Interview with Kathleen Edwards
What made you become a musician?
I think I grew up playing music. My parents met singing in a choir together and I played violin throughout my teenage years and it's been such a part of my upbringing. Becoming a full-time performer was a bit of a suprise ending however.
You toured by yourself when you were 20, sleeping in the back of your car
Yeah, I'd done an EP then and sent it out. I didn't have a booking agent so I just sent his CD out to these venues asking if I could play in their club. That's how it happened. It's good that I did that since it was the defining point of where I decided I didn't want to just sit at home and do that with my friends. I wanted to get out there and try it out and go on tour. I had this big suburban about the size of a boat and I just didn't know how you were supposed to survive on the road nor did I have the money to pay for hotels and all that so I just slept in the back of the car. The tour wasn't successful but it was a fun experience.
What were your influences at that point?
My record collection started around summer camp songs. I went to summer camp in Northern Ontario and the culture was sitting around the fire singing songs - everything from James Taylor to Van Morrison, Neil Young, Bob Dylan. My brother had a guitar so I learnt to play those songs on it.
I guess Neil Young is still a huge influence?
I wouldn't say he's my main influence. I think beyond his songs I really love his uncompromising commitment to being a musician rather than being a face or a name. He's just interested in making music rather than the other stuff. I don't know many musicians that take that stance. Maybe Tom Petty...
I did notice the Tom Petty influence coming to the fore on the new album
Well we played with his keyboardist [Benmont Tench] but Colin Cripps [producer and guitar player] is a great slide player like Mike Campbell [Tom Petty lead guitarist]. I'm not ashamed of bearing these influences in my music.
Do you think that there is a resurgence of folk/acoustic music?
Well it's hard to find people my age at the shows and that continues to be something that I find slightly concerning. I have people who are 35 and over coming to my shows - which is fine, I love my audience - but it's very odd as a 26 year old Canadian woman and I don't think there's many people in my age group or older. When I was 18 I was listening to Sinéad O'Connor who was probably 26 doing her own thing. There has been a resurgence of people recognising that there are all these songwriters out there and people are realising that there is more to music than the manufactured product of the day.
I mean Britney Spears' Toxic is a great track but it's great because the producer made it great not thanks to her singing it. She's not really talented, she's just well established with producers who have made great sounding music for her. It could have been anyone really.
Are you happy with the folk artist tag you have received from many critics?
I just read Bob Dylan's Chronicles and it's been a great read. I always used to see the likes of James Taylor as folk music but now I've read Bob Dylan's perspective on what folk music is and I feel I've got a complete new, enlightened perspective on it. I'd like to write songs that have stories, songs that are about life and I think in that sense I write folk songs. But 10-15 years ago, if I'd emerged, I would have been seen as a pop act and today I'm considered as an Americana or an alt.country act. I think I play roots-rock and that encompasses the best elements of country, folk, rock and pop. I don't think I'm reinventing the wheel, I 'm just writing songs and enjoying having other musicians come and contribute to what I'm doing.
Did you international upbringing change your songwriting?
I think when I was growing up in Asia, I found it alienating at times and I think that music was in a way a crutch. It helped me channel a lot of my alienation from where I was living and who I was. That's why I really latched on to people like Annie Lennox and Tom Petty and all sorts of artists.
I think my life has come full circle - I grew up wishing we had stayed in one place, Canada, even though I look back now I realise it was a privileged upbringing. As soon as I moved out of my parents house, I wanted to live in one place with one group of friends and make my nest. In the last few years, all that has been thrown in the wind, and I see that my upbringing was preparing me to be a touring musician.
Kathleen is touring the UK and Ireland. Check KathleenEdwards.com for more details.
* Thurs Nov 17 Dublin,
* Sat Nov 19 Glasgow, Scotland
* Sun Nov 20 Edinburgh
* Mon Nov 21 Manchester, England
* Wed Nov 23 London, England