One of Canada’s most decorated singer-songwriters, Corey Hart returns to the island for the first time in three decades at Atlantic Fest in Grand Falls-Windsor
To put a microscope over the career of Montreal born Corey Hart would be to analyze a Canadian music heartthrob who achieved rarefied mega-star status in the 1980s and 1990s. It is perhaps difficult for mid-millenials to understand just how huge the man was. Very few, if any, stars reach the heights Corey Hart reached during his no-stone-unturned rise to the top of the music world.
For a smidgen of context, the architect of such timeless radio hits as Sunglasses at Night and Never Surrender has sold over 16 million records worldwide, achieved Diamond status for his best-selling album Boy in the Box here in his native Canada, where he has also scored a whooping 30 top 40 hits and earned an elusive spot on Canada’s Walk of Fame. He’s a Grammy nominee and multi-time Juno winner and he’s just so happened to have written and produced for a little artist by the name of Celine Dion.
But Hart’s legacy is only amplified in the eyes of fans and media when considered that at perhaps the height of his popularity he made the selfless decision to step away from the music business. Fatherhood trumped platinum records and sold out arenas, and so for a decade Hart stepped away from the spotlight entirely, returning for an originally billed one-off farewell in 2014.
“By the time my third daughter was born I realized that touring and being in the studio was just keeping me away from them too much,” Hart shared in an in-depth interview with The Herald. “I didn’t grow up knowing my own father and I really felt that if I was going to do the music the way that I’ve always lived it, which is completely focused and passionate and 100 per cent all consuming, that my children would really see me as more of a tourist father than the father that I wanted to be day-to-day with them. The job description, in my personal opinion, just doesn’t marry well with being a day-to-day father.”
At the behest of his children, the one-off farewell in Montreal has morphed into a series of carefully selected, high-profile performances, including the much-hyped AtlanticFest in Grand Falls-Windsor on August 26th.
“My children had never seen me perform in their lives,” explained the father of four. “They grew up and they watched on YouTube but they never experienced it. Subsequently seeing me perform at that show they were just begging me asking if I could do more shows. Every once and awhile they’d say they’d go for a week or two on the road with me and they’d love it. They love the feeling of being with the musicians and the band and seeing everyone look so happy. It was really my kids pushing me to do it, so every summer I’ll end up doing a few shows.”
Hart stepped away from the business in the wake of a seven album deal with Sony in the mid 1990s. He released two records in 1996 and 1998 that were sandwiched in between the births of his three girls in 95, 97 and 99 respectively. The choice to step away in 2002 was a no-brainer.
“It wasn’t a hard choice at that time and when I look back now and can see the foundation that I have with my children I have no regrets whatsoever,” Hart shares candidly, explaining that he has not closed the door to a complete return to music. “My youngest is 13 so in a couple of more years he’s going to fly out on his own and then who knows? Maybe I’ll go back in the studio and make another record and I’ll be able to do my music more full-time.”
Returning to The Rock
Hart shares that his impending return to Newfoundland and Labrador, his first time performing here in 32 years, is of particular significance. It was here, in July of 1985, where Hart kicked off his debut solo stadium tour, one that was met with immense fan fare coast to coast.
“I know the year, I know the day. It was July 1985, that’s the last time (in Newfoundland),” he recalled. “I’m beyond excited about returning to Newfoundland. I’ve told this to my kids and they know this from all those times of trying to figure out what their daddy used to do, because they saw me as daddy around the house, but my first headline concerts were in St. John’s Memorial Stadium in the summer of 1985. I’ll never forget the feeling, seeing the fans lining up to buy tickets first of all, and feeling the crowd roar when the lights went down and I walked out on that stage. It was my first time.
“I’m in a fortunate position in my life and time in my career where I can pick and choose what I want to do,” Hart adds. “I rarely ever play any live shows. I stepped away from recording and touring to raise my four kids.”
For Hart, a look to the past and assessment of his road-less-traveled to stardom yields to comparisons of the current state of the music industry, and the social media led front of finding, cultivating and pushing stars. He is quick to note, though, that every decade of mainstream music, including our social media age, presents its own set of challenges and areas of excellence.
“I think that every decade it was tough,” he explains. “Whether it was Elvis in the 50s, The Beatles in the 60s or me trying to get a record deal in the 80s, it was f****ng tough. It is not easy and everyone is chasing that small little window of opportunity. On the plus side of this generation I think that artists have so much more power to present themselves through social media and have direct access to their fan base that artists from my generation didn’t have. We couldn’t write a tweet or post on Instagram without going to our record company and agreeing to do it for us. Now bands can reach millions and millions of people just by making a post from their iPhone. To me there’s a great benefit to that. It’s difficult in a sense that record sales are not what they were, but there are other opportunities.
“Artists adapt but what stays the same I believe is creativity and passion and the relationship that music has with so many people in their lives,” Hart says. “It’s so incredible. I feel so blessed that my life has allowed me to follow my footsteps through the path and the journey of music. I’m really blessed that I was able to make a living from this. No life is perfect – everyone has their own private demons they need to sort out and no one’s life is a fairytale, but in terms of me being able to live my life through music I feel very fortunate and blessed.”
Over 30 years Coming
As to what longtime, and new, fans of the generational talent can expect when he takes the stage for the first time in three decades in Grand Falls, well, Hart has tailor made a set just for Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I am tailor making this setlist for Newfoundland and what I think my fans would want to hear,” he shared. “It’s been over 30 years, so there are a lot of songs that I know they would want to hear or they may have grown up listening to and maybe told their kids about those songs. I want them to have as many hits as they can and experience them all. There are also a couple of sets I’ve never performed before and are geared for this particular concert at AtlanticFest for Newfoundland. I won’t give anything away to keep it a surprise but there’s a song that really resonated with me particularly and I can’t wait to seeing it for my fans in the audience at AtlanticFest.”
Visit coreyhart.com for more information on Corey Hart and visit atlanticfest.ca for much more on one of the biggest music events of 2017.