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Friday, September 22, 2023


The Hart-break kid

Going solo at 38 years old can be suicide in the psycho-youth driven music industry. Then again, Emerson Hart was blowing up the alternative music scene way before Emo got a grasp on radio waves.

His solo debut album, Cigarettes and Gasoline, released in July, rose to 15 on the Top Heatseekers Chart. The debut was launched by the single "If You’re Gonna Leave," which reached the top 20 on the Hot Adult Top 40.

When he played Oct. 1 at the Verizon Wireless Theater, the music extended from the speakers, digging to the bone, sending chills and euphoria through the body.

The former Tonic front man has stepped into the solo spotlight and is starting to outshine his earlier years. The album is a combination of pop melodies with rock rhythms, folk, soul and the deepest emotion ingrained into every aspect of the music.

"I wanted to create the most honest, direct and eclectic album that I could," Hart said. "I write songs that have a point, like ‘Cigarettes and Gasoline’ and ‘If You’re Gonna Leave.’"

C’G is the Grand Canyon: multilayered and deep, real deep.

Hart’s lyrics touch the best and worst feelings across the emotional spectrum, bringing you to the green hills of California, surveying the blandness of Los Angeles and ending at the ocean.

Everyone can take something from Hart and this album.

"I think it’s my ability to connect quickly with what’s in my heart," Hart said. "I’m not afraid to say what I want to say."

And what secrets are buried in his battered heart? A schizophrenic father who disappeared 27 years ago and a battle with drinking, heartbreak, heartache and anything else you could think of to inspire such a vulnerable and raw record.

Breaking up is hard to do, unless you’re Emerson Hart. One interesting characteristic of Hart’s charm is his ability to break your heart and put a smile on your face while doing it.

"If you’re gonna leave" and "I Wish the Best for You" are two simple pop ballads that warp all the bad feelings of breaking up into a warming sense of calm and resolution.

While most of the album spills out from various colors of the pop and rock palate, "Green Hills Race for California" and "Friend to a Stranger" are what makes C’G truly eclectic.

"I think I’ve been obsessed with Peter Gabriel and his open but honest production," Hart said. "The core of acoustic mixed with the drum track was kind of taking a risk."

It’s a risk that pays off. "Friend to a Stranger" is a brilliant mix of a high melodic vocal with an electric drum track that lies in sync with the simple acoustic guitar riff and synth-keyboard.

"Green Hills" is a reminiscent mix of Led Zeppelin and Scottish inspirations. This folkie song is a mellow break between two heavy pop songs, bringing the album to its most reserved, precisely in the middle.

The title track, "Cigarettes and Gasoline," was the genesis of this album, yet it’s the end of the record. Its smooth bass line, distant drum track and simple acoustic picking lulls you from the rollercoaster of the album into a complete sense of closure. Hart’s sense of longing stretches with the line, "I am trolling the ocean for the soul of my father."

"I wanted it to sound like a bowed engine," Hart said when describing the memories that inspired the song. "I stumbled on the subject. It works because of its openness, but it’s still focused."

Hart is fighting a hard battle of shedding the identity of his role as front man for Tonic. His credibility as an artist is only furthered by his ability to perform outside of the studio and an eagerness to connect with fans.

"I answer all my MySpace messages myself," Hart says. "I feel like they took the time to write, I should at least return the favor."

Hart also has other ways of connecting with fans.

"After the tour, I’d like to do a small, storyteller/songwriter-type performance."

It’s the perfect venue for Hart to extend the ethereal connections that bind his music to his fans.

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