Decades ago, this ‘Sunglasses at Night’–wearing ‘Boy in the Box’ was on top of the world, selling millions of records and touring to packed arenas. Then he walked away from it all. He’s finally returning with a new album and a cross-country tour hitting Toronto’s Budweiser Stage on June 14.
So what brought you back?
Well I had four kids, and they are all getting a little bit older. My oldest is 23 [then] 21, 19 and 15. Gave me the chance as they got older to take a season off and devote my life to the old Corey Hart life, music touring and recording.
Were you surprised that your fans didn’t go anywhere?
When I stepped away 20 years ago, truthfully, I didn’t think doors would open for me to come back. Two or three years is a long time to be away in the music business. Twenty years is really a century. So I didn’t have any expectations.
Any fond Toronto memories from your heyday?
One of the memories that stands out for me was playing at the CNE in the summer of ’85. At that time, playing for a thousand people was a lot, but there was like 25,000 people there. It was at the grandstand, and I just remember bolting off the stage to try and get closer to the audience’ I was so overwhelmed by the sheer number. And they never knew I was going to jump offstage and run to the back of the grandstand, which I did, and that caused a bit of pandemonium.
Could you tell me the story of your first foray into music and a certain cassette tape?
Sure. Billy Joel was playing at the Montreal Forum, and I bought a ticket and just had the idea because I liked Billy Joel a lot as an early teen starting to write songs. I made a cassette tape of three or four piano vocal demos and left one for each band member with my name and phone number. I never really thought I’d get a call back, but I did. I got a call from the sax player in his band, and from there we started chatting and I went down to Long Island and was working there, got to meet Billy and record some of my songs.
You left music to raise your kids. Were you a helicopter dad or a cool dad?
I’d say cool helicopter, a combination. I like that helicopter term though. I definitely micromanaged the kids. I was not like “just gimme the details” at the end of the day. I was very hands-on as a dad. I believe that, when I made the decision to do this, my established job [in music] would have prohibited me from giving them the hours that they needed, and that might have come from me not having a dad in my own life. But I believe in quantity, and hopefully there is some quality in that quantity.
Most artists who make similar comebacks talk about the lack of pressure and how joyous it feels. How do you feel about it?
I agree with that, and there is no pressure for me, except my own artistic benchmarks because I want to give fans the best possible show. It is all about the fans and making them feel validated and important. That’s why the music was created.
What can we expect from your show here in Toronto this month?
I’ll probably jump off the stage and run into the crowd again.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Well, no such thing as perfection, but being with my family.
What is your most treasured possession?
I’m not a materialist type of person, but I think my piano. The one I wrote all my songs on.
What is your greatest fear?
Being afraid. How about that?
What living person do you most admire?
I’d say my wife Julie.
What skill would you most like to have?
That’s a great question, and I have such a long list: navigation skills, map skills, science skills, anything in that world. Not losing my keys, wallet, passport every three days.
What is your greatest regret?
Hmm. Dude, you’re giving me some heavy s**t. I guess I’m too sincere about stuff. I want to try to give you a good answer. Man. Gimme the next question, and I’ll come back to that one.
It might not be easier, but what is your life’s motto?
Boy, man. OK, life’s motto is Never Surrender, so that one comes out easy. And my biggest regret is doing this interview. (Put a smiley face next to that one though.)