Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

On a Roll

Emerson Drive draws on early influences for new CD

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Formed in Grande Prairie, Alta., in 1995 by singer Brad Mates and comprising members hailing from Kamloops and Eastern Canada, Emerson Drive is now based in Nashville, where it recorded its latest album, Roll.

The band was nominated for a Grammy in 2007 and has won a number of Canadian Country Music Awards, Billboard Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards.

Emerson Drive has also been nominated repeatedly for Junos, including a nomination for country album of the year at this year's awards ceremony in Regina in April.

Postmedia interviewed lead vocalist Mates by phone in Nashville just as the band was gearing up for a short Western Canada tour with longtime pals Doc Walker.


Q: You're having another baby soon? Congratulations.

A: Thanks. I'm just trying to get organized before we head out on the road. April 2 is the due date. We'll be done on March 26, so as long as everything stays on course, I'll be back a week before it happens.


Q: How is life in Nashville these days?

A: It's different. I've been living for 11 years off and on between Alberta and here. It was the place for us to be at the beginning for our career. You'd think after living somewhere for an extended amount of time that you would feel like you dug some roots and you felt a little more at home.

I don't know what it is about being (from) Alberta, or Canada for that matter -- it's in your blood. I'm finding more of an appreciation each year for being Canadian and being able to do this as a living in both countries. It's great.


Q: Congratulations on the Juno nomination. Have you lost track of how many awards you've been nominated for but haven't won?

A: Ha, ha. Yeah. That's been the story of our career. We've won some great awards but the ones we remember the most are the Junos and the Grammy in 2007 that we lost to this band called The Eagles. It's one of those things where you're proud you're in the company you're in. To have a song or an album nominated is over the top anyway, whether you win or you don't.


Q: How would you describe Roll?

A: I look back at 1995 to 2000. Those were the years where we were finding out who we were as musicians. We were all teenagers going into our 20s. It was an incredible time, and it was different genres of music that played a big influence on our sound early on.

I really feel like Roll is going back to those sounds and influences we had back then. We played in clubs 300 days out of the year back then, and as a country band, club owners asked you to play rock or alternative sets to end the nights. It was a really easy fit for us.


Q: How would you describe your friendship with Doc Walker?

A: Very similar backgrounds. Those boys are from Manitoba and the different steps and choices and bars are wrapped into being a road musician and trying to get a record deal. The respect was there from Day 1. We've known the guys for almost 17 years.

We've never shared the same stage before, which is why this whole tour is a really cool concept. At the end of the day, it's nice to look back on two careers that started out in similar ways and have been able to withstand the rigours of the music business and the ups and downs. It's pretty cool that way.


Emerson Drive, Doc Walker and Aaron Pritchett are on the CMT Hitlist Tour that comes to MTS Centre March 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $49.50 to $59.50 at Ticketmaster.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2013 C6

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