"You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true" – Richard Bach
‘I've always believed in that saying,’ says Edwin,’ and to make music was always my dream.’
Edwin’s third solo album, Better Days, is a positive, reflective album written while the platinum-selling singer-songwriter took a retreat from the spotlight - for almost four years, without recording or performing live. The time had an effect as Edwin emerged rejuvenated, and inspired to produce an album that is without a doubt the best work of his career. ‘I thought Better Days was a good title because I have gone through a pretty challenging series of events that hit home on every level,’ says Edwin.
Edwin put his heart and soul into this album, produced in Toronto by Jeff Dalziel and engineered by Denis Tougas, both of whom worked with the singer on his last album, 2002’s Edwin And The Pressure. The two actually co-wrote with Edwin the songs "Eyes of a Child" and “Better Days”, which was the last lyric Edwin wrote for the album. ‘I wanted to keep it positive. There’s so much negativity around all the time and I don’t need to contribute to it,’ Edwin says.
The past four years were tough, he admits, fraught with family problems, relationship problems — life problems. ‘Things everyone goes through at some point,’ Edwin says. ‘It’s not unique to me; it’s just that when it hits you, it can be overwhelming. ’While he dealt with them sometimes by strumming guitar and writing lyrics, not everything he wrote ended up as songs. In fact, the majority didn’t. 'It’s something you need to do to get it all out of your system, as opposed to paying a shrink $500 an hour,' he laughs. For every 10 pages of lyrics, he may use just two lines: ‘Other times, you write the whole song in 20 minutes.’
Better Days includes the requisite love or love-lost songs. The first single, an acoustic and piano-based “Right Here,” which is essentially about a ‘boy and girl in different worlds; girl doesn’t know boy exists,’ Edwin says succinctly. Another, “That’s A Lie,” reflects almost every relationship he’s been in, particularly the last. “You told me you were leaving and I said I didn’t mind/That’s a lie” is the key line. ‘That sums it up,’ says Edwin. ‘You play tough, but after she’s gone you feel a large part of yourself is missing.’
Two songs on Better Days — both stunning in their own way — are more specific and have the potential to make an enormous impact. “Never Over,” the lead track, is a unique, percussive, jangly rocker that was inspired by a childhood friend who ‘left this world too early’ when he was just 21. Edwin has long had closure, but wanted to write a thank you or a gift to that person, with whom he shared his first passion for music. “Eyes” on the other hand, is a beautiful, stirring piano-based ballad, sparse, angelic and mournful, that will touch any person who has lost a loved one.
Edwin knows the impact music can have and the solace it can provide. It has done that for him, but he loves hearing how his songs have affected his fans. From his first solo album, 1999’s Another Spin Around The Sun, the song “Alive,” — the single that really pushed sales beyond 150,000 copies in Canada and was played over the highlights of the closing Olympic ceremony on CBC Television— yielded a couple of “oh-wow” stories. ‘I got so many emails from fans with stories of how the song helped them deal with everything from the pain of losing friends or relatives to deciding not to take their own life and it was also played by many couples as their wedding song,’ says Edwin. ‘I was blown away when I read that I played a part in giving people strength to work through something with my music. It actually gave me the shivers. It made me think, “Wow music can be so powerful.” ‘
Edwin has devoted his whole life to making music, with the exception of his penchant for car racing and road trips. He was born in Toronto and started fronting rock bands when he was still in high school, belting out the likes of Queen, Led Zeppelin, U2, and Boston songs. He could even pull off Steve Perry in a Journey tribute. 'On a good day,' he laughs. He was one of many locals to do time in many cover bands also, but soon realized that original music was the way to go.
‘I packed up my bags and moved to Beverly Hills,’ he says. ‘All my friends did a collection and gave me money to survive down there. Was there for six months. Auditioned for 6000 bands.’ Or at least it seemed that many. He got a lot of offers, but realized the Sunset Strip vibe was more chicks and partying and he felt it should be "music first, and then we party," so he returned to Toronto to form his own band.
He ran through his mental Rolodex and decided to call the Tanna brothers who would form the core of I Mother Earth with him. Just as the band was starting to attract label interest from the U.S., Edwin was shot in the leg at a restaurant. ‘That really upgraded the image of the band,’ he laughs. ‘The whole career spring-boarded right there.’ The band signed a major U.S. deal after playing little more than a dozen shows.
For much of the nineties, he enjoyed multi-platinum success with the percussive-heavy hard rock act, releasing two albums, 1993’s Dig and 1996’s Scenery & Fish. At the height of the bands success, he left to pursue a solo career in 1997. ‘The great thing about that time was that we had the chance to experience huge crowds, touring many countries and making albums, for the first time together,’ Edwin reflects. ‘Internal differences caused a parting of ways.’
As a solo artist, he doesn’t have those problems anymore. He’s able to guide the ship, write his own material, with the help of trusted friends and musicians such as Jeff Dalziel and Dennis Tougas, who he ran into at his former record label Sony BMG Music Canada after he had just signed a new record deal with Toronto independent Linus Entertainment, distributed by Universal Music Canada.
‘I was at Sony BMG to co-write and was picking up a CD from the front desk when I saw Jeff and Dennis. They said, ‘We were just talking about you, saying how we’d love to make another record with you.’ I said, “What a coincidence,” Edwin recounts. "I need a producer and engineer." ‘ The result is the album, Better Days.
Co-writing with numerous people — Dalziel, Tougas, Ruben Huizenga, David Martin, and Justin Gray — Edwin did a lot of pre-production 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 at Dalziel’s Diesel Music Studio.
Edwin played acoustic guitar and some percussion; 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 on several tracks; Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell on “Eyes”; singer Alexander Slate; singer Dave Thomson (ex-Wave); Tupelo Honey bassist Steve Vincent; and the aforementioned Lifeson who creates some beautiful guitar textures and atmosphere on “Light Reflects” and “Eyes”.
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 IME’s Scenery & 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, it was hard for us to decide what not to use.’
‘The fans that have supported me over the years have been awesome; they’ve made me feel so loved or welcome or appreciated, I should say. Honestly, I wanted to give them another record,’ Edwin says of his return.
Interestingly, Better Days contains the first song Edwin ever wrote as a solo artist back in 1997 — the trippy, atmospheric “Light Reflects” and subject-wise, it couldn’t be more fitting to put on an album now. ‘It’s about how the light comes from within you and how other people will gravitate towards it,’ says Edwin, ‘and everything you’ve done in life has led you to the moment you’re at now — every little step, every little corner, every decision you’ve made.’
And for Edwin, those steps, corners and decisions have led to Better Days.