emerson-drive-cp-3904267

Emerson Drive accept their CMT Video of the Year award at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Regina on Sept. 10. ((Troy Fleece/Canadian Press))

Members of the Canadian country quintet Emerson Drive are talking openly about the recent suicide of their former bassist Patrick Bourque, saying it made them realize the importance of talking openly about depression.

"For a group like us that is together all the time, it's very difficult to process how this could happen, because I look around at each of these guys and I think I know them probably better than most people that are close to them — and we didn't see the big signs of what was going on," lead singer Brad Mates said Thursday in an interview at the CMT TV studios in Toronto.

The Nashville-based group has been dedicating recent U.S. shows to Bourque, who died Sept. 25 in Montreal after suddenly quitting the band during the summer.

Thehigh-energy group is set to perform in Toronto next weekend as part of the Grey Cup festivities and plans across-Canada tour with Big and Rich and Terri Clark in January.

Bourque's death hit the other band members hard, Mates said.

"As a band now, to carry on was tough the first couple of weeks. Each day is getting better and better and you have to learn from this. If you don't learn from it, then you're not moving forward," he said.

Thebandmates were on the road heading to Nebraska when they heard of Bourque's death, which came on the heels of the band's triple win at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Regina.

"I was on a flight, the guys were on a bus and we all found out that morning and it was, I mean, it's something you never expect," said Mates, who appeared with fellow band members David Pichette, Danick Dupelle, Mike Melancon and Dale Wallace.

Bourque was with the group from its beginning in Grande Prairie, Alta., in 1995 under the name 12 Gauge.

They changed the name after learning a U.S. rap group was also called 12 Gauge.

Band got the Midas touch

They landed a record deal with DreamWorks Records in Nashville in 2003, releasing two albums on that label before signing on to Midas Records Nashville a year and a half ago.

"The one thing that most people who met Patrick will remember is just his love for music and his big goofy smile and his face, and (he'll be) very missed," said Mates.

Bourque was struggling with his personal lifeand things grew worse over the summer after he left the band.

"All these things were just going through his mind and he was just not well until the end," said Pichette, who plays fiddle.

Pichette said they knew he was unhappy but "nobody could do anything for him," not even his family, who were nearby.

Bourque'sdeath has left everyone around him devastated, he said.

"It's hard sometimes to let yourself seek some help, but sometimes it's very important," said Pichette, adding that the band members have sought the help of therapists.

Members of the five-piece group, who have been doing well with their latest release Countrified, are working on a new record,set for release in the spring, as well as touring.