By <a href="mailto:email@example.com">KAREN BLISS</a> -- For <a href="http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/" target="_new">JAM! Music</a>
Edwin's third solo album, "Try This At Home," has just been mixed and the video for the first single, "Right Here," is being edited.
The 13-song disc is slated for an August 15th release on Linus Entertainment/Universal Music Canada. The single, "Right Here," an acoustic-based pop song, will be serviced to hot AC at the end of June.
"From the original demos and the rough tracks, 'Right Here' has always stood out," says Toronto's Geoff Kulawick, Edwin's manager and president of Linus Entertainment, whose roster includes Gordon Lightfoot, Sophie Millman, Ashley MacIsaac.
"I think the whole idea behind it is 'I'm right here for you.' It got an extremely strong reaction from all the women than I played it for --'Oh my God, that song makes me want to cry,' which is kind of the reaction you need to stand out. I think it's got the same sort of appeal that James Blunt and Daniel Powter's songs have, a reassuring, comforting song, especially for women."
Edwin reveals it may not be as comforting as Kulawick -- or women -- might think. He jokingly calls it his stalker song. "The guy doesn't feel he's in the league of the girl that he sees all the time. He's in love with her, but he can't approach her. That's basically the idea of the song.
"I wasn't the most comfortable with releasing that first," Edwin admits, "and I'm still a little apprehensive about it, but the wheels are in motion and it's going to be the first single. The video's already shot (directed by Chris Stacey). I think it's a really strong song, but normally I would come out with a more rock song and do this second or third. But when you're with an independent, you never know how many singles you're going to get."
During an exclusive listening session at producer Jeff Dalziel's Diesel Music Studio in Toronto, he and Edwin previewed seven of the 12 new songs from "Try This At Home" -- "Right Here;" the chorus-heavy "That's A Lie;" cool percussive rocker "Never Over;" the ethereal "Light Reflects;" the positive balladic anthem "Head Up;" rockier groove "Flying;" and heavenly piano ballad "Eyes Of A Child." (An acoustic version of his 1999 top 40 hit "Alive" will also be included).
"There's another four that are heavier," Edwin says of some songs not ready for outside ears just yet. Ian Thornley guests on the "heaviest track" called "Take Anything" and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson is on several tracks, including "Never Over" which should be a single.
" I'm not going to come out with a rock track first because, quite frankly, rock radio is completely detached from the record buying public," says Kulawick. "The song that we made the video for and are going to radio with is the song that we think has the best shot to get mass appeal and reaction."
After quitting I Mother Earth -- the trippy hard rock band he fronted from 1991 to 1997 but never contributed to in terms of songwriting -- Edwin signed with Sony Music Canada, and released his 1999 solo debut, "Another Spin Around The Sun." The album sold 130,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan Canada, thanks to the singles "Trippin'," "Hang Ten," "And You," "Alive" (the one that really spurred sales) and "Rush."
The follow-up, 2002's "Edwin & The Pressure," which saw the frontman positioned as part of a band again, did but a tenth of that. Even with three singles, "Superhoney," "Impossible," and "Let's Dance," sales were 11,000 units. "Basically, with the exception of some great people at Sony, the company was in disarray at the time," says Edwin, referring to the announcement in 2003 that Sony and BMG would merge, a deal that was completed in 2004.
"It was such a confusing time in the company. Everybody was disorganized, afraid of losing their jobs. It was just a bad time to release a record so the record just fell by the wayside. We had some good airplay. The record company just wasn't there to support it."
What followed was what Edwin now calls "one of the toughest years of my life." Frustrated and disenchanted with the Canadian music industry, he also found himself dealing with family problems. "It was just overwhelming. I just withdrew for a while," he says.
Afterwards, even though Edwin was no longer signed to Sony, he still went there to collaborate with songwriters. Edwin's long-time manager Robert Luhtala, who had handled I Mother Earth when Edwin was in the group, shopped the demos and played "Right Here" and "Flying" to Kulawick.
"He was familiar with me from before and he felt that we could really do something here and it would be a shame to not let this guy make another record," Edwin recounts.
The singer says that he likes the idea of being more of a partner with a label.
"I don't have much faith in any of the major labels right now; I think they're all lost. The excitement of being with an independent and maybe, in the end, actually making money is nice. When you're with an independent you have a better chance of that, even though you have a better chance of never being heard.
"The deal itself, there's no big advance. It's more like, 'We're in this together, whatever we make, we split.' And Linus has connections outside of Canada. We have plans to market outside of Canada and tour outside of Canada. That was attractive and Kulawick seemed really interested, which is also very important when you're signing a deal."
Kulawick isn't bothered by the lack of sales for Edwin's last album and has his own theory on why it didn't do well.
"'Another Spin Around The Sun' is a platinum record, and then for 'Edwin & The Pressure,' there were very few male pop solo artists at the time selling records outside of Edwin," says Kulawick. " In order to make it more attractive to the U.S. company, I believe the label at the time wanted to call it a band and make more of a rock record, and obviously it just didn't work. Edwin has matured and he's got a much more mature sound, lyrically and sonically. I thought the new songs were really good."
Once Edwin signed with Linus, Edwin and Luhtala parted ways amicably and Kulawick stepped into that role. His other management client is Millman, a young jazz singer.
Not soon after, while down at Sony to write, Edwin ran into "Edwin & The Pressure" co-producer Dalziel and engineer Dennis Togas and brought up the topic of working together again for album number three.
"So these guys agreed to do the record for the paltry fee that I was offering," Edwin laughs, "and they put their heart and soul into it. They both were very supportive and very positive and very helpful in my being able to make this record."
Says Dalziel: "I just wanted to be able to let Ed take the time to make a record that he should've always made and that he's comfortable doing for what he is now. A lot of the times when you're with majors, it's always about being commercial -- not that we strayed from that ,but we did it on our own terms. We could stop and slow down and listen to things and change this and that.
"The budgets when you're talking to independents aren't suitable for that. You have to get in get out, get it done, but when Ed had asked me, I said, 'Let's do it.' I can afford to do it. It's not about the money with this project. 'Come here. Relax. What do you want to do? You want to play backgammon or do you want to work on the song?' Just let it become what it is, rather than try and force what it is."
Co-writing with numerous people -- Dalziel, Togas, Ruben Huizenga, David Martin, and Justin Gray -- Edwin then did a lot of preproduction in his rehearsal space before tracking the album. Drums were done at Reaction Studios; guitar and bass at Alex Lifeson's private studio Lerxst; and all the vocals and overdubs were done at Diesel.
Edwin played acoustic guitar and some percussion; and Gary Craig came in on drums; Kenny Cunningham on bass; Jeremy Kelly on guitar, and Dalzeil added piano and some guitars. Guests included guitarist Ian Thornley, singer Alexander Slate; Tupelo Honey bassist Steve Vincent; and the aforementioned Lifeson.
Edwin and Lifeson go back 10 years. The Rush guitarist invited Edwin to sing on his 1996 solo project, "Victor," and that same year played on "Like A Girl" from I Mother Earth's second album, "Scenery And Fish."
"He's only done me favors. I don't think I've done him any," Edwin laughs.
"He was kind enough to let us work at his studio for a week and let us use everything we wanted -- his guitars, his amps, whatever we wanted. He was great about it and he also did us the favor of coming in and doing some cameo guitar playing on a few songs. We ran the songs and he played what he felt, so we used his guitar stylings throughout the record."
Edwin has recruited Kelly and Cunningham for his live band, and has a couple of drummers to approach. "We're going to start rehearsing for shows in two weeks or so," says Edwin, who is still represented by Toronto booking agent Jeff Craib of S.L. Feldman & Associates. He would like to get out on the road prior to the album's release.
Kulawick says at the very least he will send Edwin across the country on a promo tour with Kelly to play acoustic sets.
"Try This At Home" will eventually come out in the U.S. through Linus distributor Koch Entertainment. " We're definitely going to start in Canada. Trying to break something to hot AC in America is a difficult task," says Kulawick. "We're going to pick the right time."
"Try This At Home" track listing (not in order):
Eyes of a Child
That's a Lie