BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Todd Michael Hall is the first to admit that he is not the stereotypical ‘Rock Star.’
A happily married father of three, Hall works a full-time job running a manufacturing company. But the minute Hall unleashes those pipes of his, there is no doubt that he is the epitome of the best of what Rock has to offer.
Sonic Healing is the name of Hall’s latest solo album and the route to getting there has been one long and winding road for this rocker.
“I was really in my 40s when things started happening for me,” Hall stated. “By no means am I a household name, but I believe that God brings things to you in time.”
HERE’S THE STORY OF A MAN NAMED HALL
Reading his online biographical credentials can make a young musician cringe with envy. While most might best know Hall as the vocalist for Riot V or for his stint on the NBC television show The Voice, the vocalist has had a storied musical career.
A brief synopsis: After various teen musical configurations, Hall’s first studio recordings were with his band, Harlet, in 1988. That band then morphed into Pulling Teeth before disbanding. Hall then took a leave of absence from the music industry.
“When I graduated from college, it was 1991 and the musical landscape had changed,” Hall said. “At that point, moving out to Los Angeles just didn’t seem like it made sense anymore. Frankly, I really thought that the dream had died for me. I was done. I thought it was over.”
In 2004 the dream jump-started again after Hall decided to answer an ad from Heavy Metal Guitarist Jack Starr, who was looking for a vocalist for his Burning Starr project. Hall was selected as the vocalist for the band, recording three albums with the band and having the opportunity to extensively tour Europe and Japan. Hall then formed Reverance with Guitarist Bryan Holland, releasing two albums before joining Riot V in 2013. Hall also independently released his first solo album, Letters From India, and four three-song EPs in 2019 before being chosen out of 40,000 hopefuls to appear on The Voice. While Hall was eliminated after the “Knockout Round,” it was an opportunity to further showcase his talents to a national audience.
HALL OF THE METAL KING
So now fast-forward to 2020, when Hall met Kurdt Vanderhoof, legendary guitarist for Metal Church via Joe O’Brien, owner of Rat Pak Records.
“I kind of wanted to do old-school rock. When I was on The Voice, I did “Juke Box Hero” and it seemed like it really resonated with people. I called Joe and I’m like, ‘Dude, you know, I really want to do this.’ I told him that I had like 25 of my own songs and asked if he could hook me up with someone to help me turn these song ideas into Rock. He said he would look around and get back to me. And that guy was Kurdt.”
While obviously into Heavy Metal, Vanderhoof and Hall discovered that they both really loved Classic Rock.
“We started talking about our influences,” Hall continued, “what I was hoping to accomplish with the project. And he was really down with it. He was kind of looking for that outlet as I was. When you’re in Metal Church or Riot V, it’s not a bad thing, but you get put in this little box of what you can do. So we decided, let’s try something different and see what we could explore with it.”
Interestingly enough, the duo didn’t end up using any of Hall’s previous ideas.
“Kurdt got into this zone,” Hall said, “where he said, ‘All right, let me just see what I come up with.’ And over the course of 21 days, he wrote the music for like 18 songs! He just kept loading them up to a Dropbox and I in turn was putting vocals, melodies, lyrics on them and sending them back. We just had this amazingly magical period where like over the course of four weeks we wrote this whole album.”
As the saying goes, Sonic Healing is all killer, no filler – an important task for Hall.
“I’m a singer,” Hall said, “and I love to sing along to songs. To me, the most important element of a song is a vocal hook. I want it to make you want to sing along. Right up next to that is a guitar hook. I want to have a memorable guitar line to help hook you in as well.”
And energy…don’t forget the energy!
“Yes,” Hall agreed. “I wanted positive energy, something that just makes you feel good. Like, you’re traveling down the road, driving. The sun is out, the windows are down, and you’re blasting the music, singing along. Just puts you in a good mood!”
GETTING SOME OF THAT SONIC HEALING
Sonic Healing features 10 tracks (in addition to two bonus tracks) that showcase the epitome of the musical landscape of Hall’s life. From the hard-hitting “Overdrive” to the anthemic “Long Lost Rock & Rollers,” Hall is in fine musical form.
“I just wanted it to sound like a rock ‘n’ roll band,” Hall shared. “So, there’s not like keyboards all over the place and layers upon layers of guitars. And I just wanted the main vocals. I allowed myself to be more vulnerable and just wrote whatever really came to me. I would literally go for walks with the song playing, and the melodies and lyrics would just start popping into my head.”
Self-admittedly, the hardest song for Hall to compose was “On The Other Side,” a beautiful and heartfelt tribute dedicated to his late brother, Jon.
“The lyrics and melody came up pretty quick,” Hall remembered, “but probably the hardest thing about it for me was, you know, wanting to have something that I felt like he would be proud of. Everything on Sonic Healing has a positive vibe, even this song, but I still struggled with it. I wasn’t even sure of showing it to my family. I didn’t know if it was inappropriate. I wanted it to be a serious song, but I didn’t want it to be depressing, either. I wanted it to be positive and honor our memories.”
While a solo album, Hall is eager to give credit to Vanderhoof for his contributions to Sonic Healing.
“Kurdt and I worked well together,” Hall stated. “When you bring someone else in, you can really feed off of each other. I would load a song, and Kurdt would get inspired and write something spectacular. He would write something that I could add on to. I think it’s cool having a partnership where you can really feed off of someone else that can definitely help get the energy back. And if you’re trying to write a positive album, then getting yourself in a positive framework to begin with is definitely going to help. I expressly tried to stay away from negative topics. I really didn’t want to go there.”
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
Hall, at 51-years-old, believes he is more appreciative of his success now versus when he was younger.
“Now, music feels like a total gift,” he stated. “This is going to sound corny, but I pray and it’s mostly filled with thanks for all my blessings. I’m not a terribly materialistic person. I really think it’s all about the people that you love and the things you do for each other and together. When I look back at what I’ve been given at this stage of my life, I’m like, holy crap!”
Another number Hall doesn’t concern himself with is the number of views or the number of albums sold.
“My own satisfaction is my measuring stick,” he stated. “I really have learned just to appreciate what I have. Obviously you have to to strive for more for personal satisfaction. Yes, I still want to reach millions of people with my music, but I’m really happy with what I have right now.”
Future goals for Hall include getting the opportunity to play the music live.
“I would really love to play Sonic Healing live,” Hall said. “I know Kurdt is really excited about it, too. I think we recorded it in a way that I think would translate itself really well live. And I would love to see how people would react to the music. I love to write and record, but I love to perform because it’s such an important part of the musical process, that connection with the people.”