Music always undoubtedly brings us closer together. The connection forged runs as deep as any family bond does. Similarly, the story of Tonic revolves around the longstanding, close brotherhood shared among members Emerson Hart [vocals, guitar], Jeff Russo [lead guitar], and Dan Lavery [bass]. Since 1996, the GRAMMY® Award-nominated multi-platinum trio has consistently delivered anthemic and undeniable rock fashioned from eloquent songcraft, lyrical honesty, and unshakable melodies. Along the way, they translated true experiences and real memories into a storied catalog that resounds as loudly today as it did over two decades ago.
“Sometimes, I’ll see somebody in the crowd who’s not more than twenty-years-old,” says Emerson. “This person will be singing a thought I had in 1995 right back to me: every word and every note. Realizing the power of that was a big moment for me. If there are people in the crowd and we’re playing together, that’s the magic of it. We still love it. There’s an understanding this is bigger than us.”
The songs continue to endure. To date, the band has landed six Top 10 singles, sold 4 million-plus records, and garnered a pair of GRAMMY® Award nominations. As the story goes, Emerson and Jeff linked up together in Los Angeles as Tonic during 1994, with Dan joining the group in 1996. Inspired after catching U2’s Joshua Tree Tour in his native New Jersey, Emerson went to L.A., where he and Jeff launched the group. Their full-length debut, Lemon Parade, not only went platinum, but it also yielded the “#1 Most-Played Rock Song of 1997” in the form of the lead single “If You Could Only See.” The band’s follow-up single, “You Wanted More,” served as the lead-off from the platinum Original Soundtrack Album for American Pie and the second full-length, Sugar.
In between a marathon of touring, they released Head On Straight in 2002. The single “Take Me As I Am” received a GRAMMY® Award nomination in the category of “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” as the album vied for “Best Rock Album”—only to lose to Bruce Springsteen, “which is still a huge honor being from Jersey,” laughs Dan.
After a five-year hiatus, the three-piece returned to the charts on the heels of Tonic in 2010, landing in the Top 50 of the Billboard Top Rock Albums Chart and Top 25 of the Billboard Top Independent Albums Chart. Following a successful Pledge Music campaign, they re-recorded the seminal Lemon Parade acoustically for 2016’s Lemon Parade Revisited.
“The idea was, ‘How do we do something new?’,” continues Jeff. “We wanted to take it back to the origins of the tracks. So, we sat in a room with acoustic guitars and played. It was a gratifying moment. At the same time, it made us realize that we really enjoy making rock. We love the thrill of playing. It’s come full circle recently, and it’s affected what we’re creating now.”
Outside of Tonic, each musician made a pronounced musical impact of his own. As a sought-after composer for film, television, and video games, Jeff wrote the score for HBO’s critically acclaimed The Night Of in addition to composing for Legion, Counterpart, Star Trek: Discovery, and more. He garnered the 2017 Primetime Emmy® Award in the category of “Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special” for Fargo. Dan played bass in the multiplatinum pop rock outfit The Fray before going on to establish himself as a writer and producer. Meanwhile, Emerson ignited a successful solo career, including albums such as Cigarettes and Gasoline , Beauty in Disrepair , and his 2019 third full-length 32 Thousand Days.
No matter what, the members of Tonic find themselves coming back together, hitting the road every year.
“This is like musical home base for us,” Dan leaves off. “From there, we can branch out and do other things, but this is something we all go back to. The fact the three of us have managed to stay together since 1996 with only a few years off is something we’re very proud of. The truth is we’re just three dudes from New Jersey and New York who have the same sensibilities. That’s why we’re still together 22 years later.”
Jeff agrees, “Every time we get back together, it just sounds and feels like Tonic.”
“The songs keep us around,” smiles Emerson. “We love seeing the excitement in fans’ eyes. We’re all connected. When we play, it’s a moment where we all feel something together.”