Tony Harnell

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Tony Harnell
Tonybw.jpg
Background information
Born (1962-09-18) September 18, 1962 (age 51)
Genres Hard rock, Acoustic, Heavy metal
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1980–present
Associated acts TNT, Westworld, Starbreaker
Website http://www.tonyharnell.com

Antony "Tony" Harnell (born September 18, 1962,[1] in San Diego, California, USA) is an American hard rock singer, best known for his work with the Norwegian hard rock band TNT. He is also known for his exceptionally wide vocal range, with his chest-voice alone spanning over 4 octaves.

Tony has led a career as a recording artist since the early 80's. He is also a songwriter and producer.

Biography[edit]

Tony Harnell was born in San Diego in the 1962 and has an older half sister by his father. His mother, Constance Haldaman was an opera singer while his father, Boyd Harnell was a photo-journalist. As a young teenager, he was a professional skateboarder and avid surfer.

Harnell has counted The Beatles, Queen, and Judas Priest as his early musical influences, the latter two having fused operatic technique with rock music. Other favorites include Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie along with the more contemporary Francis Dunnery, Alanis Morissette, Radiohead, and Chris Cornell.

Getting started[edit]

Harnell started singing at the age of 5. At 17, he joined his first garage band and spent the next three years in approximately 15 bands including Bronx based band The Jackals featuring John Tempesta on drums and at 18 started studying with acclaimed vocal teacher Don Lawrence. He joined TNT in 1984 at the age of 21.

TNT[edit]

Ronni Le Tekrø stated "We heard an original sounding voice from heaven, and invited him to Norway to join the band." The tape was a demo of several projects Tony had been involved with between 1981–84, including some songs from The Jackals, the New York City band Tony left to join TNT in 1984. The Jackals also included renowned drummer John Tempesta who went on to play with Rob Zombie and is currently in The Cult. To this day Tony states he doesn't know how the demo got to TNT.

In 1984, after a show, Harnell was introduced to Mike Varney who began discussing this great band in Norway that was looking for a singer. He handed Harnell the tape of TNT and said to check them out. Of this experience, Harnell has said, "I took it home and I was blown away. It was that good. And it was exactly the kind of music I wanted to do at that point in my life."

The working relationship of TNT has always presented the challenge of geography, but it has also helped in the development of creative solutions. Upon his introduction to this Norwegian rock band, Harnell was impressed with the musicianship and style established while the rest of the band was convinced that this American brought the right voice to their music.

The special relationship and brotherly bond that Tony developed with guitarist Ronni Le Tekrø was the creative driving force in the band. The two of them wrote co-wrote all of TNT's material together during Tony's 22 year run with the band.

Steve Huey of AMG has written "With a level of musicianship higher than the average hair-metal band, Norway's TNT offered a prog-tinged take on pop-metal due largely to the stunning vocal range of lead singer Tony Harnell."

With TNT, Tony Harnell recorded 9 studio albums, two live videos and two "best of" cds, toured the U.S. several times with acts such as Stryper, Twisted Sister and Great White and headlined sold out tours in 89 in both the U.S. and Japan. From 1997-1999 TNT also toured Japan and Norway. In the 2000s on the heels of The Big Bang which went gold in Norway and the critically acclaimed My Religion he performed to huge audiences with TNT at festivals throughout Europe, including the Sweden Rock Festival with 20,000+ in attendance, where they shared the bill with numerous greats including metal legends, Judas Priest. TNT also supported the band Europe for the Lorca Festival show in Spain with 10,000+ fans in attendance.

It is estimated that TNT with Harnell sold between 1.5-2 million albums in total. They received a Norwegian Grammy award in 1987 for rock album of the year for "Tell No Tales" and received numerous silver, gold, diamond and platinum awards in Norway and Japan.

He left the band in April 2006 for both "personal and professional" reasons and made it clear that this time it's for good. He performed his last show with the band on June 30, 2006 and a DVD was released in the Autumn of 2006 that features the second to last show in Madrid, Spain on April 1, 2006. Although it was stated by Ronni Le Tekrø in an interview that Tony left the band "in the middle of a tour", he actually resigned after the final show in Madrid and agreed to perform the one show left on the books at that time, which was Polar Rock Festival in the north of Norway. He did perform this final show with the band though they had already been touring with new singer Tony Mills by that time. Polar Rock Fest asked that Tony Harnell perform with the band and he agreed out of respect for the promoter and to say goodbye to the fans in Norway. Harnell brought Mills up on stage for the last song of the set to pass the torch over and they sang Harley Davidson together, Tony's least favorite TNT song from the 1st album before he was a member. He has said in interviews that this was not the song he would have wanted to be the last he sang on stage with TNT as he felt strongly that it did not represent the music he created with the band.

On October 17, 2013 Harnell announced that he had rejoined TNT, stating, "I'm very proud of all we accomplished over the years and proud to have written and recorded all those great songs with my brother from another mother, Ronni Le Tekrø. Sometimes it's just time to give the fans what they're asking for."[2]

Morning Wood[edit]

Morning Wood refers to the eponymous CD released by Tony and an all-star line-up including, Al Pitrelli, Chuck Bonfonte and Danny Mirada. The project grew out of the series of shows Tony had participated in with Al's cover band, Ethyl Mertz. It was an acoustic project and mostly about the musicians enjoying themselves. When it was decided to record some tracks, the name Morning Wood surfaced. On how the CD came together, Tony said "We had been playing live with that line-up and the shows sounded really good so we just went in and recorded the band live and finished the thing in about ten days."

The CD was first released in Japan in 1994 during TNT's first break-up and in 2002 was re-released in Europe as Tony Harnell and Morning Wood. This project provided Tony an opportunity to do something a little different after working continuously with TNT for close to 10 years straight. Tony explained that having the opportunity to write and work with these musicians was a great change of pace and "a lot of fun."

Westworld[edit]

The Westworld project features Tony, Mark Reale, Bruno Ravel and John O'Reilly, with Keyboardist Josh Pincus and Mark Wood. When asked about the project, Tony has said that "Westworld was originally intended as a one-off side project and we never thought it would be received as well as it has been."

Since its inception, Westworld released three studio albums and a live album and performed shows throughout the New York area, in Los Angeles, as well as a tour in Japan and the ZRock festival show in England in 2002.

Starbreaker[edit]

Starbreaker, a project featuring Tony, John Macaluso, Magnus Karlsson, and Fabrizio Grossi, released their first album in 2005. A second Starbreaker album, Love's Dying Wish, was released in 2008. The band never toured.

Video games[edit]

Tony has done a few tracks for the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series. His first track for the series was "It Doesn't Matter" on the soundtrack of Sonic Adventure released in 1998 by SEGA. Harnell returned in 2001 to perform a rewritten version of the theme for Sonic in Sonic Adventure 2, as well as the first stage theme "Escape from the City" with fellow rock musician Ted Poley. Following this in 2004, Harnell performed the Team Sonic theme for Sonic Heroes called "We Can", again with Poley. In 2011, Harnell confirmed via Facebook that he was scheduled to re-record "Escape from the City" with Poley for the game Sonic Generations, the track appearing in the Modern City Escape level.

Theater[edit]

In January 2007 Tony was asked by Air Supply songwriter and guitarist Graham Russell to perform the role of Robin in his musical "Heart Of The Rose", which Graham calls the true story of Robin Hood. The one off performance was for what is known in the theater world as a "backer's audition" for New York's theater elite to raise money and interest in the musical. It was a successful show and the musical is still being worked on. Tony hopes to branch out more into theater productions in the future.

Solo career[edit]

In 2008, Harnell released his first solo material in demo form through his website only. Entitled Cinematic. The EP features 6 songs that may or may not appear on his upcoming full-length solo album.

  • "The Show": Written by Harnell/Gibson/Berntoft - Produced by Mats Berntoft
  • "Out from Under the Black Cloud": Written by Harnell/Altzar - Produced by Lizette
  • "One Way Ride": Written by Harnell/Altzar - Produced by Lizette
  • "Cinematic": Written by Harnell/Altzar - Produced by Lizette
  • "I Don't Want Anything": Written by Harnell/Gibson-Produced by Mats Berntoft
  • "Unholy: Harnell/Gibson/Berntoft- Produced by Mats Berntoft

It is not decided if these songs will be featured on his forthcoming solo album.

Tony Harnell & The Mercury Train "Round Trip", released in 2010

The album was recorded in two separate periods. The music was recorded live over two days at the end of 2008 in Brooklyn, NY. The vocals were recorded from late 2009 into early 2010 by Tony in his home studio. The vocal sessions started 7 months after a successful 5 hour surgery to remove his thyroid gland following a diagnosis of thyroid cancer in Jan 2009. The surgery threatened to end his singing career due to its location across the front of his neck near delicate muscles and tendons used in singing. But with the skill of an excellent surgeon, the help of his long-time voice coach Don Lawrence and extensive physical therapy he regained his voice completely. The cancer was totally cleaned out and his doctors don't expect it to return. Tony calls the first few months of 2009 "the worst of his life". During his recovery period, his mother, who was battling breast cancer for several years, finally succumbed to the disease on April 24, 2009, just one and a half months after Tony's ordeal. Tony says the album was the "perfect tool to retrain his voice and put the painful past with TNT behind him on his own terms". "Round Trip" which was released in the autumn of 2010 is a retrospective of all his past work plus one new song and was recorded with his favorite local musicians in New York. The album features Brandon Wilde on bass and vocals, Jason Hagen on acoustic guitar, Brad Gunyon on drums, Chris Foley on lead guitar and his wife Amy Harnell on backing vocals and recorder. On April 1, 2011 Tony released a new digital single worldwide called "Take What You're Giving" which starts a new chapter in Tony's ever evolving sound and has charted in Norway and Sweden. He is currently working on a book and a solo album and regularly performs in New York City.

In 2010 Tony went back to work on the live scene performing in his home town of New York City, traveling to Norway for the Norway Rock Festival which featured Slash, Gary Moore, Queensrÿche and other top names.

In November 2010 Tony performed 13 shows throughout Spain in Queen Symphonic Rhapsody which featured a 40 piece symphony orchestra from Russia. Tony was one of four solo singers performing in a two and a half hour show featuring the music of Queen in classical theaters.

In 2011 he hopes to do more live shows as he keeps busy recording and writing...

Discography[edit]

Solo[edit]

Tony Harnell & The wild flowers feat Bumblefoot [3] (2013) (ON iTUNES)

  • "somebody to love (cover)"

Starbreaker[edit]

TNT[edit]

Westworld[edit]

Misc[edit]

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • 3 Silver album awards
  • 5 Gold album awards
  • 3 Platinum album awards
  • 6 'Top Requested' videos on MTV
  • The Norwegian Grammy Award for 'Rock Album of the Year', 1987
  • Voted Best Live Act of the Year, in Japan, 1989
  • Voted Best Live Act of the Year, in Europe, 2004

References[edit]

External links[edit]