Tony Harnell (born 18 September 1962 in San Diego, California, USA) is an American rock singer, best known for his work with the Norwegian hard rock band TNT. As a vocalist, songwriter and producer, Tony has led a career as a recording and touring artist since the mid 80's. He has sold close to two million albums worldwide and is more active than ever as he goes forward as a solo artist. The stock response of Tony Harnell when asked questions about his youth is that he was born in "San Diego in the 60s.
As a vocalist, songwriter and producer, Tony has led a career as a recording and touring artist since the mid 80's. He has sold close to two million albums worldwide and is more active than ever as he goes forward as a solo artist.
The stock response of Tony Harnell when asked questions about his youth is that he was born in "San Diego in the 60s." Such brevity belies the fact that before he ever thought of being a professional singer, he had another career entirely. Once upon a time, in that muggy warm weather that San Diego is famous for, a young teenaged Tony Harnell was a professional skateboarder. Add to that fact that he was an avid surfer, the mere concept that this archetypical California boy would someday be a New Yorker, a professional entertainer, and with strong ties to Norway, the sparsely populated country near the arctic circle, seems almost implausible.
But if he was destined to lead an artist's life, being the only child of two very artistic souls did him no harm. As is often noted, his mother was a professional opera singer while his father was a professional photographer. Growing up, he was afforded the opportunity to live overseas for a period of time and gain more of a worldwide perspective towards life. Later on, he moved from California to New York, and was awarded a scholarship to pursue an academic curriculum towards a degree in photography. Luckily for fans everywhere, at some point in the Big Apple, his priorities became refocused on singing.
Introduced to the art of singing throughout his early years by his very talented operatic mother, Tony grew up in a household where music was always present.
When asked about influences, Tony has responded that there are "too many to name." Among those consistently listed, he has often referred first to the Beatles, Queen, and Judas Priest, the latter two having fused operatic technique with rock music. Additionally, some others identified as favorites, inspiring his music include, but are not limited to: Paul McCartney, Steve Perry, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, along with the more contemporary Francis Dunnery, Alanis Morissette, Radiohead, and Chris Cornell.
Tony has related that his earliest memory of singing was at a very young age. Specifically, he was five years old. While being the star attraction for friends and relatives at that tender age didn't hurt, it was later on while living in New York, that it clicked. Friends who would hear him singing along to music gave Tony encouragement to join a band. It was great advice to which Tony later related the results: "It took about two rehearsals and my life changed. It was kind of weird actually how that happened. ? I just got bit, you know?"
It was a nice bite indeed, as Tony became fairly serious about the pursuit of music. He spent about a year singing in bands in New York while taking some vocal lessons to become more technically proficient, but what happened next is the stuff of legends.
There have been many retellings of the story of how Tony Harnell was introduced to and joined a band far away in a frozen Scandinavian land: However, the consistent theme is that the band first heard a tape of Tony, Tony then heard a tape of the band, which was rapidly followed by a set of airline tickets to Norway.
For how the Norwegian connection occurred, Ronni Le Tekro stated "We heard an original sounding voice from heaven, and invited him to Norway to audition." The tape was a demo produced by Tony and his then-band, The Jackals, who were playing the club scene in New York City.
For the US side of the equation, after a show, Tony was introduced to Mike Varney who began discussing this great band in Norway that was looking for a singer. He handed Tony the tape of TNT and said to check them out. Of this experience, Tony 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."
That was 1984 and it launched Tony Harnell on his way to becoming an internationally regarded vocalist and an icon to many aspiring singers.
Not to mention one of the most gifted vocalist in the world.
Traveling and touring
Tony has always looked forward to the opportunity to play to audiences around the world. He was recently asked to name his most memorable onstage experiences and responded that playing in New York City at Madison Square Garden to almost 20,000 people as well as the entire first Japanese tour that TNT completed were ranked at the top. The opportunity to tour in new as well as familiar places is still inspiring and an experience he looks forward to.
As time has passed, Tony has continued to progress as a talented songwriter. He has adopted an almost autobiographical approach that is honest, revealing and therefore establishes a connection that seemingly resonates with his audience. In an interview upon the release of Transistor, Tony discussed his approach to songwriting: "I use any life influences: me, people around me, what's going on, what affects me day to day. I sit down and let the lyrics come to me. I write the words that are coming to me and each song writes itself. Generally, that's what I've been doing and people can relate their own experiences to each song." He sums it up in that the key to creating a lasting song from the perspective of a writer, is to not be preconceived in the approach but to take advantage of the spontaneity of thought.
Tony has described his own vocal talent as "either my nemesis or my best friend." As somewhat of a perfectionist, clearly Tony subscribes to the idea that being able to get the most of ones instrument and perform to their utmost is of critical importance. As many professionals do, he has found a way to give back to his profession: It was back in 1993 at the suggestion of friends and acquaintances, he began accepting vocal students. The idea had been kicked around for a little while before he had the time to act upon it. In the years since, Tony's worked with all types of singers and has found it to be a rewarding endeavor, albeit time consuming. They will attest to the fact that due to his other professional commitments, scheduling can be a challenge. Tony, who is a natural teacher, has always enjoyed working with and helping other singers to progress and achieve more from their vocal talent.
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 and as of 2002 has been re-released in Europe. Morning Wood 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."
On to WestWorld
The highly acclaimed WestWorld project features a powerhouse combination of Tony, Mark Reale, Bruno Ravel, John O. Reilly, with Josh Pincus, and on occasion, joined by 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."
While the original intent in 1999 was that of an experimental project, with four releases to date, it has fused to become a true band. The ease with which writing and performing music came together was a pleasant surprise for each of the members. Since its inception, WestWorld has 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.
Surrounded by some of the most talented musicians of the world- it is realized that Tony Harnell has a range that is not easily obtained unless it was to come naturally.
The classic TNT lineup of Tony, Ronni Le Tekro, Morty Black, and Diesel Dahl, regrouped in 2002 in order to create their powerhouse brand of music. 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, Tony 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. Together, the musical artistry has crafted a perfect fit and the mutuality of each others opinion hasn't faded with time but rather, it has been reinforced. Tony and TNT are like brothers who spend time apart but are as one family when they get together to create their signature sound. The past year saw the departure of bassist Morty Black, but the core focus of TNT continues. Each member continues to pursue personal projects while bringing a vitality, passion and fire to the music that they create as a tightly synchronized integral unit.
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." While the phrase "hair-metal band" is one that is both dated and slightly dubious, there is no question about the musicianship and the "vocal extraordinaire" setting TNT apart from rest. An excellent writing duo along with that unique and special combination has become the hallmark of this band.
In 2003, upon announcing the release of Give Me A Sign, MTM Records declared TNT as the comeback of the century. Reviews and popular acclaim have given such proclamation credence as TNT's 2004 release of the stellar 'My Religion' made its mark on charts throughout Europe and Japan, and was voted the #1 hard rock release by the music press and by fans. With TNT, Tony performed to huge audiences at festivals throughout Europe, including the Swedish 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.
Tony acknowledges the special chemistry that TNT has is one that can still be quite compelling. TNT will always be a part of his past, it is a significant part of his present, and while the future is never carved in stone, there is always a possibility for future projects as a band.
Starbreaker, a band featuring Tony, John Macaluso, Magnus Karlsson, and Fabrizio Grossi, embodies the perfect contemporary melodic metal machine. Quote Tony, "It's heavy, epic, majestic and hugely melodic." Their first album was released in 2005.
Harnell Leaving TNT
Tony Harnell left the band in April 2006 for both personal and professional reasons. He performed his last show with the band on June 30th 2006 and a DVD will be released in the Autumn of 2006 that features the second to last show in Madrid, Spain on April 1st 2006.
Shortly before Christmas 2007, Tony Harnell released 3 demo songs through his MySpace page as a little Christmas gift to his fans online waiting for new Harnell music.
* The Show: Written by Harnell/Gibson/Berntoft - Produced by Mats Berntoft
* Out From Under The Black Cloud: Written by Harnell/Gustavsson - Produced by Lizette
* Cinematic: Written by Harnell/Gustavsson - Produced by Lizette
It is not decided if these songs will be featured on his solo album.