Singer and song writer Jonathan Edwards achieved early success in his recording career with a gold selling album and a couple of singles in the early 70’s He is best known for his hit single Sunshine in 1972 which reached number four on the billboard charts. Edwards started playing piano at an early age all by ear and the inspiration of sharing the piano bench with his adoptive grandmother who was a gifted player and songwriter in her own right, left an indelible mark on his creative and inventive psyche.
He picked up the guitar in military high school and started writing his own songs. He realized that he now had people’s attention and it was addictive.
In the early years Edwards was playing upwards of 250 shows a year. Now Edwards performs about 70 concerts a year for the last 5 years or so, and he’s finding that to be a nice, workable balance between career and having the time to pursue all of his other far reaching interests and avocations.
Edwards sent this to me in an email, “I’m bound to be a lucky man, Said about all that I can, Words aren’t any good no more, Let the spirit open up your door, Show you what we all were put here for, We come here from the earth, Now it’s time for our rebirth, Gonna work the ground, it’s comin’ soon, Raise some joy, get your strings in tune, What more are we worth.”
“Lucky Day” Words and Music by Jonathan Edwards 1973
Examiner spoke with Edwards about his career and his newest projects.
Examiner: Can you tell us when you began to write music?
Edwards: “I think I started to realize that I could invent words and melody at the age of eight or nine. Piano lessons followed at around age 12 where I failed to become fluent in reading music but did seem to resonate with the whole idea of performing (recitals…) and of crafting the written pieces I was supposed to be playing into more personalized and somewhat innovative stylizations. I’m thankful that my teacher, (the lady who lived next door) allowed me to stretch the envelope a bit in favor of the gods of creativity and self-expression.Then at 16 I found myself in a strictly military, R.O.T.C. high school where I discovered the more portable and accessible world of the guitar and the pleasure of shared music. That would also have been the time when I learned what a joy it was to create in music (guitars, banjos, voices, etc.) a thought or an idea that may not have gotten ANY traction or attention from just the spoken word. Surprisingly enough, my fellow cadets and some of the quasi-military faculty, even in 1962, were quite supportive of people’s nascent forays into the world of creativity, which, of course, could have contributed to some very creative behavioral “issues” later on. Naturally, I look at all that as just part of the process.”
Examiner: You have been in the music business for many years, are there any road stories that you can share with us?
Edwards: “Sure, there are plenty of anecdotes of our adventures “out there” starting at about the time we actually started making a living with our music in 1966 or so. Most of these stories are of a personal nature and probably should remain so…Suffice it to say that all the fun I had in those formative years was almost always tempered by a reverence and respect for the music and the opportunity to “go out and play” until somebody told me to come in for dinner.”
Examiner: So Emmylou Harris asked you to sing on her “Elite Hotel” album. Prior you had stepped back away from the business. Now you’re back? How has it been? Different from years before?
Edwards: “My “stepping away” lasted about 9 months and I’ve been hearing about it ever since. Like I said, for me it’s been a balancing act between family, friends and nature on one hand and “stoking the star-maker machinery” on the other. Have I always made the right adjustments to that balance? Maybe not always but I have managed, with very little professional help, to feel fulfilled by, grateful for and appreciative of the chance I get in every show I do to bring a fresh attitude and energy to the people who spend their time and money to come and visit me for a couple of hours. And I’ve been doing this for almost 50 years.”
Examiner: How has the music business changed since you started?
Edwards: “It seems like there are way more people doing the singer/songwriter thing now than there were back then. Maybe they all thought, “Hey, if this guy can do it, ANYONE can do it”! There are a lot of market forces at work today that combine to make what we do a bit more competitive. There are also a lot of artists far more competent at working these fickle and fleeting components of the business world to their advantage than I am but I have always focused on the creativity of writing, recording and performing inspired material and leaving the marketing and promotional aspects to others. Sometimes at my own peril.”
Examiner: Is there any advice that you can give to the students coming out of Berklee College of Music?
Edwards: “Yes, don’t repeat any of the above techniques in your own career! Seriously, most students coming out of advanced music education today are completely immersed in all the social/electronic/digital media tools required in this D.I.Y. artistic environment and that’s the direction evolution has taken. Frankly, I think that the less control and influence exerted by the remaining multinational music corporations, the better for the sake of truly inspired, independent music of all kinds…just sayin’. So, I would suggest to up and coming artists of all stripes to acquire an audience for what you do. Imagine and invent whatever it is you have to do to get your art seen and/or heard by as many people as possible. Those people will enlighten and inform your next creation. Also, if you’re an instrumentalist, learn how to sing! If you’re a singer, learn how to play something! Nobody ever wants to make that leap from hiding behind a piano or guitar and actually carrying an entire song on your own. Do it! Also, write your own material, music AND lyrics. That’s where the money is, they tell me. And finally, more and more of this world and your success in it is influenced and directed not so much by what you know but, WHO you know! From what I’ve seen, interpersonal relationships drive the world we’re in. So now perhaps more than ever cultivate and nurture those relationships with your friends and colleagues, especially the ones who you feel good around; the ones who help you feel valued and inspired.”
Examiner: Tell me something that you never told anyone else?
Edwards: “Someone has heard everything I have ever thought, I’m sure of it. Just sit in a van with someone for a few years driving to the gig and believe me, you’ll hear it all sooner of later.”
Examiner: It’s the 7th Anniversary of the Wizard of Oz. How did you and musician Matt Bishop come together on the remake of Somewhere Over the Rainbow?
Edwards: “I’ve know Matty B for a few years now and I so much appreciate his love of music and his energy and ability to put people, places and things together for the greater good.”
Bishop: “I decided to do the arrangement of Over the Rainbow to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz. The song is also near and dear to my heart and brings back great childhood memories for me. I wrote the piece to just be instrumental, but with further consideration thought that a vocal accompaniment would be appropriate. The first person that came to mind was one of my inspirations, influences and friends, Jonathan Edwards.
The arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” is available on iTunes and all of the proceeds will go to the Make a Wish Foundation. A copy of this song is part of the world’s largest Wizard of Oz collection kept in Camden and Rockland, Maine.”
Examiner: Upcoming dates and/or recordings?
Edwards: “”You can find all up-coming dates and a complete discography, bio, pix: www.jonathanedwards.net
I am very proud to announce my next album being released sometime this fall called “Tomorrow’s Child.” I wanted to go back to my early days of recording when we’d all sit in a room and take the chances that only live recording can provide. Completely acoustic arrangements, organic treatments, spontaneous feeling live music without an audience. I am joined on this collection of songs by Jerry Douglas, Shawn Colvin, Vince Gill and a whole host of other much admired artists in their own right and I am super excited to have the chance to work with people of this stature and bring the results to the listening public.”