Pride Of Lions: Classic AOR, classic influences, classic music.

Jim Peterik and new vocalist Toby Hitchcock talk about the debut Pride Of Lions album and what fans of classic AOR and Survivor can look forward to on the debut album.


Andrew:          Hello, Jim!

Jim:                  Good morning.  Top of the morning to ya!


Andrew:          Top of the morning... bloody hell <laughing>

Jim:                  Toby, say hello to Andrew McNeice

Toby:               How ya doin', mate?


Andrew:          Toby.  How are you doing, mate?

Toby:               I'm great.  Crickey! [Nice use of Aussie lingo…]


Andrew:          Very good <laughs>

Jim:                  He asked me, "Do you really think I could do that with Andrew?", and I said, "Andrew is crazy; you've got to do it".


Andrew:          You gotta do it.  Absolutely.  I'll do my really bad Southern accent now.

Jim:                  There he goes.  I was telling Toby that you're my evil twin or evil son, I don't know which.


Andrew:          Absolutely, evil twin I think I like.

Jim:                  We had a ball in England at The Gods festival about two and a half years ago.


Andrew:          That was fun wasn't it?

Jim:                  We had a few pints here and there. Went to Liverpool together and saw The Cavern, you know.  It was great.


Andrew:          That was a good trip, wasn't it?

Jim:                  A great trip.


Andrew:          Sitting next to Gary Moon on the way back.

Jim:                  What about Gary?!!


Andrew:          That was just... take you life in your own hands don’t you?

Jim:                  Oh, God yeah. 


Andrew:          You must be pretty excited?

Jim:                  We are.  We are.  We just spent... upstairs we were just doing background vocals.  We're closing in on this thing.  Of course, you know, we're trying to deliver it as close to the contract... the contract says June 30.


Andrew:          Oh, really?  Okay.

Jim:                  Yeah, we might not quite make that but October 20 is definitely the release date.


Andrew:          Yeah, great.

Jim:                  I don't know if you know the story, we went to visit a mastering studio yesterday.  So, yeah.  We're very excited.  Toby... well, I'll let him speak for himself. 


Andrew:          You look fairly young, Toby, how old are you?

Toby:               I'm twenty-five years old.


Andrew:          Is that right?

Toby:               Yep.  But not too young.


Andrew:          Yeah <laughs>.  So how did you get into melodic rock or why is your heart and vibe there?

Toby:               It's kind of a funny story.  I actually met... I've been singing all of my life and I met Jim's niece and she sang... we sang in a band together, just a gigging band, just going around to parties and things like that, and people would hire us.  And she told me that her uncle was Jim Peterik of Survivor and Ides of March.  And I was pretty much like "No kidding?".


Andrew:          Yeah, like your average uncle isn't really that famous.

Toby:               Right, not your average uncle.


Andrew:          Or that handsome [Jim doesn’t hear this, so the compliment goes uncollected]

Toby:               So he brought me in one day to the studio, and I was all excited.  I remember when I first met Jim, I put in these fake buck teeth... all nasty fake teeth.  They call them Bubba Teeth here.


Andrew:          Right.

Toby:               I'm kind of a jokester and I was hoping that Jim would think that I really looked like that but I started laughing and I had to take them out.  But anyway, he heard me sing and I guess he really loved my voice and approached me with the idea of doing this album and, of course, I was all for it.  It was a great opportunity to be able to work with somebody like him.


Jim:                  It's interesting though that I think maybe what your question was alluding to also was that Toby really wasn't singing melodic '80s rock prior to this.


Andrew:          I wondered what other sort of material you have been singing...

Jim:                  And maybe you could talk a little about your influences and your experiences with the '80s genre prior to this, Toby.


Toby:               Well, one of the... of course, I was born in '77 and my Dad, he's a minister, a preacher, and so I wasn't really able to listen to a lot of the stuff; it's wasn't like a normal part of everyday life, but there were some songs that my Dad loved, and one of those songs was "Roseanna" by Toto.  He loved Toto and just, I don't know... REO Speedwagon, and all the big '80s bands, big rocker bands.


Jim:                  Foreigner.

Toby:               Yeah, Foreigner was a big one.  All those songs... and I still love all those songs.  I have CD's specifically created for listening purposes of those songs, I just love it to death... the big ballads like that.  As far as my influences go, I would have to say...well, I've got so many, it's hard to define one person... I love... I think what helps a lot in big power notes and stuff like that... I love Brian McNight and Mariah Carey...


Andrew:          Really?

Jim:                  He looks a little like Mariah

Toby:               Yeah.


Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               I only wish.  I'd never leave the house.

Jim:                  You'd never leave your... you couldn't keep your hands off yourself.


Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               When I was growing up, those were some of my favorite artists, and I tried to mimic them.  Boys to Men was another one.  A lot more R&B groups.


Andrew:          Wow.

Toby:               My Dad, however, as I got older I realized I had a bigger voice and was able to do things with my voice that wasn't normal for a white boy from Indiana.


Andrew:          Yes.

Toby:               I don't know, I just started singing and singing and singing and sang in the shower and the car and everywhere I was and, I don't know, I kinda got good at it, I guess.


Andrew:          Yeah, wonderful.

Jim:                  The first time I heard him, I knew that this was really special and personally, I've been blessed to sing, to actually work with some of the greatest singers in rock, mainly, Dave Bickler, Jimi Jamison, and of course, Don Barnes and Sammy Hagar.


Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  So I've worked with some great guys and with World Stage I got to work with many, many great singers but this is my chance to really go back to my '80s influences, my '80s roots and I really was looking for the right singer.  There's a lot of singers, but not a lot with the range and the tone that you're really looking for, and I heard Toby and I'm going, "Hmm".


Andrew:          Yeah, yeah.

Jim:                  Very interesting.  The first time I heard him it was like the tip of the iceberg.  I had no idea the range, I mean, he's hitting like E's and even F's above High C.


Andrew:          Really?

Jim:                  Full voice.  The high note of "Eye of the Tiger" for instance is the High C, he goes above that a fifth, okay?


Andrew:          Right.

Jim:                  That's pretty scary.  And what's great about it is that as a songwriter... I've always considered myself... that's my passion; I love to perform but I think songwriting is my real, real passion.


Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  As a songwriter, if you have a singer that can sing any note, then you have free reign with your range and the melodies.  When I was working with Jimi Jamison as a member of Survivor, I remember when Frankie and I wrote "The Search is Over" I knew that Jimi could sing that song.  If we had a lesser singer, then I knew that I would've had to change that melody.


Andrew:          Right.

Jim:                  And it wouldn't have been the song it was, so the gloves are off.  Since I started working with Toby, my writing has actually improved, I feel.


Andrew:          Wow.

Jim:                  Because I know this guy can take it and just rip into it and do it.


Andrew:          That's a scary prospect.

Jim:                  Yeah.  It's been a lot of fun for me and everyday that we work on this album... we've been working on it now off and on for about 6 months, has been nothing but really fun.  I don't know if you feel the same way, Toby?

Toby:               Absolutely.  I've never been able to... the thing for me is, a lot of singers go and they try to get into record companies and they try to get in with somebody who is an accomplished writer or arranger or producer or whatever.  They try to get in and they just keep on getting turned down, turned down, turned down.  Well my first shot, you know, which wasn't really, I wasn't really thinking about doing an album... I mean I always wanted to do my own album, but I always thought it was going to be a small thing, you know what I'm saying.  But it's really cool because my first shot, I got offered an album without even asking.  I didn't have to go, "I really want to do an album", you know.  I mean, it was just like, "Hey, do you want to do an album with me?" and I'm like, "Holy crap!" you know.


Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               I can't believe this guy is asking me, you know, somebody like Jim who... now I'll be honest, I didn't know the name Jim Peterik, but I knew the songs.  That's how people know Jim is through songs.

And I don't know, I've been really blessed to meet him and his entire family.  They're so... I didn't know there were people like this left in the world that are so giving and honest and sincere, and that's how I was raised so I think Jim and I have a lot of chemistry when it comes to just our personalities.


Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  We can talk about things that are bothering each other or that we're happy about or upset about and trust that we're going to shoot straight without getting offended, and whatever.  He can say anything to me and I know he's not going to disrespect me in what he’s saying, he's saying it to help or encourage, that's what makes working with Jim so great.


Andrew:          I've got to say that Jim is one of my highlights.  If everyone was as accommodating and as caring as Jim, my job would be a lot easier.

Toby:               Right.

Jim:                  Well, thanks.  I think the thing I love about Pride of Lions is... it's the young cub, Toby, coming up and learning the ropes... I mean, the first time he ever sang in front of a microphone was in my studio, I mean professionally, and first of all he's improved... I knew he was great in the beginning, but the more he sang the stronger he got and then you've got me, you know, 52 years old, I've been in this business since I was 15.  That's why we call it Pride of Lions, it's because in the jungle there's this whole order of family, the father lion and the cub and it's just everybody has their own role.  I could never sing the notes that Toby sings, but luckily I have the experience to guide it all and hopefully that's a great combination.

Toby:               I can't sing the notes that I sing.


Andrew:          <laughs>

Toby:               I honestly... I'm surprised when I hear myself back, I'm surprised that I can hit those notes, I'll be honest with you.


Andrew:          I cannot believe the "Sound of Home".

Jim:                  Oh, "Sound of Home", you like that?


Andrew:          Oh, my God.  I just keep playing it and playing it and playing it.

Toby:               Keep on playing it, man!

Jim:                  The time is right.  The sound of the '80s, and of course, we've updated it...


Andrew:          It sounded fantastic.  It really did sound like classic sort of except with a new edge.

Jim:                  It's not like it's a cliché like, "Oh my God", it actually sounds pretty fresh to me.

Toby:               Well they have the equipment they didn't have back in the '80s... a lot of effects and cool things you can do nowadays, you couldn't do back then and I think that's what kind of updates it.


Andrew:          Yeah.

Toby:               But the sound, the feeling of the '80s is still there, which I love.


Andrew:          Exactly.

Toby:               That's when music was so emotional. 

Jim:                  What I go for, and I don't have to tell you, is music that really touches your heart in one way or another.  Either it uplifts you... we have a song on there called "Unbreakable" it's really an ode to the human spirit, you know.  I am unbreakable; no matter what hits me; I will survive.  That's been a message in my songs for a long time.  But there's also songs about... bittersweet songs about potential breakups like "Love Is On The Rocks" where two people are struggling to find that thing they had in the beginning.  There's another song called "First Time Around the Sun" which is about making everyday a fresh start.  I just think a lot of people need to hear that, you know?


Andrew:          Yeah.

Jim:                  But every song has meaning.  Toby... oh, by the way, I want to tell him about that song we wrote, Toby.

Toby:               Yeah.

Jim:                  Toby just started to sit down at the piano one day at the studio and started to play this incredible piano riff.  I said, "What's that?" and he said, "I wrote it."  I said, "Really!  When?" and he said, "Oh, man, I've had this thing around for a while."  And I said, "Play that again," and I let the tape recorder roll and I started to sing this scant melody and before you know it we had a song called "Stand By You".  It's really powerful.  By the way, Toby, I don't know if you know it but we put the strings on it today.  Oh, you were there at the end, right?

Toby:               Yeah.


Andrew:          Strings... fantastic.

Jim:                  It's incredible.

Toby:               That's a wedding song


Andrew:          You know how much I love Mecca, and I think this is going to be even better.

Jim:                  Well, I don't want to say, because I love Mecca, but of course, I feel very strongly about this project.


Andrew:          That's great.  I just wanted to touch base and I'm really glad Toby was there.  Toby, I really want to get this on-line and let people get to know you.

                        Thanks Jim and Toby for the chat. Jim, I’ve got a couple of things to run past you, so I’m going to hit the stop button now….