Some musicians celebrate debut albums by packing their favorite local club or maybe throwing a wine-fueled party filled with industry bigwigs. As for Kathleen Edwards , 24, she serenaded David Letterman.
Edwards appeared on his late night TV program on Jan. 17 to sing “Six O’Clock News,” just three days after her album Failer hit the racks. “Fantastic singing,” said Letterman, not exactly known for his gushing. “I listened to this whole CD this afternoon, and this is great stuff. This is the kind of stuff that makes you just want to get in your car and just drive all night. Heartbreak. Just kick-you-in-the-teeth, break-your-heart kind of stuff … beautiful music. Wonderful new CD. It’s fantastic.”
Wait a minute. … Kathleen who?
“I think I’m maintaining a pretty cool head about it all,” Edwards tells CMT.com on a rare day off at home in Toronto. “It’s a really great thing that’s happening to me in terms of getting a chance to come on the scene with a lot of people of backing me.”
To say the least. Positive notices have been pouring in from Rolling Stone, Blender, Mojo, Elle, USA Today, NPR, Marie Claire, Billboard, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Dallas Morning News. She also sang on Carson Daly’s show, with a visit to Jay Leno slated for Feb. 17.
With such glowing press, people are paying attention but not necessarily the ones you’d expect.
“I’ve got a friend that says my [online] guest book is full of horny college boys typing with one hand, but I don’t know about that,” she says with a big laugh. “I think my crowd is kind of an ‘older-than-me’ kind of crowd, you know? People from their late 20s into their mid-40s. I think I have a crowd that’s not listening to pop radio. Wherever I play a show, I find people are always coming up to me and suggesting I listen to this record or that record. They’re artists I’ve never heard of, but it’s cool that there’s that kind of crowd out there.”
Failer’s grit comes from intriguing stories of disillusionment, drunkenness and other tried-and-true elements of traditional country music. Asked about her inspirations in country music, Edwards quickly answers, “I’m a big John Prine fan, and a lot of the music I like is mostly stuff that has been influenced by country, people like Richard Buckner who did a record with Lloyd Maines early on. I’m a big Johnny Cash fan and, um, and people like Shania Twain — no, I’m just kidding.”
After a quick laugh, she ponders the question some more: “Who can I say is a good example? You know, Steve Earle . There’s a lot of roots-rock artists out there who have a cool sort of country sound. … I’m also a really big fan of the instruments that are traditionally considered to be country instruments, like the steel and slide and pedal steel [guitar]. So, in some ways, it’s the arrangements that are country-hinged more so than the songs.”
Edwards recorded a demo about five years ago. A year later, she booked herself in clubs across her native Canada. She also waited tables until Failer was released in Canada last year. She’s now booked to open a few shows for the esteemed Canadian band Blue Rodeo and kicks off her own U.S. tour in Boston on Feb. 18.
“I think I always knew I wasn’t meant to do the 8 to 5,” she admits.
In November, Edwards filmed a music video for “Six O’Clock News” in Georgetown, Ontario, a small town about an hour outside of Toronto. A tragic tale set to upbeat music, the video finds Edwards singing to the camera in the dead of winter. Was she as cold as she seemed to be?
“Yes, it was f—ing freezing,” she says, laughing. “Oh my God. Yeah, it was a chilly chilly day. … And it hadn’t snowed yet, but it was really cold. It was really cold, oh God. In the last scene, I’m leaning on the car and I’m lip-synching and beating my foot on the ground like I’m singing along, but really I’m just like trying to keep warm!”
Watch the full-stream video of Six O’Clock News