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  • Interview: Kathleen Edwards

    Wed, 16 Apr 2008 13:38:41

    Interview: Kathleen Edwards - Mixing hard work and politics with Canada's alt-country queen

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    On her third album, Asking For Flowers, Kathleen Edwards continues to build her reputation as one of the leading lights in alt-country. With a sound that falls somewhere in the great wide open between Neil Young and Lucinda Williams, Edwards' songwriting world is populated by a rowdy but sympathetic cast of characters: petty criminals, young hussies, fuck-ups and ne'er-do-wells, heartbreakers and the heartbroken.

    On Asking For Flowers, she writes some of her most personal songs to date—but songs that are hardly autobiographical. Instead, she takes a hard look at some issues facing her country (Canada) and channels an emotional real-life murder ripped from the headlines. Edwards chatted recently with ARTISTdirect about pet peeves, the reasons she considers herself "charmed" and the perils of getting political and getting personal.

    It seems like you've been pretty steadily gaining momentum from album to album. Do you feel like you've had a pretty even trajectory to your career so far, or have there been more ups and downs than it may appear to outsiders?

    Well, this has been a really amazing week for me—my record came out, and the press has been pretty great. But six months ago, I thought I had made the worst record I had ever made. I was very uncertain about my future as a recording artist. My label never really told me what they thought of the record, so there were a couple months there where I really wasn't sure if I was any good.

    And the album was finished at that point?

    The album was finished, yeah. I'd taken a bigger role in making this record, and in doing so you kind of take the brunt of opinions a lot more. It is a roller coaster. Some weeks you think, "No one is going to buy my record. I'm not going to get any support from the radio stations that played me in the past because of the direction I've gone on." And then there are days that you find out that you're going to be on David Letterman and it's like, "Wow, holy fuck, I am doing okay." So, yeah, it is a constant roller coaster, but I've been really lucky. Would I like to have a guy that does lighting? Would I like to stay in nicer hotels? Yeah, but that stuff is not really important. I get to play music and have a great band and I get to pay them—hopefully I'll get to pay them more in the future. It's all good.

    You don't even have to leave your husband at home when you go out on tour.

    Yeah. [Laughs] Thanks for bringing that up. No, I'm really lucky.

    I wrote a review of one of your shows a few years back, and said that I could imagine the audience listening to you for decades to come. But some artists have a magic number in mind—a certain number of years or albums—and then they want to hang it up and get off the road. Do you have a future Plan B? Or will we be lugging ourselves out to your shows in 30 years?

    I hope so. I don't know why anyone would spend all these years doing the very unsexy parts of playing music for a living and then all of a sudden hang it all up—unless you're Shania Twain and you have a chateau in Switzerland. But even then, that's even more reason to be creative and enjoy life. But it's weird—maybe if you asked me three years ago, I would have said, "You know what, I am fed up and exhausted. I just want to go home and live a normal life." But I have been home for about a year—maybe actually two—and I really have a new perspective on this whole whirlwind of being creative and working hard and the rewards of playing music. I'm not talking about the financial rewards. I'm doing what I think I was always supposed to do, and I'm having success doing it. I can't imagine a more charmed existence, really. Obviously there are struggles. Would I like to be a mom? Probably, yeah, at some point. Would I like to maybe not have to give birth in the back of a tour bus? Yeah, that would be ideal. But I'm so fulfilled playing music. It's so fulfilling to work hard and play shows and meet people—and to be in Stockholm one day and Denver the next. I mean… holy shit!

    Would I like to stay in nicer hotels? Yeah, but that stuff is not really important. I get to play music and have a great band and I get to pay them... It's all good.

    I was talking to this guy in a band and he has a young daughter and I said, "Better teach her how to play the drums, that way she'll always have a job." This one guy piped in and said, "Christ, don't get your kid playing music—this is a shitty way to live your life." I was like, "Fuck, man, you shoulda quit a long time ago." Just go home. If you don't like it, there are a lot of fucking people who live and breathe it. Shut the fuck up. Shit or get off the pot. I hate that attitude.

    Asking For Flowers seems a little more externally driven than its predecessors. Was there a conscious shift in songwriting approach?

    Yeah, I think my shift was that I was willing to try new things and just go with it. "Goodnight California," the last track on the record—I had several people say to me "I don't think that song is finished." And I was just like, "Yeah, it's finished." [Laughs] I was trying to find a less conventional approach to writing songs. There isn't a formula that has to exist for something to be musical.

    You know whose record I've been listening to that's the epitome of that? Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. Those songs—if you actually sit down and think about the layout of those songs—they're so strangely random. But it's such a musical record, and it's so easy to listen to it. It just falls in front of you and it's so beautiful. I'm so impressed with how she finished those songs because they're not orderly.

    Let's talk about Jim Scott for a moment.


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