INTERVIEW: Kathleen Edwards

INTERVIEW: Kathleen Edwards

Canada’s Kathleen Edwards’s new album Voyageur is a testament to quality song writing: her effortlessly bittersweet vocals, breezy country hewn arrangements and a heartfelt attempt at documenting personal experiences a sweet kind of therapy if you will. Edwards isn’t a stranger to the music business Voyageur is her fourth long player following the raw country of 2008’s Asking For Flowers. While her releases also include 2005’s Back to Me and 2003’s Failer which settled more squarely in the tender alt-country category she’s essentially been on the road off and on for ten years exploring her music.

Having broken up her marriage with longtime collaborator, ‘Voyageur ‘ was produced by Edwards and her new partner Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), and recorded between August 2010 and May 2011 in Fall Creek, Wisconsin and Toronto, Canada Edwards claims it was the ‘hardest thing she’s ever done’ but it has really paid off this is more than just another pop record it see’s Edwards open up her heart offer a diversity of expression through care and love of music: scaling that height few artists reach, pulling off the trick of being both tuneful and to pull at your heart strings at once. “It’s funny when I wrote this record I wasn’t thinking about how raw the content was, and the songs were about a personal experience. I was going through.” Edwards concedes “But I’ve had a few people come up to me and say that’s really brave that you did talk about it in a record.”

Voyageur marks a clear shift in sound for Edwards, whilst retaining elements of country and folk tradition: it depicts an artist comfortable in her skin, ready to explore different sounds and offers a directness not present in any of her previous records: “My idea going into it was that I wanted to make a record that wasn’t the same as my last two records. I’m really proud of all the work I’ve done I’ve always felt I kept my work at a certain bar.” She notes, before conceding “I’ve felt like if there’s one thing I fell short on was being more articulate and being more capable of showing more about my musical diversity. Feeling a little bit like I got boxed into a genre(alt-country) that I didn’t necessarily identify with very much. And I was like ‘Why is that happening?’ so I was like OK I really need to step up to the plate and be very adamant about perusing making a record that actually reflects who I am and how I see myself as a musician. “

The first notes most heard from the record were the deceptively stripped back glacial balladry of ‘Waspusk’ that gracefully sways in the thick winter air, as it details the landscape of growing up ‘in the north’, Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) sighing backings adding balance to Edwards’s clawingly emotive vocals. But how did Jason come to produce the record did they talk about it over breakfast or did it just happen?! “There was never a consideration that said hey I’m looking for a producer do you want to come produce my record? His ideas came at points where I’d reached an impasse he just had really easy going solutions to things, and as time went he was actually was just getting more involved he’s just a really exceptional musician that’s where his gift lies.” In keeping with her fresh start, Edwards threw open the doors this time round allowing different voices and fresh perspectives on her song writing to bleed through each of the tracks. In addition to Vernon (who provides backing vocals and plays guitar, piano, organ, bass, banjo and xylophone), the album includes guest appearances by Francis and the Lights, Norah Jones, Stornoway, John Roderick, Phil Cook (Megafaun), Sean Carey (Bon Iver), Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas) and Brian Moen (Peter Wolf Crier). Also featured is Edwards’ touring band— Gord Tough (guitar), John Dinsmore (bass), Lyle Molzan (drums) and her longtime friend and collaborator, Jim Bryson (guitars, keys).”

Of the standout moments on the record those that instantly spring to my mind are “Sidecar “with it’s insistent lolloping drum pattern, buzzing guitars, and tenderly cooing harmony: it feels like a turning of the page, a moving on and moving out across the heartlands of America arms aloft and wind blowing in the air, it’s utterly fabulous. Managing to subvert the alt-country confines in it’s lilting harmonic, brave, chorus and that uplift is matched by Kathleen’s intentions… “Sidecar was definitely wanted to capture the spirit of ‘well I met somebody’ or that feeling when you feel like today is gonna be the best day of your life and not worrying about how earnest that sounds.” Travel and moving on is a constant theme from the title through the spine of the album even the title refers to that sense of escape and change that is reflected so sumptuously by Edwards and her cast of collaborators here: “Voyage the word was escaping me for a long time, I wanted to have the record reflect. I grew up travelling alot as a young kid, then I ended up digging my heels in for a long time and staying at home but I’ve just spent ten years on the road off and on . I’m a Canadian and I really identify that word I used to spent summers in Ontario and we were the Voyageurs…. “

>Kathleen Edwards MG 0460 Credit JustinVernon

Her new single ‘Change the Sheets’ out this week (Feb 6th) is probably the highlight though following through on the theme of breaking up and moving an aching wide screen instrumentals further clarify this extended relationship metaphor as a kind of therapy: it’s effortless dark imagery(“I wanna lie in the cracks of this lonely road/I could fill in the blanks every time you don’t phone”) is lit up by Edward’s melting delivery that arcs, coos and sighs toward a twinkling country hewn chorus: that’s the sweet sweet sound of release, it’s a fine, fine pop moment and ultimately uplifting: “The song is about people who share a bed who are experiencing really critical changes in their dynamic, feeling like you wish you could be different and hoping that what you want isn’t going to be at the expense at someone else’s heart.” A violinist as a kid she’s a fan of Bach, Chopin and others but she admits that she isn’t afraid of pop music or melodies or being accused of being too commercial she ‘loves pop melodies in every genre’ and that shows through here!
Edwards plays a series of not to be missed UK dates this February but what does she think of the British audiences? “What’s nice is when I come over there you’re made to feel like you’re not from there it’s like ‘ooo something different from the other place’ She laughs “and I like that feeling!”

Change The Sheets is released this Monday (February 6th). While the album ‘Voyager’ is out now on Rounder Records.

February 2012
Fri 24th GLASGOW, Oran Mor (
Sun 26th MANCHESTER, Ruby Lounge (
Mon 27th BIRMINGHAM, Glee Club (
Tue 28th LONDON, Islington Academy (



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