For her fourth studio album, Voyageur, Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards decided to shed her alt-country sound in favour of an atmospheric indie-rock vibe.
“I wanted to make a record that was a little more representative of the identity I feel I currently have musically,” Edwards, 34, says, over the phone from Toronto.
“I started out being a very Americana, alt-country girl. I wore that on my sleeve. I love the pedal steel, I love all that stuff, so it was inevitable I would be categorized as such. However, you change, your tastes change and I just wanted to make a record that was better representative of who I think I am now musically, which is more than just a girl who has videos on CMT.”
Edwards credits producer Justin Vernon (frontman of Bon Iver), band members Jim Bryson, Gord Tough and Lyle Molzan and co-writers such as Seattle-based musician John Roderick with helping her to move in a different direction. She says these people also helped facilitate the personal nature of her lyrics. In 2010, Edwards and her husband/long-time collaborator Colin Cripps were divorced and much of Voyageur details the dissolution of their marriage.
“Making the record I felt very safe because I was with people who knew me well,” Edwards says.
“Getting up on stage with these songs though has proved to be a more difficult experience. I definitely didn’t see that coming, that suddenly I’d be on stage singing Pink Champagne and feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin and play a Britney Spears cover.”
“It’s been hard but I don’t regret it. I’d rather make a record that was true and real to me than go on stage every night and sing something I don’t feel or know.”
Voyageur might be Edwards most personal, distinctive and arguably best album — it was shortlisted for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize — but she still gets a kick out of her back catalogue.
“It’s like putting on a really great pair of old jeans,” Edwards says of playing her old songs live. “It’s the exhale in the set for me, the time I get to sit back and play songs that people are really happy to hear and I’m happy to play them. I’m not trying to distance myself from the music I’ve done, I just wanted to challenge myself.