For well over a decade, Emerson Drive has been a staple in the country music community, known for being a band to crank out the hits, deliver electrifying stage shows and wow audiences all across North America. During their evolving career, the Canadian band has scored numerous hits such as “I Should Be Sleeping,” “Fall Into Me,” “Last One Standing” and their emotional, chart-topping ballad, “Moments.”
Emerson Drive has racked up countless award nominations in both the U.S. country market at the ACM’s and CMA’s, as well as in Canada where they have picked up multiple trophies for Group or Duo of the Year from the CCMA (Canadian Country Music Association). But it was their 2007 hit, “Moments,” that pushed Emerson Drive over the top in country music. The powerful song validated the talent and passion of the band’s drive to succeed in the business they know and love.
“Looking back 10 years ago and seeing where our career first started with ‘I Should Be Sleeping’ and knowing that there was a movement going around us as a new act on the scene … I just remember how exciting and crazy it was, all at the same time,” recalls Emerson Drive’s lead vocalist and founding member, Brad Mates. “We were out there on the road over 240 days of the year for the first six years. I just remember those times being kind of eyes wide open, taking everything in. It was such a great first few years, and now fast forward 10 or 11 years, we’re still playing music and making music. Longevity has always been a goal for me in this band, so to think we’ve now been doing it for 17 years – straight out of high school – is the ultimate. We’re doing something right.”
The band did in fact do something right repeatedly over the years, resulting in the release of several successful studio albums including their Nashville debut, Emerson Drive, back in 2002, What If? in 2004, their 2006 release Countrified and 2009’s Believe.
“After the Believe album was done, it was kind of a weird time,” notes the band’s guitarist Danick Dupelle. “We didn’t have a single in the States, but that’s when Brad had a kid and [our fiddle player] David had his kids. We started slowing down and coming off the road a little bit, and it really opened up a lot of doors for some of us starting to write again. We never had the time before to write songs. We were always so busy. I started to concentrate on writing, and in one year, I think that I wrote 40-something songs. It felt good to finally have the chance to do it.”
After taking a two year break from recording new music, Emerson Drive – comprised of Mates (lead vocals), Dupelle (guitar, background vocals), David Pichette (fiddle), Mike Melancon (drums) and Dale Wallace (keyboard, background vocals) – felt the time was right to head back into the studio to make a new record, but this time under their own supervision without involving a record label. They had the songs, the experience and the drive to make the music in their hearts that their fans were waiting patiently to hear.
Roll, an 11-track album filled with songs mostly penned by the band, and co-produced by Emerson Drive and David Kalmusky, shows the band’s growth and maturity over the past decade with its lyrical content, vocal range and instrumentation that has made them one of country music’s most loved bands of their time.
“I think we’re at a point now in our career where we don’t really have a record label overseeing the project, which puts you in a spot where ultimately you get to decide every song that goes on and every lyric that gets written and the sound that comes out of the band, as well,” explains Mates. “That’s probably one of the key factors in us recording music that we feel might possibly be the strongest content that we’ve done yet for each individual in the band and as a band itself. If it works, we win. If it doesn’t work, at least all the weight is on our shoulders and you can’t kind of point the fingers at anybody else.”
“We’re happy about it,” adds Dupelle. “For the first time, we can call this our record.”
“We felt it was time to turn this thing up a bit and find a place where we are really identifying the instrumentation that we have in the group,” Mates says. “I really feel like that sets us apart from everybody else. I think we know our fan base fairly well, and I know that there are a lot of industry people out there who have heard Emerson Drive over the past decade. I really feel like this is the album and the sound that will keep our band moving forward for another 10 years.”
As they do look ahead to the future, Emerson Drive still sees the touring being front and center. Next year, the band will criss-cross Canada in support of the new project, along with fellow Canadian band Doc Walker on the CMT Hitlist Tour 2013, which starts in March.
“Touring life is still exciting,” says Mates who has been on the road with his bandmates since fresh out of high school in 1995. “I don’t think we would be doing this still today if it wasn’t exciting still. I think that the key element that we’ve always had is the enthusiasm that all of us put into a show and interacting with our fan base and the people who maybe haven’t seen the band play before, to win them over. That has been a goal of ours … to make sure whoever’s there, they’re going to leave knowing that the next time we come back through town, they’re going to buy another ticket or buy a CD when they leave the concert. We always knew if we could play really well live, we’d win in a few different areas that would keep us moving forward.”
And living the dream keeps Emerson Drive moving forward with their career that is no where near being over. “I see lots of great possibilities for the band in the future,” Mates says. “I’ve always felt this band has taken a step forward each year. I feel like we’re recording the best music that we have yet, which can take you in many different places if it gets played in front of the right people. I look forward to seeing what happens in the coming years because there are possibilities for this group to stretch out even further than it’s gone before.”
“I think we’re all the happiest now than we’ve ever been in this band,” Dupelle adds with a smile. “We are truly able to enjoy what we do and love what we are doing now by writing songs and recording music that has our stamp on it. It’s been the best of both worlds.”