Emerson Hart on the story behind "Beauty in Disrepair"

"Everything fell apart," Emerson Hart said when looking back on his first marriage. And that's part of what sparked the material on the Tonic singer's new solo album, "Beauty in Disrepair," out Tuesday.

Over the past few years, Hart underwent a divorce and managed to find love again -- both of which set off a flurry of creativity and musical inspiration. The ups and downs are strewn all throughout the lyrics of his new material.

David Hodges, who has worked with Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, served as a collaborator on "Beauty in Disrepair," which was written and recorded in Emerson's adopted home of Nashville (he grew up in New Jersey).


Emerson says his life experiences come through "185 percent" on this second solo record, the follow-up to his 2007 solo debut, "Cigarettes and Gasoline." Through it all, the songwriting process was cathartic.

"It always is. I'm a big proponent of therapy, which is great. But music is the biggest healer," Hart told CBS News. "It would help me to work things out in my brain that I might not be able to say to anyone else until I actually put it in music."

Emerson famously poured his heart into the song that thrust his band Tonic into the spotlight in the late '90s.

A 21-year-old Hart was about to get married -- much to his mother's dismay. "I was too young to get married," Hart said.

"I literally had a conversation with my mother on the phone and said, 'If you could only see the way she loves me, then maybe you would understand.' And I hung up the phone," said Hart. "I wrote the song very quickly. I just jotted it down and put some music to it...And I was like, 'Eh, it's OK.' It helped me get through what I was going through. And of course, all of that fell apart very quickly and my mother was right, which she loves to hear."

The band recorded the track, but Hart was initially hesitant to put it on the record. "I wasn't really at that point secure as an artist. But at 24, that that's what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to put it all out there."

Tonic's record label head at the time insisted that "If You Could Only See" was "the song," noting how the honest nature of it was the very reason it should be heard. And boy was it heard. "If You Could Only See," the lead single from Tonic's 1997 debut album "Lemon Parade," became a major hit.

"The song became bigger than what I wrote it about," he said. "That's OK. That's the life of a song. If you write a great song I think that's what it should be."

Even after all of the years, Emerson says he still loves performing the song live -- and is doing just that while on tour this year with Tonic and as a solo act.

And although he's flying solo at the moment, Hart and Tonic members Jeff Russo and Dan Lavery are talking new Tonic material. Their last release came out in 2010 and they're exploring different options right now.

"We're looking at different ways of how to do it. Do we do a full record? Do we release one song at a time?...We're looking at that right now."

Check out the video above for more on Hart.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.