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Emerson Drive: Wide Awake In America

Emerson Drive may be young - all six band members are between 23 and 28 - but they're already old pros.

"We played 300 shows a year, six nights a week, five sets a night for about four and a half years," declares lead singer Brad Mates. "We learned everything we know about music in the bars."

Now that their first hit, "I Should Be Sleeping," is hitting the airwaves, that kind of road-tested know-how gives the members of Emerson Drive - Brad, guitarist Danick Dupelle, bass player Jeff Loberg, keyboardist Chris Hartman, fiddle player Pat Allingham and drummer Mike Melancon - a leg up on the competition.

"We played everything from Buck Owens to Dave Matthews, so there's a wide variety in our music," says Brad. "I think that gives us a unique sound that people are hopefully gonna like."

Emerson Drive's long road began in the western Canadian town of Grande-Prairie, where Brad, Pat and Chris all competed in their high school talent show. By the time they graduated, the guys had formed what would become Emerson Drive, picking up Jeff, Mike and Danick over the next few years.

"The name comes from a road back home called Emerson Trail," explains Brad. "That road has a special meaning to the band, because it's supposedly where Jeff was conceived!"

The guys crisscrossed Canada for a couple of years, then began coming down to Nashville to see if they could snag a record deal, which they did in March 2000. Within a couple of months, all six members had moved to Music City, ready to work on their self-titled debut album, which is due out in February.

With their career taking off, the only problem now is getting back to see family and friends in Canada. "That's probably the toughest thing we go through," says Brad. "We only get home a couple of times a year now, for a couple of weeks at a time."

That busy schedule also means none of the guys has time to start his own family. "It would be tough to be married right now, with the amount of traveling that we do," ponders Brad. "Everyone would love to have a family someday, but it's going to be a couple of years before anything like that happens."

In the meantime, the members of Emerson Drive have each other to lean on. "It's like a big marriage," chuckles Brad. "We know each other inside out."

- Chris Neal