Kathleen Edwards hasn't spent much time in her garden this past summer. She's been on the road since February with her latest, Asking for Flowers. She'll plead for a few stemmed-petals at The Seahorse Tavern, with her special guest Jim Bryson, on September 15.
"I'm a bit of a gardening freak," says Edwards, calling from the Hamilton house she shares with husband/bandmate Colin Cripps. "It's most important when you come home from being on a tour to return to a lush garden. It doesn't always happen, though it did this time around, which was nice. Asking for flowers is also a turn of phrase, though I did think that maybe I'd receive more flowers at shows. It's not quite the case." Recorded in Santa Clarita, California, over the course of nine months, with Jim Scottt, the legendary producer of Tom Petty's Wildflowers, Asking for Flowers is Edwards' third full-length album---her previous discography includes 2005's Back to Me and 2003's Failer.
"I was invited to a few Heartbreakers shows as a guest and was like, 'hell yeah,'" says Edwards, who was raised on Petty albums. "While I was standing there listening I was thinking this band represents the soundtrack of my own life as a songwriter. If I knew this when I was 10 I would have had a heart attack right then and there."
Asking for Flowers was inspired by a conversation with a good friend who said she felt as though her whole life she was always asking for flowers. It's hard---next to impossible---to do. One can't request such an endearing gesture. The floral-gift giver must want to extend such an offering. Perhaps this is the Ottawa-bred songwriter's way of tossing herself a bouquet.
"Lyrically, the album is all over the place. I don't write about one particular thing. Mostly I listen to turns of phrase in conversation---I like conversational types of lyrics. I listen to stories that seem unremarkable to most and find something there."
Asking For Flowers has been shortlisted as one of the albums worthy of this year's Polaris Music Prize, which awards $20,000 to the winner. Other contenders include Basia Bulat's Oh, My Darling, Caribou's Andorra, Stars' In Our Bedroom After the War, Holy Fuck's self-titled LP, Two Hours Traffic's Little Jabsand more.
"It's a tough business to be in---anything artistic really. I am fulfilled in what I love to do, but the Polaris is a real boost. I read somewhere that Patrick Watson was going to get a gold-plated hot tub with his winnings. I think I would do the same if I won. Most definitely."
Edwards' humour may be a touch dry, but her album takes on rather heavy-handed subject matters, including rising gun violence on "Oh Canada" and a personal take on a young Ontario woman slain by her neighbour, "Alicia Ross." Edwards finds the actual process of songwriting a touch difficult. She mainly writes at home and says it often comes out in drabs. But on the road, Edwards takes things as they come.
"I just finished reading Water for Elephants and it's based around a touring carnival in the 1950s. It's not that far off from being a touring musician, really," she says. "I've been known to throw a few people off the train. On the road you are at the mercy of wherever you are. People who are polite, proper and well dressed can change quite dramatically after a couple of months. I tour with a lot of boys so I know a fair bit of potty humour."
For the eastern leg of her tour she's bringing along Jim Bryson (who was last in town with The Weakerthans for Summersonic this past July). The two have been friends since Edwards' early days kicking around dingy clubs in the nation's capital.
"It's a duo show, so Jim and I will be playing together. We're like the Tegan and Sara of folk music, we've been known to bicker on stage," she says. "Jim has impeccable humour. It's going to be a fun night, not a full-on rock 'n' roll show, as I won't have my band."