While playing the bar circuit in his hometown, singer Brett Emmons of The Glorious Sons would routinely hear an older musician diss another Kingston, Ont., native who rose to fame with The Tragically Hip.
“This guy would talk about how he was so much better than Gord Downie when he was younger,” recalled Emmons.
The disgruntled older performer inadvertently taught 21-year-old Emmons an important lesson: You’re never going to please some people because they aren’t rooting for you in the first place.
To avoid the anxiety that comes with chasing after success, you have to forget about meeting outside expectations and focus on why you started playing music, said Emmons, who performs with The Glorious Sons at a sold-out show on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Wild Bill’s Sports Bar in Red Deer.
“You do it for yourself and not worry about what other people have to say.”
On that note, The Glorious Sons just released the band’s first full-length album The Union. It follows the hugely popular previous EP. Shapeless Art, which spawned two Top-10 singles, White Noise and Mama.
Although the Kingston rockers now have thousands of fans across the country and more riding on the success of The Union, Emmons said band members are determined to stay true to who they are as musicians.
“You can’t fail as long as you are trying harder,” he added, “so as long as we are happy with (the album) and some people are touched by it,” he believes the rest doesn’t matter.
While the last few years have been a thrilling round of cross-Canada tours and regular radio play for the band, Emmons believes he and the other musicians — his brother Jay Emmons, Chris Huot, Adam Paquette and Andrew Young — remain grounded.
“We all have really good families that make sure we stay modest.”
The Union pays tribute to these “blue-collar” families, said Emmons, who noted “me and all the band members worked trades and grew up with parents that did everything to support us, put food on the table and clothes on our backs.”
While the new album doesn’t come right out and sing the praises of working people, it’s implied in every song, he added. “You can feel it. I can’t write lyrics that say exactly what I think completely. I like to make people think.”
For instance, the band’s newest single, Heavy, might bring The Sopranos TV series to mind if you listen carefully. Emmons said the gangster family drama was his all-time favourite show, and he was particularly struck by a line delivered by one of the mobsters: “It was something like, ‘Next time you come, come back heavy,’ ” he recalled — meaning ready to do battle.
Emmons borrowed this sentiment. The song’s lyrics go “Come heavy or don’t come at all,” as a metaphor for fighting off negative forces.
Among the The Union’s other songs “about normal human life, lost love, regrets” is a tune that returns to Emmons’ first point about not trying to please everybody.
The song Gordie was actually inspired by Downie and the jealous older singer who kept trying to boost himself up by trying to pull Downie’s reputation down.
“Anxiety is a funny thing,” said Emmons. “Once you start doing well, it starts to affect you” — until you remember you are making music “because you are doing what you love.”
“We understand we’re not the biggest band in the world,” he added — but then “biggest” was never The Glorious Sons’ goal.
“We’re trying to make great songs.”