James Toseland first achieved fame in the sporting world by winning the Superbikes World Championship in 2004 and 2007. Now he has turned to his first love – music and is making his mark in the rock world with his band Toseland. Songs from his debut album Renegade received airplay from Planet Rock radio and he has toured with Status Quo! Toseland have recently released a new EP Hearts and Bones and completed a UK tour for Pledge Music. James has also found the time to run the London Marathon.
Photogroupie caught up with James at the end of his tour.
PHOTOGROUPIE: (PG) You're worked with Toby Jepson (Little Angels) again for this new EP, there's clearly a good song writing partnership between you. How do you approach your work together?
JAMES TOSELAND: (JT) Toby also co-manages the band so we are constantly in touch. When I'm on the road I'm always coming up with ideas on the keyboard, after a couple of months we get back together with his ideas and mine, put them all together and see what we've got. The new songs Hearts and Bones and Closer I Get were performed on the previous tour to see what response we got from the audience. They went down well which is why we went into the studio and recorded the EP. We've got two new ones for this tour Stranger Things and To Close To Call which have been going down really well too.
PG: Can we expect a follow up to your debut album Renegade anytime soon?
JT: Absolutely. We have the ideas for album 2 pretty much done. About a month ago we had some great news that we have a global record deal with Metalville Records in Germany. They want to repackage Renegade and release it in Europe and America with the EP included. So we can't really release album 2 until that's been done in Europe and America. But we are still writing and we may release another EP in-between just to keep the momentum going.
PG: Going from a Superbikes champion to rock has been a pretty quick change of career, has that shift in direction been easy?
JT: I was supposed to retire anyway, but it was disappointing (James sustained a wrist injury from a crash which led to early retirement). I'd studied music for 6 years before I'd even been introduced to motorbikes, so I was always going to end up back at a piano when I couldn't ride anymore. When I retired I had the time to focus on giving it a shot professionally. So I checked myself into a hotel in Scarborough for 8 months until I had an album written.
PG: You're obviously a very determined character to just shut yourself away.
JT: Yeah. It wasn't easy being on my own, I don't know if it was the best thing or not, but I knew that without any material nothing was going to happen.
PG: How is your wrist these days, is it difficult playing piano after the injury?
JT: I have to wear a band to support it and stand a little bit left of the keys these days because there's no movement in it. Luckily the fingers are ok! I just have to adapt my playing to the movement.
PG: How did you go from music to Superbikes?
JT: My mum and Dad divorced and when I was 9 my mum met a new boyfriend with a motorbike. He brought me a motorbike for Christmas and for some reason I was pretty handy at it and was snapped up at 16 to go world Championship Racing. I was still having piano lessons at the time and I got to Grade 6, but I knew I had to either do one thing really well or 2 things just good. When I look back the bike always had a time limit on it age wise, and the music didn't, so I'm lucky I can have a career in both.
PG: Who were your musical influences growing up?
JT: Queen were the first rock band I was introduced to by my Mums Boyfriend, I was hooked from there really. I was classically taught, so up until that point I was listening to Classical music. Then it was AC/DC, Guns 'N' Roses and when I joined the motorcycling world it was all Classic Rock influenced. So, that's where my love of rock comes from.
PG: Although your musical styles are very different, any plans to write or record with Katie (Melua - James' wife) in the future?
JT: No. I'm not brave enough to go head to head on an album with my misses. (He laughs) I have to be careful because I don't want people to assume that's why I'm doing what I'm doing. It's nice that we have music in common, that's the main thing.
PG: What's more exciting Superbike racing or singing on-stage?
JT: Being on-stage is more intense with those eyeballs looking at you. You have to have a lot of front to go out there and look people in the eye, it's very personal. There was 126,000 people at Brands Hatch in 2007 when I was racing and at 220mph you couldn't see one of them! It was intense because it was dangerous. As far as nerves and anticipation goes the stage wins. I've got my band behind me, which helps. I think it would be even more nerve-wracking if I was like Katie and I just went out there on my own - that's a whole different level.
PG: What's next for the band?
JT: After this tour the diary is pretty free, just in case Metalville want to do any promo in Europe and America for the album. We've got a few festivals and a classic Motorbike Show in Spain. Other than that it's just waiting to see what the label can do for us in those regions and working with Toby on album 2.
Hearts and Bones is out now and catch Toseland at The Ramblin' Man Festival this summer