Jonathan Edwards career is a long, illustrious one. His big “crossover” hit, “Sunshine” is one of those classic songs that can be found on numerous musical anthologies of the 1970s. It’s one of those songs that everybody knows the words to because it’s just so darn catchy. But Edwards’ career encompasses so much more. His albums cover a broad range of folk, country and even children’s music. It’s obvious that he’s very much at home on the stage whether it be solo or with any number of talented side musicians. He’ll be playing with a trio at his show at the me&thee on September 7.
I was an English major and I know my early American writers. So, I have to ask: Any relation? And if so, “Shanty” sure is quite different from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (although both are great in their own unique ways.)
No relation at all of any kind. Quite sure there are NO Televangelists in my bloodline OR my adopted line either for that matter, although my adoptive mom was a Presbyterian minister’s daughter…The epitaphs coming out of that woman’s mouth from time to time throughout my childhood I guess were designed to either show me “The Way” or get my attention, I don’t know.
Is it accurate to say that your musical career really began and started to take off when you were living in the Boston area? What was the music scene like at that time?
I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was about 14 in military school. Then College in Athens, Ohio where I started playing in bands as diverse as folk trios right on into hard core blues and jam rock. THEN came Boston and the whole Cambridge Common and Boston Common “concerts” in the summers of ’68 and ’69. For me personally it was the coffee house circuit and playing with people like Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Tom Rush, Jackson Browne, Loudon Wainwright, etc., There were a lot of us learning our craft and writing songs about it all at the time.
Tell us about your days with Capricorn Records and what it was like to open for the Allman Brothers.
Capricorn records was almost a family atmosphere. There were lots of bills that I played on that were JUST Capricorn artists. It had its own identifiable “brand” of artists and a certain integrity that went with it. Touring with “The Brothers” had a powerful effect on me commensurate with the powerful sound they were putting out on stage. I would show up with just my bass player and do 45 minutes or an hour and STILL get an encore! So I was thrilled to have the chance to rock the house even before they came out to finish the job!
Your self-titled album is a classic album. I feel like the songs are part of my DNA from having heard them so often back in the days of classic folk radio.
That album was really ideally placed at a time that seemed to need it. It meant a lot to a lot of people…certainly me. Spontaneity ruled the day. “Sure, try it” was our attitude and it reflects that kind of innocent, new, experimentation that I still try and capture on my more recent recordings.
Your next couple of albums had a more country feel to them. Did your fan base change a bit at that time? Did you capture a new kind of audience?
I have pretty deep bluegrass roots and the natural outgrowth of these acoustic musical values pointed me toward a more country-rock kind of feel. I was also doing a lot of shows with The Eagles and Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers and Cowboy and I love that sort of amplified bluegrass with drums and an electric guitar here and there. And I was living in the country and it all just seemed like a natural progression.
What about your work with Seldom Scene? For us music fans, that was a magical collaboration. Was it as much fun as it sounds on the record?
Working with John Duffy and The Seldom Scene was one of the most valuable experiences of my career and I loved every minute of it. I had known John’s work with The Country Gentlemen and I had Mike Auldridge play dobro on my Warner Brothers records in the 70’s and I was always sitting in with them every chance I got. It was a natural evolution to spend a few days in the studio and see what we could come up with. I remember saying to the group something like, “We’re coming in tomorrow to fix some of the details, right?” And John says, “Nope, that’s the way those songs sound today and that’s the way we want to leave it”. Certainly an interesting approach to the art of recording and, for me, a really informative option. And yes, we had a BLAST making that record and I miss John dearly.
Can you imagine doing anything else for a living? What are you most proud of?
Yes, I’ve got tons of other interests and avocations but, the creating and performing of music is my #1 love. My high school guidance counselor, after taking a look at my aptitude test results, asked me if I had thought about welding as a career. I guess, like most proud parents, I’m most proud of my two amazing daughters and their accomplishments. My younger daughter, Grace, has just released her 2nd album where she lives in France on Mercury/Universal Records called “Made For Change” which, like her, is STUNNING! It can be downloaded from itunes; oh and don’t forget the artwork that goes with it. My older daughter lives in L.A. and has two AMAZING daughters of her own. I’m also a bit proud of the body of work that I’ve managed to accumulate over these 40 something years and of the effect I’m told that my music has had on all my friends and fans and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next 40 something years and I’ll see you at the next show!
Catch some Jonathan Edwards fever and check out this video to whet your musical appetite.
For more information about Jonathan Edwards, visit his website:
Jonathan Edwards Trio appearing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, September 7
Kat Quinn opens the show.
Tickets available at http://www.meandthee.org