Focus on the music. In this day and age of social media, playlisting, and all of the politicking that goes into trying to succeed, it’s important to remember what you are trying to do, which should be making great music. If you build it, they will come.
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing L.A. Edwards.
L.A. Edwards is a Nashville-based quartet, comprised of brothers Luke (vocals, guitar), Harry (drums), Jay (keys), and Alex Edwards (lead guitar). The band imparts graceful Laurel Canyon songcraft on groove-driven rock with sun-soaked twang, largely led by their lead singer and songwriter Luke, who goes by L.A. Edwards. Their debut record, “True Blue” (produced by Ron Blair of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) provides a fresh take on the Laurel Canyon sound, combining Eagles-esque harmony, Stones-inspired guitar weaving, the melancholy of Jackson Browne, and the working-class optimism of Tom Petty himself.
Their sophomore record, Blessings From Home: Volume 1, is set for release on Dec. 4, which features Ron Blair and Steve Ferrone of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and was produced by Ryan Hadlock (Lumineers, Vance Joy, Foo Fighters). On Oct. 30th, they unveiled their lead single “Trouble,” which can be listened to across their socials.
Following their 2018 debut album True Blue, L.A. Edwards generated nearly half-a-million streams independently and were named “Flat out amazing” by No Depression. It led to performances with The Beach Boys, Jefferson Starship, Amanda Shires, and The White Buffalo as well as appearances at Pilgrimage Festival, Bumbershoot, Kaaboo, FloydFest, and AmericanaFest.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/62a9b604fc5c6709e110d2e80110c6c1
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I am the 2nd oldest in a family of 7 kids(4 boys, 3 girls). We moved around a lot in the ’90s and finally settled in a small mountain town called Julian, CA. Our dad was a Commander and aviator in the Navy at and our Mom was a stay-at-home mom and self-taught farmer and dog breeder. We were raised Pentecostal and were not allowed to date, listen to secular music, or watch cable TV. My family grew up singing together and the first instrument was the guitar, followed by drums then mandolin. Creativity, hard work, and a unique version of individualism were the main pillars of our childhood character building. I dropped out of high school to hit the road with my brother playing music across the US when I was 16.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up in the church, my favorite part of Sunday was always the music. I’d usually stay awake for the singing to practice my harmonies and take a nap during the sermon, (I got in big trouble one time when I brought my pillow to church). I loved hearing different arrangements of old hymns. When I was 8, there was a reformed hippy lead guitarist at a church in Monterey who was obviously more a disciple of Eric Clapton than Jesus. He’d rip into these long guitar solos and jam sections on these old gospel songs. That was a big revelation for a kid who had never heard any real rock music. He was a cool guy and gave me a few guitar lessons, the rest was history. I wrote my first song when I was 9, it was for my Mom on Mother’s Day.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Meeting Ron from Petty and the Heartbreakers has been instrumental to my career. He’s a deep well of wisdom, and it’s awesome to have an advisor from your all-time favorite band. We met through a mutual friend when I was living close by in 2010 and he opened up his home studio to record and produce my first songs. On my latest album, he played bass and also got Steve Ferrone from the Heartbreakers to play drums. We just call him the Godfather now because he is always willing to help us and never asks for anything in return.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
My brother and I first came to Nashville in a VW bus on a busking tour in 2008. We were broke, so we were down on Lower Broadway every night, singing for our supper in front of abandoned buildings, street corners, etc. One night during the CMA Awards, we were in singing in front of the old Gruhn’s Guitars when we met this funny little man named Al Bunetta, who turned out to be John Prine’s manager. He stopped and listened for about 30 minutes which was a first for us. We had been living out of our car up at Percy Priest Lake and he invited us out to his farm to stay in his guest house. We wound up staying there for a month, and during that time he mentored and educated us on the John Prine way of doing business and writing. That was when we started realizing what it meant to be a professional musician in Nashville, and also that we had a long way to go to get there.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
The best part of living in Nashville is the people and the community. It’s the best place in the world to be for music and you can feel that in the air. It’s amazing to see people on all levels of their journey in once place, whether it’s a week of sold-out shows at the Ryman or New Faces night at The Basement. There is no dog eat dog atmosphere here and people are willing to support each other’s dreams. That being said, it also makes you look inward and hone your craft to offer something special in a place so saturated with talent. It’s the proving ground, the big show, and I’ve seen a lot of people move back to their hometowns after a few years in Nashville didn’t meet their expectations. You just have to appreciate it for what it is as a resource and not as a gold rush, make it or break it situation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I used to do all of the bookings for the band in the early days, which was a terrible idea. I secured us a good weekend gig at a reputable club in Amarillo on our way across the country. I had reached out to a local paper and landed an interview and put a lot of effort into making sure we’d have a good turnout. Our show the night before was in Flagstaff which is about a 9-hour ride to Amarillo, no problem for a young and hungry band. We left Flagstaff early in the morning day of the show with plenty of time to make soundcheck in Amarillo. The drive wound up going slower than anticipated due to car problems and a couple of weird navigational choices, and as the day went on, we realized we were going to be cutting it very close. We knew we would have to forego soundcheck and hit the stage as soon as we pulled into the venue so we had all of our instruments tuned, were in wardrobe, and were ready to melt some faces upon entry. To our dismay, when we rushed the stage the seats were all empty because we didn’t account for the hour time difference between Arizona and Texas. The fans had left after about 40 minutes of waiting. It’s nice having a booking agent and tour manager these days.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife has been my biggest supporter from day one. It’s hard being married to a musician and she really is a champ. She has an understanding of what it takes to succeed in business and it’s nice to have a partner in crime who understands the long game. We eloped when we were 20 at the courthouse in San Diego, and it was definitely a spur of the moment decision. I had to leave the next day for tour so we didn’t get any honeymoon or wedding. That was a pretty tough tour but we made it through and are still together all these years later. We take a honeymoon trip every year now to make up for that first one.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My wife and I started a dip company called Bitchin’ Sauce in 2010. It has succeeded beyond our wildest expectations and we recently launched our record label Bitchin’ Music Group, through Universal. We’ll be releasing our own music along with emerging and established artists.
We also recently bought a coffee farm, so I am learning the coffee trade which has been very peaceful and fun.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
In no particular order, these are few things I think I would have benefited from hearing as a kid setting out on the road:
- Party after the show. This one took a while to learn, but all the pros know to keep it together till after the gig. You’re not Keith Richards and you definitely want to deliver the product people bought tickets to see instead of some flailing wannabe idiot(unless that is the product).
- Don’t Back Down. It doesn’t help to be overly polite to producers, agents, or label folks. Be willing to go to bat and back up your songs and ideas. At the end of the day, it’s your name on the record and your art.
- Wait for good bandmates. This one sounds like a no-brainer but I’ve made a few doozies solely based on who was available at the time. Bad bandmates can ruin a tour or session, it’s better to just wait it out until you find someone who checks all the boxes. You definitely don’t want to be bailing your bandmates out of jail in the middle of nowhere. Just like a chain link, your band is only as good as its worst player.
- Stay in touch with people. When you travel so much, it can be hard to keep in touch with friends and family. Not only do they appreciate it, but it keeps you grounded too. Musicians live a life of adventure that is intriguing to most outsiders, it’s invigorating to share your journey with loved ones. Send a postcard or call once a week, your loved ones will appreciate it and you will too.
- Focus on the music. In this day and age of social media, playlisting, and all of the politicking that goes into trying to succeed, it’s important to remember what you are trying to do, which should be making great music. If you build it, they will come.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Sometimes it can be hard to stay inspired as an artist. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized there are certain things that inspire me and other things that take away from the inspiration. Reading, exercise, and long solo drives are my go-to ways to get the creative juices flowing. An unhealthy diet, social media, drinking too much cheap beer, and cabin fever tend to be on the other side of the spectrum. I would recommend identifying things that inspire you and doing those things as much as you can, especially if you are in a rut.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have always liked the notion of vocational work. It’s not about failing or succeeding, it’s about learning a trade and working. I’m raising my kids to find something they like to do and then educating themselves in that field, whether it’s college, mentorship, or hands-on experience, and then getting to work. We live in a startup culture that doesn’t value the long game or patience, both of which I think are essential to building something worthwhile.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In the words of Cinderella; “Have courage and be kind.”
You don’t have to be a jerk to stand up for something or be a strong leader. I think that point has been overlooked recently, it would be great to see it come back.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
It would be great to drink a beer with Jimmy Buffett. He’s got a killer band, tons of hit songs, and generally just sounds like a fun guy who is enjoying himself. I’m currently getting my captain’s license too so it would be great to get some tips from a seasoned sailor.
How can our readers follow you online?
Website — https://www.laedwards.net/
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/l.a.edwards/channel/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!