'I thought people had forgotten': Corey Hart returns with album, hall of fame induction - InfoNews

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'I thought people had forgotten': Corey Hart returns with album, hall of fame induction

Singer Corey Hart is shown in a 2019 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Warner Music-John Wagner MANDATORY CREDIT
January 31, 2019 - 1:35 PM

TORONTO - Corey Hart isn't making any promises he can't keep this time around.

Five years ago, the raspy-voiced "Sunglasses at Night" singer-songwriter was prepared to unplug his microphone forever. So certain of his decision, he proclaimed a sold-out concert in his Montreal hometown as his last, branding it as "a farewell" in one interview and "a full stop as far as... being a live performer."

Hart played 44 songs lasting more than four hours. And then it was over... or so he thought.

Hardly an album's cycle after walking off into the sunset, as he calls it, Hart is on the cusp of a considerable return to music. First, he'll be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, closing out the Juno Awards broadcast with a live performance of his biggest hits.

Then he'll release "Dreaming Time Again," a confident five-track EP that re-introduces Hart as an alt-country and rock star buried underneath all those synthesizers. Hart will walk the line between nostalgia and new material with a multi-city Canadian tour that kicks off on May 31, his birthday.

It's a considerable task for a man who claimed to be leaving the music industry.

"When I said it, I meant it. I really meant it," Hart insisted as he sat in a Toronto hotel for a blitz of interviews.

"Life is all serendipitous — intersecting moments and unexpected discoveries. Everything sort of coalesced together at this particular time for me to say, 'You know what? There's a demand to do this.'"

Perhaps it was fate, which Hart firmly believes played a role in his life, or maybe it was simply a confluence of events set forth by TV shows like "Stranger Things" that embraced Hart's biggest hits in the canon of 1980s classics. The Seth Rogen-produced Hulu comedy series "Future Man" built an entire storyline around one character's obsession with Hart.

Whatever it was exactly, calls for an encore became tough for Hart to ignore. One evening, after performing an acoustic set at a fundraiser for Canada's Walk of Fame, he was stopped by acclaimed Canadian producer Bob Ezrin.

"He took hold of my shoulders and said, 'Wow that was really good. Where have you been?'" Hart recalled.

Hart pointed to his wife and kids sitting at another table. "I've been there," he responded. One of the reasons Hart left the music industry was to raise his four children.

But Ezrin wasn't sold on the excuse anymore, pointing out to Hart that his kids were now all teenagers or older. He urged him to consider showcasing his talents again.

Hart was cuffed by Ezrin's persistence and the two agreed to grab a coffee and discuss working together. It led to Ezrin visiting the family's home in Nassau, Bahamas, where Hart moved in 1995 with his wife, Quebec singer Julie Masse.

"We developed a friendship," Hart said. "He certainly was the catalyst for me taking that leap of faith."

Inside the studio, Hart describes a working relationship that wasn't necessarily smooth, but led to satisfying results.

Ezrin pushed against Hart's stubbornness, the singer remembered, and his knack for memorizing all the lyrics and arrangements made it hard to dismiss his thoughtful criticism.

"His famous line was 'Corey, I think you can do better. Please consider it,'" Hart said.

"I sometimes felt like I was in school — and I did badly in school. So it was kind of frightening."

Hart's new material carries a fresh inspiration that allows it to fit comfortably alongside albums from Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp. "First Rodeo," with guest Jim Cuddy, swaggers towards its rousing chorus elevated by female backup singers — a rarity on most modern tracks — while "Dreaming Time Again" is showered in lush saxophone.

A few tracks were left off the EP, including one that veered into a "dark period" of his life a little over a decade ago when he was suffering severe back pain. The two large cervical herniated discs led to dozens of medical procedures he outlined in his 2014 memoir.

"Even though there was a silver living to it, it was pretty raw and tough to listen to," he said. "It's how I felt then, not how I feel now."

Ahead of the Junos, Hart is simply trying to enjoy the moment, he said. He was honoured organizers even considered placing him among the pantheon of greats in the hall of fame.

"I thought people had just forgotten," he said.

"I've never really felt part of the core of the industry," he continued. "It's important to keep your feet on the ground and to be level-headed about things, and not subscribe to the mythology of the music business and rock stardom."

But he's also looking forward to the celebration, which extends to an exhibition at Calgary's National Music Centre opening March 22. The experience will take fans through artifacts from Hart's career, including the famous Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and red shoes from the "Sunglasses at Night" music video. Visitors will also receive "interactive sunglasses" upon admission.

All of these moments are great, Hart acknowledged, but it's sharing these experiences with his wife and kids he'll cherish most. After the tour, he's unsure what will happen. He's not swearing off more concerts or new music. He learned his lesson last time.

"I want to enjoy the moment to its fullest — beyond that I don't know," he said.

"Never say never, right?"

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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