After a two-decade-long hiatus, pop icon Corey Hart is making his return to the music scene.
The Canadian Walk of Famer is known for singles such as Sunglasses at Night and Never Surrender, among many other monumental synth-pop songs that changed the course of the nation’s music in the 1980s.
Hart, 56, left the spotlight in 1998 after releasing his last album, Jade. He devoted his time to his raising his four children after an extremely successful career. On Jan. 16, it was revealed that Hart will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame during the Juno Awards in March.
That same day, Hart released his first single in more than 20 years, Dreaming Time Again. An accompanying EP of the same name was also announced and is set for a release later in 2019, as well as an extensive Canadian tour commencing in May.
WATCH: Sunglasses At Night, the 1983 smash hit from Corey Hart’s debut record, First Offense (1984)
In support of the new single, Hart set out on a press tour to share the details of his unexpected and long-awaited comeback.
He took the time to sit down with Global News and provide some insight into why he left the music industry, when his kids found out about his music career and what he really loved about getting back in the studio.
Hart also set the record straight regarding the popular rumour that he auditioned for the lead role in Back to the Future in 1984.
Global News: Thank you so much for taking this time to chat today. Congratulations on becoming an inductee to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Corey Hart: Thank you so much.
Who broke the news to you?
I got a phone call from Allan Reid, who is the president of CARAS (the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). I had never spoken with him before so I was completely surprised by the phone call and obviously blown away by the news. I was extremely emotional but proud.
How are you preparing for the big night?
I try not to think about it too much because if I do, I know I won’t sleep very well at night. As a musician and songwriter, I never held the goal to one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and it’s really not something I ever expected to happen. Now that it has, it’s just… like a dream come true.
Is it gratifying to be up there with greats like Leonard Cohen and Rush?
Yep, it’s mind-boggling. It really is mind-boggling. I’m just going to live the moment as it happens and try not to think about it too much today.
The Never Surrender tour is coming up, and it’s the first in more than 20 years. The Canadians have missed you—
Have you asked them that?
It doesn’t need to be asked — we know it, Corey. Do you think it’s the right time?
You know it, eh? I definitely think it’s the right time. I stepped away from my career in 1998 after my last tour and after making my last record. I really wanted to devote my time to my four children. I truthfully never thought I’d have the opportunity to come back and make another record or even go out on tour again — it’s definitely not something I anticipated.
Slowly, over the course of the last three or four years, as the children got older and I met some interesting people, all of the stars seemed to align together. Then magically, in the same year, the induction for the Junos and the Hall of Fame happened at the same time. Right now is just a wonderful chapter in my life. If I was writing a script, I’d write “this is the greatest year,” that and all the years that my children were born, and of course the year that I met Julie. It’s all quite wondrous… But I’ve had some bad years as well so it’s not all sunny .
Were there any other reasons you stepped out of the spotlight?
Truthfully, no. I had just signed a seven-album record deal with Sony in 1996 and I had only done two records with them. The first album had a number of hits and it went platinum. I was doing well and I was happy with how I was performing and how I was writing music. But after the birth of my second daughter in late 1997 and the birth of our third in 1999, it dawned on me that I couldn’t be with the children the way that I wanted to. That’s just a personal choice that I made. It’s the way that I wanted to do it. I know that with the way that I was as a musician — very focused and dedicated — that it would box out most of that time that I wanted to spend with my kids.
So many people are looking forward to your return. Do you think that respectable quality is part of the reason your fan base is still so strong?
Well, I didn’t know it was respectable. For me, I grew up not knowing my dad. I grew up not having a dad in my life. I could name maybe five or six memories that I have… so I carried a pain with me through my teens and into my 20s all about that sadness I felt. I knew I didn’t want to be a “touring” dad. Unfortunately, in the profession I have, you must be selfish. You must be egocentric and focus on your creative muse and let it take you where it takes you. If that means you’re gone for 10 months, well then you’re gone for 10 months. If it means you only have space in your brain to create the music or paint the tapestry that you want to paint, then you have to let it go there. I just did not want to be a part-time dad.
Did your kids know about your legacy while growing up, then?
No, we actually homeschooled the kids. They went to school when they were little, but (we) took them out after probably Grade 2. We moved to Spain, where we introduced our third daughter, River, to tennis. But they really didn’t know much about my music until they were teens, to be honest. I had four kids between the ages of one and seven so there’s about… seven years between them. I’m not good at math. Anyway, they only started to figure out about the music in my career when their friends started telling them things with the advent of social media and internet. They started pulling up YouTube clips and that’s when they started to ask me questions about it, but daddy was always just daddy.
WATCH: Dreaming Time Again, is the long-awaited comeback single from Canadian pop icon Corey Hart
What was it like working with your son in the Dreaming Time Again music video?
It was a terrific experience! Rain is very shy so I wasn’t expecting it. His sisters have always wanted him to do movies and acting and other things, but he’s never shown any interest in doing that because he’s a clever boy. But when I asked him about being in the video with me, he was very receptive to the idea and he thought it would be a great adventure. I believe there’s something very special about seeing us together.
Do you think maybe he’ll show it to his kids someday, too?
Yeah, I really hope so. I don’t know if you actually saw it, but at the end, I speak with him in Spanish. We spent almost five years living in Spain so I speak to Rain in Spanish 95 per cent of the time because I didn’t want him to lose his Spanish. I think as he gets older and when he looks back at it that he’ll have fond memories of it, too.
What exactly does the Dreaming Time Again title mean to you?
Well, the “dreaming” part came from my ambition as a young boy to create music. The “again,” well, that’s because it stopped for about 20 years so I get to do it all over again. Essentially, my own personal message is that I’m creating music again and going back out on the road. On a micro level, that’s what it means, but on a universal or “macro” level, what I’m trying to say is that if there’s anything that you ever wanted to try that you never had the chance to — because life got in the way — then maybe it’s time you feel it out and actually try doing it this time. I hope that message comes across to my listeners.
How did it feel to get back in the studio?
We recorded very much like how we did on my first record so it was a very live and organic approach to recording. I worked with the incredible Bob Ezrin — one of the all-time masters in producing and a real song genius. But like I said, it’s Dreaming Time Again because I was doing music for me. I had been writing songs and producing for other artists but still being at home as the full-time dad I wanted to be. This is now me being able to go back in the studio and create music and write songs for myself — something that I’ve done since I was a little boy and throughout my whole life, really. It was sheer bliss for me to get back in the studio. I loved every minute of it, and it went by too fast. I’m grateful that I had the chance to do it again.
Fans are itching to know if it’s true that you auditioned for Back to the Future.
I was actually offered the screen test for Back to the Future.
So it’s partly true?
That is true, yes. In 1984, I was contacted by the Spielberg Company. Robert Zemeckis was the producer, the screen test was for the role of Marty McFly. But I didn’t go…
Was that because of your dedication to music?
It was because I didn’t want to be an actor.
Do you think you made the right choice, then?
I do! But my kids think I made a stupid choice. They think it’s one of the dumbest things they’ve ever heard. I mean, someone should have slapped some sense into me, not that I ever would have gotten the part — it was destined to be Michael J. Fox. But I guess at least I would have had the footage of me acting like Marty McFly for a while.
On behalf of your fans, we’re glad you stuck with music, Corey. It’s great to have you back and congratulations again on the Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction.
The first two singles from Hart’s upcoming EP, Dreaming Time Again, include the title track and Another December. They are now available on all major streaming platforms. As of this writing, the EP has no slated release date.
The annual Juno Awards ceremony takes place on March 17, beginning at 8 p.m. There, Hart will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Never Surrender Canadian tour dates
May 31 @ Mile One Centre — St. John’s, N.L.
June 4 @ Scotiabank Centre — Halifax, N.S.
June 5 @ Avenir Centre — Moncton, N.B.
June 6 @ Centre Videotron — Québec, Que.
June 8 @ Budweiser Gardens — London, Ont.
June 10 @ Sudbury Community Arena — Sudbury, Ont.
June 11 @ Leon’s Centre — Kingston, Ont.
June 12 @ Canadian Tire Centre — Ottawa, Ont.
June 14 @ Budweiser Stage — Toronto, Ont.
June 15 @ Bell Centre — Montreal, Que.
June 18 @ Bell MTS Place — Winnipeg, Man.
June 20 @ Scotiabank Saddledome — Calgary, Alta.
June 21 @ Rogers Place — Edmonton, Alta.
June 22 @ Prospera Place — Kelowna, B.C.
June 24 @ Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre — Victoria, B.C.
June 25 @ Rogers Arena — Vancouver, B.C.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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