Kathleen Margaret Edwards was born on July 11th 1978 in Ottawa, Ontario. Her father Leonard Edwards was a diplomate, which led to that Kathleen grew up in such countries as South Korea and Switzerland. At the age of five, she started taking classical violin lessons that continued for the next twelve years. This came in handy when she recorded Failer; Kathleen played and arranged all the string parts on the album.
In 1997 her family moved back to Canada, and Kathleen's music taste changed. Before this time she was mainly interested in mainstream pop music, but now she started to listen to her brother's record collection. Her brother's music taste included artists Bob Dylan and Neil Young. During her last two years of high school she started to play more guitar than studying.
"I played in (a school) band, but I never played in a band that wasn't part of my musical upbringing, until I started playing guitar at summer-camp. I started playing more and more and wouldn't study for exams, and just play down in my room. It started to take priority over doing well in school." [JAM!]
In 1999 she started to play open mike nights, and at the same time she started writing her own songs. She recorded the six-song ep Building 55, pressing 500 copies. This was the start of a tour of Canada in her Suburban truck, pictured on the cover of Failer. She booked her own showns, making just enough gas money to take her from place to place.
"It's pretty much the first six songs I ever wrote. There were a few hits and misses but a lot of them stuck with me, and I'm really happy with my record. A lot of people have regrets about first releases, and I don't at all. I'm really confident about it." [The Ottawa Citizen]
By the fall of 2000, she started to record her first album Failer at Little Bullhorn Studios in Ottawa. Seven of the ten songs on the album originated from a breakup with an old boyfriend and her move to the Wakefield countryside. In February of 2002, she released Failer independently and got signed by MapleMusic. The following month she played SXSW in Austin and got signed by American Rounder Records as well. She opened for Don Williams, Melissa Etheridge and Richard Buckner during the year.
"I was in a relatively dark place when I was writing and recording these songs, and I know that I've come through that. What makes some of the songs interesting is that they're relatively raw and they come from a young and na´ve place." [Dallas Observer]
Failer was released in the US in January 2003, the same week as Kathleen played on The Late Show. A month later, she returned to the show for another performance. She also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Rolling Stone featured her as one of "10 artists to watch in 2003". She did her first European tour, and in July she performed before 490,000 people at Toronto Rocks. Many media outlets crowned her the new Lucinda Williams, which Kathleen didn't agree with.
"Even though it's a really flattering compliment at times, I'm kind of tired of feeling like I'm just second best to someone who has been around for a long time. She is a fantastic artist. It's just that there are moments when I think, 'Okay, enough. This is not who I'm influenced by. And this isn't who I'm trying to be.' It does wear on you a bit. It makes me feel that I really don't have an original bone in my body. So I'm ready to try something that will separate me from that." [Toronto Star]
Back To Me, 2004-2006
In 2004, Kathleen played at a Gram Parsons tribute concert, where she got to know fellow musician John Doe. He played Kathleen's love interest in the video of her upcoming album's title track, Back To Me. She married lead guitarist Colin Cripps, who went on to produce said follow-up to Failer.
"The real key to us getting through it and making a record that's really strong and not a sophomore jinx, is that I took people into the studio that knew me and had toured with me." [Red Deer Advocate]
The critics called Back To Me a strong follow-up to Failer, and her visibility rose steadily. During the year, she opened for Willie Nelson, John Prine, My Morning Jacket and Aimee Mann. In the fall she got to play Farm Aid, along with long time hero Neil Young, Emmylou Harris and others.
In 2006 Kathleen did a tour in the spring, including opening for Bryan Adams, but then took some much deserved time off to work on songs for the next album. She bought a piano and learned to play it, worked at a winery, gardened a lot and started to practice her violin more. She sang on some friends' albums, including three songs on John Doe's latest album.
"I didn't have songs in the vault, and I was pretty burned out. I was not uninspired, I just needed time to sort of figure out what kind of songs I wanted to write and what kind of record I wanted to make. It was tough because suddenly I knew I had to make a record, I wanted to make a record." [Country Standard Time]
Asking For Flowers, 2007-2009
For her third record, Kathleen ended up writing about murders, the death of her grandmother, the threat of a draft, the love for her husband amongst other things. In January 2007, she went into the Plyrz studios with Jim Scott. Kathleen arranged the strings for the album, played in the string quartet and worked with Benmont Tench, Greg Leisz and others.
"I felt out of my element a little bit, and I didn't know these (players) going in and I didn't know if my songs were any good because I hadn't played them for anyone and I just kind of had to go with the moment and just trust that things were going to be OK." [Sun Media]
During this time, she played a handful of headliner shows and opened for The Tragically Hip and John Mayer. In 2008, Kathleen had the honour of singing the National Anthem at the NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta.
"I now realize it's probably the job for somebody who is a really acrobatic singer. I'm not a showboat singer, and that's what people want, they want Celine Dion to go up there and do a Vegas style rendition of the national anthem. It's sports entertainment, they're wishing (former WWE star) Trish Stratus comes out and dropkicks me at the end." [Country Standard Time]
Three years after her latest album, Kathleen released her third album Asking For Flowers in March 2008. Rolling Stone called it her strongest album yet, and many other reviewers couldn't agree more. She kicked off an extensive tour over North America and Europe, and the fall of 2008 saw Kathleen and John Doe working together again. This time it was during a co-headliner tour where they played together on stage, mixing up the setlist with each other's songs as well as some covers.
"We have a connection musically and friendship-wise. It makes it fun getting up there (and performing)." [Oregon Daily Herald]
"I do feel like I have grown some balls. I feel like I don't care so much if something doesn't sit right with somebody else or if the listener who liked my first two records doesn't like that song or this song on the record, because I feel really good about them. All I can do is go forward with a good sense of myself." [Sun Media]
"(With Flowers) I made a pretty quiet, slow, dark record. And it doesn't always reflect what I'm really like," she said. 'The record I'm planning on making this year is definitely a big turn from that. I have a lot of more uptempo songs and a lot of quirky indie rock." [Montreal Gazette]
In the spring of 2010, Kathleen announced that she would play a three-show residency at the intimate Drake Hotel in Toronto. She was rehearsing songs for her upcoming release, and ended up playing most of them at the shows.
"In the summer of 2010 I was asked to participate in the National Parks Project, a Canadian creative collaboration celebrating the centennial of the establishment of our National Parks.
I opted for Wapusk, a remote and barren spot located in northern Manitoba, where many polar bears spend their summers denning and resting on the banks of Hudson Bay. Years since my canoe tripping summers, I found myself returning to my teenage sense of wonderment and joy being in the wilderness. I left with a new sense of myself, basking in the feeling of something I left behind and found again. I wrote a song there.
A week later I was in Wisconsin, freshly sunburned and armed with new material. Justin Vernon set up some microphones and handed me his nylon string guitar. We recorded "Wapusk". Unknowingly, it marked the first of many months spent in the studio together." [kathleenedwards.com]
In September of 2010, Kathleen started to record her fourth album, Voyageur. She brought in other artists to the process, including Norah Jones, Francis and the Lights, Stornoway, John Roderick and Sean Carey from Bon Iver. Not to forget Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who co-produced the album and contributed backing vocals, guitar, piano, organ, bass, banjo and xylophone.
"What was great about working with him is that I wanted to try things, and if I wanted to do something that wasn't roots rock, he was good with that. I have a lot of musical interests and he encouraged me to follow them. Working on music, for him, is just like going to the circus - which is good, because it is so exciting for me too. And he just let the songs come together as they came together." [The Herald]
Prior to meeting Vernon, Edwards divorced longtime collaborator Colin Cripps. And she doesn't deny that the fallout of that fractured relationship inspired some of the material on the record.
"This record is a lot about my life and there are times when recently, now that I had time to think about it, I thought: 'Oh my God. I literally like drew a door right here,' she says, motioning to her chest, 'and a little doorknob and there you go. Have a look inside. There are times when I wonder if that's been a mistake only because it's left me feeling pretty vulnerable and... I didn't really see that coming." [Metro Canada]
A year and a half after they first started recording, Voyageur came out on January 17th 2012. It became the most successful release of her career, with Voyageur debuting at #1 on Amazon and iTunes CA, #9 on Amazon US and #2 overall in Canada.
"I really feel as though it's my best work - I feel so proud of it and it challenges me still in the sense of trying to find ways of doing it justice within a live context. That's been great because previous albums have felt a little like live songs committed to record which made them a little bit easier to convert thus as I say, Voyageur has represented more of a challenge, and it's been really rewarding in that sense."
"I thought to myself: "If this is the last record I get to make, I gotta make it count." [Dots and Dashes]