Todd Michael Hall
Ignite Music Magazine Interview
Sonic Healing – Solo Debut Album – Out Now!!!
Following the recent announcement of Riot V vocalist Todd Michael Hall releasing his first-ever solo album, Todd is unveiling the first piece of music from Sonic Healing in the form of the debut single “Overdrive.” The song is a fast-paced rocker that showcases the creativity that happened when Todd partnered with Metal Church guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof. The video – filmed in Los Angeles – showcases the performance that Todd has been working on for years and unveiled to the world on 18th season of NBC’s hit television show The Voice. The video for “Overdirve” can be seen here: https://youtu.be/IfuykhdpaPs.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you have been performing for some of our readers that may not know about you?
I performed live for the first time in the winter of 1985 when I was 15 years old. My older brother, Jon, had a band, so I was heavily influenced by his tastes in music. We played cover tunes at the start, but moved to original music shortly afterward. We had a band called Harlet that played original music in Detroit area nightclubs, releasing 25 Gets A Ride independently in 1988. We released a second album in 1994 after changing the name of the band to Pulling Teeth. I took a break from performing for a while, but then joined Burning Starr in 2004. I have released three albums with Burning Starr. During that same time, I formed another band called Reverence, and we released two albums. In 2013, I joined Riot, which was re-named Riot V (Roman numeral 5, to represent the 5th chapter of the band). We have played many shows all over the world and released two albums. In 2020, I appeared on Season 18 of The Voice, so I have a little notoriety from that experience also.
2. Tell us a bit about your new album Sonic Healing and how your solo debut came to be?
Joe O’Brien from Rat Pak Records and I knew each other and talked about doing a solo album a few years ago. I wanted to do something in the old-school rock vein, but it did not come to be. After appearing on The Voice and seeing the positive reaction to my performance of Jukebox Hero by Foreigner, I reconnected with Joe on the idea of a solo album. I mostly play acoustic guitar, so on my own, my songs come out sounding like pop music. I asked Joe if he could connect me with someone to help turn my ideas into old-school rock songs. Joe connected me with Kurdt Vanderhoof from Metal Church. Kurdt and I really bonded with each other based on our love for classic rock and the partnership was born. Kurdt listened to all my ideas, but we decided to start from scratch writing together, so everything you hear on Sonic Healing is brand new and written for this album. Kurdt wrote all of the music, and I wrote all of the lyrics and vocal melodies.
3. With all this madness going on with the virus…What do you think the music scene will be like in the future? Have you missed going out on the road and performing?
I am one of those people that keeps thinking life will return to “normal” at some point, even though that point seems to be getting kicked further and further down the road. In my mind, it has to, because performing live is a crucial part of connecting with your audience. Even though life on the road can create its own stresses back at home, I still miss it and look forward to playing live again soon.
4. What got you into music and what is your earliest memory of when you told yourself… “THIS IS WHAT I WANT”?
My mom loves music and always had it playing, so I remember singing along from a very early age. I performed at school when I was in grade school, but the notion of wanting to be in a successful rock band probably did not kick in until I was 15 years old and started performing live with my brother.
5. Who was your first concert and what is your favorite concert memory?
My mom took me to my first concert when I was 14 years old, and we went to see Ted Nugent. I have a lot of great concert memories, but one that sticks out is being down close to the front of the stage when Queensryche opened for Kiss in 1984 at the Saginaw Civic Center. Watching Geoff Tate hit all those awesome high notes absolutely blew my mind and put me on a mission to learn how to use my head voice to hit similar notes.
6. If you didn’t become a musician, what would your dream profession be?
Making a living as a musician has never seemed like a possibility for me, so I actually run a manufacturing company for a living. I started working for our family business part-time in 1984 and then full-time in 1991 when I got out of college. I am not sure that I have a dream profession outside of music. I enjoy my work and after running our family business for so long, I cannot really imagine doing anything else for a living.
7. How does the songwriting process differ for you between your solo material and Riot V?
In Riot V, the music is written by Donnie Van Stavern or Mike Flyntz. Often, I contribute lyrics on Donnie’s songs and almost all the time on Mike’s songs. However, they often have melodic ideas and have the ultimate say on what melodies are chosen. I am very blessed to be a part of Riot V, but it is nice to do my own music as well, because I have a lot more freedom of expression with my solo material.
8. What do you feel is the best song you have written to date and why?
Asking me that is similar to asking me which one of my three kids is my favorite. It is an impossible choice. I cannot say a particular song is “the best”, but one that has brought me a lot of joy is “Take Me Back” from my first album with Riot V, Unleash The Fire. We have played that song in South America, Japan, and numerous countries in Europe. There is a breakdown after the guitar solo where the music gets quiet and despite the fact that English is most often not their first language, people sing along with me and that really warms my heart.
9. Do you think you can get any better as a musician/singer? And if so, how would you achieve that?
I am still growing as a musician for sure, because I have learned a lot more about mapping out harmonies than I have ever known before. This year, I have also been focusing on learning techniques specific to electric guitar, because I have only really ever played an acoustic. There is always something you can learn in music and I can continue to grow as a songwriter as well.
10. If you could give your fans one random fact about you that you think they should (or should “not” know) about you what would that be?
My wife is from the Northeastern part of India. We met as pan pals in 1993. We wrote as friends for a few years, met in person for the first time in 1996, and finally got married in a missionary church in Kathmandu Nepal in 1999, which was my sixth trip to see her.
11. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
I would be purple because it is bold and fun.
12. Who are you inspired by musically or in life in general?
I am inspired by people that have life figured out. They seem to be always in a good mood and they are always gracious with others and generous with their time and treasure. At the same time, they have also accomplished a lot of their own life goals. These are the kinds of people that inspire me.
13. What’s an average day like on tour? What about these days?
It seems more often than not we are doing fly in dates. Consequently, the average days starts with a 6am lobby call, the air travel experience, arriving at the destination before your hotel room is ready, doing lunch, trying to catch an hour nap before sound check, running back for dinner and a shower, then back to the venue for the show, and returning to the hotel around 3am to get ready to do it all over again the next day.
14. Between being on the road and isolating during the pandemic, how have your interactions with fans changed?
When we are on the road, we get to interact with fans in person, but we usually only tour 6 to 8 weeks on and off throughout the year, so I am pretty used to social media and direct message interactions with fans also. That part of my interactions has not really changed.
15. Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety before, during, or after a show?
As long as I am comfortable with my fellow musicians and have prepared the material that I am going to perform, I generally do not have any issues with performance anxiety. A bigger issue for me would be getting too excited during a show. When I get excited and run around too much, I run out of breath, which makes it tough to sing challenging vocal material.
16. If you could collaborate musically or artistically in any way who would it be and why?
This is a tough question, because you never really know who you would click with until you have the experience. I really loved working with Kurdt, so I would love to do that again, but if I had to pick someone new, I would say Tommy Shaw, because he is really talented, has an awesome voice, and seems like a really decent man also.
17. What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I’m not sure they would want to, but I can explain my choices and my thinking, and they can decide if that is helpful for their lives. I have always been hesitant to abandon all else in pursuit of music. Perhaps that has limited my success, but music was not my only life goal. I wanted a family and a profession that would allow me to be with and financially support my family. By focusing on that for a long time, now in my later years I find myself in a position where I have more flexibility to pursue my passion for music. Essentially, I pursued music aggressively when I was young, then took a break for a while to get myself established professionally, then came back to music. I doubt this is the best path for everyone, but it has worked for me.