Findyourfav.com » Interviews » Interview: TONIC’s Emerson Hart on family, writing and the band’s journey so far
Interview: TONIC’s Emerson Hart on family, writing and the band’s journey so far

Findyourfav Interview with Emerson HartThe thought of starting a conversation about music with Emerson Hart was very intimidating at first – after all, he wrote some of my favorite songs over the last two decades – but that feeling quickly transformed into comfort when he reached out his hand and introduced himself just before our interview last Friday afternoon at Woodinville’s Chateau Ste Michelle.

It was the first show of a summer tour featuring Emerson and his band Tonic alongside fellow 90s and early 2000s hit-makers, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Smash Mouth.

“Sorry it took me so long,” he said as he sat down, “I was talking to my wife.”

As he sat down for our interview, we talked about how important that was to him. “Family comes first before anything in my life. My daughter and my wife are my priorities, that’s for sure.”

When he’s not with his family in Nashville working on solo or co-writing projects, Emerson is out on the road with his lifelong friends and Tonic bandmates, guitarist Jeff Russo and bassist Dan Lavery. They have been on quite the journey over the years. After they hit mainstream fame with their single, “If You Could Only See,” the band toured relentlessly and went on to release two more successful albums earning them two Grammy nominations.

The excessive touring eventually wore on the band and inevitably led to a 5-year hiatus. “We didn’t really break up because we’d still talk every week.” Emerson continued, “It was just like we were separated, but not really divorced.”

“Then, all of the sudden, I just started hearing that music in my head again – songs that would sound like Tonic and that’s how we got back together. It wasn’t even really for financial reasons – it was just emotionally there was something missing.”

I think it’s safe to say that, with this kind of magnetic chemistry, Tonic is still just uncovering what their musical legacy will be. The band is currently touring all over the country and it’s a show you won’t want to miss! Please enjoy the rest of my conversation with Emerson Hart below!

 

It’s your first night on tour with these guys!
Emerson: It is! It’s going to be fun, it’s good to see Glen. We do solo shows together every once in awhile, so it’ll be fun to have a summer together and relax and check out music.

Would you say that the solo thing more challenging?
Emerson: It’s actually easier because I’ll leave home on a Friday night or a Saturday morning, go do my show and then I’m back on a plane to Nashville on Sunday morning.

Findyourfav Interview with Emerson HartNashville… Is that where you’re living now?
Emerson: Yeah, for 15 years. That’s my home.

Great music scene!
Emerson: It’s the best!

Do you ever co-write?
Emerson: I do, I write for Sony. About three days a week I’ll do co-writes with younger artists or other writers and then Thursday, Friday I’ll demo. The next week I’ll take a two day write and then work on Tonic for two days and then my stuff for a day. I have to stay busy!

As you’ve toured with Tonic over the years, have you noticed any changes in the crowds? Is it cool to see how they’ve grown with you?
Emerson: Yeah, that’s been great! I think that’s probably one of the changes that I’ve really enjoyed – meeting fans who have children who were conceived to our first record – that’s always funny! And they’re teenagers! [laughs]

That’s been really, really cool. Watching them grow and experience us as we change too.

How has the dynamic of your band changed?
Emerson: I think our priorities are different. We are really efficient with our time. We won’t sit and putter around in the studio for a week. We’ll go into the studio knowing exactly what we want to get at and attack it so we can spend time with our families. It’s good too because we go back and forth – they guys will come to Nashville or I’ll go to LA for a week. We’re more efficient…that sounds totally un-rock to say, but we are definitely more efficient.

Do you feel like you’re making music for different reasons now in comparison to when you started out?
Emerson: That depends. On the writing side of my career for other artists – that reason is totally different. That is to either help younger artists understand how things are put together or with a very experienced writer, learn how to be a better writer because you constantly grow as you get older as a writer. With Tonic, the goal is always inspiration. That will never change, I don’t think. But you have to do it every day in order for the inspiration to show up or you’re just wasting everybody’s time.

Is it weird to hear someone else sing your songs when you write for another artist?
Emerson: No, I think it’s really great. It’s like having a built-in veil. The biggest challenge is having to figure out what is the right thing to say for that artist. And that just comes from spending time with them and getting to know them a little bit. If it’s other writers, that’s even more challenging, which I love, because then we’re just writing for the song and trying to figure out what is that part of the ether that will fit in there.

Findyourfav Interviews Emerson Hart

Tonic took a break for awhile…what brought you back together?
Emerson: I think – I didn’t really have anything to say with the band anymore. I was just so tired. I mean, 250 shows a year for 10 or 11 years. It took the ass out of me. I didn’t have anything to say, I was just kind of dead. We all needed some time to live a life.

We didn’t really break up because we’d still talk every week. It was just like we were separated, but not really divorced. Then, all of the sudden, I just started hearing that music in my head again – songs that would sound like Tonic and that’s how we got back together. It wasn’t even really for financial reasons – it was just emotionally there was something missing.

Have any of your songs surprised you with how successful they got?
Emerson: All of them. Any number one we’ve had – it has always been a surprise. I didn’t have any idea that anything would work. There’s just no way that you know. Some of the songs that I love the most never did anything other than being released and I love playing them. That’s a really weird equation.

I can write a song with a couple of other writers in Nashville and I’ll think it’s no good, or just an okay song. And then everybody loves it or it gets put on hold because they’re gonna cut it on their record and I’m like, “I know nothing.”

What are your go-to albums?
Emerson: I really love that new Sam Hunt record. Chris Young’s new record is astounding. Older records…I still run to the well with the first two Free records. It’s been hard…I’ve taken a break from a lot of the older music I grew up with. I started to burn on it, I don’t know why that happened. Even though they’re great records. I’m in the middle of about a year-long hiatus from some of the classics because I don’t want to get to a point where I don’t want to hear them ever again. I go in spurts. Sometimes I’m just quiet and I don’t listen to the radio at all because I’ve just been writing all week and I don’t want to hear anymore in my head.



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