After 20 years of touring and recording, Kathleen Edwards needed a minute. “It was an inside joke that my bandmates made to me one day,” Edwards says. “[They’d say], ‘You obviously need to take a break from music, so just quit music, open a coffee shop and call it Quitters.’”
It turns out baking muffins and making latte art (“My hearts look like a butt,” she laments) for six years was just the thing for Edwards.
“It gave me back that gift of being fresh and new again [like] when I made my first record,” she says. That change is evident on Total Freedom, an album of graceful yet forceful new tunes that showcase the independent streak Edwards has fostered throughout her career.
With her sweet yet gravelly voice (“When my first record came out, I was 23 – I really, consciously, didn’t want to sound like a girl singer”), Edwards continues to redefine the alternative folk genre with tracks like the soaring Options Open.
Although she pens many of her songs on her 1957 Gibson Super Jumbo acoustic, Edwards has been exploring electric guitar as well.
“I’ve always struggled with the weight of electrics. They’re like 8, 9 lbs. and hard to play – only because I find the balance weird,” says Edwards about her 1957 Gibson Junior. “When I got my [1962 Gibson] ES-330, I realized I was a much better guitar player than I gave myself credit for because I found it a lot easier to handle, scale- and weight-wise.”
Having been finally set to start touring again, the pandemic has – of course – hugely hampered Edwards’ efforts to get back on the road. But this isn’t the first time she’s experienced an obstacle like this.
“In 2003, I had all this crazy momentum. I was in Rolling Stone and played on Letterman twice. My venues were getting bigger and bigger. And just like a page from the COVID-19 playbook, the Iraq war drops,” Edwards says. “I went from selling out a room to having a hundred people show up.”
Ever resilient, Edwards intends to weather this storm as well. “It’s a tough business. I always made sure the work that I was making was meaningful to me,” she says. “I’m excited to have a new chapter, and being on stage every night is going to be a wonderfully liberating experience.”
- Kathleen Edwards' new album, Total Freedom, is out now on Dualtone Music.