Tonic – Interview [2003]

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Tonic

Emerson Hart of Tonic goes around the horn.

So you’re going to be in Colorado.

Yeah we are doing a VH1 something there. It’s a good chance to get to ski.

And then straight to a tour.

Yep, we hit the road in March.

Do you get excited about Grammy nominations?

They are very cool, man. I didn’t expect to be thrown into the category of my heroes who I grew up with. That’s a huge thing for me. It’s a really great nod, it’s our third record and to have people acknowledge it and consider it great enough for the Grammys it’s an honor. It shows it’s about being recognized by your peers and not about the hype machine.

What’s it like to have your baby get the recognition?

I know, it’s the ultimate honor student. It’s the ultimate spelling bee for your child.

Back to the hype machine, on our site someone asked ‘why aren’t Tonic a household name?’

That is a huge compliment as well. To be able to make a living at your job is a great thing. We aren’t the biggest band in the world, there is no doubt about it, but the problem is that we’ve been on some labels that haven’t been great at doing their gig. Our first label was great and did a good job, but Universal is everything but going under and that is one of the biggest labels in the world. You just have to roll with the punches. It’s not going to stop me from writing music or doing what I love to do. We have to change with the business.

I read a previous interview where you said you get holed up and just write, is that the entire process for songs or do you write all the time?

I do try and get a structure where I can write even if I don’t come up with anything. If there are periods where I am dry and then all of the sudden I’ll get this amazing idea and it all comes out. That is just the way it is. There is no rhyme or reason to when it comes and when it comes I just obey it.

I write different stuff and its tough to force it. Sometimes when you give up things come to you.

I think the creative brain is a muscle and we have to always try to keep it awake and keep it going. I think if you always try to work on it, eventually it comes around.

Do you feel pressure to try and out do yourself?

No I don’t. I don’t feel any pressure because I feel they are all on their own platform. Every work stands on its own.

Was bringing in producer Bob Rock because it was a chore to self-produce your previous album and/or because you wanted to focus on the music alone?

Well the last album was a choir to produce. I enjoyed producing Sugar, it was amazing, but working with Bob Rock was a no brainer. He is a phenomenal producer and artist.

Does it take focus away when you produced?

It does take some focus away because you are doing the logistical stuff.

How much did that experience of producing play into your knowledge this time around?

I think you carry it in your experience, but you also carry in your bruises so you know what not to do.

New respect for producers?

Definitely a new respect.

This album you guys took it up a notch like “Roses”, was it planned or did it just happen?

When it comes I just obey it. This record wasn’t planned and just happens to be a bit heavier. It’s a real honest record for me lyrically. There is no bullshit about it.

The one track I’m most curious about is “Irish”.

It is a song we played live for years. Our fans just wanted us to record it and we did. It’s an old story about how the English would come over and not let them teach their kids Galiec but would have them fight wars for them and couldn’t raise their children or have any land. It is about the common oppression that happened then.

And the line about killing someone you’ve never seen and therefore can’t have any hatred against is tough to swallow.

Yep. It’s true.

That’s not your typical rock track.

Nope, it isn’t. (Laughs)

The tracks seem very personal.

I have to say that every song I write is personal. I can’t really connect to stuff that doesn’t make me feel something. That would be very unfair to release art into the world and not have responsibility of creating something. I’d be wasting everyone’s time.

Do you get over opening yourself up to the world? Is it easy or does it get easier?

I don’t think about it. It all comes back to being responsible when creating art and I think you have to push the boundaries and I think that just happens naturally. After I write a song and I’m editing if something makes me feel uncomfortable then I know I have to keep it in. That is important.

What’s it like knowing that there are people out there that your song is an anthem for a certain time of their life?

It’s a huge honor to be a part of someone’s life like that. To me it’s just huge. I’ve had thoughts in my head and it’s become someone’s marriage, or someone’s pain, or good times or bad times. That is what this is all about.

What tracks moved you growing up?

“Dream On” by Aerosmith and “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac and so many, there is so much and anything-off Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John.

Can you ever accept that you as an artist have people now thinking of your songs as you do “Dream On”?

I know. We get that too especially with “If You Can Only See” where someone will say that is when he or she met their wife. That is what a record is, a recording in time. It’s a mirror into the songwriter’s life. That is pretty bad-ass.

Do you think about the future?

Tonic has been together for seven years I guess and I think we’ll know when its time to stop. It becomes fairly obvious and until that time I’m just going to keep going. I encourage everyone to do things away from the band. I wrote the theme song for American Dreams the TV show and do soundtrack work. I think it’s important to explore other things, but for now Tonic is still kicking.

Now there seems no reason to quit because you get too old, Rolling Stones.

The rules have definitely changed. If you can still write kick ass songs but can’t rock to them, then someone else will. I’ll do it as long as I can and as long as people keep digging our music than I’ll keep doing it.

+ charlie craine

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