For every musician that seemingly becomes an overnight sensation, chances are good that that musician slugged it out for years before gaining recognition.
That certainly is the case for Canadian country music sensation Tim Hicks, who performs at Casino New Brunswick on Friday night.
The two-time Juno Award nominee and 2014 Canadian Country Music Association Award winner for Rising Star of the Year, Hicks broke through to the mainstream in a big way with his debut record Throw Down. His sophomore record, 2014’s 5:01, proved to be equally successful, debuting in the top position on the Canadian Country Album charts upon its release.
With five Top 10 singles to his credit – “Stronger Beer,” “Get By” and “Hell Raisin’ Good Time” among them – and nearly three million views on YouTube, Hicks was the highest-selling digital Canadian country artist in 2013.
With such an impressive track record only two albums into his career, it might be hard for some to grasp that things didn’t come easy to Hicks.
“I got the music bug pretty early in life. I began playing in bars around the age of 15. From there, I would take any and every type of show that would come my way. I had the chance to play many rooms where I was playing for just a few people.
“I feel that’s the big misconception about being an ‘overnight sensation.’ There is typically a significant amount of work that has gone into your career before finally breaking through.”
Unfortunately for Hicks, his prolific show schedule and willingness to embrace any type of performance that might get him exposure was not attracting attention from the industry otherwise.
“There came a time where I just stopped trying to land myself a record deal,” Hicks says. “All throughout my 20s, I couldn’t get anyone to return my calls and had resigned myself to the fact I was never going to make it.”
Hicks credits his wife for helping give him a new perspective on his career: “I had gigs booked six nights a week, six months out. My wife reminded me that I was getting to do something I loved every day, and that not everyone is as lucky to be in that position. From that point on, I did a total 180 with my attitude.”
Whether it was having finally “let go” of his dream or whether fate simply had other plans, Hicks life would change in the months following that discussion with his wife.
While playing one of his regular shows in downtown Toronto, Hicks was approached by a couple of guys asking if he would be interested in doing some songwriting with them.
Those guys turned out to be the songwriting team of Neil Sanderson (drummer for Three Days Grace) and Casey Marshall.
Sanderson and Marshall pitched Hicks a song called “Get By,” co-written by the pair along with two other individuals they did not name.
Hicks says that when his record label contacted him about the “other” writers on the song, he was floored by who those other contributors were.
Despite having finally found success with his debut record Throw Down, Hicks says that he wanted to push himself even farther on5:01.
“With 5:01, I felt it was important for me to show some growth, both personally and professionally. I needed to turn a corner and show people that as much as I love singing those upbeat, party type of songs, I can also sing a ballad and show a different side of me.”
Hicks’ down-to-earth, humble attitude toward the success he is now reaping is one of his most endearing qualities. He is quick to acknowledge that some artists never get out of the bars, let alone are able to embark on a national tour of modestly-sized venues.
“I feel I’m in a bit of a unique position. I’ve played shows where people are whipping chicken wing bones at me and now, I get to play on stages and in arenas everywhere. I can’t help but appreciate every minute of it, you know?
“I’m sure I might sound like a broken record to some but I will always be eternally grateful to the fans and people coming out to the shows. In this business, tastes can change so quickly, so you have be grounded and grateful for what you’ve got. I’d love to be able to shake everyone’s hand at the end of the night and let them know how much they mean to me,” he says.
He says one of the most surreal experiences of his career thus far occurred this past Christmas. Hicks says that he and his wife were en route to a family Christmas celebration when, on the radio, who should come on as a 2014 musical highlight than Hicks himself.
Just as a previously recorded interview with the singer started to play, his wife reached over and turned the radio off.
“My wife looked at me and said ‘This is so weird to hear you on the radio. It’s like we are following someone else’s career.’ She is right. It is still surreal to hear myself on the radio,” Hicks says.
Asked if he took offense to seeing his wife switch the radio off as opposed to showing pride for his accomplishments, Hicks laughs off the situation.
“My wife and I have known each other since we were little kids. I know she didn’t switch the radio off for any malicious reason. It was simply the surreal nature of driving off to a family event and hearing myself yapping away on the radio. The fact of the matter was, I didn’t want to hear myself talking either,” he laughs.
What: Tim Hicks
When: Friday Mar. 20, 8:00 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $29.99. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca