Kathleen Edwards looks forward to headlining Westfest
While everyone else wondered why Hollywood starlet Jessica Simpson was a no-show at boyfriend John Mayer's concert in Ottawa the other night, I wondered what happened to Kathleen Edwards' husband. The Ottawa native opened for Mayer at Scotiabank Place with a band that did not include her hubby, Colin Cripps, the Canadian guitarist extraordinaire.
I've been assured that the rootsy singer-songwriter and her guitar god of a husband are still happily married. It's just that Cripps had already committed to working with other artists when the Mayer tour came up. "It actually kinda gave me a nice window of opportunity to do something a little different," Edwards said in an interview.
Switching from Cripps's innovative roots-rock licks to the high-lonesome sound of pedal-steel player Burke Carroll appeared to mark a subtle but significant change in style for Edwards, quite likely a sign of an artist in creative mode, open to new ideas. Another indicator was her freshly chopped locks.
Sure enough, Edwards confirmed that she's working on a new record. The next time she plays in Ottawa, she hopes to have a bunch of new material ready to play. (And maybe a little more hair.)
Edwards will be back June 9 to headline the all-Canadian bill of the ever-expanding Westfest. Westboro Village's fourth annual festival of music, art and life runs from June 8-10 on Richmond Road. In honour of the grassroots nature of the event, the 28-year-old plans to perform as a trio with her two best buds, Cripps and Jim Bryson.
"My musical vision of the evening is we're going to have a more laidback, rootsy kind of show, play a bunch of new songs," she says. 'There's nowhere else I really feel comfortable doing that than at home... We'll see how it goes. I'm probably going to bring my violin."
Edwards has good memories of last year's Westfest, when she was a surprise guest during Bryson's performance. "It was a really special night and I love that it's a free festival, it's community based. I ran into all these people that I knew," she says.
"It was such a nice community-based music event, which is so much of what I loved about Ottawa, the feeling of community and people supporting each other with different ventures, whether it's art or restaurants or music."
Edwards, who now lives in Hamilton, had a terrific couple of days in her hometown last week. The gal who wrote Hockey Skates managed to score tickets to that amazing Senators game on Thursday, as well as spend time with her parents. This was in addition to her rock-star duties of soundchecking, performing, meeting fans and signing autographs at the merch table during intermission.
Less than a week into the tour, she loves the energy of playing for Mayer's adoring throngs of young women.
"It's a bit of a change, from always touring with people who have a predominantly male audience, usually over 30. It's been nice to play for young women, they're a lot of fun. They're just so excited to be there."
And what about her own new material? Edwards is co-producing her new songs with engineer Jim Scott in his studio north of Los Angeles. It's still early in the process, but I ask if any new directions have emerged for the follow-up to the Juno-nominated Back To Me.
"I'd like to say yes," she begins, tentatively, "...but my perception of what I write versus what other people are hearing is always a very interesting and very inexact science. I'd like to think that some of the songs I've written for the new record are some of the best songs I've ever written.
"I take songwriting pretty seriously," she says. 'this is something that I'm very lucky to be doing and I want to be great at it and I feel passionate about it ... If you can write a song that's true and honest and it affects somebody and it affects you as a writer, then that's the most powerful feeling in the world. At least, so far in my life."
Edwards is at the top of a strong lineup for this year's Westfest, which should help make up for the loss of the Tulip Festival concert series. That series was cut for lack of funding and a change in direction.
The type of emerging Canadian artist that Tulipfest once featured will find a home on the the Richmond Road stage, courtesy of festival founder and producer Elaina Martin. Making the leap to Westfest are Newfoundlanders Shanneyganock, Ottawa's alt-country heroes Fiftymen, singer-songwriter Jason Collett, adventurous rockers the Golden Dogs and chanteuse Lily Frost, to name a handful of the 100 artists in various disciplines booked for the free festival. For more details, go to www.westfest.ca.