With six top 10 singles, over 4 million records sold, multiple Grammy nominations, platinum albums, hit songs around the world including the #1 most-played rock song of 1998, it is safe to say that Tonic is a musical powerhouse. Merging the raw honesty of rock with their unabashed melodies Tonic have helped usher rock n roll into the new millennium.
Many bands would be content with that sort of history. Tonic breaks the mold.
“When we play music together it feels like going home,” explains singer and guitarist Emerson Hart. “Getting together, playing some rock-n-roll: it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Hart founded Tonic with guitarist Jeff Russo – a childhood friend – adding bassist Dan Lavery shortly after inception. After storming the charts with debut album Lemon Parade and its monster hit “If You Could Only See,” the band released two additional studio albums (Sugar, the twice Grammy-nominated Head On Straight and the self-titled Tonic). With multiple soundtrack features, including the lead single from “American Pie” (“You Wanted More”), Tonic garnered this momentum with the release of their Greatest Hits CD/DVD package in July of 2009.
Tonic, the self-titled fourth studio album, debuted on the Billboard 200 charts, while also appearing in the top 50 on the Billboard Rock Album Charts and top 25 on the Billboard Independent Album Charts. Their single, “Release Me” climbed the charts reaching top 30 at Hot AC.
Tonic’s well-earned reputation as a massive live act came at a price. After finding themselves on the road for the better part of a decade, the band was ready to take a breather. “We toured relentlessly,” Lavery admits, “It was a whirlwind.”
“We needed a break,” Hart agrees. “We toured for so long – we were on the road for ten years – and everybody needed the room to do something else, work on other projects, and come back stronger.”
In Hart’s case, that meant releasing a critically acclaimed solo album, 2007’s Cigarettes & Gasoline. The album spawned two Top 20 singles and a follow up Beauty in Disrepair in 2014. While Lavery built a recording studio and recorded/toured with a variety of acts including The Fray and the Revisionists, Russo was focused on composing for film and television, including “CSI:Cyber”, “Power”, and “Fargo” receiving an Emmy-nomination.
All three acknowledge the break was a welcome respite. In addition to exploring other creative outlets, the trio focused on their favorite project to date: fatherhood.
“Now that I’m a father, I see the world a little differently,” Hart says. “It affects my lyrics and my music; I’m inspired to work harder. We’re all more mature now, and much stronger musicians for it.
“Of course,” he adds with a laugh, “We’re in a rock band, so that translates to 60% maturity and 40% nine-year-old.”
It wasn’t long before the band was compelled to get back together and start recording. “Tonic is like my baby,” Russo says. “I know Emerson and Dan feel the same way. My other projects are very important to me, but there’s something both comfortable and exciting about playing together.”
“We’ve been doing this long enough – it feels like it’s what we’re meant to do,” Lavery explains. “And once you find the people that you enjoying doing it with, everything just falls into place.”