Every decade you encounter a handful of musicians that essentially re-shape a genre of music for years to come – Sixx: A.M. is band made up of a group of those such musicians who are currently in the midst of entering groundbreaking territory in the genre of rock. For the combination of their artistic contributions, dedication to their growing fan base and constant touring cycle for this calendar year we have named them Sight of Sound’s 2016 “Artist of the Year”.
What made Sixx AM stick out over the 200+ touring artists and musicians we covered this year?
Fans of the band will know that the band was truly never meant to tour, it’s formation was chance at best as Nikki Sixx, James Michael and DJ Ashba came together to create a soundtrack for ‘The Heroin Diaries’ nearly a decade ago. For Sixx: A.M. to succeed they had to overcome time commitments to other projects and bands, radio standards that typically hold artistically driven bands back, genre stereotypes & more. The band’s ability to clear these massive hurdles in their way combined with their continued growing mainstream success is one of the most captivating stories in music this year. This story didn’t start in 2016 though as it was a slow burn since the release of ‘Modern Vintage’ in 2014 as the band began to shift their focus into becoming the touring band that the fans desired. Motley Crue was embarking on their final tour which freed up Nikki Sixx and with DJ Ashba freshly departed from Guns N’ Roses the stars had align for all members of the band to hit the road together. Following a successful first tour the band entered 2016 and early on released ‘Prayers for the Damned : Volume 1’ from it came the chart topping singles ‘Rise’ & ‘Prayers from the Damned.’ Most bands would have toured that album for the remainder of the year – but as 2016 proved Sixx: A.M. is NOT most bands.
Just a few weeks ago the band released a second album for this year titled ‘Prayers for the Blessed : Volume II’ and the first single ‘We Will Not Go Quietly’ has been climbing the charts steadily as well since its release. Meanwhile Sixx: A.M. has been out on the road all fall across the United States in support of Shinedown and Five Finger Death Punch packing arenas to near capacity in every city.
The Sixx: A.M. rise to the top has just begun, each night for the past 2 months they have played in front of new faces, potential new fans and there is no doubt that they have succeeded in impressing them.
This tour followed a nearly sold out headline tour in every market, festival dates, after show hit & runs & more. Along the way the band played their fair share of support shows as well – while Sixx: A.M. came into the touring world more established than most due to the radio hits they had from their first two full length albums the members are very aware that earning the top billing on a line up isn’t always what counts. At every show, whether it was 5 songs and 25 minutes or 19 songs and 95 minutes, the band gave the show 110% for their fans and newcomers alike. This mindset that no performance is an “opening” performance and that all shows are headline gigs no matter their length is a big part of how Sixx: A.M. collectively dominated 2016 as a touring band.
The list of examples for how Sixx: A.M. has taken strides in 2016 is lengthier than just an onstage attitude and presence though. A concrete breakdown can be provided for those who prefer a more numerical approach to success than the conceptual arguement the first half of this article makes.
The numbers clearly illustrate the point strongly and serves to further back up our “Artist of the Year” decision.
2 Full length studio albums
3 Proper singles released to active rock radio charting between 3rd and 28th (when written)
3 Promotional singles to support album releases
1 North America headline tour
2 Supporting tours across North America
Numerous festival dates across the United States and Europe including
2 Performances in one day in Philadelphia including a midnight performance in a small club
2 Performances dates in one day in Texas
Countless after show acoustic sets after shows on their headline run
These milestones did not come without the work, effort and dedication of the full band. Note worthy to mention are the additions of Dustin Steinke on drums and Melissa Harding & Amber Vanbuskirk on back up vocals brought a level of clarity and continuity to the band that it needed to have the 2016 they aimed to have. There is no doubt that DJ Ashba, James Michael and Nikki Sixx get a large chunk of the public eye of this band but without their supporting members 2016 would have been a lot less successful for Sixx: A.M. collectively.
The two ‘Prayers’ albums strongly benefited from these additions because it was seemingly the first time the band was in the studio writing material with all the members who would be going on tour.
The real beauty of the band is that no member reigns supreme over the others – while Nikki Sixx’s past and current career outside of the band as a photographer are massive feats when the band hits the stage all of that goes away and they become a cohesive unit. James Michael commands the crowd with level of engagement that no other front-man this decade has been able to achieve, DJ Ashba makes sounds with a guitar that many would only say exist in theory (see Catacombs on ‘Volume 2’ for an example) and on stage Nikki Sixx becomes the antagonist as he struts around the stage with his bass never afraid to spit half a water bottle into the front row with a smile on his face. Behind them Dustin Steinke, Melissa Harding & Amber Vanbuskirk form a back line that power the band forward song after song.
Sight of Sound is both proud and excited to announce Sixx: A.M. as our artist of the year – we cover a lot of musicians in a year and it has been nothing short of breathtaking to watch their progress as you really don’t see stories like this in music anymore. As we enter an uncertain time in our country Sixx: A.M. has promised to deliver new music in 2017 as if conquering 2016 wasn’t enough for them. We are excited to see where 2017 will take the band but for now we will focus on 2016 as we congratulate Nikki Sixx, James Michael, DJ Ashba, Dustin Steinke, Melissa Harding & Amber Vanbuskirk for all their accomplishments this year that have earned the “Artist of the Year” title.
Exclusive Photo Gallery of Sixx: A.M. performing in Newark & Hersey in support :