Stories of life set to music
Kathleen Edwards can't help herself. Stories just seem to stick with her.
"It's the strangest, unexpected conversations that I end up holding onto that a lot of people would usually forget," Edwards said, calling from her home north of Toronto. 'The other day I had a cabdriver who was an immigrant to Canada in the '50s, and his first job was in a horse-rendering plant and he was saying how he can't eat meat because he had to slit the throats of horses. It's something I can't forget."
It's those kinds of details that make the songs on her new album, "Asking for Flowers" (Zoe), so memorable. Whether she's writing about her own relationships, the war in Iraq or the case of a missing girl, Edwards finds unique ways to tell stories with poignant alt-country backdrops.
"All my songs are either something I was confronted with or something I was a part of," she said. 'that's how it becomes real for me."
Sometimes, her songs get a little too real. "I remember sending the first four songs I wrote for the album to [producer] Jim Scott and he was like, 'Are you OK?'" Edwards said, laughing. 'They were some pretty heavy songs and I had a hard time writing those songs, but finishing them sort of opened a door for me. I knew I couldn't have 11 or 12 or 13 of these really emotional moments on the album, but I think I needed to shed that skin first."
The most intense song on the album is "Alicia Ross," where Edwards sings of the kidnapping and murder of a Toronto girl from the girl's perspective. "It's a hard song to do because it's real," Edwards said. "I didn't want to demean what she went through. I didn't want to not do justice to that person's memory. I don't know if I'll be singing it every night."
What makes the song more universal is that it captures the role of those left behind. "Her mother was such a public force in the search efforts, begging for somebody to come forward," Edwards said. "I really was moved by her because it could've been my mother and it could've been any of us."
Edwards said it was important to balance such serious moments with more lighthearted ones, such as the upcoming single "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory," where she turns esteem issues into a charming song, which also includes passing references to Elvis Presley and former Ranger hockey defenseman Marty McSorley.
"I really hope to get him to do the video," Edwards said. "I was so worried that he would think it was a dis, but it really isn't. I think a video of him teaching me hockey defensive moves would be the greatest music video ever."
It would probably be a pretty good story, too.