ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAY 26, 2005
By Steve Newton
When Toronto roots-pop sensation Kathleen Edwards calls from a Tennessee tour stop, she’s strolling the streets of Nashville en route to a yoga class. “It’s what you need when you sit on a bus all day,” she points out.
Along the way, she’s found a little free time to shop, because, hey, 26-year-olds destined for greatness can do that.
But Edwards isn’t scouting around for shoes or anything: American music is on her mind, so she’s scored a Roy Orbison CD and the new Bruce Springsteen. The trip to the music store has got her thinking about how she’s marketed in certain cities.
“Nashville’s kind of a weird town,” she says. “I just had a good laugh to myself ’cause I was thinking about how, if you go to HMV in London, England, I’m in the country section, but when you come to Nashville I’m in the rock section. So no one seems to be able to make up their mind what exactly I am. I’m too rock for Nashville and too country for Europe.”
The day after our chat, Edwards is booked to play in Louisville, Kentucky, but for tonight all of Music City, USA, is at her disposal. So what do you figure she and her bandmates–lead guitarist Colin Cripps, keyboardist-guitarist Jim Bryson, bassist Kevin McCarragher, and drummer Joel Anderson–have in mind for a night on the town? If you’re thinking they’re probably going out to see a band, think again.
“All the guys in the band are big baseball fans,” she explains, “and we’ve been goin’ to all these great baseball cities, but not having time to go see games. So I think we’re gonna go eat hot dogs and watch baseball.”
Though she used to be a devoted Blue Jays fan, Edwards’s main interest sportswise is hockey. She made that fact known on “Hockey Skates”, the ballad off her 2002 debut CD, Failer, in which she languidly sings: “I am so sick of consequence and the look on your face/I am tired of playing defence and I don’t even have hockey skates”. So don’t get her started about the missing NHL season.
“I think it’s a pretty shameful disgrace on the part of the players,” she points out, “who make more money in a year than most people ever would-and doing what they love, what they’re passionate about. I just think, you know, ‘Fuck!’ People take things for granted.”
Although she still enjoys performing the four-year-old “Hockey Skates”, Edwards’s new album, Back to Me, contains plenty of other songs that she’s proud of, including “Pink Emerson Radio”, which was partly inspired by an apartment fire where she had to grab whatever personal items she could carry and evacuate the building.
“I had to make a quick decision on what exactly I was gonna walk out with,” she recalls, “possibly never seeing anything else again. I kinda took that idea and applied it to a nostalgic sense of belongings.”
“Pink Emerson Radio” displays a bit of a lyrical departure from Edwards’s earlier material in that it’s not about fractured relationships. Now that she’s a happily married woman-former Crash Vegas guitarist and session ace Cripps being the lucky guy-she knows there’s more to life than heartbreak.
“A lotta people say, ‘Well, if you’re married, how are you gonna write great boy-girl breakup songs?’, and I kinda think, ‘Do I really need to be held to that?'”
Edwards-who was born in Ottawa and traveled as a child with her diplomat father to Switzerland and South Korea before returning to the capital city to finish high school-moved to Wakefield, Quebec, a couple of years ago, where she lived in a farmhouse. Now relocated to Toronto, at this busy stage in her life she deeply values the time she has just to hang around the house.
“I don’t really go out, to be honest with you. When I’m on tour I live in bars and clubs, and when I go home I like staying home and cooking food. I’m kind of a homebody.”
The stunning Failer was a hard act to follow, but Back to Me is certainly up to the task. Benefitting greatly from the classy lead- and slide-guitar stylings of MVP Cripps, it takes the pure-country twang of Lucinda Williams and infuses it with a jangly Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers pop-rock vibe. Listen to both CDs back to back and it’s difficult to pick a fave.
“I guess in some ways I see them very differently,” Edwards posits. “When I made Failer it was, in some ways, a travelogue of songs that were some of the first songs I’d ever written, like ‘Hockey Skates’. But it was nice to be able to make a second record and have a bit more production value to it without it being overproduced. It was just kinda fun to make a record that was the way I wanted it to be.”
in + out
Kathleen Edwards sounds off on the things that enquiring minds want to know.
On playing the Commodore Ballroom for the first time: “A friend of mine from Ottawa who I actually went to public school with is now booking the Commodore, so it’s really fun to kinda come full circle and play there.”
On My Morning Jacket singer Jim James, who performs on the Back to Me track “Independent Thief”: “I met him at a Gram Parsons tribute concert in California last summer. We were looking for someone to sing on this one track, and he ended up being the most perfect person that I could have possibly got.”
On her fave all-time musician, Tom Petty, whose long-time keyboardist, Benmont Tench, played on four songs from Back to Me “One of my very first records was a Petty record, and I’m a huge fan. He’s touring this summer, so I’m hoping I’m gonna be able to go and catch some of his shows.”
On her husband, Colin Cripps, who played guitar on and produced Back to Me: “Colin’s a great soloist, so it’s just amazing to have him in the band. I think he’s the most underrated guitar player in Canada.”