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:: Spotlight :: Kathleen Edwards - A Songwriter Of Substance

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Canada’s Kathleen Edwards is a fine singer-songwriter who has emerged with two noteworthy albums to her name. In 2003, her debut album was titled ‘Failer’ and it drew worthy acclaim. She has now followed up with ‘Back To Me’, which should set her up as a more recognised face on the international music scene. Her knack for writing melodic songs within ambitious styles and themes make her an interesting performer. On the eve of her first tour of Australia, I spoke to Kathleen about her rise to prominence.

Q.You had an interesting upbringing, with your father being a Canadian ambassador, thereby travelling to many regions of the world…

A.Yes, I was lucky to grow up that way, being able to feel different things at a young age. I don’t know if it influenced me in the sense of music. It was quite natural at the time. I suppose it did influence me to be nomadic, which helps when you tour six to ten months of the year. I grew up playing classical violin until the end of high school. It was probably nice to be sheltered away from the pop culture as I was able to discover music on my own, rather than having it force fed down my throat. Mum was a music teacher and my parents actually met whilst singing in a choir. Dad used to play Gordon Lightfoot songs at college and little coffee shops. He always claims that I got my singing from him.

Q.Were you always going to be a singer-songwriter, and was there a driving force behind your push to succeed?

A.I thought I was going to continue making little home recordings for years. Honestly, the one person who influenced me greatly in having a real ambition to do what I wanted is Ani DiFranco. She is a great role model. I didn’t really care from the business front. I just went out and did it. I thought that it would continue like that for a while; just for the love of it. On a certain level, everything that I’ve done has been a complete learning experience. Even from five or six years ago, when I started playing, I feel as though I’m hitting the tip of an iceberg. I never released a record thinking that I had arrived as a performer.

Instant success, even for those who are successful, is not a real thing. You have to be in it for the long haul, otherwise you might as well sign up for Pop Idol. We have the same thing in Canada and it makes me sad to see young kids who have talent. They think fame in TV is the driving force behind being creative and loving music. If you don’t have interest in what goes on behind the scenes, it can then be a big wake-up call.

Q. Do you spend most of your time touring North America?

A.I mostly tour in the USA and Europe. Funnily enough, I tour the least amount in Canada.

Q.What sort of crowds are you attracting?

A.It’s a mixed crowd. On my first album, it was predominantly a male audience; males over 45 years of age. I was accessing this grass roots following of Americana fans. That was cool. Since then, I have had a bit more radio play and it’s meant playing to more women and more people my age. The audience is still older than me, by about ten years.

Q.We’ve always heard about how the Canadian Government assists artists with funding and touring grants. It’s been a significant aspect of growth within the music industry. Is it still the case these days?

A.I don’t know what the exact dollar amount is, but the Canadian Government has helped people tour internationally. Bands, either established or unsigned, do showcases. It’s tough to get your feet in the door. Once you do, they are happy to commit and support artists. It doesn’t happen much in the American industry. In Canada, they support those who they believe are in it for the long haul.

Q.Are you a private person who likes to read books and listen to CDs?

A.Yes, I am definitely that sort of person. The best time to listen is in the car. After being on the road, I’m totally at ease at home, loving to do as little as possible and reading books.

Q.Which current musicians are you listening to?

A.We toured recently with a band called My Morning Jacket. They are American (from Louisville) and have this fusion of intelligent, alternative rock of a Southern influence. I’ve been listening to them, the band Talk Talk, with their orchestral 1980s sound, Richard Buckner, and Bob Dylan.

Q.You’ve supported Dylan and some other big names…

A.Yes, I did support Bob Dylan for a couple of shows. I also played on the same bill as the Rolling Stones and AC/DC – a type of festival bill. They are all great guys to meet.

Q.Was their pressure on you for the second album?

A.Yes, I definitely felt an enormous amount of pressure. Ultimately, I felt as though I did the right thing by working with people who I know really well, rather than with a so-called big name producer, who I might be intimidated by. I ended up working with my touring band and Colin produced the record. They have a solid sense of who I am and what my music is about. I might branch out a little on the next record, as I believe that I’ve overcome a big hurdle.

Q.What will the on-stage line-up be for this tour?

A.This tour will comprise me and my guitar player Colin Cripps. We’ll just do acoustic versions of my songs. We’ll see how it goes. I usually tour with a band. All the songs, on a certain level, are folk, acoustic-based and all originated in the form by which I’ll be performing. It’s my first time to Australia so I’d like to bring my band out next time.

Kathleen's Australian tour dates are:

February 14 - NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB, NORTHCOTE, VICTORIA
February 15 - THE ZOO, BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND
February 16 - @NEWTOWN, NEWTOWN, NEW SOUTH WALES
February 17 - BECK'S VERANDAH, PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

For more information, visit

www.kathleenedwards.com