With the release of her new album,"Voyageur," Canadian singer
Kathleen Edwards made a lateral move from roots-inclined
singer-songwriter to indie pop sort-of-star. "Voyageur," which
recently entered the Billboard charts at No. 39, Edwards's highest
showing ever, is a not-entirely-depressing chronicle of the singer's
recent divorce, its lush, echo-y production courtesy of Bon Iver
leader (and Edwards's boyfriend) Justin Vernon.
Edwards, who plays the 9:30 Club Friday night, got on the phone to
talk about Vernon, divorce albums, and the Canadian glory that is
You've been doing a lot of press for this album. Are you sick of
talking about yourself yet?
Yes, I am actually. Thank you for asking about me and my feelings about myself.
To make an album that's so personal and then wait around for everyone to judge it must be nerve wracking.
I think initially I was just happy that I was getting interviews. Then
I realized that with some of my early interviews, I was still
navigating people's reactions to it ... My first interviews I was just
relieved that people had listened to the album and formed questions.
You had a long time to sit with the album between [its recording and release]. Did you have a chance to go back and listen to some of the tougher, more gut-wrenching songs on it and [reflect on them]?
When I was finished, I took a good long break from it. When you live inside a project for so long and you can't escape it, going back to it — it just felt awesome, actually. It felt like I'd followed through on what I wanted to do, which was make a record that showed a lot more colors ... And yeah, the songs are deeply personal, but for every song that's interpreted like, "this song must be about her ex-husband," there's lots of shades. Sometimes you have an idea or a sentiment that you can express, but sometimes you have to use your imagination in a way that feels real, but not like you're quoting exact conversations or, "this is what our breakup was."
It feels like a dramatic break from your past work. I wouldn't have
thought that this is where you were headed from listening to your last albums.
That's a matter of other people's perceptions. I think there are songs
that are rooted to the direction I was going in on my last record ... Having said that, I did set out to do something on this record that was far beyond the boundaries of this Americana catalogue that I have. I really like my catalogue, but I wanted to expand on it.
You sang backup with Bryan Adams a few years back. And you're Canadian. Was this a huge deal?
Oh [expletive] yeah, this was a huge deal! I was in my training bra when [Adams' hit] "Reckless" came out. Meeting Bryan — I had toured with him before the album came out — that was a thrill. He's a really, really nice guy. It was like a childhood fantasy.
Who's left [on the collaborator wishlist] after him?
Um, Springsteen? There's people I'd love to sing with ... This week Ani DiFranco and I just released albums on the same day, and there's a lot of places our records are being reviewed on the same page. And when I was 17, if someone had told me that my album would have equal footing with hers, I wouldn't have believed them. You have these idols and these people who play really significant roles in your life, and while I'm not dying to call her up and be her buddy, maybe one day we'll get to play music together. But it has to come together in an organic way, to feel like it's meant to be, and I feel that way about my heroes. Like, I don't really need to meet my heroes because they've already done everything they need to do for me. I don't want to spoil that feeling that I have for them.
Speaking of that, Justin Vernon produced your album, but not
[obtrusively]. His main job seems to have been to stay out of the way.
I agree, and part of it is unfortunate, because it doesn't give him proper credit as a producer. But he's still in such an early stage of his career, being recognized as a member of a band, and I didn’t know this until I started working with him but he is so incredibly musically competent across the board. He kept throwing curveballs out that I was blown away by. I thought, Well, I know what a Bon Iver record sounds like, and his musical prowess probably involves [a certain set of skills]. But then you show up at his studio and the guy knows how to run ProTools like no one I've ever seen, he knows how to use effects like no one I've ever seen. He plays guitar shockingly well, he played piano, he plays bass on 80 percent of my record. And he knows how to direct ideas and sounds ... He continues to impress me. He can focus on a genre or an aesthetic or an artist that is not even in the same ballpark as him and he knows how to fit himself in there and contribute something that's good for them. That's the sign of a good producer. I was pretty blown away by the guy's strengths.