Interview with Toby Hitchcock Of Pride Of Lions
Interviewed by David.
A sensational young vocalist by the name of Toby Hitchcock was introduced to the melodic rock world in 2003 when a new band by the name of Pride Of Lions released their first album. The record shot young Hitchcock to almost instant stardom within the genre as most of us were blown away by the pipes that this powerhouse vocalist had, and he took a spot alongside vocal legends such as Jimi Jamison as one of the best singers to ever hit this genre.
Since the release of that debut album Toby has become a well known vocalist and likely a household name to all that follow this genre, releasing multiple albums with Pride Of Lions and one outstanding solo record. His unmistakably clear, powerful and simply stunning voice has graced our ears over the years and he is back this year in a big way!
This very nice, and pretty cool dude all around, kindly agreed to sit down and answer a few questions for me about his career and what is yet to come for him.
Below you will find the interview that followed.
MMR: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to do this, Toby, I appreciate it. I know you are very busy right now so let’s jump right in. In 2003 you rose out of relative obscurity to the melodic rock world to front a new band by the name of Pride Of Lions with the legendary Jim Peterik. How did that come about?
TH: Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you! Funny story about how I met Jim. I was in line at an audition for one of these talent shows about 14-15 years ago. I met this girl named Kelly who was doing the same thing as me…chasing a dream. We got to talking and became instant friends. Neither one of us won that day, but we kept in touch and I invited her to audition for my event band that I had put together in Chicago. She came in, and killed it. We hired her and sang together for about 3 months. Then one day at rehearsal she said “Toby, would you sing a duet with me on my record? You could also meet my uncle.” Of course, I said yes and soon I was in the studio with her uncle at the board. Her uncle ended up being the great Jim Peterik! The rest, as they say, is history.
MMR: Wow, that is an awesome story! By neither of you winning that day it set you on this course you are on now and the opportunity to perform and record with some outstanding artists. Incredible!
Jim has penned some massive hits, probably none bigger than Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ which he co-wrote with another legend, Frankie Sullivan. He is also one of the writers behind what I consider to be one of the most beautiful songs of the genre, ‘Man Against The World’. He was a member of one of the biggest AOR bands in history and worked for years with arguably one of the greatest singers of all time in melodic rock, the late Jimi Jamison. Anyway, all of that to say, the man is an absolute legend, what was it like going in to work with him that first time? Being with someone like that I don’t know if I would have been able to squeak out a note!
TH: Well he is a legend, that is true! I’ve always heard his music, ya know growing up…but for me it didn’t really strike me that way. Once I met Jim and we began to work together the pieces just kind of lined up. I never looked at him as this amazing legend. He’s just always been my great friend Jim who happens to write amazing songs. I don’t know, it’s weird. I can say, however, that the more time has gone by, the more respect I have gained for him, both musically and personally. He’s a great guy all around.
MMR: That is cool. It is always so great to find out an artist, especially someone as legendary and influential as Peterik.
Well, you have four studio albums so far with the band, all fantastic. In January we finally got to hear your amazing voice again with album number 5, ‘Fearless’. I loved the album! My favorite one from POL yet, no small feat there. What would you say about this new record? (Click here to read my review of the album).
TH: Thanks so much. I can tell you this, it’s what I think is the best one yet. If you love this genre, this album will rock your socks!!
MMR: Totally agree with you there. Just a fantastic album.
Now in 2011, in between Pride Of Lions projects, you partnered again with Frontiers Records and one of the brightest young artists and writers of the genre, Erik Martensson, of whom I am just the biggest fan, that guy can write some masterpieces. You released your first solo album, ‘Mercury’s Down‘ that same year. Now I love POL but this record has got to be my favorite thing you have done to date, though ‘Fearless‘ is not far behind it at all, it is just a stunning album. What made you decide to do a solo record at that time and how did Erik become involved? (Click here to read my review of the album).
TH: Well it started with Frontiers asking if I would be interested…of course I was. They pretty much set everything up. I was connected with Erik, we talked through some things, he sent me the tracks and due to having to watch the budget, I stayed in the USA and recorded the vocals in my home studio. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Erik…he’s beyond talented!
MMR: Last year was an outstanding year in melodic rock and this year is already stacking up to be another stellar year and a big year for you personally. You had the new POL record come out at the beginning of the year and as I understand it, you have your second solo album releasing. Is that correct?
TH: That’s correct! The solo album is already done and in the bag. It’s just a matter of releasing it. I hope it is accepted and appreciated like my first solo record! It’s so hard to tell, you just never know!
MMR: Excellent! I can’t wait to hear it! There’s a lot to live up to with the debut you had but I have no doubt you can…have, done it again.
Any idea on a time frame for when that record will drop?
TH: I’m hearing rumors that we are going to release it this fall, towards the end of 2017.
MMR: Well that is unacceptable! Far too long to have to wait! 🙂
Can you tell us anything about the album and what we can expect?
TH: Well it’s very different from my first solo record, and definitely different from POL. It was produced by Daniel Flores who is fantastic! I would say this is just a classic AOR record feel. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!!
MMR: We are seeing a lot more of Daniel’s work these days. He is a very talented young man and is making a name quickly for himself within the genre. This new record should be excellent and it can’t get here quickly enough.
Another album you did, a live one to be exact and one I am very very glad Frontiers recorded and released, was the Frontiers 20th Anniversary concert you did with Alessandro Del Vecchio, another insanely talented man who has been instrumental in keeping this genre alive. Was that a group put together by Serafino? You all sounded amazing together and what an incredible collection of songs. (This album is available for sale through Frontiers Records website).
TH: Thank you! It was not only an honor to be asked to be the artist to sing at this awesome event celebrating Frontiers 20th, but also work with Ale and the guys. We had a wonderful time together. It’s like they were old pals!! Everything went great and Ale is truly one of the most talented and genuinely nice dudes I have ever met!! I hope we get a chance to work together again!
MMR: He really is a nice chap. I have spoken with him on several occasions and had the privilege of interviewing him several months back. Just as nice as they come, and humble as can be.
I have to say, and I know that others feel this way as well, we do not hear nearly enough from you. While I realize that the length between records seems longer to us fans then it does to you being that you are on the inside of it all and have to record the tracks and whatnot, it has been five long years since the last solo record, why such a gap between the records?
TH: Ya know that’s not really up to me unfortunately. Frontiers has a method to the madness so to speak. They have been the ones to approach me with the opportunity, so I basically don’t push, maybe I should, to do records. I just wait for them to ask and then do it the best I can!!
MMR: Oh, well by all means, start pushing!! 😉 I don’t know of anyone that would complain about hearing more from you.
You have been blessed to sing some incredible songs, and you always sound absolutely stunning on everything you sing, but my favorites have to be ‘Last Safe Place’ from the POL debut, a beautiful song with an amazing delivery from you vocally. ‘Interrupted Melody’, a beautiful track. ‘If It Doesn’t Kill Me’, great song. ‘One Day I’ll Stop Loving You’, another beautiful ballad. ”I Should Have Said’, what a great chorus. ‘Summer Nights In Cabo’ and my favorite, the title track from your solo record, ‘Mercury’s Down’, that is just an awesome rocker. I love that song. What are some your favorite songs from your catalogue and are there any that you particularly enjoy performing live?
TH: Funny that you mention ‘Last Safe Place‘, which is one of my all-time favorites! Ya know it’s really difficult to choose. I’ve worked with some genius writers throughout the years and I’m very blessed to have done so. I love performing every song I can, just because I love to perform. There is a song coming out on my new record called ‘Fighting For My Life‘ and I’m just in love with it. Don’t know why, it just strikes a chord with me. Plus my kids LOVE to sing it too, so that helps. Can’t wait for you all to hear it!
MMR: Well now you are just teasing us! Telling us that after saying we have to wait until the end of the year to hear it. Shame! lol.
So when did you began singing? You seem to have a trained voice, is that the case?
TH: That is not the case! lol. I was raised in a musical family and in church, so music has always been a huge part of my life. Singing everyday in the shower, in the car, etc., it’s just a part of who I am!
MMR: You know, I do all of that as well, but it hasn’t helped my voice out one bit! I guess I am just doing it all wrong! lol.
So who are some of your biggest influences as a singer?
TH: Oh there are so many…I love Steve Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Rascal Flatts, Tori Kelly, Boyz II Men, Gospel, Country, Rock, Steve Perry, Toto, Foreigner, on and on. I love music in general. Not picky at all!!
MMR: Quite a varied selection there. Which is good I suppose, to be able to appreciate and enjoy all types of music. I am very bad about being pigeonholed into this one genre, though I do enjoy music outside of it, I just rarely listen to much else.
You have had the chance to work with some amazing talents like Jim Peterik, Alessandro Del Vecchio and Erik Martensson to name a few. Is there anyone that you have not worked with that you would like to?
TH: Not particularly…I’m a fairly open person and I’m willing to work with anyone who wants to work with me, so long as they are friendly and enjoy the process!!
MMR: You live here in the States as well so you are very aware of how underappreciated, I wouldn’t even say underappreciated as much as I would say unknown actually, melodic rock is here, sad to say. Europe is really the main pulling point for the genre and as such US based artists pretty much have to travel overseas to even perform a show. What is your motivation that keeps you performing this genre while living in a place that barely knows of it’s existence?
TH: Just the fact that I am given these opportunities from Frontiers, and that I love to sing. Again, if opportunity arises, I’m more than willing to move through the door if it opens, so long as it fits my personal goals with my music! I’ve got a full-time production business here in the States and it keeps me very busy. Add my family life to that and there isn’t much time for touring. Additionally, touring doesn’t pay very well, because of the “unknown” or “underappreciated” factor with this genre. But I just keep on moving forward!
MMR: And it is just too sad and so very unfair that this music is not huge here in the States, and everywhere for that matter. I hate that. All of you artists should be HUGE! It is truly a crime.
Do you perform much here in the States?
TH: Unfortunately not much. Just a couple of shows with Jim here and there…I hope someday that will change.
MMR: I sure hope so. I would love the opportunity to catch you live sometime.
So, all of that being said, any touring plans for either album in the works? perhaps a stop here in North Carolina!
TH: There is talk that we may go to Europe this Summer to promote ‘Fearless‘ with a small tour, but not 100% on that yet. We will see! Unfortunately no plans to tour in the US. As you said, the demand is very low for this style.
MMR: Well Toby, once again I thank you for your time. It has been a privilege. I can’t wait to hear the new records, they can’t get here fast enough. I hope to have the chance to see you live some day soon. So last question, what would be your number one advice be to a young artist trying to get a start in the genre?
TH: Just get out there and meet who you can meet. Keep practicing and working hard! Send demos, meet people at shows, give them your demos and don’t get discouraged!! Just keep on putting your stuff out there! When I got started, YouTube and SoundCloud didn’t exist…all these opportunities on social media and such has really made it easier to get your stuff out there. Just keep rocking man! And if it never happens for you, at least you were able to do what you love musically. You may not make a living at it, heck even I don’t, but you are really doing it!