Emerson Drive founder Brad Mates, originally from Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, entered a talent contest in high school, and was inspired afterward to form a band. The group was originally named 12 Gauge, and would go on to release two albums under that name in 1996 and 1997. But before moving to Nashville they were re-christened Emerson Drive. The name was inspired by the Emerson Trail, a road outside Grande Prairie which connects to the Alaska Highway.

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