Six facts about Canada’s reigning queen of heartache
by Chris Morin
Kathleen Edwards with Hannah Georgas
Kathleen Edwards is the type of songwriter who doesn't shy away from airing her personal trials. Born in Ottawa, Edwards is known for cathartic lyrics detailing relationships gone awry (often dismally). On her latest album, Voyageur, she describes a love affair from thrilling start to achingly sad finish.
Edwards has charted on both sides of the U.S./Canada border for a few years now, and with Voyageur she seems poised to break into international markets. To those of us in this country who've been listening to her since the beginning, her music might seem to be almost the definition of Canadian folk, but hey - hearts break all around the world, don't they?
Here's six facts about a Canadian chanteuse poised on the precipice of stardom
1 HEARTBREAKER, LOVE-TAKER Now 33, Edwards says she wrote her first album, 2003's Failer, about accidently breaking someone's heart. Depressing, sure, but romantic calamity always makes for the best folk albums. Failer boasts a massive roster of supporting musicians playing banjos, slide guitars, pedal steels and other traditional alt-country/folk instruments, giving the album a remarkably full sound.
The music propels lyrics about bad-girl attractions to every almost major vice. Her breathy lyrics on the song "Sweet Little Duck," for example ("I sleep through most days/ So the time goes by/ And I think I drink now more than ever."), are haunting enough to make anyone leery about committing too much of oneself to a new lover.
As with every Edwards effort, Failer sees her openly singing about her own personal love, loss, pain and anguish. I'd hate to be her longtime collaborator and - since 2011 - ex-husband Colin Cripps.
WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING? Edwards' new boyfriend, Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon, co-produced Voyageur, which documents divorce as a tsunami in paradise. (See why Cripps might've been a tad nervous about Voyageur's lyrical content?) But while the record may be full of depressingly lovelorn themes, Edwards is as happy as she's ever been, reporting that her relationship with Vernon is going swimmingly at this point.
In fact, they're apparently wrestling with the question of which of their two native lands (Vernon is American) to call home at present. On "Empty Threat" - the first track from Voyageur - Edwards sings "I'm movin' to America," before retracting the statement by saying it's, well, an "empty threat".
Whew. Still, Edwards' current feelings of duality pop up all over. Voyageur's cover art, for example, is a patchwork decoupage depicting the Great Lakes - the perfect visual middle ground between Yankee and Canuck.
WORDS CAN WOUND Her music may be firmly rooted in folk, but Kathleen Edwards is no shrinking violet. In her biography she happily admits, "I have a foul mouth." Oh, and her hopes for Voyageur? "I'm trying to make it kill." The odds of meeting up with Edwards in a dark alley late at night are decidedly slim, but if you do, don't say we didn't warn you.
FIRST YOU CRAWL, THEN YOU FLY Edward's first foray into recording was Building 55, a six-song EP released in 1999 which reached a short-sighted pressing of 500 copies. Her first tour saw her playing small clubs and, hilariously, busking on street corners to make enough gas money to get to the next town. The release of Failer gave Edwards a big boost of momentum, and she began headlining her own shows. Oh, and playing arena gigs in support of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Not too shabby.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES I already mentioned Voyageur has guest appearances galore - including the likes of Francis and the Lights, Norah Jones, Phil Cook of Megafaun, Sean Carey of Bon Iver and Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas. In the past, Edwards has also worked with Matt Mays and El Torpedo, John Doe of the punk rock band X, Arkells and Bryan Adams.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SONGS, MAN! Voyageur is marked with plenty of ballad-y acoustic numbers, but the instrumentation and production of the songs set Edwards apart from those of her peers who've been tagged with the dreaded "mom-rock" label. Combining the ballsy swagger of a self-confident musician with the charm of a heartbroken crooner, here's betting Voyageur launches Edwards into the folk-rock stratosphere.
Georgas' Next Album
After this tour Hannah heads back to the studio
Vancouver-based electro-pop singer/songwriter Hannah Georgas is currently touring with Kathleen Edwards, both as Edwards' opening act and as part of her backing band. From there, she'll be heading back into the studio to finish up her next album, which is scheduled for release later this year.
For fans, that's excellent news - her last album, Juno-nominated This Is Good, was released back in 2010.
Georgas has always been an interesting songwriter, one who combines mainstream tendencies with enough savvy underground sensibility to remain credible. Obviously, anyone who wrote a song for a Walmart commercial (You've Got A Place Called Home," back in 2009) isn't exactly full-on indie, but Georgas' own music is far too complex to be lumped in with the AM radio crowd.
Further cred comes from the fact that she's partnered with Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh for the new album. He'll produce and there'll probably be additional collaboration. It's safe to say that Georgas won't be losing her edge on her next release.
Kicking off her solo career with the release of 2008's The Beat Stuff (she also played in a band with members of the Arkells back in her early days) Georgas caught the notice of fans and music industry-types with her edgy, alt-folk rock anthems. With an arena-sized voice, Georgas (who was long-listed for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize) seems destined for bigger things than the smaller clubs she typically headlines.
On the other hand, her music is far too cerebral and gutsy for those who pay attention to department store advertisements, so you never know. /Chris Morin