Interview: Kathleen Edwards

Today, Kathleen Edwards releases her fourth album Voyageur. After 12 years in the business, the world finally seems be giving her the praise she deserves, having never quite made it to prominence thus far. Anna Byrne had the great fortune of chatting to Edwards, about her new LP, collaborations and song-writing….

The album is out very soon indeed over there in the States, and on the  23rd over here in the UK. How are you feeling about it?

I think I’ve become really excited over the last week because we’ve started properly rehearsing for the tour. It was such a long time between finishing the record and actually releasing it. I’ve been so focussed on the record and then, for it not to come out for so long, it almost felt as if I’d imagined it happening, as if the record had disappeared. So yeah, now that we’re talking about it being released, I can tell myself, “I’m not crazy, I didn’t imagine it.” The last week has been really mental. There’s something about working hard on something and then having it welcomed in the world. We’ve had a lot of support.

You talk about the road to getting the album released as being a long one. Did that have anything to do with naming the album Voyageur, or were you talking about the creative journey in terms of writing the record?

I didn’t really have an album title until June. Some people have album titles before they even start recording, but I don’t. I think it’s an accumulation of the fact that I’ve spent years moving around; I spent my childhood moving around. I’ve always longed to be rooted somewhere, but obviously I chose the life of a musician! I think thematically a lot of my songs are about that.

So do you think you’ll try to settle down in the near future, or will music continue to dominate your life for the time being?

I’d like to do a bit of both. Doing this album, I sort of felt like I unravelled, like I’d fallen off the face of the earth. I finally had a sense of purpose, and I needed to sort of settle down to write it. Hopefully in the next two years or so I’ll find a real home, but continue to write music.

So this album was a collaborative project. Did you feel trepidation at the prospect, or excitement?

I was just really open to the idea of trying new things. I didn’t want to put out a record like my last record, and I kind of feel like I won the “people lottery” with the people I got to work with. John Roderick was one of the first people to get on board with the album, and then obviously meeting Justin [Vernon] […] I had actually already started the album when I met him, and then he became involved in the record, and then really heavily involved. He was a gift like no other.

Were you worried at any point about losing your sound? How did you ensure that this didn’t happen whilst still taking influence from having a new co-producer working with you?

I guess when you’re writing your own songs, they’re already a safety blanket; your identity lives within those songs. The thing about working with Justin was that he was already very familiar with my previous albums, and he would never have made my record sound just like his. I wrote as I always do on my own, but when I needed some help or advice, there were always lots of people around.

Has song writing ever been more of a curse than a blessing for you? Have you had your battles with writer’s block?

I mean, there have been different times in the last ten years when I’ve been like, “Hey, I haven’t written a song for a while”. But I think it’s good to have times when you’re not creating stuff. I know that if I didn’t write songs then I would be in a bad place. I’ve been in a big funk for six months, and I couldn’t figure out why until I started rehearsals, and I was like, “Yeah, this is me – having the piss taken out of me and singing all day!” When I’m singing, I am definitely more myself.

It feels like, four albums in, the music industry is finally sitting up and turning the spotlight on you. Do you think that your experience in the industry will help in coping with this increased attention?

I won’t lie, I sort of feel like the planets are aligning for me this week. With this new record, it’s exciting that more people will be hearing about you. You know, I’m not trying to buy a ticket for the “music star train”, that’s really not what I’m about; people build up false expectations of you that way. I’ve always been much happier as an organic, grass roots artist. With this album, I get to go in a direction I’ve never been in before, and I do feel that I’m better equipped to deal with more attention. I’d say there are maybe about a thousand more people at my shows, and I do feel ready for that. I feel like I’m going to be able to stand there and take it all in, because it’s happening now, and it may not be forever. If it’s not, I’ll still know I did my best.

Do you have a favourite song of your own? One that you never get bored playing?

There’s a song on my album Back to Me called Away. I don’t play it that much anymore, but it’s a really satisfying one to play when you’re on the road. I wrote it very early on in the hurricane of living out of a van and playing shows all the time. It’s a song about missing what is familiar – the people and places. I’ll probably start playing it more. You know, it’s the one that most people say is their favourite, so I guess it speaks to lots of different people.

Finally, who are you listening to right now? Who do you really like?

I’m listening to an American band from Philadelphia called ‘The War on Drugs’. I’m totally head over heels with them and ‘Slave Ambient’ is just a great record. They’re actually playing in London next month on the same night as me, and I was devastated that I couldn’t go see them play while I’m in town!

Anna Byrne