We Interview: Kathleen Edwards
Kathleen Edwards is a Canadian singer-songwriter who claims her primary influences are Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty. She spent some of her youth in Korea and Switzerland and she studied classical violin for twelve years.
She swears, drinks whiskey, and she plays the Tractor Tavern Tuesday night with John Doe.
Ever since listening to the title track from Asking for Flowers we can't seem to shake it. It's sad and it's beautiful. Can you explain how that song came to be?
It kind of started with a conversation with a friend of mine who has had a lot of years of struggling, physically and emotionally--a physical disability and dealing with depression. There was this point, one of the hardest few days of her life, and we were talking and she said she felt like she'd spent her whole life asking for flowers. I asked her what she meant by that and the way she explained it, I just felt like she was so brave, this person who'd spent so many years just wanting to be loved and to experience patience and compassion but always falling short of that.
There are a lot of labels out there that might be put upon you: folk, alt.country, Americana. Can you describe your sound for people who haven't heard you before?
I don't know, I mean I guess I'm just a combination of all of my influences. I'm a singer-songwriter - a country singer in a roots rock band. I love the pedal steel and, you know, for me it's just the song. That's the most important thing in the world for me. To write something and be proud of it and be able to sit down and have it speak to you in a way that you can't explain.
Asking for Flowers has been called your best album by many. Was the process any different this time around?
The process was different in that I worked with a lot of people I hadn't worked with before. They were names, people I'd heard on other records like Jim Scott who produced this record. It was good to take myself out of my little group and end up with a different outcome than I would have otherwise. You know, working with people who have so much experience and confidence, and all I had to do was just go in, play my song as truly as I could and know that everything else is being taken care of.
Do you have a favorite song from the new album?
Well, I think "Asking for Flowers" is the best song I've ever written. And I believed in it enough to name the album after it. There are a lot of songs on the new record I'm really proud of. The last song, "Goodnight California," I feel really good about too, because it's more of a musical landscape than it is necessarily about one thing. And it's not your standard three or four minute pop rock song. I've been wanting for a long time to kind of break away and not worry about what the label is going to think about a seven minute track that's completely unplayable on the radio. So I feel really good about sticking to my guns and following my musical intuition.
You're touring with the iconic John Doe and have collaborated with him on a few songs, right?
Yes, more on his material than on mine. His last record, A Year in the Wilderness, which is such a great record. He really wrote some amazing songs for that one - I was asked to sing on a few of those songs. One of them is called "Golden State," a song I just never get tired of listening to. We just clicked creatively, our voices clicked. We met at a Gram Parsons concert in California a couple years ago and from then on--well he says it's because I swear a lot and drink whiskey, but I think it's because we play so well together.
Can we expect to see you two performing together Tuesday night?
We do most of the show together actually. We'll do a couple of songs individually, but it's not like John's opening for me or I'm opening for John. It'll be almost like we're in a band together. Except we're just two people.
So no backing band this time out?
Nope, it's just a duo. We're Sonny and Cher. Dolly and Porter. John is Dolly.
How are Canadians reacting to our new president-elect?
Well, we currently have a conservative Prime Minister, so there are certainly plenty of Canadians who are more right-leaning than left. But all the Canadians I know are thrilled that you guys decided to go with the type of person who represents the America I know. It's an amazing moment for America. I'm thrilled for you. Almost makes me want to be one.