It is an auspicious moment in the history of a band that began with a high school talent contest. On the bill was Brad Mates, an 11th-grader singing for the first time in front of an audience. In addition, Pat Allingham and his pal (and now Emerson keyboardist) Chris Hartman -- the two had been in school and church choirs together since kindergarten -- joined a few buddies to form an impromptu group doing an equally impromptu song. Allingham, Hartman and Mates quickly recognized their mutual talents and tastes, and the three soon formed a band with some classmates.
Mates had soaked up his dad's Don Williams and George Strait albums, as well as the hard rock favored by his junior high buddies. Hartman came from a large family who would sing harmonies around the kitchen table, and he also received classical piano training. Allingham, too, had a serious interest in music, playing classical violin from the age of 3 and performing in orchestras and at festivals during his growing-up years.
After playing some local gigs, the trio added bassist Jeff Loberg, guitarist Danick Dupelle and drummer Mike Melancon and called themselves Emerson Drive, taking their name from the Emerson Trail, which crosses western Alberta and joins the Alaskan Highway. They released their self-titled U.S. debut on DreamWorks Nashville in 2002 and cracked the Top 5 with "I Should Be Sleeping" and "Fall Into Me."
The current line-up of Emerson Drive features Mates, Melancon and Dupelle, as well as Patrick Borque, David Pichette and Dale Wallace. They released a second album on Dreamworks, What If, in 2004, but parted ways with the label following a corporate restructuring. They released the independent album, Countrified, in 2006.