hope that people are going to dig it and you’re going to be able to keep the train rolling.”

Hicks said when it comes to picking songs for an album, he thinks about what it will be like to play them live over and over.

“That’s my litmus test. How is this song going to fit into my live show? It’s got to feel good to sing and play and I learned that early on,” the 37-year-old said. “You gotta love these songs because you’re going to play them every night.”

Hicks said when people ask him to name the song he looks forward to playing every night, “I always say whatever one we added most recently because it’s still fun, right? Still interesting.”

So, is there a song he doesn’t look forward to playing every night?

He mentions “Stronger Beer,” a song from Throw Down that he co-wrote with Jeff Coplan about the differences between Canada and its southern neighbour.

“Every now and again I’ll have a ‘Oh, ‘Stronger Beer’ again’ sort of moment,” Hicks said. “The guys in my band are so great at reminding me that we are so lucky that we have a song like that that people wait to hear every night.

“We hold it for the encore now, of course, and as soon as we start it, the phones go up.”

Hicks knows he’s lucky. “When you hear the classic story about Van Morrison not playing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ — to me it’s just silly. You have to play the songs that people want to hear. 

“That’s why we do what we do. To put a smile on somebody’s face.”

Despite being a fan favourite in a beer-obsessed nation, “Stronger Beer” has never been picked up as a commercial jingle.

“There’s some rule that no beer company is allowed to say that they have stronger beer, which is why it hasn’t been used by a beer company at this point,” Hicks explained.

What about creating a Hicks Ale or Hicks IPA?

“I would love to do something like that one day,” the singer said. “You never know what’s going to happen down the line. That would be amazing.

“Jim Cuddy just started his own wine label so maybe I’ve got to go at it a different way — get into the craft brewery thing.”