Tell Me About That Album: Kathleen Edwards' Voyageur

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Todd V. Wolfson
Let's get this out of the way up front: Kathleen Edwards is dating Justin Vernon of the Grammy-winning Bon Iver, who also produced her latest record Voyageur, which she wrote while going through a divorce. But that's hardly the whole story.

The Canadian singer-songwriter has been releasing great Americana (Canadiana?) records since 2003, when she was discovered at SXSW after years of touring across Canada as an unsigned act. Her latest LP is her biggest departure yet, combining the lusher textures of Vernon's production with her tuneful country-rock. We chatted with Edwards about the record, her time spent in Seattle with our own John Roderick, and her heard of cats. Edwards plays Neumos on April 3rd.

Does it make you uncomfortable to have your personal life so closely tied to the press for this record? Yeah, it's been hard. There's nothing nicer than being reminded that you have someone awesome in your life -- and that part's amazing. But there are times when it makes you feel a little bit like, "You know, I actually have a musical spine of my own and I've kind of done some shit before I had a boyfriend that everyone knew." I was in the UK and did an article for The Sun, which is like this really trashy paper, and the headline was, "Mr. Bon Iver and I were pen pals and we just had to meet!" And that is not a quote! But they make it look like a quote. It's like, what the fuck does this have to do with making a record? But at the same time, the lines are blurred. There's no, "This is my personal life, this is my professional life." It's all one life, so what are you gonna to do?

There's not a lot of self-deprecation on this record, whereas your previous outings had songs like, "One More Song the Radio Won't Like" and "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory." Were you feeling particularly serious this time around? I don't want to sound like a fucking drama queen, but I went through the hardest two years I've ever had, so yeah, I guess unintentionally I was serious a lot. I think there's some really hopeful moments on the record, like the opening track, which is a song I wrote after hanging out with John Roderick for a week in Seattle. I was like, "Holy fuck, I'm ready to take on anything! I'm excited to, like, move to Georgetown and hang out at that awesome coffee shop every day of my life and hang out at the Aviation Museum." He's such a great lyricist and great writer and he basically became my editor. He really helped me carve out some different ideas lyrically and arrangement-wise.

Do you have a favorite breakup album? I think my first favorite breakup album was [Ryan Adams'] "Heartbreaker." That is like the best breakup album ever. Actually, my breakup record was David Bazan's "Curse Your Branches." I think that record has been the soundtrack of my last year for sure.

Do you have a favorite song on Voyageurs? "Going to Hell."

Can you tell me about its genesis? I was warming up for a show in Nashville and I had my guitar on me and I was just fucking around and I sang, "I'm going to hell in a basket I made." And I remember Dan Wilson, the songwriter guy--

Semisonic, right? Yeah. Holy fuck, did you know that he is the co-writer on "Someone Like You" by Adele?

Totally. He's had a ton of hits for other people, which is good because he only had one with Semisonic I think. He couldn't be a nicer guy. But anyway, he was like, "Did you just write a song called, 'I'm Going to Hell?'" And I kept that in my back pocket for like two years before I got around to start working on it. It's very rare that I'll start working on a song where I'll just spit it out. It's like a little seed and then they get developed.

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Can you tell me about the album cover artwork? I worked with an illustrator who came as a referral from a designer friend. The Great Lakes weren't initially going to be on the cover of the album. It was going to be a boat and then when he sent me his illustration of the Great Lakes, I was like, "Holy shit. I spent so much time driving around those fucking things I want to put it on the goddamn cover of the record." He did all the artwork and then my dad was actually the person who wrote the font on the record.

You seem to Tweet a lot about your cats. Can you tell me about them? And isn't your Twitter handle @kittythefool? My nickname is Kitty and one of my cat's names is Mr. T, so when I got my cat, someone was like, "Hey, Kitty the Fool." I'm 33 and I have no children. You're damn straight I have a lot of pictures of my cats!

 
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