Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 28, 2002

An interview with Emerson Drive

By Ryan Gueningsman

Emerson Drive has no direct connection to Winstock ­ but there is a chance the group may be signed for Winstock's 10th anniversary next June.

They performed at the Minnesota State Fair this year. I had a chance to talk to the group, which hails from Canada, after one of their performances.

There are only a few bands in country music who have stood strong enough to make it in the business. Past Winstock performers Sawyer Brown, which just celebrated its 20th year together, Diamond Rio, and powerhouse band Alabama, which is soon retiring, are some of the notable ones.

Emerson Drive is looking to join those ranks.

The six members ­ lead singer Brad Mates, fiddler Pat Allingham, drummer Mike Melancon, keyboard player and guitarist Chris Hartman, bass player Patrick Bourque, and guitar player Danick Dupelle ­ are all from Canada.

Although they all haven't been performing together since the beginning of the band ­ Bourque just joined the band three weeks ago after original bass player Jeff Loberg left to pursue his songwriting ­ they all have music in their background.

"It started in grade 11 in high school," Mates said. "We got together after a talent show and it was eight or nine of us jamming to stuff we heard on the radio in my basement, and it was a fun thing for a while.

After high school, the guys decided to 'get serious' about it, and see if they could make a living in the music business.

"After we finished grade 12 in high school, we decided to hit the road. We toured for the next five years in clubs, six nights a week, two to three hundred days a year, and got a record deal two years ago with DreamWorks Nashville," Mates said.

With the final line-up in place, and their dues seemingly paid, Emerson Drive is set upon getting their music out to fans and soon-to-be fans.

"It's just been a whirlwind ­ it's been great," Mates said.

Everyone in Emerson Drive comes from a different background. From classical music training, to George Strait, as well as AC/DC, each member of the band brings a little something different.

"Everybody's a little bit different," Allingham said about the bands influences. "I grew up listening to rock music, and I was also playing classical music.

"Danick is the real traditional country guy in the band. He played in his parents band growing up and listened to Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.

"Brad went through kind of a country thing and a rock thing. Chris is classically trained. Mike and Pat both went to college together for their musical talants ­ Patrick on bass and Mike on drums, and their influences vary from jazz to funk to rock ­ and honestly not very much country.

"There's not a very big country scene in Montreal," Allingham said.

Their first self-titled album was released in May of this year, and right off the bat produced a top-five hit with "I Should Be Sleeping."

"It was pretty amazing ­ we weren't expecting it," Mates said of the success of "I Should Be Sleeping."

"We had a goal to have, maybe, a top 25 or even 20 song. It hit 20 and we were like 'great, it's still climbing.' Than it went 15, 10, and eventually five, and we couldn't believe it.

"The coolest thing now is that people sing the words at our shows," he said.

After the success of their first single, "Fall Into Me" was recently released and is at number thirty-one on both charts.

"We had actually had the whole album done," Hartman said. "But DreamWorks came up with two extra songs after we were all set and done, and one of them was "Fall Into Me." Noted producer Richard Marx heard the song as well and wanted to be involved with it.

"We quickly recorded it in two days, and it turned out really well for us," he said.

Their next single will probably be a ballad. The song "Only God (Could Stop Me Loving You)" stands a real strong chance of being the third single, Mates said.

He also noted that the guys are already looking for songs for their second album.

"We're excited to start a new project cause you always want to beat the one before," Mates said.

"We look for a style and songs that fit us as a band," Allingham said. "We have a few songwriters in the band, and we also use outside material ­ it just depends where the motivation is.

"It's looking for the best overall picture we're trying to paint."

"It seems like in the past ten years, there haven't been too many acts that have made it," Mates said. "We want to have longevity in this, and be another Diamond Rio or Alabama.

"We'll keep making music that people like, and as long as they buy the records, and we can still play for them, that's what counts."

Emerson Drive will be opening for Trick Pony at the Midwest Wireless Center in Mankato Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.

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