by Alex Smith-Barbieri
– Senior Columnist –
Tony Harnell is a member of a very exclusive club called “the best singers in rock.” Along with Steve Perry, Ann Wilson, and a few others, Harnell has proven time again on record and live that he is, indeed, one of the best singers in rock.
Originally from San Diego, Calif., and now a proud resident of New York City, Harnell came to fame in the mid-1980s as the lead singer of Norway’s TNT. A true artist, he has stayed active writing, recording, and performing in numerous musical projects, as well as in theater, and art.
Here, Tony talks about the recently announced TNT reunion, his favorite memories of the past, his new project, Tony Harnell & The Wild Flowers featuring Bumblefoot, and much more.
HRH: Tony, thanks for taking time to talk with Hardrock Haven. First, do you prefer to be called Tony or Antony?
TH: Tony, (laughs). No one really ever calls me Antony, but thanks for asking. I guess you’re referring to my personal Facebook page where I use that name on purpose to distinguish that from the fan page.
HRH: Let’s address the news many fans are excited about—the TNT reunion! Was it a difficult decision, and why do you feel now the right time? Are any shows planned yet?
TH: It was one of the most difficult decisions ever, but finally I decided that I spent 22 years of my life working extremely hard building a brand that most musicians would kill for, and I thought the fans deserved it, and I thought I deserved to have that brand back on my bio and take the “formerly of” or “ex” singer B.S. away. Shows are booked and more are planned.
HRH: Looking back, what are some highlights of the mid-1980s TNT era for you? Do any particular accomplishments, shows or albums stand out?
TH: Winning a Norwegian Grammy, #1 albums and singles overseas, our huge success in Japan from ’89 through ’92. Of course, the wonderful Stryper tour in 1987; all the success of Tell No Tales in America … I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot! Much of it was a blur! LOL.
HRH: I’m going to name the titles of some of TNT’s most famous songs. Tell us the first thing that comes to mind for each:
“Seven Seas” – First riff I heard on a tape given to me to see if I wanted to join the band.
“10,000 Lovers (In One)” – Hit song.
“Everyone’s a Star” – A lot of fun doing the video in London.
“Tonight I’m Falling” – A lot of fun doing the video in New York City.
“Intuition” – A lot of fun doing the video in Los Angeles. And Japan always comes to mind with that song.
HRH: Like any true artist, you’ve kept singing and writing music through the years in various projects, including Morning Wood, Westworld, Starbreaker, and Tony Harnell & The Mercury Train. Tell us about your current project, Tony Harnell & The Wild Flowers featuring Bumblefoot.
TH: It’s not so current anymore but it’s an album I’m quite fond of and would like to expand on that sound and try to create something fresh and new in the world of acoustic rock as I continue with electric music.
HRH: Your mother, Constance Haldaman, was an opera singer. Clearly, she had an influence on your voice and singing ability. Tell us what you learned from her.
TH: I guess the most important thing I picked up was her critical ear, probably her power and range too, but she was such a natural talent and she worked hard on her voice and had great pride in her craft.
HRH: Your voice still sounds great, considering you started when you were five! What do you do to take care of it, and what are your pre-show and recording rituals?
TH: They vary depending on the situation, but I just try to be good to my body and that usually translates into good vocal health—but there are no guarantees, and like all singers I have off nights, I have learned to accept them as part of being human.
HRH: Everyone loves a good road story. What are some funny or crazy things that have happened on the road over the years?
TH: You’ll have to wait for the book. To be honest, I didn’t see much craziness on the road as I was always off the stage and into my room or on the bus resting my voice. It’s no walk in the park singing TNT material, and that’s my own fault for writing it that way.
Also, it was quite easy for me to sing like that in my 20s. I wasn’t thinking ahead! (Laughs) But the road crew always had good pictures from the night before—Polaroids that far outdid most of what the band was up to! I can’t even repeat them, but I wish I could erase some of those images from my mind though.
HRH: What’s a typical day in the life of Tony Harnell like? What else do you do besides sing and write music?
TH: Not much! That consumes most of my time, I work with other artists a lot as a mentor, producer, writer, etc. And I am a kind of a health food foodie and I live in New York City, so I’m always walking from point A to B and meeting with friends a lot. Other musicians and long time friends.
HRH: Is there anything else you want to say to your fans, and Hardrock Haven readers around the world?
TH: It’s great to be back in TNT, and I have a lot going on in 2014. Bumblefoot and I are playing Mike Portnoy’s Progressive Nation Cruise in February—check the details online. I’ll probably be touring acoustically as well with or without Bumble, depending on his schedule and lots more stuff coming down the pike.
HRH: Tony, thank you again for your time. Cheers and please stay in touch!
TH: You guys rock! Thank you!!
Visit Tony Harnell’s official website: http://www.tonyharnell.com/
Like Tony on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tonyharnellfans