We catch up with James Toseland, former World Superbike Champion (not just once but twice) and now front man to his own band, Toseland. He tells us about the transition from sportsman to musician, why he kept his music skills quiet, the 'fun' of being the only band member who can drive the van while on the road and why listening to Queen's Who Wants To Live Forever before a race is not a very good idea!

R13: What made you decide to get into music after such a successful career on the bike?
JT: I was forced to retire 2 years ago through an injury on my wrist. I had studied the piano for about 15 years, I had studied for 4 years even before I got introduced to motorcycling. My gran played the piano and that was got me started when I was about 7 years old. I loved it, I was loving my lessons. Then my mum met a new boyfriend who had a motorcycle and that is where the interest in motorcycling came from. Without my mum meeting him I would have never have been a motorcyclist and I would have certainly carried on pursuing my music career seriously because I loved it so much - I was still having lessons when I was competing at world championship level. But I kept it quiet really, it stemmed from school because it wasn't that cool and riding a motorbike was! So I thought I would keep this little secret to myself as I love it personally so much and I can be cool at school for riding a motorbike and that's how it all worked out.
R13: It was a bit of a shock when we saw you play the piano on Sports Personality of the Year a few years back
JT: I kind of kept it to myself a bit, I always wanted to write my album and I was writing songs privately at home. It was something I always wanted to do but I could not portray I was putting too much into it because if I had a bad race people could have said "Oh he's concentrating on his music too much blah blah blah". I had to make a decision a little bit early on in my racing career - am I going to do 2 things good or 1 thing bloody good? So I put all my focus and energy into my racing at the time because I became a professional at it so early, so young, that it kind of mapped out my future that way. But I always kept a passion for music at home, I was always playing and practicing. Suddenly I had to retire from racing and it kind of feels like something I should have been doing, which is quite strange but it has been a big transition from being a sportsman to a musician but for me it has been the natural way really.

R13: You worked with Toby Jepson, what advice/input did he give you?
JT: He's been my mentor really. As soon as I retired a friend of mine introduced me to Toby. We had a couple of writing sessions together, it took a little bit to get warmed up because it was a bit strange for him to kind of work with an ex-sportsman, an ex-motorcyclist, he didn't really get it at first but then he found out about my musical background and I put my vocal and piano down to one of his songs and that is when the relationship really kicked off, he obviously felt that there was musical talent there on a level we could do something good with and we became really good friends from that point on and we wrote for 8 months in his house in Scarborough, in his little studio at home, and we came up with the 11 tracks that are on the album.

R13: What influences did you find you bringing to the band?
JT: I grew up with Queen, they were the first band I was introduced to in rock, they have been a massive influence throughout my life. I think the first band that makes you go "Wow, what is this?" really kind of captures you, I think that paves the way to the musical taste you carry through your life. I sway slightly in-between Led Zeppelin and the classics - Bon Jovi, AC-DC, Guns n' Roses. In my old world of motorcycle racing it was all classic rock - Guns n' roses and AC-DC.

R13: Did you listen to music before racing?
JT: I did. When you are growing up, when you are a youngster, you are not that confident, you are still learning about yourself. Music really helped me get into that zone that I needed to be in because I was not experienced enough to get into it myself. I listened to Queen One Vision and really motivational songs. It started to get onto Who Wants To Live Forever by Queen and I thought "Whoa, in my game I don't want to be listening to stuff like that!" I then got enough experience and getting into that particular zone so many times that I could get into it naturally that I didn't need any outside influences. But it was certainly an influence in my younger years.

R13: How do you find standing on stage in front of a crowd, whether it be at a small venue or festival, compares to sitting on the grid before a race?
JT: It's really "You, myself and I" when you are on the grid, you have your helmet on and you are looking straight down the track it is you that has to perform. It is a team effort over the weekend but on Sunday it is all down to the rider. Riding past the crowd at 200mph you don't really notice too many people at that speed. Where as in music you have got the whites of people's eyes all staring at you wanting to be entertained. It's more intense than racing. Especially performing my own music now because I have to go out there and convince people of what my art is and what I am doing. They don't know the songs so they can't sing along, they're just stood there listening. Similar to racing - you don't get a reaction until it's finished. But we have been played on the radio, played Download Festival (acoustic stage), supporting some great people like Little Angels and Darkness this year, we are starting to get a few people sing along to the songs that have been played on the radio and that is a real comfort zone that you can feel that what is being done is being appreciated.

R13: You have a big UK tour coming up, including 6 dates supporting Reef, how do you find life on the road touring?
JT: It's been tough so far because I have been the only one old enough to hire a van so means I have been driving, I have been booking the hotels for everybody, booking the shows, it has been a massive massive learning curve. It is one thing writing the music and putting it together but it is completely another thing actually going on the road and performing to people. The cost it entails to actually go on the road and the amount of money you get at gigs at this point in time at the start of our career, I mean I've got 22 shows coming up but I will be losing money at the end of it but it is at that stage where you got to be out there, you have to perform in front of people to build a fan base. It is unbelievably expensive, pay for the van, the cheapest hotel you can find like Travelodge which is 30 to 40 pounds a night, when there's 7 guys on the road, with the band and engineer, and it is certainly not cheap. We have an EP out, Life Is Beautiful, and some merchandise which we are selling at the gigs and that kind of pays for the band. We have to get out there, we have to perform and we have to get in front of as many people as we can to build this in a normal way.

R13: We know many biking fans already like rock music but have you found you have converted any?
JT: it's been a difficult thing to balance what I used to be as a sportsman for people to accept me as a musician. It has been intriguing to see how many bikers - they do like rock, of course they do - but how many of them actually want to go and see some new music rather than just being in the house listening to AC-DC, Guns n' Roses, etc. has been really interesting to see. But everybody that has come out and seen us, the reaction has been fantastic after the gig, they really truly wish me all the best with it as they can see the work I have put into it. It is a nice reaction.

R13: Tell us about your band members?
JT: My brother-in-law (Zurab Melua) was the main guy, I went round to his house and heard him play and was blown away by him. I asked Katie if she minded me asking him to be a member of the band I was putting together, as I already had demos together, so I asked him to listen to the demos and asked him if he would like to be a member of the band and he was over the moon. He really loves his music and is a massive rock fan, he has got longer hair than Katie, he's a heavy metal man and it is a real pleasure having him on board and then he basically got the other guys. He was studying at ACM in Guildford, I told him to look out for some musicians that could be part of it and he did, there have been some changes along the way, the current band is fantastic, I'm looking forward performing on stage with them.

R13: Have you felt any extra pressure creating music when your wife has not done too bad out of it?
JT: Yeah there is that. From being a sportsman to creative as a musician also for myself has been an amazing journey so far. But also being married to a professional musician as well, like you say, I have to be careful with that as well as in the rock world if it looks like you are getting any legs up in the industry or any help from any source I don't think they will get it. This has to grow naturally and people have to accept it on its own merit and they like the music and connect with the music. I am being very conscious about keeping things separate with my wife and also with my past.

R13: What can we expect from Toesland in 2014? Other than trying to break the land speed record?
JT: the album is out in March time, which I am really excited about, it has been 2 years of work for me and obviously just getting on the road and being able to perform is great. We have got an eye on hopefully going over to SXSW festival - I've heard it's manic over there. I'm lucky as I am just starting to get a fantastic team around me as I have got Steve Strange and Steve Zapp as my agents working together which is great. We are just trying to pencil in all the definites which is an album in March, SXSW which is also in March and testing the land speed record bike in May and the record we will be end of September. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we will be over at Download again - we performed there this year on an acoustic stage but I'm hoping we can get a slot there on an electric stage. These are just a few things we are hoping that can come in. it's all about the album coming out now. I've been starting the PR on the new single release, Renegade and getting on the road and performing in front of people. It's amazing how you have to pre-organise everything such as festivals for next year. By December we will have a really good idea what we are doing.
R13: Have you got a title for the album yet?
JT: We haven't yet, it is work in progress. It is a real difficult one. There have been a few ideas knocking around but I'm really excited with what we are going to come up with, it's kind of the past and future connection, The Second Chapter and things like that have all been talked about but then again it could be anything! It's an important thing that we are thinking about and we need to think of it soon as we will be promoting the pre-sales soon!

R13: Who decides what music gets played at home?
JT: (Laughs) To be fair with all the music in our lifes there isn't much music being played. It is kind of a breath of fresh air being at home. I have got an amazing 9 foot Steinway at home which is my baby, I won it when I was racing - a sponsor of mine bought it for me for winning a race for him. That is my pride and joy and I often on it practicing. As far as playing music, there is not much music going on. It is more kind of work stuff, either Katie is learning something for a radio or tv of her own stuff or I am playing my own stuff. You don't really have a lot of time to listen to other things, until you finish the tour and thinking about writing again, that's when you get kick your head back and get some inspiration from some places.

R13: Finally, who is going to win the British Superbikes this weekend? (Going into the final round Shane 'Shakey' Byrne is only 1 point ahead of Alex Lowes)
JT: Oh! That's a curve ball question. If Alex Lowes wins it will be because he has ridden really well, to beat Shane Byrne around Brands Hatch, which is his home track, is not an easy task. I know Shane has been a little injured at the moment, so how 100 percent he is I'm not sure. It will be an amazing showdown. When it goes down to the last race, I have been in that situation myself - both my championships went down to the last race, and you are sat there on that Sunday morning saying "I ain't going home without that trophy!" They will both be thinking that and may the best man win.

R13: Thank you so much for your time
JT: No problem, thank you.

For more information about the band, check out their website www.toselandmusic.com

You can catch James Toseland with his band, Toseland, at the following dates:
November 2013
3rd, Southampton Cellar
4th, Cardiff Bogiez
6th, Oxford Academy 2
7th, Milton Keynes Crauford Arms
8th, Leicester Academy 2
10th, Liverpool Academy 2
11th, Newcastle Think Tank
12th, Sheffield Corporation
14th, Bristol O2 Academy (with REEF)
15th, Glasgow O2 ABC (with REEF)
16th, Birmingham Institute (with REEF)
18th, Manchester Ritz (with REEF)
19th, Truro Hall For Cornwall (with REEF)
20th, London Koko (with REEF)
December 2013
4th, Wolverhampton Slade Rooms
5th, Leeds Brudenell Social Club
6th, Norfolk Planet Rockstock (in association with Planet Rock Radio)
7th, Kendal Bootleggers
9th, Cambridge Portland Arms
10th, Bournemouth Old Fire Station
11th, London Islington Academy