Preview by Joshua Maloni
You wanted more Emerson Hart, so the Hard Rock Café is bringing him back.
The singer/songwriter performed solo at the restaurant in 2008, and returns Saturday to headline the season finale of the "Hard Rock at the Falls" concert series.
This time around, Hart will be joined on stage by guitarist Jeff Russo and bassist Dan Lavery. Each fresh from doing his own thing, the members of the trio are back together as Tonic.
"There was definitely a comfort with coming back to the band, and just making the record that I thought we should make," Hart says of his group, which has produced five Billboard Top 20 songs - including No. 1 smash "If You Could Only See" - garnered two Grammy Award nominations and sold in excess of 2 million records.
Tonic is currently touring in support of its fourth studio album, which shares the same name as the band.
"It's definitely a very eclectic record," Hart says.
Working alongside Lavery in creating 12 new songs, Hart says the album has diversity. It also has immediacy, as each member of Tonic entered into the family-building business during the band's four-year break.
"We're all fathers now, and we look at life differently," Hart says. "We've learned how to tour more efficiently, and create better music, in my opinion, or more honest music. I don't think I could be any more honest at this point. ... You can't lounge around and beat up a song for three days when you have a 2-1/2-year-old daughter."
Hart says the new album blends the Tonic adult-alt-rock sound of the late '90s and early '00s with music inspiring the band in 2010.
"I won't overshoot the mark," he says. "When you've been gone and out of it for a couple years in between records - especially with a band like Tonic - you don't want to go too far back. You want to sound familiar, but yet you want to write the best songs you can.
"That's the great thing about having a band, is being able to make sure that you don't overshoot the mark. And your band can kind of be like, ‘You know what, dude? This is kind of where we come from, we should honor this in this part of the song, or this is this.' There's definitely a great comfort there."
Live on stage, Tonic offers fans something from 1997's "Lemon Parade," 1999's "Sugar," 2004's "Head on Straight," and new songs from the current record.
"We've really tried to spread out the show to have a little bit of each record," Hart says. "That's really the key for us, is giving everybody a little piece of our record career - what we've done up until this point. I think it's a pretty well balanced show."
While Hart has become a prolific songwriter-for-hire in Nashville, Tenn., he, too wants more. That's why he's on the road again.
"I've always enjoyed playing live," he says. "That's really my favorite thing. I mean, I love writing songs; don't get me wrong. But there's something about just punching it straight in the face and getting an immediate delivery on songs, and immediate feedback from people."
Tonic's show begins at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 on Old Falls Street. Opening acts include Ryan Star, More Than Me, Thriving Ivory, and Ten Cent Howl.