Emerson Drive is gearing up to head out on the 2nd leg of the Tilt A Wheel Tour. We had a chance to chat with Brad last week on how the first leg went, how touring has changed over the years and new music. Here is how it went down.
Corey: Brad, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with Sound Check today. Your about to embark on the 2nd leg of your Tilt A Wheel Tour that brings you into Ontario and the eastern Canada market. Maybe tell us how the western swing went and what the eastern folks have to look forward to?
Brad: Thanks, Ya we are pretty excited to get back to the East. First run was great. A couple of the boys are from Montreal so it’s kind of nice to roll through some places where their family and friends can drive to come see us. So it’s all good. And ya, the first leg was great out West, its funny when you do a run like that in March. You’re usually pretty sceptical about the weather. This time around it was crazy, it was like we were driving around in late spring with hardly any snow on the ground. So that side of it was ideal and the crowds were great. It goes by quickly when you don’t tour as much anymore.
Corey: Great way to lead into the next question. How has the touring changed for Emerson Drive since the early days when you were on the road 230+ Days a year to playing more like 30-50 times a year now?
Brad: Well, we were lucky enough when we first started out of high school we were 17 -18 year olds. From that point up till our late 20’s nobody was married and nobody had any kids. That’s a pretty huge aspect to be able to travel that many days out of the year without feeling the family pull and finding the balance. We were pretty fortunate that way because we were just able to pound away at the road year after year. It probably allowed us to work harder than some other people at that time and also allowed us to build a really great fan base in both Canada and the US through the early years. Now for me personally I have a couple kids and I am married. We do about 30-35 shows a year so it’s a pretty big change. I am not going to lie to you, I love this time of my life where I am able to be home and spend time with my kids. Dad still has a cool job that he loves, and that he gets to go out and play for a few months a year.
Corey: We are starting to hit that busy time of year with Festival season right around the corner in both the US and Canada tell us about the excitement of summer and what it does to touring?
Brad: Ya, I have always enjoyed this time of the year. It really is the time where you can play a Fair one day then move to one of the bigger festivals the next and finish the week off in a Theatre style show. I have always enjoyed how much the country market has changed.
Corey: I ask this of all the artists I chat with, maybe tell us how Social Media has changed the landscape of the music world, for a new emerging artist as well as someone established like yourself. We live in a day and age where with the outlets we have we can record something today and have it out to our fans almost instantaneously.
Brad: Ya for sure, I think we are one of the groups where we will look back on our career and we will be one of the handful of people that was able to go through a major change in the music industry. From basically 2001 for the next 5 years is when everything kind of changed. An example is we played fairs in 2002 and we would have kids show up after the shows in the autograph line with blank discs with our names written on them in black sharpie marker. Back then you really didn’t think of it but that was kind of the time when downloading music was just starting. Napster was gaining huge popularity and nobody really knew what was happening or where it was going? Over the course of the next few years it was really just trying to stay with the curve and depending if you wanted to take a chance and stay ahead of it but it just changed so much year after year. From the early days when we first got signed and we were sitting in a conference room at the label meetings and social media never brought up and if it did it was something small about something on MySpace. To the point now where it’s the first thing we talk about in those meetings and it’s the last thing we talk about. Now a days, your right when it comes to the music side of things. This album is an EP, so this will kinda be our first go at that. We all feel it gives our fans and the industry a chance to hear more Emerson Drive music throughout the year more so than you normally would. Bottom line I think we just feel it’s good for us. We are still a touring act and I think that’s what is important these days from when things were changing so much is that we understand the touring aspects of this business and how it works. If people are getting our music for free I can guarantee there is a really good chance that they are buying a ticket to one of the shows. And they will probably buy a piece of merchandise and maybe one of the physical CD’s. People still love to buy music if it is right there and easy to grab. It’s still a fun business to be in because it doesn’t get monotonous any time of the year.
Corey: So we touched on how the business side of the industry has changed. Let’s change gears and go to how the Music side of the business has also changed. Who maybe you have been working with over the years has changed and how the song writing processes have changed?
Brad: We have been fortunate over the years to work with a different producer on each album except these last two. I look at that as a learning process. Every single person we have worked with as a producer has played an instrumental part in helping us fine tune our sound and explore new areas that you may not have done if you had stayed with the same person or the same team all the time. So that side of it has been really great Up until these last few years we have always really concentrated on both finding music from outside and writing within as well. It’s been a process over the years. From day one we have always enjoyed writing our own songs but we weren’t the type of group that wanted to keep all the songs on the album 100% written by us. We knew there was some great music out there from other songwriters maybe we would have a chance to record them and put them on our record. If it hadn’t been for our first two singles that were outside songs I don’t know if we would have the same success now if it wasn’t for Should Have Been Sleeping and Follow Me. Those were two top five singles in both the US and Canada. Basically it was a huge kick start to our careers so I love the idea to still be able to utilize outside writers. But now we are seeing more of our own music staying on the albums which I think is just one of those process you go through as a writer and a musician. Just learning and growing and becoming better at it all the time. And also going from your 20’ to your 30’s for me is a pretty big difference when it comes to what you’re singing about or writing about. I still love to be able to pull stuff from back home from Northern Alberta and it really represents who I am as a person and as a singer. That part has always been interesting to me as well. To find that connection that you have with yourself and how it goes into the music.
Corey: In the last 19 years you guys have been in the industry the music has changed like we have said and we are listening to the non-traditional country as a more mainstream sound such as Florida Georgia Line. Country is the new popular music and selling physical albums is tough these days.
Brad: I think when you see people saying that others are “selling out” to sell music, nowadays you have to stand back and actually applauded that. It’s a pretty hard thing to sell a whole bunch of physical product out there. If you’re able to do it then you’re doing something that people want to hear. Back in the day when we first started out selling a million copies was kind of the big number. Nowadays if you hit 200,000 in sales it’s like hitting a million back in the day. We have always been able to stick with an Emerson Drive Sound because we are a band. And to be able to tweak that each album and just better yourself that’s what it comes down at the end of the day. I have always enjoyed the longevity part of our career. Kind of like you touched on we are going on 20 years strong and still have some years ahead of us which is pretty exciting.
Corey: You guys have changed labels a few times. Both in the good and bad times. Even the big names like Reba changes labels is that the business side of the music world that is sometimes harder to deal with rather than just playing music?
Brad: I think I did the first go around no question. We all felt that everything was going to come to a complete halt. When you go from a major label and what they stood for in the early 2000’s and then you go to an independent label there is a drastic change. But I can tell you that we went from Dreamworks which we were on for almost 5 years to Midis Records which was an independent label and we got our first ever #1 out of that. At the time we thought it was going to throw the breaks on and end up in the ditch but the great thing about this band is we have always been able to be self-contained and work as hard as we want as a group. We built a great fan base from our first two singles and because of that we were still able to tour and make music and have our career still move forward. But ya there are a lot of things out of your control in this business and we have gone through a bunch of them. Nowadays I don’t get upset about that kind of stuff as much as I did in my 20’s. I am a huge believer of the stars aligning and just being prepared in whatever you do in life.
Corey: Your new single Who We Are hit radio a month or so ago and has been climbing the charts. Maybe let us now how this one came together and how excited you are to get the EP out?
Brad: Ya we kind of have a cool thing going with Tebey, Danick and myself over the last few years for writing we got together on the album before this one. We sat down about a dozen times and every time we sat down something good would come out of the writing session. This is just another example of three people that are kind of in the same mind set right now and we feed off one another when it comes to music. Stuff that I can obviously relate to because most of the lyrics in the single right now has basically stuff to do with me growing up in the northern part of the country, just an easy going laid back type of lifestyle. Teddy Gentry from Alabama when he produced one of our albums, that was his biggest model “Keep It Simple” and it’s sometimes hard to do that. You get away from that every once in a while with the production and writing but if you can come back to that and find something that works and sounds good it’s a win, win.
Corey: What are you listening to these days in the truck or on your iPod.
Brad: Honestly my son is 5 and is in kindergarten and I drive him to school a couple days a week and you’re going to laugh but his favorite disc right now would be Randy Houser. My daughter is 2 and my son being 5 know most of the lyrics to that album so it stays in my truck. It’s kinda funny to hear them sing that’s for sure.
Corey: Well Brad, Thanks for taking the time, we are looking forward to seeing you in Ontario and can’t wait to hear the new stuff live.
Brad: Hey, thanks for taking the time we really appreciate it.
Corey Kelly / @CoreyKelly76
Catch Brad and the rest of Emerson Drive while they wrap up the east coast swing of the Tilt A Whirl Tour.
April 17 – The Ranch – Barrie
April 18 – Oshawa Music Hall – Oshawa
Apirl 20 – The Music Hall – London
April 22 – The Venue – Peterbourgh
April 24 – Casino New Brunswick – Moncton
April 25 – Casino Nova Scotia – Halifax
July 25 – Capital Country Fest – with Brett Kissel, Erik Dylan & Abby Stewart