When Brad Mates entered a high school talent contest on February 12, 1995, in his hometown of Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, he formed a group named 12 Gauge after recruiting fellow musicians, Pat Allingham, Chris Hartman, and Steven Swager. The men also recruited a pair of guitarists, Dan Binns and David Switzer. Joining the group was bassist Jeff Loberg and drummer Remi Barre. Together, they competed in additional competitions, including a 1996 win they earned at a local Battle of the Bands contest. The win earned the group their first opportunity to produce their first EP, Open Season.
As 12 Gauge
While still as 12 Gauge, the group independently released their first studio album, Until You Walk the Tracks, in 1997. Across Canada, the group toured to support their album, managing to chart two songs in the process. “Some Trains Never Come” became a number thirty-six hit on the RPM Country Tracks in 1998. Mates and his bandmates earned a nomination for Top New Group or Duo at the RPM Big Country Awards but the win went to Montana Sky instead. 1998 was also the year that saw a lineup change. Remi Marre was briefly replaced by Derrick Kuzernchuk before Mike Melancon became the band’s new drummer. Dan Binns also left and was replaced by Dan Bauman. David Switzer was later replaced by Danick Dupelle right after the band hired a new manager, Gerry Leiske.
As Emerson Drive
In addition to a new lineup and a new manager, the band also took on a new name, Emerson Drive. As a group, they also moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1999. The reason for the name change was 12 Gauge was also the name of an American rapper. As a name, Emerson Drive was chosen after the Emerson Trail that treks across Western Alberta before joining up with the Alaska Highway.
While in Nashville, Emerson Drive earned a record deal with DreamWorks Records. Their self-titled debut album was supposed to be released in January 2002, but the label found two new songs they wanted Emerson Drive to record, along with the production assistance of Richard Marx. Prior to the release of the album, “I Should Be Sleeping” was Emerson Drive’s American debut single, which peaked as high as number four on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. “Fall into Me” was the follow-up single, which was one of the two new songs Marx produced for them. It became a number three hit on the same billboard chart. Both songs also charted in Canada but only at number forty and at number thirty-two, respectively.
Emerson Drive was recognized by the Academy of Country Music as 2002’s Top New Vocal Duo or Group of the year. It also won Top New Artist at the Radio & Records Year-End Awards. According to the Canadian Country Music Association, the band won Group or Duo of the Year, as well as its Chevy Trucks Rising Star Award. Despite the success, 2002 also witnessed another lineup change as Jeff Loberg left to pursue a career in songwriting. He was replaced by Patrick Bourque. Chris Hartman also left the band to go back to school and was replaced by Dal Wallace in 2003. David Pichette replaced Pat Allingham, who left to spend more time at home with his family.
Emerson Drive’s second album, What If? was released on July 10, 2004. Its first single, Waitin’ on Me” was a Canadian release only in 2003, followed by 2004’s “Last One Standing.” The second of these two singles were also released in the US. When Emerson Drive toured with Shania Twain for her Up! Tour as the opening act, the popularity of the group soared. The tour began in the fall of 2003 and ended during the summer of 2004. In the meantime, they performed twice at the Grand Ole Opry.
Unfortunately for Emerson Drive, Dreamworks Nashville, the parent label of DreamWorks Records, was bought out by Universal Music Group. Although there were two more singles released from What If? in Canada through its Canadian division in 2005, Dreamworks Nashville was shut down entirely and the band was now in need of a new recording contract. Before 2005 was over, Midas Records Nashville signed Emerson Drive. A third studio album, Countrified was released in the fall of 2006. It produced a series of big hits, including “Moments,” which became the group’s first number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. The album itself earned a series of rave reviews, including a series of nominations and wins. In 2007, the Canadian Country Music Awards recognized Emerson Drive as Group or Duo of the Year.
After resigning from Emerson Drive in August 2007 as their bassist, Patrick Bourque committed suicide. When the members of Emerson Drive learned of his death, they were en route to a concert in Nebraska. In interviews, the band admitted they knew Bourque had been dealing with depression but there was nothing they could do for him when he made the decision to quit the band and end his life at just thirty years old. Despite the shocking news, Emerson Drive continued touring, performing, and recording. According to their peers, Emerson Drive was regarded as one of the best bands heard in a long time, especially when performing in concert.
To Believe or Not to Believe
In 2008, Emerson Drive began to work on their sixth studio album, Believe. Due to a serious dispute the band had with Midas Records, they were left without an American-based label. However, they were signed with Open Road Recordings and the album was still able to be released, but only in Canada at that time. It produced three more top ten hits in the nation for the band, keeping their name on top, at least as a Canadian fan favorite. American fans who kept in touch, had no trouble getting their hands on Believe, both before it was officially available for the US market and after. Now in 2022, Emerson Drive has a total of seven studio albums to their credit, as well as a compilation album, and an EP. Of the thirty-seven singles released, only three of them failed to chart. The roster has also changed but the group continues to record and tour to this day.
Top 10 Emerson Drive Songs
# 10 – A Good Man
In 2006 from Countrified, “A Good Man” was a musical statement that he does what he can to be as the title of the song suggests. By the end of the song, it’s his desire to be fondly remembered as a man who was there for his family and friends once he passes on. It was a song the fans related to, even as some may admit they couldn’t care less but deep down they usually do. It’s typical human nature to want to leave a good impression, even if the odds seem too impossible to do it at times. On the Canadian Country Tracks chart, “A Good Man” peaked as high as number five. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it was a number seventeen hit.
# 9 – You Still Own Me
Johnny Reid’s 2005 recording of “You Still Own Me” was covered in 2007 by Emerson Drive as one of the band’s hit recordings from their third studio album, Countrified. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-two. Both artists were signed to Open Road Recordings at the time. What Reid turned into a music video favorite among Canadian fans, Emerson Drive turned into a hit on the charts. The band performed this live on the Grand Ole Opry when it was shot as a music video, illustrating why they’re such a delight to watch in concert. As a tune, “You Still Own Me” depicted a man seeming to enjoy a single life but also realizing his heart still belonged to his former love interest as if she still owned it.
# 8 – This Kind of Beautiful
In 2010, “This Kind of Beautiful” was released as a single by Emerson Drive’s album, Believe. This upbeat, yet heartwarming song about that special lady in a man’s life was further enhanced by the group’s music video. In the footage, the wives of lead singer Brad Mates and drummer Mike Melanson were featured, as well as fiddler David Pichette’s daughter. On the Canadian Hot 100, “This Kind of Beautiful” charted as high as number eighty. While the performance on the music chart may not have made a big impression, this song of love and admiration was nothing short of awesome among the listening fans who found “This Kind of Beautiful” a personal favorite.
#7 – Belongs to You
“Belongs to You” was a powerful, piano ballad that was released in late 2008 as the lead single from Emerson Drive’s album, Believe. It was a modest hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, peaking as high as number thirty-two. On the Canadian Hot 100, it peaked as high as number seventy-three. The lyrical performance of a man’s personal sacrifice on behalf of his love interest was sweet enough to be used as a wedding track among several couples who felt this made a great first dance song.
#6 – I Love this Road
As a single, “I Love this Road” served as a great message about learning how to make the most out of the journey called life. It became a number six hit on the Canadian Country Tracks chart in 2009, as well as a number eighty-six hit on the Canadian Hot 100. From the album, Believe, even though the single didn’t climb high on the music charts, it made a big impression on both Canadian and American fans. As worded by Emerson Drive, sometimes even a wrong turn can lead you down a road of mystery that’s worth exploring.
#5 – Last One Standing
Released in January 2004, “Last One Standing” was the first single from the album, What If? On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it became a number twenty-one hit. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number eighty-nine. As a song addressing his love interest, the promise to be the last man standing sought to win her over as that one person she can depend on as a life partner. Beautifully sung as a song of encouragement and support, the fan base easily found “Last One Standing” as an inspirational favorite. Among some of the Christian fan base who also have a love for country music, this song has often been tweaked as a contemporary gospel sung at local churches.
#4 – I Should Be Sleeping
In 2001, “I Should Be Sleeping” was the first hit single released from the group’s debut album. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it peaked as high as number four. It also became their first crossover hit by peaking at number thirty-five on the US Billboard Hot 100. This song was an immense favorite when it was first released and remains as a favorite today. Instead of sleeping his nights through, the narrator admitted his love interest was the main reason why he’s been staying awake. As an upbeat love song, “I Should Be Sleeping” became an easy favorite that’s often requested by country music fans upon the approach of special occasions such as Valentine’s Day.
#3 – She’s My Kind of Crazy
In Canada, “She’s My Kind of Crazy” became a certified gold hit. Released in 2012, it was the first single from the group’s seventh studio album, Roll. On the Canadian Hot 100, it became a number thirty-seven hit. As a song about his love interest, “She’s My Kind of Crazy” painted the picture of a strong, independent woman who lived by her own rules. Among many country fans who embrace such liberties and freedoms, this was a fun-loving song they had no trouble relating to.
#2 – Fall into Me
The energetic “Fall into Me” was a single Emerson Drive released in 2002 from their self-titled album, which peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number thirty-four. It was the group’s most successful single before “Moments” was released a few years later. In the single, it was a plea for a love interest to end her difficult relationship and fall into his arms instead. It was a number that won over the fans in a big way.
In the music video, the band looked as if they were performing underwater while a woman was attempting to find a way to get to them. Sometimes, the scariest moment is to take that fateful leap forward as the familiarity of the past doesn’t always seem as easy to leave behind as we’d like.
#1 – Moments
From the album, Countrified, “Moments” became Emerson Drive’s first number one hit single on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. On the Canadian Country Tracks chart, it peaked as high as number four. “Moments” also earned Emerson Drive the distinction of becoming the first Canadian band to top the American country chart. Since then, only four more artists have been able to achieve this feat. In 2006, “Moments” earned the win for Video of the Year by CMT.
It also won Single of the Year with the Canadian Country Music Awards. What made “Moments” such a draw was more than the collective talent of this Canadian country band. If there was a really great tune to convince someone’s wish to end their own life out of making such a decision, the moral lesson behind “Moments” would be it. The timing of this single came just before their bandmate, Patrick Bourque, left the band and committed suicide himself.
In the music video, the message behind “Moments” was visually powerful enough to win Video of the Year by the Inspirational Country Music Awards. Among some suicide prevention programs, “Moments” has been regarded as an anthem as some fans who also serve as volunteers have been known to use some of the band’s own lyrics in an attempt to inspire those in need to look at their own value as a person differently.
Top 10 Emerson Drive Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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