04/08/2008 12:48 PM ET
Emerson Drive gets Royal treatment
Country up-and-comers to play Kauffman Stadium
By Doug Miller / MLB.com/Entertainment
From Alberta, Canada to America's Music City, it's been a wild ride for Emerson Drive over the last 12 years.
The up-and-coming band, fronted by lead singer Brad Mates, has risen from a high school act to a major fixture on the booming country scene, courtesy of its latest album, Countrified, and its ubiquitous radio smash, "Moments."
Emerson Drive has toured with heavyweights Shania Twain, Toby Keith and Vince Gill and has landed some huge gigs this summer, including a headlining post-game concert at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on July 26 right after the hometown Royals play the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"I think that any time you can get in front of a large amount of people, especially for this event, it's always good," Mates said recently from the Emerson Drive tour bus in an exclusive interview with MLB.com/Entertainment.
"There's lots of new stuff going on with our group right now, (and whether) it's the new music people are going to hear or just getting in front of new fans who haven't been exposed to Emerson Drive music before, it's a great opportunity for us."
The members of Emerson Drive -- Mates, guitarist Danick Dupelle, fiddle player David Pichette, keyboardist Dale Wallace and drummer Mike Melancon -- are no strangers to baseball stadiums or sports venues in general.
They sang the National Anthem at the home openers of the Royals and Chicago White Sox this year and have also performed the Star-Spangled Banner at Detroit's Comerica Park. They've performed at countless hockey arenas in Canada.
But to set up and play an entire concert in front of what could be over 40,000 fans, well, that's going to be a new experience. Mates says it's a natural progression considering he's always been a huge baseball fan.
In fact, he attended the World Series in 2006 and got to see a boyhood hero, then St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds, up close. As it turns out, Mates attended a Calgary baseball camp as a youngster and was given batting tips by Edmonds, at the time a Minor Leaguer in the Angels organization.
"Years later, when I'm 29, 30 years old, I get a chance to go back and see him again, obviously outside of a Minor League team, playing in the Majors, so it's been a pretty cool experience for me over the last couple years," Mates says.
And he was lucky enough to not let his performance style be influenced by Edmonds' notoriously reckless defensive technique.
"There's been a few opportunities for collisions on stage," Mates says with a laugh. "It's only happened a couple of times. I slipped off the stage once and that was as far as it goes for maybe breaking (bones), but I guess we've been fortunate enough in all the shows we've done over the last 12 years. You'd think there might be an accident, but we're accident-free. We're all good."
In more ways than one.
Emerson Drive has been making a steady climb on the country charts, in part thanks to publishing veteran Brad Allen, hit songwriter Keith Follese and hit record producer Josh Leo and Teddy Gentry from the group Alabama, who combined with the band to produce Countrified.
Since the release of the album on Midas Records in the fall of 2006, they've seen two Top 20 hit singles: "A Good Man," and "Moments," which became the group's first No. 1 single.
"'Moments' has been our impact song, a song that other artists shied away from because it deals with delicate issues facing people today," Mates has said. "Since 'Moments' was released as a single we have found that there are a lot of empathic people who are aware of and want to deal with the issues of loneliness, despair and the hope of a new life again. This song has something to say and we are proud to be able to say it."
And they'll be proud to play it in Kansas City to a pack of rabid Royals fans.
"For us to be able to get into that kind of stadium and just have everybody there at once ... watching you is a pretty surreal feeling," Mates says. "If it's on stage playing for an hour and a half or doing the Anthem for a few minutes, it's all the same. It's just an incredible feeling."
Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for MLB.com/Entertainment. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.