With the face of a teen angel and the voice of an old sage, Hamilton’s Dan Edmonds easily stands out in today’s musical landscape. There’s really not too many people making his exact brand of Old Folkey Americana these days, and those that are out there trying rarely sound as legit as Dan does. The other thing that sets Dan apart is that he’s just so damn genuine about his craft. He works really hard and his dedication is starting to pay off. After the split of the beloved Harlan Pepper last summer Dan began working on a solo project and his album “Ladies On The Corner”, which came out on October 7th. The album is an incredible journey through a sepia-toned world where you’re always basking in the late afternoon sun and you know everything’s going to work out ok. Through his admirable dedication to his craft and his masterful songwriting, Dan creates an incredibly immersive world with his music. One song seeps into the next and before you know what happened you’re hitting replay on the album. You can find the album here. It is highly recommended.
I caught up with Dan as he returned from a set of shows in Western Canada and as he gears to play the final show of this tour. You can find the show details here.
Q – First of all, congratulations on the success of your album. It’s spectacular. It’s been out for just over a month now – how do you feel about the release?
Thank you. That’s awesome. The reviews have been so far. I’m really happy. Just got home from tour. Everything’s been going really well.
Q – Tell me a bit about how the tour went?
We played a total of 24 shows and the last one is this Saturday in Hamilton. We were on the road for about 3 weeks straight. We’ve had a few days to rest and now are gearing up for the last show. As soon as we finished the 3 week stretch I got really sick. My body gave up, but I’m feeling better now and am ready for the last show.
Q – How do you maintain your voice while playing so many back to back shows?
You can’t smoke a lot – you can romanticize about it but you really can’t do it that much. On tour you want to party., but you really can’t. Your voice and body take a toll and you have to sleep well and eat well. I know that sounds lame but its the truth. Sometimes you can party after shows but not always – you’ll burn out and it can go badly. Another thing is that the food is never good, you’re eating fast food a lot which doesn’t make you feel good. We were all about Fishermen’s Friend. We got the extra strength and bought in bulk. We were chewing those all the time – it made us feel good.
Q – Your band Harlan Pepper broke up last summer and now just over a year later you have your first album out as Dan Edmonds. What was the last year like? How did this album come to be so quickly?
I had a little studio on barton and had been recording Harlan Pepper demos for a long time . That’s sort of how this album came to be, a lot of it started as demos for the Harlan Pepper project I was working on. That band ended, sadly, and I just kept working and doing my thing, I had a bunch of material done. So thats why the album came out so quickly – I had been working on it for a long time.
Q – How does it feel to go from being in a band with others to being out there on your own?
It feels nerve-wracking, but very good. Just because I’m in control of everything, all the music. I play it all myself. so, if the base line is rough or if the drums are rough I can re-do it. It feels good.
Q – Tell us a bit about your recording process with the 8-track?
It was a blast. Sometimes the machine breaks down and it can have some interesting sounds as it breaks down. Analog doesn’t just shut down. You can’t hit ‘save’ ‘close’. You turn it on and just hope for the best. A lot of the sounds at the starts and ends of tracks have some weird things, I just kept those sounds because it sounded cool. That’s the old technology breaking down. I like that stuff. The 8-track’s my main thing. I don’t use a laptop or anything like that. I prefer that sound I think it sounds warm and nice, no need to do anything else to it. I like it because it is simple – you get whatever you put on to it. There’s no rules because I don’t know the rules. I’m just figuring it out. Now, when I listen back to the album I hear a lot of the sounds and think “man, what was I thinking’. Some of the guitar sounds are way too distorted and the bass is too trebly and bright for my liking. I didn’t know what I was doing. The live show is more together than the recording process. Now that some time has passed and I’ve been working on new stuff and also making records for friends – I have a better understanding of what the machine does and I know more now how to get the most ofd the machine.
Q – It is interesting that your bio on a lot of things just says ‘Song Writer’. Why is it important for you to emphasize that?
That’s the most important thing. Rather than an engineer or producer – the creation of the song is the most important thing. So, that’s the focus for me – first and foremost. And then, its nice to not reveal too much on the internet. You know? I like keeping it simple and if people want to look into it they can find more information and ask me. I think that song writing isn’t he most important thing. That’s the golden thing. I try to write all the time. I try to, but if it doesn’t come out I don’t force it. Usually in the morning I will write. I will make some coffee and write with a guitar and, you know, sometimes its great and most of the time its garbage. I don’t think writers block.. I mean I don’t know if it really exists. If you have writers block you’re maybe just lazy? If you keep at it every day sometimes it will be very hard and other days it comes easier. I’m not really sure. I think hard work is important, and it is less so about waiting for inspiration to hit.
Q – Who are some of your song writing heroes?
In Hamilton, I really really love Aron D’Alesio, he is amazing. There’s a guy from California named Blake Mills who I’m really obsessed with – me and my friends all are. He’s so good, he just proceed the latest Alabama Shakes record that won the Grammy. And of course the classics: Neil Young and Bob Dylan. There’s a reason why everyone loves them and its because they are the best. My friend Brad Germain is absolutely incredible. He’s so good. People in this city really inspire me to work hard and get better at my craft.
Q – Are there any songs that you think are so well written that you wish you had worked on them?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Some old staples that everyone covers. “Dark End of the Street” – I don’t even know who wrote it but it gets covered a lot. It’s like a Motown song. Everyone covers it and its such a heartbreaking song. It kills me. Also, “You Don’t Know Me” another classic that everyone covers. Both of those songs have cord changes that match the emotions in the lyrics . There can be a heartbreaking chord change and the lyric matches that and I think thats the key. It’s hard to do, very hard to do that, but I think the best songs are the ones where the music matches the story you’re trying to tell.
Q – You have a lot of musical heavy hitters working with you lately. From Wayne Petti and Tyler Belluz on the record, to Dylan Hudecki working on videos. What’s it like to be surrounded by these peers?
Tones of people are creative in this city and you sort of automatically find them and becomes friends. I really like Hamilton for that reason. It feels good to be an artist here, people know each other and support each other. Everyone here is just working to get better at their craft and so when you see people make really good things everyone congregates to support them. I love this city. I go and watch so much music and I enjoy seeing bands and my friends so much. When its my turn to play I sort of look at it like ‘its our turn to play and have our friends come and watch us’. It takes away the nerves. I used to get really nervous about playing live shows but that’s gone away. Now I look at it like ‘If I wasn’t doing anything on a Friday I would love to see music. See my buds play’. The friendly music community has made me feel more comfortable on stage.
Q – You’ve mentioned before about working out of HAVN in Hamilton. What’s it like making music in an art space like that?
I mean the first time I went to HAVN I was blown away because it was people our age making things and there were no rules there. It was an open space for creation – I love that. I moved all my recording gear into the back room and it was nice to spend time there. Half of it was work and half was trying to hang out and become friends with those artists. I love that gallery, I think its the best. What Aaron Hutchinson has done with HAVN Records is amazing. They’ve put out like 30 or 40 albums on that label. Erin is such a good mixer and sound engineer. He works really hard and he does everything himself. Aaron and Connor play horns on my new record. Working with them is very inspiring. They are also really nice – being nice is key I think.
Q – Can you recommend a good starting point for Old Americana, Old Country for people who like your sound and want to go down the rabbit hole and start with the classics?
I mean, there’s os much good stuff. I would start with the old blues guys – Mississippi John Hurt is amazing. Reverend Gary Davis is incredible. Robert Johnson is amazing. That’s where it all started. Everyone builds upon those guys. For Country I would say the Louven Brothers, The Everly Brothers. The Carter Family is the first country family. A family of musicians that wrote the songs that became traditional songs that everyone covered. Ya, if you dig deep enough you get to the best.
Q – How did you as a young person living in the new millenium get to this stuff? What went wrong?
When I was a teenager I loved punk rock. I don’t know what happened. It’s a far trip from punk the old country. I think I realized rock is amazing, then I realized oh, that came from blues and country. So, I listen to rock and realize those guys were listening to this.. and those guys to this… and follow that all the way back. Also check out Alan Lomaxe’s recordings – he recorded jail songs slave songs and that’s like the root of American music in a lot of ways. You can trace it back super far. There’s so much there. These old blues guys made records in the early 1900’s and were forgotten about until they were old men. In the 60’s these kids realized they were still alive. Funny how music works that in a span of 40 years they weren’t making popular music and then they were re-discovered by a new generation and became famous again
Q – What do you have on the horizon for the new year?
I’ve got like half a record finished. so, I’ve got 6 songs that are totally done. I’m really excited about it. I’m gonna work this winter and buy a new reel of tape and get to work. Hopefully something will come out in the near year. It’s coming together.
Thanks so much, Dan!