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On Songwriting Techniques, Knowing Your Legalese & Allowing For Creative Maturity
Wisdom and experience have helped shape singer/songwriter Kim Edwards’ Lovers and Loners EP, which was released September 25, into a soul-bearing listen on unrequited love, broken hearts and determination. Her first album, Wanderlust, was funded through Kickstarter dollars and was a little brighter and bit more cheerful. But her new EP cuts through tough subject matter with clean, clear vocals, beautiful production and a dash of whimsy. One of the most vibrant moments is the end of “The Sweetest Sound,” with a dizzying array of strings urgently warning listeners to let their guards down and give in to love’s tug.
Time has passed between her releases, but Edwards’ music remains relatable and well, her. She’s been compared to Regina Spektor, one of her favorite artists, but her music is uniquely her own. She is unapologetic about what she has to offer and her stick-to-my-guns sentiment is refreshing. There’s no sci-fi sounding pop or gimmicky synth sounds to distract, just pure music.
The young artist has been busy promoting the new EP with performances at festivals and media tours. Just ten days before Lovers and Loners became available to the public, Edwards chatted with Performer about songwriting, family and relationships.
Growing up, did your parents always support your pursuit of music?
They did. They’ve been really great. [Growing up] I was always the one that was practical. In high school I thought maybe I should be a doctor. They said, ‘This is the time to do it. See how far you can get.’ It’s meant so much to have their support and encouragement. What they think matters. I couldn’t do this without them.
Do you come from a musical family?
I was actually adopted. I grew up in a house where my mom played the piano, and my dad sang. I do have a brother who plays drums. I have another brother who can’t carry a tune but loves music. I don’t think he knows that he can’t carry a tune! He turns me on to a lot of new music.
Tell me about your songwriting process.
I’ve been experimenting with creativity. Some people say sit down and do it every day. Some say wait until you feel it. Every January I attempt to write a song a day. This past January has been the best so far. It’s a surprise to see what comes out. I’ve been doing this for three or four years. It’s surprising how many songs end up on my record or got their start [using this technique]. But, I like to write when the mood hits me really. I’m more prone to write after something emotional like a book or music.
Which comes first? Lyrics or the melody?
Music comes first. Words are tough. I’m picky. I tend not to do a lot of revising. I’ve thought about it so much, by the time it goes on the paper, that’s it. I’ve tried to start with words first. This isn’t’ conducive to co-writing. When I do that, I’m sitting in the corner and the other person is sharing all of these ideas!
Are you loyal to certain music apps and or equipment?
As far as writing goes, I use the B-Rhymes Dictionary all the time. It’s a great app for mirror rhymes. It [gives me ideas for] things that aren’t such a perfect match.
Who are you listening to right now?
Oh, man! So many. I try to listen to a bunch of different things. I was just listening to Regina Spektor, she’s always on rotation, Ingrid Michaelson…mostly singer/songwriter types. The Struts, Beach Boys, Lana Del Rey, I like all sorts of music.
What do you hope people say about your music?
I hope that ultimately it’s relatable. For me, the ones [performers] that impact me the most, I think: I know exactly what they’re singing about it. All the songs on the new EP go through the different stages of relationships. I hope it meets people wherever they are at.
Tell me something you learned about yourself and about the world since Wanderlust?
Since Wanderlust, it’s been a journey. I think I’ve grown up since then. Three to four years ago I was traveling across the country a lot. I had a lot more hunger to see the world. I still love to travel, but I feel more settled in some ways. I hope there’s a maturity that comes with that. I don’t feel like I’m striving all the time. I’m learning to be a little more at peace. A couple of years can make all the difference. That’s probably the biggest change – being okay with where I’m at.
You have been taking piano lessons since you were four; are the keys the only thing you play?
Well, I play the ukulele. I’m not a pro at it, but I can play enough to play my own songs. I got into playing acoustic guitar but I don’t have the biggest hands. I got two new guitars. I’m amassing a collection of instruments [laughs]. I have one semi-hollow thinline Telecaster. I’m debating whether or not to sell my short-scale Telecaster, which is smaller than your average sized guitar.
I really love W.C. Handy. He’s got these wonderful impressionist tones. He can play all of these crazy sharps and flats. I also like Tchaikovsky and Gershwin. Pretty much anything that’s symphonic, I’m all about it.
Have you been in love?
[Laughing] You know…I don’t think so. I don’t think I’ve ever been truly all out. I’ve been close. It’s always been one-sided for me or the other person. Not at the same time. So, I don’t think so. Honestly, I think I’ve come close, [but] not quite. I’ve always been a very cautious person with my emotions…
Which do you prefer, the studio or the stage and why?
Both are great and both are stressful at the same time. I prefer the stage in some ways. In the studio I stress myself out. Essentially you don’t want to waste time. So you have to decide ‘this is the right sound.’ I tend to be a perfectionist.
I think I enjoy performing. I can have more fun with it. There’s the audience interaction. Although there are moments in the studio when you hear things come together and it’s really magical. It’s really gratifying. If I had to choose, I’d choose the stage.
How do make sure that you continue to grow as an artist?
Part of that for me is listening to other music. Being challenged. Being with other musicians. Just talking with and being in a community and conversation. Iron sharpens iron. There’s so much that blows my mind, so the bar always gets raised.
Describe a good day.
I feel like you’re asking the wrong person for this. I just had a conversation with a friend about this. You can go on Facebook and a post might say, ‘I got a parking spot in front of my building and I have freshly baked donuts. Today is a good day.’ A good day for me is something crazy like I won a Grammy! There are nice days with good weather, but a good day for me is something monumental.
What advice would you give other independent artists?
So many things. It seems very basic 101, but I have friends who do this. People sign agreements without running it past anyone in the music industry. I feel most musicians don’t know all the legalese. Do you know if you’re giving all your publishing rights away? Is this exclusive or nonexclusive? Be educated. Get agreements and contracts looked at. My friends and my uncle will ask, ‘When are you going to get signed by a label?’ I’m not sure if I want to. It would have to be the right deal. I have friends who have been shelved and dropped, and went the indie way after all.
I wondered if you would you prefer the backing of a major label.
I think if it’s the right situation, great. It’s hard to say. I think the biggest thing for me is creative control. That would be very important to me. Mainstream pop is not important to me. I really just want to write the music I want to write and hopefully people will like it.
Ingrid Michaelson is on a label but still considered independent. I think it’s cool that she’s been able to do what she’s done mostly independently. It’s funny, Regina [Spektor] is signed to major label. Major label execs will say you need this kind of personality, you need to be active on social media. Regina has a loyal following because she is who she is.
Are you ready for love? In one of your songs you say, “Give me wedding rings.”
You know what? I’m starting to become more ready for it. The timing of this interview is funny. I was thinking last night that I’m more ready to be in a relationship than before. I’ve always had a long-term perspective on life. How would that affect my career? So, I mean now, I think while music is still a high priority, I’m more open to the idea of being in a relationship. Right guy, right timing.
Photography by Bruce Kite
Lovers and Loners
Standout Track: “The Book of Love”
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