Tonic to headline Aug. 6 events at Smoke on the WaterWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonic singer and guitarist Emerson Hart said songwriting has been central to the success and longevity of the band. He had no idea, though, just how big “If You Could Only See” would be.
The follow-up single to “Open Up Your Eyes” off Tonic’s debut album “Lemon Parade” (1996), “If You Could Only See” went on to become the No. 1 most-played rock song of 1998.
“There’s no way you can prepare or anticipate for that,” Hart said to Toledo Free Press Star. “You have to remember that on the first record, ‘Open Up Your Eyes,’ that was a No. 1 rock song. I thought that was, ‘Wow!’ I was like, ‘Man, I guess this is as good as it gets.’ I was totally surprised and excited about it. We were touring and I was like, ‘Man, life is good.’
“And then, ‘If You Could Only See’ hit and then I was like, ‘OK. This is a whole other thing.’ You don’t ever expect to prepare for any of that. It’s lightning in a bottle. You open it, and it strikes you in the face and you just hang on.”
Comprised of Hart (vocals/guitar), Jeff Russo (guitar) and Dan Lavery (bass), Tonic will perform Aug. 6 at the Smoke on the Water — Ribs for the Red Cross event in Promenade Park. Hart said he and his band mates realized just how big “If You Could Only See” had become when the band’s management informed them that Lance Armstrong wanted Tonic to play at his celebration party following his first Tour de France victory. When Hart expressed concern about not being able to make it to Texas in time for the event, the response he got was surprising.
“They were like, ‘Oh, no, no — Gov. Bush is going to send a jet to pick you guys up,’” Hart said. “I was like, ‘Oh, OK. I guess it’s different now.’ So we were flying on airplanes and it just kind of all changed.”
Tonic, however, was not content to rest on the success of “If You Could Only See.” The band released three more studio albums in “Sugar” (1999), “Head On Straight” (2002) and “Tonic” (2010), as well as “Live & Enhanced” (1999) and “A Casual Affair: The Best of Tonic” (2009). Tonic has had two Grammy nominations, six Top 10 singles and sold more than 4 million albums.
“We always really felt as a band as that we were just being true to ourselves and true to the song, then everything else would work out,” Hart said. “There’s a certain amount of our business that is definitely a game-player, as far as I could have rewritten ‘If You Could Only See’ over, and over and over again,
but then where are you? Then you’re just a band that has a ton of songs that sound exactly the same. That was never my bag. I don’t want that.”
In addition to his work with Tonic, Hart released a solo album in 2007, “Cigarettes & Gasoline,” which produced two Top 20 singles. Now 42, Hart said becoming a father made him realize the journey was not about him, a message he passes on to the younger artists he works with. And while Hart has helped them on their journeys, they have helped him remember the excitement of when Tonic got its start.
Fifteen years after the release of “Lemon Parade,” Hart still feels excitement on tour with Tonic when he sees teenage girls in the crowd singing along to the band’s songs with their mothers.
“That’s interesting to me,” Hart said. “That’s a real generational marker and I love that. It’s a real testament to what we did as a band and how songs will live if they’re great.”
Tonic will perform at Smoke on the Water — Ribs for the Red Cross on Aug. 6. The event will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 5-6, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 7. Admission is $5 for adults, while kids 12 and younger get in free. Call (419) 329-2619 for presale tickets. For more information, visit www.ribs4redcross.com.