CBG Catches Up With Dreamworks Records' Emerson Drive
Meet Emerson Drive! Brad Mates - Lead Vocals, Danick Dupelle - Guitar,
Jeff Loberg - Bass, Chris Hartman - Keyboards, Pat Allingham - Fiddle and
Mike Melancon - Drums.
I recently caught up with Emerson Drive. Based out of Canada, Emerson Drive has been together for the past eight years - since high school. Emerson Drive recently won the coveted New Group/Duo of the Year at the ACM Awards this year. Their single and video, "Only God Would Stop Me Loving You," is currently being aired on radio and TV.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Hi guys. It's great to meet you. So, how did Emerson Drive come to be?
Brad Mates We started the band eight years ago in high school - we started out at a talent show in high school. When we were finished with the talent show, we said we should get a few guys together and start playing some music that we listened to on the radio or from some albums we had at home. So, a week later we were downstairs in my parent's basement. We had about eight or nine guys down there and we started playing guitars, etc. and pretty soon we decided that we'd start up a band. Within the next few months we were known as 12 Gauge, and started playing local clubs around town, the high school. Then eventually we worked our way around the province of Alberta, Canada, and across Canada and down here in the States 300 days a year, six days a week, and honed our skills in the clubs.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What was your first big break?
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Pat Allingham We decided to come down to Nashville because Nashville is the center of the Country Universe. We started doing showcases there. We did our first showcase in July 1997. It didn't work out so we went back to Canada and just kept playing the clubs and practicing. In September of 1999 we came down to Nashville and did a showcase and signed with our agency - Creative Artist Agency. They brought us down in January of 2000, we did a few showcases for some labels and that's how we got the deal with Dreamworks.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What was it like when you signed with Dreamworks?
Pat Allingham At the 3rd showcase, CAA and Dreamworks had a meeting in the parking lot and James Stroud came back in and right there he said "ok, let's make a deal." It was pretty surreal. It's one in a million and you know the odds are against you getting a record deal. To actually have that happen - we knew then that we had an actual chance. We were being given a chance to record an album and a chance to make a career out of it.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What was it like working with Producer James Stroud?
Danick Dupelle James Stroud produced the first album with Julian King. James was a really big influence on us because when we were playing bars, he produced Tim McGraw and we covered a lot of Tim McGraw songs - that's how we got to know who he was and what he did in the country music scene. When we heard that he was part of Dreamworks and he came to us, we felt really good about working with him and Richard Marx, who produced a couple of songs, too.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] You have your own bus. What's life like on the bus?
Chris Hartman Well, it's been kind of an evolution for us. We started with an old propane school bus that we converted. We ripped out all the seats and put bunks in there. It worked for about a year and then the engine blew up going up a hill near our hometown. That forced us to invest in leasing a 15 seat passenger van, which we towed a trailer across Canada with for the next four years - that was fun. We got tired of the cramped spaces really quick, but we did what we needed to do. We bonded as a band too. That eventually broke down on the streets of downtown Calgary. We literally left it on the street and climbed onto the zebra bus that we currently tour around in and took off. So that's what we're in right now.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] So what are your current and upcoming projects ?
Brad Mates We have a new record that's going to be coming out hopefully the end of this year/beginning of next year. We have one more single off of this record that's currently out right now, and the video is out too - "Only God Could Stop Me Loving You." It's a ballad - the first two singles that we had off this current record were uptempo songs, so it's a different side of Emerson Drive that people will get to hear. We're looking forward to the Summer cause we have a lot of dates coming up across the country playing fairs and festivals. And in the Fall, we'll have the new single off the new record, probably in September, and we'll see where that goes. The sophomore jinx hopefully doesn't happen to Emerson Drive and we keep truckin' on.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Does the band write all the songs on your records?
Brad Mates We write as much as we can - all of us write in the band. On this current record, Chris has a cut off that and so does the bass player, Jeff Loberg, who was with us before. On the current record we have two songs on hold that Pat and Danick co-wrote with a couple of other writers in town, and I co-wrote a song with a friend here in town, too.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] So you have people outside the band who write as well?
Brad Mates Oh yes, absolutely. Obviously it would be great to get our own songs on the album and we will again this year, but it comes down to picking the best song. There are great writers in town here and great songs, so we're not going to let good songs go to other people that will make hits out of them when we could make hits out of them ourselves.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What are your favorite Emerson Drive songs and why?
Brad Mates My favorite songs off the album are "Fall Into Me" and "It's All About You."
Pat Allingham My favorite songs on the album are "Fall Into Me" and "Looking Over My Shoulder" - they're fun to play live.
Chris Hartman "Fall Into Me" because I love playing it live, because everyone identifies to it, and they let us know that they like it, too.
Pat Allingham My favorite song is "Light of the Day" because it's my Mom's favorite song.
Mike Melancon My favorite song is "Looking Over My Shoulder" because it's a Summer song- drive along on your bike, and I love bikes!
Danick Dupelle My first song, "Fall Into Me" and "Evidence." It sounds a little different instrumentally - played with a tog box.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] What inspires some of your favorite songs?
Brad Mates For us as a band, we've always loved growing up listening to other bands, too. Alabama, Diamond Rio, Little Texas - we all grew up listening to that stuff. The one thing that we would love more than anything is to have a career out of this - it seems nowadays that artists come and go within a few years - if we can stick around for 20 years like the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, that would be the ultimate goal for us.
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Anything else you'd like to add that we didn't cover?
Brad Mates Look forward to seeing Emerson this Summer on the road and the new album and the new single coming out in the Fall!
[Cindy Beth Gordon] Thank you guys. It was great talking with you. I wish you much continued success.
Emerson Drive Thanks, Cindy.
Catch Emerson Drive this Summer in a town near you and keep an eye out for their new CD this Fall! For more information, check out www.dreamworksnashville.com.