09 October 2010
Canadiana artist Kathleen Edwards burst on to the scene with Failer in 2003. Universally acclaimed, it opened many doors and the ensuing years have seen her establish herself as a major artist, touring with the likes of Bob Dylan and opening for AC/DC and The Rolling Stones. 2005 sees the release of her follow up album Back To Me, and during her promotional UK tour she visited Liverpool and spoke to Barry Jones in the comfort of her tour bus.
It’s nice to talk to you again; I noticed that with the new album you’ve gone for a video (www.kathleenedwards.com) again. You’ve made quite a few now, presumably you find that they’re worthwhile? John Doe was in it; I was wondering whose idea that would be whether you had artistic input? You look like you’re enjoying yourself on it anyway? It’s very much a single based thing, isn’t it, a video? And I’d read with interest, a quote from you, “It’s always been important to me that my record works as an album that isn’t just a collection of songs”. With that in mind, how do you view the move to downloading, with predominantly single tracks, and the link with video? Last time we spoke you were extolling the virtues of Tom Petty’s band, and now you’ve got Benmont Tench playing on your album, and it was mixed by Jim Scott, who has also worked with Tom Petty. First of all you must have got a bit of a kick out of that? How did it come about? You’re not prepared to name any of those? Since we spoke you’ve been opening for people like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and AC/DC, it seems like a fairly big deal really. What have been the high spots for you? Which song did you cover on that? Failer was widely feted as a really fine debut; did you feel the pressure when you came to produce “the difficult second album” or did you just follow your own muse, and just record what you wanted? Much of Failer was apparently inspired by a broken relationship. Now married, do you find it harder to write without that source of material? Your production company is called Potty Mouth. Was that after a Rolling Stone review, or the Austin Chronicle, something they’d written about you? You have been doing a lot of touring, you certainly did a lot of touring on the back of Failer, do you enjoy it or has it all become a bit of a blur? And what have you been listening to? Do you do solo gigs at the moment, or are you just doing band gigs? What plans have you got for 2005? What about the next album, when would that be? Well thank you very much indeed, and thank you very much for your time.
I actually hate doing them. I kinda look at them like they’re commercials…they are commercials, and I’m not somebody who wants to invest a lot of time and energy into coming up with cool video ideas. It might be nice if I had more interest, or more time to do that, but videos in Canada are very... it’s pretty important, just because the country’s so spread out, and radio is so commercial, that having a video is a lot… it’s a lot more help than to not have one. Over here…y’know in America videos are so commercial you basically have to spend a million dollars on a music video to get it played on certain… y’know MTV or CMT or…it’s actually my least favourite aspect of promoting…
Well funny enough, it was the director’s idea who had worked with him on another film about a year or two before… and John Doe, I’d actually met John Doe like a couple of months before the director proposed the idea, and we totally had hit it off, and so when he was suggesting the treatment, and he suggested “I know this guy John Doe, he’d be great for your boyfriend.” we all had a good laugh because we’d met, unbeknownst to the director, months before, and actually had performed together at a concert, so it couldn’t have been more appropriate. And then, it was really nice to hang out with him for a few days as well, and he was great too, because he called me and said, “Y’know, we’re going to have to have some sort of energy together, and how we’re going to act together, so people don’t think that I’m your Dad in the video.”
Yeah, it was fun. It’s definitely fun doing those things. In terms of, y’know there are bands, like Radiohead and Supergrass, and there are some people who clearly have worked with people who have amazing cutting edge ideas for videos, and obviously there are certain video ideas and treatments that have been beaten to death. And I’m certainly not coming up with any original ideas, but I also think, y’know like I said, I’d rather spend that time and energy working, like rehearsing or writing songs, or y’know listening to music, than researching films. I love certain film treatment ideas, but I’m not in the film world, and it’s not something I don’t appreciate, I definitely appreciate it, I just don’t have the energy to throw myself into it at this point.
Well that’s obviously something that’s not in my control at all. It’s going to happen. I just know, as a music listener, I prefer listening to records in their entirety so… and obviously you always have favourite songs; a record that you go back to after you’ve stopped listening to that record a year or two later, and you listen to your particular tracks, that you thought were the best. Having said that, as somebody who has been plugged through a single, I also don’t write songs to be singles, or we don’t arrange songs to be singles. We make the record, and we make the songs individually as what we want them to be. And so, in that sense, y’know it’s like there’s the Kylie Minogues of the world who, it is all about the single, because, for them, the singles sell the records, and the singles are really the only songs that people listen to on the records when they buy them. Y’know people will kind of listen half-heartedly to the rest of the record, but they’ll always come back to that one song. I’d like to think that the single that, especially for the kind of artist that I am, that there’s a lot of people who… their single is used to open the door to the other ten amazing songs on the record... I love the idea that i-Tunes has come in and made… I don’t know if it is as much here; I think i-Tunes has come in and made a brilliant way of making legal downloading. It’s much more user-friendly suddenly, and it’s fun and people have fun little i-Pods now, and so in that sense, what are you going to do? People are going to do it, whether or not they pay, so I kinda look at it like… I also don’t think that my audience, at this point, is very much in that world of 14-25 year olds, who are the major downloaders.
Well, when we started to make this record I was sort of approached by my management and my record company, and they said, “Is there anybody that you would like us to reach out to and see about getting on the record?” And my two names were… well my three names were Benmont Tench, Jim Scott to mix the record, and a guy named Eric Heywood, who, funny enough, the first time I heard Eric Heywood play was with Richard Buckner, and with Peter Bruntnell, Peter is now touring with us, he’s the pedal steel player. Those were my three names, and we approached Tom Petty’s management to get in touch with Benmont, and they sort of said, “Oh Tom’s going to be touring, they’re so busy, it’s unlikely.” Y’know, I think they’d sort of say that to everybody, but then they passed on my first record to him and he ended up calling us, and said, “If you’re in LA I’d totally be interested in doing this.” And it was a thrill to meet him, because he is truly a lovely man and a major talent, and y’know he’s not like this... some of my least favourite people in the music industry are the people who y’know walk around larger than life in personality in order to compensate for the fact that they’re probably a shitty musician...
No. I’ve rarely met anybody, but I hate the “I’m cooler than thou” shit, I just don’t have time for it, and Ben was obviously just, y’know if anyone could have gotten away with it, for me, for somebody in The Heartbreakers to be like that, but he was such a nice, normal person and y’know, it was great. It was great just to talk to him, and he was very accommodating and a very genuine person, and it’s nice y’know. In LA it doesn’t happen much any more so… he was great.
We did this one show in Toronto called Sars-fest, and The Stones were hired to come in and do the whole event. And somehow we got asked to be on the bill, y’know we were on it one o’clock in the afternoon and The Stones were on it … AC/DC comes on at nine, so in a way, like I opened for AC/DC, but that was a highlight, and the other highlight was the show that I did, I don’t know if you’ve seen the DVD that just came out for the Gram Parsons concert that happened last summer? It ended up being one of the most special events that I’ve ever been part of. Just the camaraderie, and just the spirit that everyone was there and just everyone was cool, and there was no bullshit… within reason, and I got to meet Jim James from My Morning Jacket, and I got to meet John Doe, and I got to meet Steve Earle for the first time, and just talk… and Norah Jones, who was the complete anti-star, she was fantastic, and it was kinda nice, because everyone was just there to play music and it wasn’t about “ there are a hundred thousand people here to see you” it was like, “here are a hundred thousand people here to listen to other people do Gram Parsons songs” and it was so nice. And everyone was just great, and I think the one thing that was really cool was that, I haven’t spent tons of time in California, but what was neat about that show was that I arrived and felt that I was picked up and dropped right into the centre of the California music scene; it was really cool. Y’know like with Dwight Yoakam… it was really fuckin’ hilarious.
I did Juanita, which was actually my first pick to do, and then I did One Hundred Years (From Now), which was actually I think a Chris Hillman, I don’t think Gram wrote that.
I did the latter; I definitely had moments though where I was a little stressed about y’know having the perfect medium of pleasing everybody, and also maintaining what I wanted to do. Y’know maintaining the course of being like, “OK I’m still trying to establish what exactly I sound like, and not try to let any outside other forces steer whatever that is.” And, at the same time, when I made my first record, I didn’t even have a manager, or an agent, or anything, so there is a bit of pressure, and it’s not like people were knocking at the door going, “OK we need to hear something.” It was more like for myself. I wanted to prove that my decisions to not go with a big named producer, my decision to go and use a lot of my touring band for most of the record, was a good decision, and I knew it would be, and y’know it’s when you have people a little bit sceptical of what you’re doing, you kinda set out to prove them wrong. At times I got to a bit of a head space, once in a while, where y’know “ Am I going to prove them wrong? Am I going to be able to do that, and are the songs an improvement? Is the production too much? Am I going to be able to have access to some things I didn’t have access to on my last record because of the minimal production?” And things like that, and yet I don’t need a slick record, and y’know I think we all had a vision, and it was one of those things where we just had to throw ourselves into it, and do it, and luckily y’know… it was nice to work with people that you’re close to, and that you trust, because when you… like for myself, I had moments where I was stressed out, and it was good to have people who know you really well who say, “This is great, and you don’t need to worry about this, this will all come together.”
Y’know Failer was sort of… I think it was as much about all my of life experiences as it was about… more so than one specific break-up, I mean, so in a sense, no. I definitely, being with… my partner’s in the band, produced my record, yeah there are times where I’m writing songs where I’m a little nervous about actually presenting the song to the band, because y’know, obviously, in certain contexts he’s going to be always… if I’m writing a relationship song, I’m always going to wonder “Oh does he think this is about him? If it’s about him is he going to be…?” Y’know, all that shit. But we weren’t together when we first started playing music, and I think... he also writes songs…I think he knows exactly where I’m coming from, and that in order to write good songs you sort of have to be free of being criticized or having to defend what you’re writing. Plus, I think with the exception of Copied Keys y’know I don’t think…I think I’ve been able to maintain a certain amount of being cryptic, and filling in songs, Y’know I’ll write songs which might be have an element of my relationship, or past relationship, in it, but I kind of make it “in the now” and I don’t …you sometimes I feel… like I write stories as much as I write truth, so there’s as much of an element of me just being more interested in writing good songs rather than writing songs that are based on something in complete detail. But I’ve definitely had my moments where... I was … “I’m in a relationship that is not ending anytime soon…” I mean that as a bit of a joke, “…like we’re getting married, and am I going to be able to still come up with these raw, edgy, relationship-based scenarios for songs that a lot of times come from personal experience?” And yeah, I definitely wondered y’know, Lucinda Williams is somebody who has obviously never been married, and probably has done her songwriting a helluva lot of…has been a great inspiration for her to…y’know unknowingly, subconsciously, in a way, just as a woman who writes songs, she has probably got a lot of fuel from that lifestyle. And I’m not going to be living that lifestyle, and you kinda wonder, “Am I going to be able to have longevity as a songwriter, because I’m not going to be having these kinds of experiences?” But at the same time there are all these other experiences that I am having, but I don’t need to worry about like, “Are people going to think that this is a credible, raw-energy, break up song just because I’m married?” He isn’t the first man I ever met, so...
No, it’s been my nickname since I was in my late teens. I don’t mind… the mouth of a sailor, but I also have toned it down a little bit, I’m a bit older, and I use “fuck” and “shit” a little less liberally. It’s my own company name. I call my company that and I’m perfectly happy with that.
I think it was really good to get off the road and have a few months... we kind of threw ourselves into another record pretty immediately, but I had a lot of the Fall off, this past year, in 2004, and it was great, because we’d finished our record, we hadn’t been touring, y’know we’d done some travelling here and there, but it made me appreciate the phone ringing. Y’know, I think I got a little jaded with my first experience out on the road, because everything happens so quickly, and so suddenly, and there were eight interviews a day. They became… yeah, it became tedious, and it gave me a chance to reflect on it and go, “ OK, when most people put out records the phone doesn’t ring, they don’t do this amount… they don’t have this amount of exposure, or interest. And It’s not because they’re any less talented, or that I’m any more talented, sometimes it’s just luck, and I’m really lucky to put out a record and have people call to want to talk about it, and to be able to go to towns like Liverpool or Bristol, or Toronto, or Austin, and have y’know a full room of people there to see you. That doesn’t happen to a lot of people, so in that aspect I sort of have a renewed outlook on it, and I don’t… I never took it for granted, but it was becoming tedious to me, and now it’s sort of like, “OK, I get it... this is special, y’know this isn’t just an inherent… this isn’t my right as a songwriter to go out and do this. I have to earn it.”
More lately I’ve been listening to, there’s a Canadian singer songwriter called Joel Plaskett, (www.joelplaskett.com) who for the most part has been a bit of a rocker on the Canadian music scene. He just put out a record in Canada called La De Da, and it’s a beautiful roots rock record, I love it, and he’s great songs, I’ve been listening to that. I’ve been listening to Ray Lamontagne who, it’s so nice to hear a whole record that I really loved. I’ve been listening to… I’m always in the mood for a little Darkness, or The ’Ness apparently, as they’re called here, The Ness, I love. I’ve been listening to some Elvis, some Dusty Springfield, also I like John Prine, I’ve been listening to a lot of John Prine lately.
Y’know, I just feel like we’re a band, musically, I want the arrangement when I play live. I think that it would be nice to do a record that’s really sparse, so that I can prove to myself that I can stand on my own two feet for a show, and that I am a songwriter based group. That we are a song based musical whatever, but I think I would miss all of the sounds. I love the arrangements of certain songs, the vibraphone, and the keys, and the electric guitar, and the slide, to me, right now, I just love the layering.
I think we’re doing a Willie Nelson tour, we’re doing some shows… we’re just talking about stuff… the summer’s coming together right now. I’m touring for about eight weeks in America starting May 1st and a bit in Canada, so basically until the end of July I’m touring in north America, on some festivals as an opener and for the most part in may I’ll be doing my own shows so it’s just a lot of playing really.
Oh God, probably not… we probably won’t start talking about that for another year, because I know we’re going to come back here and do another tour, and I’m not sure if that’s going to be before Christmas or after Christmas.
It’s nice to talk to you again; I noticed that with the new album you’ve gone for a video (www.kathleenedwards.com) again. You’ve made quite a few now, presumably you find that they’re worthwhile?
John Doe was in it; I was wondering whose idea that would be whether you had artistic input?
You look like you’re enjoying yourself on it anyway?
It’s very much a single based thing, isn’t it, a video? And I’d read with interest, a quote from you, “It’s always been important to me that my record works as an album that isn’t just a collection of songs”. With that in mind, how do you view the move to downloading, with predominantly single tracks, and the link with video?
Last time we spoke you were extolling the virtues of Tom Petty’s band, and now you’ve got Benmont Tench playing on your album, and it was mixed by Jim Scott, who has also worked with Tom Petty. First of all you must have got a bit of a kick out of that? How did it come about?
You’re not prepared to name any of those?
Since we spoke you’ve been opening for people like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and AC/DC, it seems like a fairly big deal really. What have been the high spots for you?
Which song did you cover on that?
Failer was widely feted as a really fine debut; did you feel the pressure when you came to produce “the difficult second album” or did you just follow your own muse, and just record what you wanted?
Much of Failer was apparently inspired by a broken relationship. Now married, do you find it harder to write without that source of material?
Your production company is called Potty Mouth. Was that after a Rolling Stone review, or the Austin Chronicle, something they’d written about you?
You have been doing a lot of touring, you certainly did a lot of touring on the back of Failer, do you enjoy it or has it all become a bit of a blur?
And what have you been listening to?
Do you do solo gigs at the moment, or are you just doing band gigs?
What plans have you got for 2005?
What about the next album, when would that be?
Well thank you very much indeed, and thank you very much for your time.