Eugene Edwards Biography
Elvis Costello. Squeeze. Nick Lowe. Foo Fighters. Tom Petty. Marshall Crenshaw. The Guess Who. Even the Beatles. Yeah, Eugene Edwards could hide from the comparisons he gets, from both fans and critics alike, but he's not like that. Edwards, whose debut album, "My Favorite Revolution," is out on Tallboy Records, wears his influences unapologetically on his sleeve. And just as often as he hears, "You remind me of so-and-so," he also hears a comparison to an artist he's never listened to before. "Depending on the age group of the listener," says Edwards, "that's what they walk away with as their comparison. The baby boomers say I sound like The Who, the Kinks, the Beatles. The gen x'ers -- Squeeze, Elvis Costello. Teenagers now hear Foo Fighters, Strokes, even Weezer. They're hearing something, there's something that's connecting. It seems like it's the music that mattered to them deep inside, and they hear a bit of it in my record or hear it in the live show. For people to connect to it on that level... you're reminding them of music that matters to them. It's a pleasant surprise."
Edwards' love of music began early. He got his first guitar at the age of eight ("It was bigger than me, but that didn't stop me," he recalls), yet he was already noodling on his cousin's guitar for several years at that point. By the time he was 13, he graduated to his first electric guitar -- a Telecaster -- the same guitar sported by Springsteen (his first rock concert), Buddy Holly (he was enamored of Gary Busey's turn in "The Buddy Holly Story"), and Elvis Costello (who played it in one of his heavy-rotation MTV videos). "A Telecaster is not what a 13-year-old would normally go for," Edwards said. "But that guitar became an icon for me."
He gigged in his hometown of Yuma, Arizona, in a series of bands, and as soon as he was able, he headed to Berklee College of Music in Boston. His stint there was short-lived. "When I got to Berklee," Edwards says, "it turned out a lot of students had never even been out on stage before or had a paying gig of any sort. They just looked at me like, 'What are you doing here?' I had already had a few years of gigging under my belt by the age of 17. I thought, 'I've done this backwards.'" He headed back to Yuma and hooked back up with a country roadhouse band he'd played in before leaving for school. "I may have rushed off to Berklee too soon. But I was very ambitious to move on and looked forward to getting my ass kicked musically because I had really become a big fish in a very small pond by the time I was 17."
Through the course of a run with the country band and subsequently joining several roots bands, Edwards landed in Los Angeles (where he is based now). Eventually, he came into his own as a songwriter and started performing his own songs, first as a solo singer-songwriter, and later with a band. "I had recorded a three-song demo and started booking gigs around town pretending I had a band. The songs I had written were written with a band in mind. So I had to put one together." The original demo didn't entirely suit him, so he then recorded a four-song demo with Dave Peterson, a former neighbor and music producer, at the helm. Edwards finally felt he was on the right track.
That demo got Edwards some attention on the Audities scene, and "all of a sudden I was getting emails from people in Boston, Japan, asking where they could get a copy of this four-song demo they'd heard about. And also the International Pop Overthrown people got ahold of it at the same time. A buzz had started there. Tallboy Records approached me and said, 'If you ever do a record, we want to put it out.'"
When Edwards was ready to record a full album, he called upon Peterson again. "I made it without the involvement of any label, specifically because I realized that if everything goes well, this will be the last time that I get to make an album my way. I wanted this chance. Springsteen had mentioned in his lyric book about his first record, 'This is a moment where anybody hearing this record is going to have no preconception about it.' That's a very precious moment. You can never get a second chance to make a first impression. So it was really sacred to me. When I was done with it... it was the first thing I could hand out without any apologies. Once we were done and we had mixed it, I called Tallboy and said, 'We're ready, we've got the record.'"
Produced by Dave Peterson, "My Favorite Revolution," immediately came to the attention of the local press: the Los Angeles Times said, "It's easy to see why Edwards has become a favorite on the L.A. pop scene -- his revved up live shows and sterling guitar licks put muscle behind his melodies." The Pasadena Weekly called it, "A satisfying, unapologetically optimistic rock 'n' roll platter." Opined the OC Weekly: "He and his group... play flat-out fun pop music with a deceptively sharp bite." Britain's Uncut Magazine trumpeted: "Blaring forth with assured vocals, cutting guitar figures, and a melodic sense that marries Tom Petty to Squeeze, Edwards spills out 14 flawless songs obsessed with jaded romance and, occasionally, even sadder affairs of the heart." The OC Weekly also commended his live performance, saying: "Edwards brought loud, ornery, impossibly catchy melodies to the stage, and he played everything with the passion of a man who was combusting right before you... he's a killer guitar man..."
Although he performed everything on the album except the drums, Edwards relies heavily on his band, because the live show is so important to him. The Eugene Edwards band is composed of Mike "Soupy" Sessa on drums (Fear, Cracker, Rosie Flores, the Bellrays); Brian Whelan on bass, guitar, keyboards and vocals; John Hoskinson on rhythm guitar and vocals; and they are occasionally joined by Ted Kamp on bass and vocals, and Robbie Rist on bass, guitar, and vocals.
Says Edwards: "I'd like to be thought of as the guy who reintroduced whatever it was that Springsteen, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello -- the post-Dylan songwriters -- had. And, like The Clash has shown that if you have just one person standing in front of you, you owe it to them to sweat every bit that you have in your body -- I want to be the guy who, if they want to hear one more song, I am ready to give it to them. If they're still standing at the end of a 45-minute set, I feel like I've done something wrong."