Interview with James Toseland (Toseland)

He’s been the World Super Bike Champion twice and now James Toseland returns to his first love with the release of his forthcoming debut album. James talks to Metal Express Radio about his music, his racing and marriage to Katie Melua.

MER: You have a new single out, “Renegade”, which has been getting a lot of airplay. Are you pleased with the reaction it’s been getting so far?

The reaction has been fantastic. I’ve heard that it’s been on Planet Rock’s A List longer than any other single which is great. I was actually in my car the other day listening to the radio and someone phoned in to request it and that was a really nice moment. It then seamlessly linked into Motorhead’s new single as well which I enjoyed.

MER: This was the follow up to your first single “Life is Beautiful”. Will these both be featured on your forthcoming album?

Both of these songs will be on the album. They’ve been on an EP that we were selling at gigs and on my website. “Life Is Beautiful” was released just to get something out there to show what we were about but “Renegade” is the first official single.

MER: When is your debut album due out?

The album is out in March next year. We don’t have a title yet and we keep coming up with ideas but changing our minds. We’ll have to make a decision pretty soon. Music has always been a massive part of my life and I really wanted to make it in music on merit and not as a result of my sporting achievements. After I retired from racing I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It’s an album I’m immensely proud of and hope that people will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it. It’s been nice to hear people say that they have found out about me through hearing my music rather than hearing it because of my sporting past. I think my music stands up on its own.

MER: When did you start writing the songs for the album?

I started working on the songs in 2011 with Toby Jepson and we spent eight months in Scarborough. It was a really interesting process sitting down going from a sportsman to a musician. I really enjoyed creating my own music and now having the chance to perform my own music was a real privilege. I tend to write the melody on the piano and then I’ll add the lyrics to fit around the melody that I’m working on. I was in a covers band for a long time when I was racing but I’ve discovered a new love of music now that I am writing my own songs. We wrote about 20 songs during the writing sessions but there’ll be 11 on the album.

MER: Will you be using the outtakes in the future?

There’s a reason why they didn’t make the album and we chose the best 11 songs. I may keep them in my back pocket for later but I’m already looking forward to writing new songs for my next album.

MER: For someone who has yet to hear your single, how would you describe your music?

I’d say it was commercial Rock. There’s power ballads alongside Rock songs. I’m a piano player so I can’t get away with not doing ballads but there’s plenty of commercial Rock songs on there as well. I feel that the album is diverse but it is definitely a Rock album.

MER: Although the album is under the name Toseland do you see this as a band or a solo project?

This is a band project but the members have all changed apart from my lead guitarist since we recorded the album but I have some fantastic young musicians in the band now and I’m looking forward to playing live with them.

MER: It must help having a surname that sounds like a band name like Van Halen or Bon Jovi?

Yes, it mightn’t have worked if I was called Brown or something like that. It does have a certain ring to it and it did help that the name was known in another field so it made a connection with my supporters from motor racing and as you know motor racing and Rock ‘n’ Roll have always gone hand in hand together.

MER: Toby Jepson from The Little Angels co-wrote with you and produced the album. How did you end up working with Toby?

I had a vocal coach who was a friend of mine down in London and he suggested Toby. We sat down and had a chat and I convinced him that I was really passionate about music and we took it from there. He’s also co-managing the band so we’re working really well together musically and professionally.

MER: He’s just finished producing the Answer’s Latest album New Horizon and seems to be pretty much in demand right now. What did he bring to the recording process?

He did exactly what I wanted him to do. He was the frontman of a very successful Rock band and that success brings experience of performing on stage and also from a business side. On a production level he knew exactly what sound he wanted to get and to have Steve Harris who’s worked with U2, as engineer was a perfect combination. Once I heard the first track that we recorded I had a massive smile on my face and knew it was exactly what I wanted.

MER: With your album due out soon, what are your hopes when it’s finally released?

To be fair I just wanted to do this as a personal challenge to write and produce my own album and I’ve done that. I wanted to see how far I could go as a vocalist and a player and I’ve exceeded all that. I’ve got the confidence to go out there and play my music live which is great. I’m really building some momentum up and I want to take it as far as it can go. I’ll play anywhere that wants to hear me whether it’s the UK, Europe or America. It’s certainly not about money as I don’t think it can be with the music industry these days. For me it’s all about the music and doing what I love. I want to be able to go out and perform and build up a fan base the natural way and if people respond to it then great.

MER: You head out on tour next week starting in Southampton. Are you looking forward to getting out on the road?

I’ve had five days of rehearsals with the band and they sound fantastic so I can’t wait to start the tour. We got some shows with Reef as well as part of their 20th anniversary tour in the middle of our own shows so me and the boys are really excited.

MER: What have you got planned for your shows?

We’ll perform the whole album and we’ve learned a couple of good fun covers that will be familiar to the ears. The vibe of the guys and their playing is outstanding. It’s a privilege for me to be on stage with these guys.

MER: You’re going out with Metal veterans Chrome Molly in support. That should make a good night out …

They’re big bike fans too and it’s a great honour for me to have a band like Chrome Molly opening for us. It’ll be a great night.

MER: You’ll also be playing some shows with Reef in the middle of your own tour. Who’s idea was it to tour with Reef?

With our management there’s a lot of doors that they can open and they were looking for bands for us to support that would be ideal for our kind of music and Reef came up and we’re so privileged to get onto such a great tour.

MER: You’re known in the sporting world at the World Superbike Champion. What made you head into the world of music?

My Gran played the piano and that first got me interested in music and I had lessons on the piano so my interest in music was there even before I started racing. My Mum’s new boyfriend had a motorcycle who she met when I was 9 or 10 and that’s what changed the wind for me and started me off on motorbike racing. I still had music lessons though even when I was riding in the World Championships so that love of music never went away. As soon as I was forced to stop racing through an injury I knew straight away that I wanted to concentrate on music and in a way I feel like I’ve come back to something that I should have been doing before. I feel so comfortable on stage performing that motorcycling seems like a little segment of my life now. It was amazingly successful and I loved doing it but performing live playing music seems like a bit of a homecoming for me.

MER: How does the thrill of motorcycle racing compare to Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Well it’s actually a little more scary being on stage believe it or not. I get my buzz now out of playing Rock now rather than racing.

MER: What music did you listen to growing up?

There was always Rock music around motor racing like AC/DC, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Guns n’ Roses and bands like that. Rock music kind of went with the job.

MER: You also hope to break the motorcycle land speed record. When do you plan on doing that?

I’m actually in the workshop now preparing for it. We’re doing a documentary about the record attempt. I hope to be the first person to go over 400 mph on a motorcycle. We’re getting the bike ready now and we’ll do the attempt in September in America. It’s very exciting to do this.

MER: What are your plans for 2014?

The album is out in March and I’ll start testing the motorcycle in May for the World Record attempt and I hope to be able to play some festivals over the summer and then back on tour next Autumn so I have plenty on.

Toseland are on tour in the UK now visit for details.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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