Last January, when Marshal Dutton agreed to become the new frontman of Hinder, the Oklahoma native knew he had not walked into an easy situation.
"I was totally intimidated at first, to be honest. It was kind of overwhelming. That was my first question for the band: 'This is awesome that you want me to do this, but what are people going to think?'" Dutton said on the phone from his home in Oklahoma City last week. "For the first two weeks, man, I was just a bundle of nerves."
Almost a year later, Dutton says Hinder has fully embraced this new chapter for the hard-rock quintet still best known for its 2005 power ballad, "Lips of an Angel." With an album released in May and new material to come — as well as a headlining set at Baltimore Soundstage on Friday — the 37-year-old singer has seemingly re-energized Hinder 15 years into the band's career.
"It had really gotten to a point where they just weren't having fun anymore and dreading being out on the road in the past situation," Dutton said. "Now, the temperament of the band is great, and that seems to give a leg up to the writing and creative process. When everybody feels good and everybody enjoys everybody's company, it's really easy to write songs."
Dutton replaced Austin Winkler, who originally formed Hinder in 2001 with drummer Cody Hanson and guitarist Joe Garvey. (The band's current lineup also includes bassist Mike Rodden and guitarist Mark King.) Before Dutton, Hinder released four albums, including 2005's breakout, "Extreme Behavior," and the 2008 follow-up "Take It to the Limit."
Less than a year after Hinder released its fourth album, 2012's "Welcome to the Freakshow," Winkler — who had a stint in rehab for drug addiction, Billboard reported at the time — left the band. (Both parties claim to have split amicably, and Winkler has plans to release a solo album this year. )
Dutton was no stranger to Hinder; he co-produced "Freakshow" and wrote on the band's third album, 2010's "All American Nightmare." Still, Dutton — who previously fronted the Texas act Faktion — worried over how Hinder fans would accept him, especially given the stylistic differences from Winkler.
"I sound completely different and I have a different style, especially in the way that I sound and sing," he said. "I was really nervous about that, but the band was like, 'Don't worry about it. Let's just do what we do and make music. We'll gain some and we'll lose some.'"
In May, Hinder released its fifth album and first with Dutton as singer, "When the Smoke Clears" via the independent New York label, The End Records. For Dutton, Hinder is an opportunity to explore different sides of his rock-writing abilities. Some might say the album jumps around genre-wise, but Dutton — a self-proclaimed fan of Third Eye Blind and alternative rock from the '90s — argues he enjoys actively avoiding rigid labels.
"I always liked bands that had different sides and different faces and different voices," Dutton said. "We can be a little tongue in cheek, but we can be serious and write a ballad, and kind of meander into pop and then get back into hard rock."
Hinder has never been for everyone, a fact not lost on Dutton. He's well aware his new band has long been a punchline in circles who find Hinder's brand of rock — a descendent of '80s hair-metal — cheesy and over the top. He tries to ignore them.
"There's people that hate Hinder, just like there's people that hate Nickelback," Dutton said. "Those people are just brutal."
At first, he couldn't help but read the comments, until Dutton realized they were simply counterproductive.
"You kind of have to turn a deaf ear to those people because that kind of stuff will just drag you down. I read some of the social media stuff for a while," he said. "Any time I ran into some of the negative stuff, it just kind of makes you feel bad, whether you can rise above it or not. So it's better to just avoid it."
Now, Dutton said he's considerably more comfortable than when he started, and the general acceptance of Hinder's fans has played a large role.
"The majority of fans really embraced me, and kind of understood the band's position on why they did what they did," he said.
This year, Hinder plans to release an acoustic EP and a new album of original material, Dutton said. The band already has two or three songs done, and each has a "heavier edge" to their sound, according to the singer. Regardless of how the album shapes up, Dutton said Hinder is still chasing that next hit — its next, "Lips of an Angel."
"Obviously, the idea is to get another big song, but it's really hard to do when you come from the background where people expect a certain thing from you," Dutton said. "It's even more difficult since the band has a different vocalist now in me, and I have different tastes, too. But we're still going for that big song, and trying to write songs that we love and hoping the fans dig them, too."