Biography:
The Start of Emerson Drive
CountrifiedWhat If            Emerson Drive 1        Emerson Drive 2





"Cpuntrified" Biography

EMERSON DRIVE'S NEW ALBUM ON MIDAS RECORDS NASHVILLE PROVES THEY'VE DEFINITELY COME TO PLAY. OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, THE SIX TALENTED MUSICIANS HAVE PATIENTLY PAID THEIR DUES, HONED THEIR SKILLS AND CROSSED THE COUNTRY DOZENS OF TIMES WITH A RELENTLESS TOURING SCHEDULE. THEY WERE VIRTUALLY HOMELESS, EXCEPT FOR A TOUR BUS, WHILE THEY WORKED TOWARD THEIR TURN AT BAT AND NOW THEIR TIME HAS COME. AFTER A YEAR AND A HALF OF THE MOST SOUL-STRETCHING, CREATIVELY FULFILLING WORK OF THEIR LIVES, THEY HAVE EMERGED WITH AN ALBUM THAT FINALLY DEFINES WHO THEY REALLY ARE AND WHAT THEY'RE ALL ABOUT.

"THE TITLE OF THE RECORD BASICALLY SUMS UP EVERYTHING WE ARE AS A GROUP," SAYS LEAD VOCALIST BRAD MATES. "IT'S THE MUSIC WE FEEL IS EMERSON DRIVE, AND IT'S A STAMP OF WHAT WE BELIEVE IS OUR KIND OF COUNTRY
MUSIC - SOMETHING OUR FANS CAN REALLY RELATE TO."

THE FANS HAVE NEVER HAD A DIFFICULT TIME RELATING TO THE EXPLOSIVELY EXCITING BAND, WHOSE LIVE SHOW IS SO ENGAGING AND ENTERTAINING THAT SHANIA TWAIN TAPPED THEM TO OPEN FOR HER ON HER LAST MAJOR NORTH AMERICAN TOUR. IN FACT, AFTER LOSING THEIR RECORD DEAL ON DREAMWORKS RECORDS A YEAR AND A HALF AGO THE BAND HAS STILL MAINTAINED AN ACTIVE TOURING SCHEDULE - ANOTHER TESTAMENT TO THEIR POPULARITY AND THE UNENDING DEVOTION OF THEIR FANS. "OUR FANS ARE SO SUPPORTIVE AND HAVE BEEN THERE FOR US FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. WE'RE LUCKY TO HAVE THEM," EXPLAINS BASSIST PATRICK BOURQUE.

"THE FANS HAVE BEEN THERE SINCE THE SUCCESS OF OUR FIRST 2 RECORDS BUT IT'S DEFINITELY OUR HITS, 'FALL INTO ME,' 'I SHOULD BE SLEEPING' AND 'LAST ONE STANDING,' THAT HAVE CONNECTED US TO SO MANY PEOPLE," COMMENTS MATES. "WE ALREADY HAVE A GOOD FOUNDATION FOR A FAN BASE ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND WE HOPE TO CONTINUE TO BUILD ON THAT WITH THE MUSIC ON THIS NEW ALBUM."

EMERSON DRIVE'S HISTORY IS BASED ON A SOLID FOUNDATION WHICH GARNERED THEM THEIR LOYAL FANS. THE BAND EMERGED FROM CANADA ONTO THE NASHVILLE COUNTRY MUSIC SCENE IN 2001 WITH THEIR BRAND OF HIP COUNTRY COMBINED WITH STELLAR MUSICIANSHIP AND SIGNED WITH DREAMWORKS NASHVILLE. EMERSON DRIVE IS ONE OF THE VERY FEW BANDS EVER SIGNED TO A MAJOR RECORD LABEL WHO HAVE THE DISTINCTION OF PLAYING THEIR OWN INSTRUMENTS ON ALL OF THEIR RECORDS. THEY HUMBLY ACCEPT THIS HONOR BECAUSE THEY ARE TRUE INSTRUMENTALISTS. THEIR FIRST RELEASE EMERSON DRIVE GARNERED NUMEROUS INDUSTRY AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS INCLUDING, ACM TOP NEW VOCAL GROUP/DUO [AWARDED IN 2003]; BILLBOARD'S #1 TOP COUNTRY ARTIST OF THE YEAR FOR 2002; R&R'S #1 NEW ARTIST MVP FOR 2002; GROUP OF THE YEAR FOR TWO CONSECUTIVE YEARS [2002 AND 2003], FROM THE CANADIAN COUNTRY MUSIC ASSOCIATION; TWO TOP 5 HITS WITH "FALL INTO ME" AND "I SHOULD BE SLEEPING"; AS WELL AS A NUMBER ONE MUSIC VIDEO ON CMT'S TOP TWENTY COUNTDOWN WITH "FALL INTO ME." MOST RECENTLY THE BAND TOOK HOME TOP HONORS AT THE 2005 CCMA'S WITH COVETED SPOTS IN THE "2005 CCMA ALL STAR BAND," DALE WALLACE (KEYBOARDS) AND DAVID PICHETTE (FIDDLE) WERE AWARDED THE DISTINCTION OF BEING BEST ON THEIR INSTRUMENT. THEIR RELEASE, THE SECOND ON DREAMWORKS, WHAT IF, WAS RELEASED IN JUNE 2004 JUST BEFORE THE BAND WAS PREY TO CORPORATE RESTRUCTURING AND A COMPANY MERGER. COMMITTED TO THEIR MUSIC AND THEIR GENRE THE BAND SET DOWN ROOTS IN NASHVILLE AND PURCHASED HOMES THERE AND HAVE DEDICATED THEMSELVES EVEN MORE TO THEIR CAREERS.

"WE'VE ALL PURCHASED HOMES IN NASHVILLE IN THE PAST YEAR," SAYS LEAD GUITARIST DANICK DUPELLE, "AND WE FEEL LIKE WE ARE A PART OF THE COMMUNITY NOW. WE'VE SET UP SHOP HERE AND IT'S MORE ACCESSIBLE TO SONGWRITING AND ANY OTHER BUSINESS THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. IT'S NICE TO HAVE A HOME BASE FOR OUR PERSONAL BELONGINGS, WHEREAS BEFORE IT WAS ALWAYS IN A HOTEL OR ON A BUS. IT'S JUST A MORE COMFORTABLE SETTING THAT ALLOWS US TO RELAX MORE AND BE CREATIVE."

THE NEAR TWO-YEAR HIATUS GAVE THE BAND MEMBERS A CHANCE TO HONE THEIR OWN WRITING SKILLS AND TO REALLY TAKE SOME TIME TO SELECT SONGS WITH MESSAGES THEY FELT THEY COULD REALLY RELATE TO ON A PERSONAL LEVEL. "AS A SINGER MY JOB IS TO INTERPRET THE SONGS, AND MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SOMETHING WHEN I SING THEM. DANICK AND I BOTH HAVE SOME SONGWRITING CREDITS ON THIS NEW RECORD. THE ENTIRE BAND MADE DECISIONS ON SONG SELECTIONS THIS TIME ALSO AND I THINK THAT MADE A DIFFERENCE TOO," SAYS MATES.

WHEN ALABAMA MEMBER TEDDY GENTRY AND PRODUCER JOSH LEO CAME OUT TO HEAR EMERSON DRIVE JUST AFTER THE BAND HAD BEEN RELEASED FROM DREAMWORKS, GENTRY AND LEO WERE IMMEDIATELY BLOWN AWAY BY WHAT THEY HEARD AND WANTED TO WORK WITH THE BAND. IT WAS THE ULTIMATE COMPLIMENT FOR A GROUP OF GUYS WHO HAD IDOLIZED ALABAMA AND THEIR MUSIC. OBVIOUSLY THE INPUT AND DIRECTION OF TWO INDUSTRY LEADERS LIKE GENTRY AND LEO PROVED INVALUABLE TO THE BAND AND ADDED EVEN MORE TO THEIR REJUVENATED RECORDING PROCESS.

"WE ALL DECIDED TO START WRITING TOGETHER AND DOING PREPRODUCTION FOR A DEMO. AT THE TIME, WE WERE DOING PREPRODUCTION FOR A PROJECT THAT WE HAD NO IDEA OF WHERE OR WHEN IT MIGHT BE RELEASED. ¬�HE GREAT THING WAS THAT WE WERE GETTING REALLY INVOLVED IN OUR MUSIC AND THAT TIME ALLOWED US TO GET TO KNOW TEDDY AND JOSH AND FIND ALL OF THE SONGS THAT MAKE UP THIS ALBUM," SAYS KEYBOARDIST DALE WALLACE. AS PRODUCERS, GENTRY AND LEO UNDERSTOOD WHAT KIND OF SOUND EMERSON DRIVE WAS GOING FOR, ESPECIALLY IN CAPTURING THE BAND'S LIVE SOUND IN THE STUDIO. WITH GENTRY AND LEO AT THE HELM, THE SONGS TOOK CENTER STAGE AND THE DIFFERENCE IS EVIDENT IN THE FINISHED PRODUCT. "WE REALLY LET THE SONGS BREATHE A LITTLE BIT THIS TIME AROUND," SAYS WALLACE "IT IS A MUCH MORE RELAXED AND MORE LIKE OUR LIVE SOUND."

WHEN THE NEWLY FORMED INDEPENDENT LABEL MIDAS RECORDS NASHVILLE HEARD SOME OF THE MATERIAL THE BAND WAS CUTTING, THEY IMMEDIATELY BECAME INTERESTED AND LATER SIGNED THE BAND, RECOGNIZING THE QUALITY AND INTEGRITY OF THE MUSIC THEY WERE HEARING. RENOWNED SONGWRITER KEITH FOLLESE AND PUBLISHING VETERAN BRAD ALLEN HELPED IN THE SONG SELECTION AND PRODUCTION PROCESS AS WELL, ADDING TO THE PROJECT. EMERSON DRIVE BECAME THE FLAGSHIP ARTIST FOR THE NEW RECORD LABEL.

EMERSON DRIVE'S ELECTRIFYING ONSTAGE ENERGY ALSO COMES THROUGH AT EVERY TURN ON THEIR NEW CD CALLED COUNTRIFIED. ROCKING TUNES LIKE "TESTIFY" AND "COUNTRIFIED SOUL" LET THE BAND DO WHAT COMES NATURALLY AND WHAT THEY DO BEST - TEAR IT UP ON STAGE. "COUNTRIFIED SOUL" KICKS OFF WITH A BLAST OF THE BAND'S SIGNATURE HARMONIES THEN QUICKLY TURNS INTO A FULL-TILT, FUN-FILLED, "THE WEEKEND'S-HERE-LET'S-PARTY" ROMP WHERE THE GUYS TURN IT UP AND LET IT LOOSE. DUBBED "TURBOGRASS" BY GENTRY, THE SONG ALLOWS EMERSON DRIVE'S AMAZING MUSICIANSHIP TO SHINE THROUGH DURING ITS FIERY INSTRUMENTAL BREAKDOWNS, AND OFFERS UP A GROOVE THAT IS EQUAL PARTS SQUAREDANCE/BREAKDANCE AS THEY BREAK IT DOWN COUNTRIFIED STYLE. "'COUNTRIFIED SOUL' IS THE PARTY SONG ON THE RECORD," SAYS DRUMMER MIKE MELANCON. "IT'S JUST SO MUCH FUN TO PLAY LIVE. I THINK IT REALLY CAPTURES THE SPIRIT AND ENERGY OF THIS BAND."

AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM ARE SONGS LIKE THE SWEETLY REVERENT "EVERYDAY WOMAN," PERHAPS THE JEWEL OF THE ALBUM AND A CAREER BALLAD. THE TOUCHING SENTIMENT IS SURE TO CAPTURE MORE THAN A FEW FEMALE HEARTS WITH ITS SIMPLE YET ELEGANT MESSAGE SINGING THE PRAISES OF THE EVERYDAY WOMAN WHO PROBABLY SEEMS ORDINARY TO MOST OF THE WORLD BUT IS ACTUALLY EVERYTHING TO HER MAN. DEMONSTRATING HIS VERSATILITY AND RANGE EVEN MORE, MATES TAPS INTO HIS SOUTHERN SOUL ON THE GROOVING, "SWEET NATURAL GIRL," A TUNE THAT PAINTS A PICTURE OF BLISS THROUGH THE EYES OF A MAN TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY INTOXICATED BY LOVE. ON "PAINTED TOO MUCH OF THIS TOWN," AND "YOU STILL OWN ME," THE BAND DEALS WITH THE FLIP SIDE OF LOVE, WHEN A HEART JUST CAN'T SHAKE THAT CERTAIN SOMEONE AND THE LONGING THAT COMES WITH THAT, WHILE THEIR FIRST SINGLE, "A GOOD MAN," CELEBRATES THE SMALL TOWN LIFE AND REWARDS OF JUST BEING A GOOD PERSO - A SENTIMENT THE MEMBERS OF EMERSON DRIVE DEFINITELY RELATE AND ASPIRE TO IN THE BIGGER PICTURE.

AS A SPECIAL TREAT FOR FANS ON THE ALBUM, THE GROUP INCLUDED ITS OWN RENDITION OF "THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA," WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN PERFORMING LIVE IN CONCERT FOR YEARS. IN A FLATTERING SHOW OF SUPPORT FOR THE BAND, CHARLIE DANIELS HIMSELF RECORDED PART OF THE TRACK WITH THEM, WHICH LITERALLY BLEW THE MINDS OF ALL OF THE MEMBERS, ESPECIALLY FIDDLER DAVID PICHETTE, WHO GREW UP HONING HIS CHOPS TO CHARLIE'S SONGS.

"I OWE A GREAT DEAL TO GUYS LIKE CHARLIE DANIELS AND ALABAMA," ADMITS PICHETTE. "THEY GAVE US FIDDLER PLAYERS SOMETHING TO PLAY COMING UP THROUGH THE CLUBS WHEN WE WERE JUST STARTING OUT. IT WAS JUST AMAZING TO WORK WITH BOTH TEDDY AND CHARLIE ON THIS RECORD... I CAN'T EVEN EXPLAIN IT!"

THE TOUCHING BALLAD "MOMENTS" DEMONSTRATES MATES' STRENGTH AS A SINGER BY LETTING HIS VOCALS TAKE CENTER STAGE. THE TEAR-JERKING TUNE ABOUT A HOMELESS MAN REFLECTING ON THE TWISTS AND TURNS OF HIS LIFE, AND WHAT HE MIGHT HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY, IS SURE TO BECOME ANOTHER SIGNATURE SONG FOR THIS VERSATILE BAND. COUNTRIFIED AND ITS ELEVEN SONGS MARK AN ARTISTIC TURNING POINT FOR THE BAND. THEY FEEL THEY HAVE FINALLY MADE A RECORD THAT IS TRULY INDICATIVE OF THEIR TALENTS AND MUSICAL CAPABILITIES.

"THESE SONGS HAVE INCREDIBLE MEANING AND WE ARE REALLY PROUD OF THIS ALBUM," SAYS MATES. "THERE'S A COMMON BOND BETWEEN ALL THEM. YOU KNOW, IT'S IMPORTANT TO MAKE AN ALBUM THAT MAKES SENSE... YOU CAN PICK SONGS ALL DAY LONG, BUT IF THEY DON'T BELONG TOGETHER, OR THERE'S NO COMMON BOND BETWEEN THEM, YOU'RE BASICALLY JUST PUTTING MATERIAL ON A DISC AND SAYING, 'HERE'S A BUNCH OF MUSIC, I HOPE YOU LIKE IT.' BUT IF YOU ACTUALLY HAVE SOMETHING YOU CAN OPEN UP FROM FRONT TO BACK AND HAVE THE STORY RUN THROUGH THE WHOLE THING, THAT'S WHEN YOU HAVE A REAL ALBUM. WE FEEL LIKE WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED THAT. WE HOPE OUR FANS ENJOY COUNTRIFIED."


"What If" Biography

THE HISTORY

September 20, Louisville …
We're at Six Flags/Kentucky Kingdom, the latest stop on Emerson Drive's apparently endless tour. They rolled into town at 5:30 this morning, just in time to crash for a few hours in their hotel. It's two o'clock now, and sound check -- a multi-hour ritual before each gig -- is about to begin. Bassist Patrick Bourque and drummer Mike Melancon are onstage in the open-air venue, jamming through their own private set -- "All Blues" by Miles Davis, which melts into a nameless fusion groove that breaks down to five beats per bar -- as engineers nail the sound. The others will arrive later, but already a crowd has gathered outside the gates, screaming out the band's name or, simply, screaming in anticipation of this evening's show.

Such is life for Emerson Drive -- singer Brad Mates, guitarist Danick Dupelle, keyboardist/guitarist Dale Wallace, fiddler David Pichette, Bourque, and Melancon, the hottest young phenomenon in country music. Their world is the road, the stage, the road again, and every now and then, a visit to a recording studio. Whether behind the mic or splayed out on the floor of their bus, watching a new DVD as they barrel through the night to their next gig, there always seems to be a wind at their back, pushing them faster, rushing them toward something that they might only have dreamed of not so long ago.

Ask them where home is, and they'll answer, "The bus." And they're serious. But if that sounds pathetic, forget it: These guys are having a blast. There's no place they'd rather be, except for in the spotlight and in front of their fans. And there's no one they'd rather be with than their family -- which is to say, each other.

Whatever rigors they encountered on their travels over the past year or so were blown away by distinctions – ACM Top New Vocal Group/Duo [awarded in 2003]; Billboard’s #1 Top Country Artist of the Year for 2002; R&R’s #1 New Artist MVP for 2002; Group of the Year for two consecutive years, from the Canadian Country Music Association; two Top 5 hits with “Fall Into Me” and “I Should Be Sleeping”; as well as a number one music video on CMT's Top Twenty Countdown with “Fall Into Me” -- that flashed past like mileage markers en route to their next engagement.

And here, as roller coasters roar and onlookers call out their names, the band takes a few minutes on the bus to look forward to another milestone: the release of What If?, their second album for DreamWorks Records Nashville.

All it takes is one spin through the new album, What If?, to realize why these accolades have come their way: Emerson Drive is more formidable than they’ve ever been. The invigorated sound of Emerson Drive is apparent throughout What If?. They've always had powerful vocals, with solid harmonies behind Brad's electrifying lead. But now, there's nothing they can't handle; from the exuberant interplay of the voices on their cover of "Fishin' in the Dark" to the nifty basso on the chorus to "Waitin' On Me" (that's Dale, by the way) to the passion and unity that drives the ballad "I'll Die Tryin'," they chomp down every challenge and seem hungry for more.

Richard Marx, who produced two songs from Emerson Drive and all of What If?, has said as much himself: "This is a better band now," he declares. "There's a higher camaraderie factor. Everybody's enjoying the process more. The band feels as I do, which is that all of this has happened for a reason."

"We've reached a new level," is how Brad puts it. "Bringing in three new members has given us an upgrade in sound. We've worked hard to take the next step in our music. I guess you don't realize how much is possible until you have people like Dale, David, and Patrick step into the picture. Once we brought them in, it was like starting all over again: Doors opened, and the music just fell out of us."

Instrumentally, the sound has grown; Patrick's bass playing, drawing from funk and jazz as well as country, locks with Mike's rock-solid drumming in a groove that's irresistible at any tempo (check out that tasty glissando that Patrick lays down just before the second chorus on "You're Like Coming Home"), while on tracks like "Simple Miracles" Dale's keyboards paint the most vivid textures heard to date from this band. Whether pushing the beat within the rhythm backup or trading fiery licks with Danick's guitar on "Still Got Yesterday," David upholds Emerson Drive's standards for nothing but the best fiddle performance.

You'll hear more of their own songs on What If?, too. Outside material comprised almost the entire first album, but on this one they wrote several themselves. "It can be tough for a new band to get one of its songs out there right off the bat," Brad explains. "We were determined to be heard, and if that meant doing other writers' songs, that was fine with us. But we're writing more and more all the time. We've kept learning and maturing, so it felt right to put some of our own things on the new album."

"DreamWorks gave us as much time as we needed to finish the album," Brad says. Between a hectic tour schedule and being in and out of the studio, Emerson Drive chose not rush the album and worked for almost one year to get it just right. During its creation the guys juggled a schedule that typically included travel and performance for three to four shows per week, interspersed with brief visits to Nashville or to Richard Marx's home studio in Chicago for recording. This would be a back-breaking routine for most artists, but Emerson Drive thrived on it: "It was great to record while being on the road," Brad insists, "because we were able to try out new material onstage and see how the fans reacted."

At one point, they all moved into Richard Marx's house and cut nine tracks in only four days. "We were on fire," the producer remembers. "When I was with one of them, the others would be in the basement with my kids, playing video games. We would work all day, take a dinner break, watch movies, and work some more. I called it 'Camp Marx,' but they really became part of the family."

In the end, What If? came out sounding strong and only intensified the group's determination to make it to the top in a field that's dominated by solo artists. No matter how well your normal country superstar gets along with his or her musicians, there's still a line drawn between the headliners and the rest of the entourage. Not so with Emerson Drive; they're all on this bus together.

"I wouldn't even want to think about being a single artist," Brad insists. "If you have six people working for the same thing, why would you want to change that?"

"That fits with my own personality," David says. "I've never been a backup fiddle player. And I would never see Patrick as a backup bass player. It's the same for Dale and everyone else. We are members of a band."

"That's huge," Brad affirms, "and not just for the musicians. We've got a driver, a couple of techs, the merch guy, and they're all part of the family. It's funny; we'll walk out and horse around before the show with our merch guy because he's one of us. That's the cool thing: We can let other people come into the picture. I wouldn't have it any other way."

Neither would those who've already felt what's special about Emerson Drive. All that was magical about that debut album is even more evident on What If?. This is more than a great album; it's a snapshot of a life being shared by some exceptional musicians and their friends, one that will inspire younger followers to share in the fun and stir memories among older listeners of adventures from their own lives, not so long ago.

It's around four o'clock now, and beneath a glorious blue sky the whole band has assembled to complete their sound check. Brad, looking fit in a sleeveless T-shirt, a bottle of water in his hand, is at the mic as they play through "You're Like Coming Home." The song is flowing easy but rocking too -- then, gradually, one member after another drops out until Brad is singing alone, bringing it home with keening high notes and a final slow swoop into a rumbling bass. Outside, looking in through entry gates, fans shriek as the band grins, waves, and leaves to ride the roller coasters until showtime. …
Tomorrow, they leave for … wherever. It almost doesn't matter -- Emerson Drive are on their way.


"Emerson Drive" Biography:

"Ours is the atomic bomb of work ethics," says Emerson Drive bassist Jeff Loberg, summing up both the energy and determination of this country band.  It's a bold statement, but Loberg and his five bandmates have no doubt earned the right to make it. "We're survivors," he says, "the essence of road warriors."

That ethos goes a long way toward explaining the success of an outfit that got its start in the western Alberta town of Grande-Prairie.  Nothing will make or break a band like the road, and few have been forged in that crucible as fully as Emerson Drive.

"It's what you've got to do," remarks singer Brad Mates matter-of-factly.  "I consider these guys as talented as any musicians I've ever run across, but talent will only take you so far.  What made this work was the willingness to say goodbye to everything and just hit the highway."

They traveled in an old bus and then in a van, playing small and large clubs, to handfuls of people and packed houses, in tiny villages and big cities throughout Canada.  All along they worked on their material, honing their songs with the same fervor that marked their live shows.

So when Emerson Drive hit Nashville after six years, they were ready.  "We'd been rehearsing four hours in the afternoon and playing as much as seven hours a night, five nights a week for two years solid," says Jeff.  "We knew we were gelling.  It just felt right, like this is who we are.  I knew that if no one got what we were doing when we did our Nashville showcases, then no one was ever going to get it."

"And as it turned out," reports fiddle player Pat Allingham, "DreamWorks heard us and offered us a deal, and it just felt like we were meant to be part of that family."  Indeed, DreamWorks Records executives, led by label head James Stroud, got it.  Their post-showcase directive to the band, to capture what they heard live, rang like a manifesto, coming as it did in the wake of those grueling tours.

The result is Emerson Drive (released in early 2002), which Stroud himself produced, with co-producer Julian King.  It amply demonstrates the band's finely honed instrumental skills and decidedly edgy repertoire.  The album conjures the excitement that has made Emerson Drive so popular with crowds all over Canada and now, increasingly, in the U.S.  Songs like "Looking Over My Shoulder" and "It's All About You" are high-voltage fun, while "I See Heaven," "Only God" and "Light Of Day" bring romance and lush harmonies to the mix.

It is an auspicious moment in the history of a band that began with a high school talent contest.  There, Pat and his pal (and now Emerson keyboardist) Chris Hartman  the two had been in school and church choirs together since kindergarten  joined a few buddies to form an impromptu group doing an equally impromptu song.  Also on the bill was Brad, an 11th-grader singing for the first time in front of an audience.  Pat, Chris and Brad quickly recognized their mutual talents and tastes, and the three soon formed a band with some classmates.

"It really got started in my parents' basement," says Brad.  As they began rehearsing, they'd often indulge in teenage chatter about becoming singing stars, but, he concedes, "We had no idea it would ever build into something like this."

In fact, Brad's musical background was casual.  He'd soaked up both his dad's Don Williams and George Strait albums, as well as the hard rock favored by his junior high buddies.  Chris' was a bit more formal.  He came from a large family who'd sing harmonies around the kitchen table, and he received classical piano training.  Pat, too, had a serious interest in music, playing classical violin from the age of three and performing in orchestras and at festivals during his growing-up years.

This trio formed the core of a seven-piece ensemble that played a couple of local gigs, including an awards show where they took in $300 just by passing the hat.  A few months later they were joined by Jeff, from nearby Beaverlodge.  Jeff's dad had introduced him early on to the music of Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson, whereas he discovered Southern rock on his own.  Jeff played guitar from the age of eight.  "When I joined the band," he informs, "I'd never played bass in my life.  But the guys needed a bass player, so I figured I'd give it a try."
The band's initial attitude toward their career was similarly carefree.  "We just wanted to go out and have some fun," Chris attests.  They'd cut class on Fridays to set up for that evening's show at a local club and watch as their underage friends tried unsuccessfully to sneak in.

But they soon began to take matters more seriously.  They settled on six members, used parental donations to buy a school bus they painstakingly but lovingly converted to tour-worthiness  "It was a cool little party pad for a couple of years," says Chris  chose the name 12-Gauge and began touring the sparsely populated region.  "Almost anywhere you went involved a long ride," says Brad. Pat's father, Lionel Allingham, managed the band for their first three years, helping them raise funds for demo recordings and making connections for performance dates.  "It all happened in stages," Pat says of their early progress.  "People started noticing us and we started doing showcases."

One particular industry showcase brought them into contact with Gerry Leiske, who was then managing a band called Farmer's Daughter.  That group boasted a guitar player named Danick Dupelle who was looking for a change.  He warmed to the idea of joining 12-Gauge.

Danick's parents were musicians who, he says, "used to bring me to gigs and stash me behind an amplifier."  By the age of three, the Quebec native was belting out "Blue Suede Shoes," a song Emerson Drive performs today.  Danick's father gave him a guitar and showed him a few chords, and the youngster set to work, joining his parents' band at the age of 11.  He spent his teen years playing festivals and honky-tonks.

Danick traveled the world with Farmer's Daughter, opening for the likes of Kenny Rogers and Vince Gill, among others.  But, at Leiske's request, he came to Grande-Prairie to meet the boys in 12-Gauge.  "I thought, 'Wow!  These guys have great harmonies,'" he recalls of his first impression.  When they asked him to join the band, he jumped at the chance (though only after completing a Farmer's Daughter album-in-progress).

The final piece in the Emerson Drive puzzle was drummer Mike Melancon, another French-Canadian, from the town of Mont Laurier, two hours north of Montreal.  "My dad's a biker and a rock 'n' roller," he says of his background, "so I grew up listening to Black Sabbath and AC/DC."  Mike started playing drums in high school, then moved to Montreal to study the instrument, playing in cover bands on the bar circuit until his old buddy Danick called asking him to join 12-Gauge.

The early days of Mike's membership were interesting ones.  "He couldn't speak a word of English," Pat explains.  "We basically communicated through music.  After he came in, we rehearsed for four days, got the show together and performed for 3,000 people at a rodeo in Vancouver."

Leiske was in the audience that night and, duly impressed by the band's new incarnation, signed on as their manager.  The sextet renamed itself Emerson Drive, after the Emerson Trail, which crosses western Alberta and joins the Alaskan Highway.   Then they hit the road  hard.

"We'd already done a lot of touring, but we had no idea what we were in for," says Pat.  "Gerry threw us out on the road and we traveled from week to week.  We only got home for Christmas and maybe for a little break in the summertime.  It was tough, but it's what made the band what it is today."  Remarks Brad: "Making music is great, but you've got to find out if you can live together, and we've been able to do that in this form for three years.  It's a very special thing."

The band not only survived but thrived on the road, even weathering the demise of their bus with grace.  "It broke down eight hours from home, and we couldn't afford to have it towed," Brad continues.  "We left it in Calgary and sold it at auction four months later for $300.  But it cost us $200 for storage, and we'd just put on $800 worth of new tires!"  They replaced the beloved old vehicle with a 15-seat van that has yet to break down but which has been broken into, resulting in the loss of $40,000 in equipment.

Still, no amount of tough luck can dim the luster that comes with attaining the goal of a record deal and tackling the next objective  making Emerson Drive a success.

Says Pat: "We've got the chance now to go out and play for people who will be coming especially to hear our music, and that's when you realize you're getting to live your dream."

The members of Emerson Drive now live in Nashville, where they look forward to becoming part of the U.S. country music scene.  They can't wait to get back in the van, travel across the 50 states and meet a whole new family of fans and friends.


"Emerson Drive" REWORDED BIO:

A work ethic the size of Mt. Everest goes a long way toward explaining the success of Emerson Drive, an outfit that got its start in the western Alberta town of Grande-Prairie. Nothing will make or break a band like the road, and few have been forged in that crucible as fully as Emerson Drive.

"It's what you've got to do," remarks singer Brad Mates matter-of-factly. "I consider these guys as talented as any musicians I've ever run across, but talent will only take you so far. What made this work was the willingness to say goodbye to everything and just hit the highway."

They traveled in an old bus and then in a van, playing small and large clubs, to handfuls of people and packed houses, in tiny villages and big cities throughout Canada.

So when Emerson Drive hit Nashville after six years, they were ready. In fact, when the band was signed to DreamWorks Records, executives at the company, led by label head James Stroud, suggested the group do their best to capture their live show on their debut album. That directive rang like a manifesto to Emerson Drive, coming as it did in the wake of those grueling tours.

The result is Emerson Drive, which Stroud himself produced, with co-producer Julian King. ("Fall Into Me," a #3 Billboard Hot Country hit, and "How Lucky I Am" were produced by singer-songwriter Richard Marx, who has also produced tracks for Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, SHeDAISY, Chely Wright and Shane Minor, among many others.)

It demonstrates the band's finely honed instrumental skills and decidedly edgy repertoire, but perhaps more importantly, it conjures the excitement that has made Emerson Drive so popular with crowds all over Canada and in the U.S. Songs like the #5 Hot Country hit "I Should Be Sleeping," "Looking Over My Shoulder" and "It's All About You" are high-voltage fun, while "I See Heaven," "Only God (Could Stop Me Loving You)" and "Light Of Day" bring romance and lush harmonies to the mix.

The release of Emerson Drive (on May 21, 2002) was an auspicious moment in the history of an outfit that began with a high school talent contest. There, Pat joined a few buddies to form an impromptu group doing an equally impromptu song. Also on the bill was Brad, an 11th-grader singing for the first time in front of an audience. Pat and Brad quickly recognized their mutual talents and tastes, and the two soon formed a band with some classmates.

"It really got started in my parents' basement," says Brad. As they began rehearsing, they'd often indulge in teenage chatter about becoming country stars, but, he concedes, "We had no idea it would ever build into something like this."

In fact, Brad's musical background was casual. He'd soaked up both his dad's Don Williams and George Strait albums, as well as the hard rock favored by his junior high buddies. For his part, Pat had a serious interest in music early on, playing classical violin from the age of three and performing in orchestras and at festivals throughout his youth.

This pair formed the core of a seven-piece ensemble that played a couple of local gigs, including an awards show where they took in $300 just by passing the hat. The band would also cut class on Fridays to set up for that evening's show at a local club, sometimes watching as their underage friends tried unsuccessfully to sneak in.
But they soon began to take matters much more seriously. They settled on six members, used parental donations to buy a school bus they painstakingly but lovingly converted to tour-worthiness, chose the name 12-Gauge and began touring the sparsely populated region. "Almost anywhere you went involved a long ride," says Brad.

Pat's father, Lionel Allingham, managed the band for their first three years, helping them raise funds for demo recordings and making connections for performance dates. "It all happened in stages," Pat says of their early progress. "People started noticing us and we started doing showcases."

One particular industry showcase brought them into contact with Gerry Leiske, who was then managing a band called Farmer's Daughter. That group boasted a guitar player named Danick Dupelle who was looking for a change. He warmed to the idea of joining 12-Gauge.

Danick's parents were musicians who, he says, "used to bring me to gigs and stash me behind an amplifier." By the age of three, he was belting out "Blue Suede Shoes," a song Emerson Drive performs today. Danick's father gave him a guitar and showed him a few chords, and the youngster set to work, joining his parents' band at the age of 11. Growing up in Ile Perrot, Quebec, he spent his teen years playing festivals and honky-tonks.

Danick traveled the world with Farmer's Daughter, opening for the likes of Kenny Rogers and Vince Gill, among others. But, at Leiske's request, he came to Grande-Prairie to meet the boys in 12-Gauge. "I thought, 'Wow, these guys have great harmonies,'" he recalls of his first impression. When they asked him to join the band, he jumped at the chance (though only after completing a Farmer's Daughter album then in progress).

The next piece in the Emerson Drive puzzle was drummer Mike Melancon, another French Canadian, from the town of Mont Laurier, two hours north of Montreal. "My dad's a biker and a rock 'n' roller," he says of his background, "so I grew up listening to Black Sabbath and AC/DC." Mike started playing drums in high school, then moved to Montreal to study the instrument, playing in cover bands on the bar circuit until his old buddy Danick called asking him to join 12-Gauge.

The early days of Mike's membership were interesting ones. "He couldn't speak a word of English," Pat explains. "We basically communicated through music. After he came in, we rehearsed for four days, got the show together and performed for 3,000 people at a rodeo in Vancouver."

Leiske was in the audience that night and, duly impressed by the band's new incarnation, signed on as their manager. The sextet renamed itself Emerson Drive, after the Emerson Trail, which crosses western Alberta and joins the Alaskan Highway. Then they hit the road  hard.

"We'd already done a lot of touring, but we had no idea what we were in for," says Pat. "Gerry threw us out on the road and we traveled from week to week. We only got home for Christmas and maybe for a little break in the summertime. It was tough, but it's what made the band what it is today." Remarks Brad: "Making music is great, but you've got to find out if you can live together, and we've been able to do that in this form for three years. It's a very special thing."

Indeed, the band thrived on the road, even weathering the demise of their bus with grace. "It broke down eight hours from home, and we couldn't afford to have it towed," Brad continues. "We left it in Calgary and sold it at auction four months later for $300. But it cost us $200 for storage, and we'd just put on $800-worth of new tires!" They replaced the beloved old vehicle with a 15-seat van that has yet to break down but which has been broken into, resulting in the loss of $40,000 in equipment. Still, no amount of tough luck can dim the luster that comes with attaining the goal of a record deal and making Emerson Drive a success: The album rose to #13 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.

Emerson Drive also includes bassist Patrick Bourque (a fan of Tim McGraw and jazz bassists Jaco Pastorius and Marcus Miller), whose hometown is Terrebonne, Quebec, and keyboardist Dale Wallace, who grew up in Kamloops, British Columbia (and counts Alabama, Elvis Presley, Asleep At The Wheel, Journey and KISS as influences). The two joined up after Emerson Drive was recorded.

All of the members are proud to now be part of the U.S. country music scene. Though the band made an impressive showing at the 2002 Canadian Country Music Awards  earning the status of Group Or Duo Of The Year, receiving the Chevy Truck Rising Star Award and garnering All-Star Band honors for Mike  Emerson Drive also received considerable U.S. notice: They were named Top New Vocal Duo/Group by the Academy Of Country Music (2003); garnered a nomination for the CMT Flameworthy Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video Of The Year, for "Fall Into Me" (2003); and received a Billboard Music Award for New Country Artist Of The Year (2002).

But the Emerson Drive boys aren't ones to rest on those laurels, with touring still an important part of their lives. Says Pat: "We've got the chance now to go out and play for people who will be coming especially to hear our music  that's when you realize you're getting to live your dream."
This page was last updated on: March 26, 2007
Photo Credit: Universal Nashville
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