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The voice of “Eye of the Tiger” returns with his first solo album

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Dave Bickler, the voice of 1980s anthem "Eye of the Tiger" as lead singer for Survivor, has just released his first solo album, "Darklight." "The album has a classic rock feel but it's a very modern-sounding record," Bickler says of the new songs. Guest musicians include Ryan Hoyle (ex-Collective Soul) and Brad Smith of Blind Melon. Bickler just returned from a UK tour where he performed the new songs live for the first time and is now preparing for US dates to be announced later this year. Dave Bickler, the voice of 1980s anthem "Eye of the Tiger" as lead singer for Survivor, has just released his first solo album, "Darklight." "The album has a classic rock feel but it's a very modern-sounding record," Bickler says of the new songs. Guest musicians include Ryan Hoyle (ex-Collective Soul) and Brad Smith of Blind Melon. Bickler just returned from a UK tour where he performed the new songs live for the first time and is now preparing for US dates to be announced later this year. (Photo by Jeff Lange)

The voice on one of the most enduring pop-rock anthems of all time has returned with a powerful solo album recorded with a little help from his friends. Dave Bickler – former lead singer for Grammy-winning band Survivor – says he is deeply proud of “Darklight,” a collection of 11 new tracks all written or co-written by Bickler.

“I still love to record and I think it’s a magical process,” Bickler said during an interview from his home in New York. “I’ve always written songs and have gone into the studio a number of times but nothing was released from that material. Finally, my wife convinced me to just finish it. It took some time because I was doing it alone at first and I had to learn how to make it sound like a cohesive thing.”

From conception to release, Bickler says the road to “Darklight” was a long one, and not without a bit of anxiety.

“I didn’t know how it would be received,” he said. “There are people only familiar with my work with Survivor and frankly wish they could hear another album by that band, you know? I’ve been so gratified by the reception from old fans and new fans alike. The album has a classic rock feel but it’s also a very modern sounding record.”

Bickler did three tours of duty with Survivor (1978-1983, 1993-2000 and 2013-2016). The band’s 1982 breakthrough hit, “Eye of the Tiger,” spent 6 weeks at the top of the Billboard chart that summer. The theme song from the movie “Rocky III,” “Eye of the Tiger” was crafted to order for Sylvester Stallone after Queen turned down the actor and director’s request to use their hit “Another One Bites the Dust.”

For “Darklight,” Bickler says he wrote most of the new songs on guitar but was unsure how to fully realize the material. A friend at Sony listened to Bickler’s demos and suggested drummer Ryan Hoyle, formerly of the band Collective Soul.

“Ryan has a drum studio out in LA where he records these superlative drum tracks,” said Bickler. “He has the most incredible selection of drums – both vintage and new. I’m so geeky about this stuff – I just love it. He gave me a lot of insight into the care and feeding of drums.”

For bass, Hoyle recommended Brad Smith of the band Blind Melon (“No Rain”).

“I love the bass tracks on those Blind Melon records,” Bickler said. “Brad was there with us the whole time, playing, listening and helping us shape the record.”

Another friend of Bickler’s recommended producer and guitarist Steve DeAcutis (Vanilla Fudge, Gladys Knight, Corey Glover) of Sound Spa Productions.

“When I listened to some of the music he had produced, I knew that was the sound I wanted for my record,” said Bickler. “Stevie D. is a fantastic producer and guitarist.”

The album’s lead track, “Hope,” sets the tone of the record with driving guitars and Bickler’s instantly recognizable voice singing of better days to come.

Other “Darklight” tracks offering Bickler a chance to flex his vocal range include the potent “Fear of the Dark,” the acoustic-tinged “Sea of Green” and the album’s forceful closer, “The Sky is Falling”

Bickler says he takes great care of his voice these days but admits that wasn’t the case during the early years of Survivor.

“Back then, I would just go out and sing without warming up or exercising my voice. I got away with it for a while but I had some trouble when ‘Eye of the Tiger’ was climbing the charts.”

Bickler began getting hoarse while on tour with Survivor in the summer of 1982. A doctor in Louisville, Kentucky, discovered polyps on his vocal chords.

“I went under the knife and was told there was a 20 percent chance I would never sing again,” Bickler recalled. “It was a very scary time. The surgery was successful, but I only had two weeks to recover before resuming the tour.”

For a decade, Bickler played an integral role in one of the most celebrated advertising campaigns in recent history when he provided the purposefully over the top vocals for Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genius” commercials beginning in 2000.

“I think we ultimately did 225 of those commercials, of which 120 made it to air,” he said. “Some of them were just too crazy to air.”

In the “Real Men of Genius” series of TV and radio spots, voice actor Pete Stacker dramatically intoned his lines paying tribute to society’s unsung heroes (… “Mr. Movie Theater Ticket Ripper Upper…) as Bickler’s impassioned vocals drove the message home.

Bickler and Stacker took the campaign on an NFL tour where they recreated the spots live during halftime. “Talk about a receptive audience,” Bickler laughed. “My favorite was ‘Mr. Giant Pocket Knife Inventor.’ The way Pete delivers his lines, it was very difficult to keep from laughing when we did it live.”

Having just returned from a UK tour where he debuted much of “Darklight” live in concert, Bickler says live shows will be scheduled later this year for the United States.

“I can’t wait to bring ‘Darklight’ to the stage here in the states,” he said. “I’m so grateful that this record came together so beautifully, with songs I’m very proud of. Songwriting has to come from the heart and people can tell when you’re being honest. This is a very honest record and I couldn’t be happier with it.”

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