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2. Hard On Everyone
3. Birds On A Feeder
4. Simple Math
5. Options Open
6. Feelings Fade
7. Fools Ride
8. Ashes to Ashes
9. Who Rescued Who
10. Take It With You When You Go
You need to listen to Kathleen Edwards. It has been eight years since her last album was released, but let me tell you, those eight years have been worth the wait. ’Total Freedom’ is enigmatic nostalgia, littered with memory vignettes. Laid in a cinematic bed, these songs shimmer and shine. They are moody yet catchy, drawing you in with each story and chorus punch to the soul. This is a masterclass songwriter at her best. When I listen to Kathleen sing, I feel like she’s a friend telling me a secret – one that I keep too. “I’ve got total freedom, no one to need…” sings Edwards, and I feel that this line sums up a lot of the underlying themes on this record. This is the story of a woman who has been let down by relationships in the past, and though she visits those hardships throughout these stories, she explains them with strength and a deep understanding of herself and womanhood. Tears flowed during ‘Simple Math’, ‘Options Open’, and ‘Fools Ride.’ These are brutally honest memories that force you to reckon with your own heart and story. They do not hide, or try and make you understand them. Kathleen’s voice is both vulnerable and strong – you know she believes the words she’s singing, and you believe her too. This is a classic record. You need to listen to Kathleen Edwards.
– Courtney Marie Andrews
The Canadian singer-songwriter enjoyed global success and inspired a whole generation of Americana artists before that was even a term. Could there be a Brandi Carlile or a Margo Price or a Jason Isbell without a Kathleen Edwards? We’re not sure.
Learn more about Kathleen below.
By 2014, the singer-songwriter had released four studio albums and amassed widespread critical acclaim. She had been touring since the release of her 2012 album, Voyageur, and the prospect of returning home—only to start writing her way toward another album, and another tour—felt impossibly daunting. She put her guitar away, at least for awhile: she moved back to her hometown of Ottawa and settled down in Stittsville, an old village on the western edge of town. A running inside joke with bandmate Jim Bryson about opening a coffee shop and naming it “Quitters” became reality. For years, the only new music she heard was playing in the background while she served her regulars at the shop, where she slowly started to fall in love with music again.
“I had no desire to write, no desire to play,” she says of what she refers to as her “working sabbatical.” “It allowed me all the time and space I needed to even just enjoy listening to music again. There were so many times where, if I was thinking about my own writing or playing, my heart just wasn’t in it. Opening a cafe gave me such a clean break from the weight of what I was carrying, I worked my ass off building a shop, I didn’t have to be ‘just a singer’ anymore.”
But in 2018, she received an unexpected phone call that changed that. Maren Morris, a longtime fan, invited her to Nashville for a songwriting session. Edwards accepted, and “Good Woman,” their collaboration, wound up on Morris’ 2019 album, GIRL. “It reminded me that writing and creating music is entirely my wheelhouse, and it was so easy to just jump back in and do that,” she says of her fortuitous time in Nashville. “Funny enough, the third person in the room for those two days was Ian Fitchuk, and [we] ended up starting the process of producing a record.”
Edwards will make her long-anticipated return to music with Total Freedom, her fifth studio album out August 14th via Dualtone Records. Written and recorded in Canada and Nashville with longtime collaborator/guitarist, Jim Bryson, and Grammy-winning songwriter/producer, Fitchuk, Total Freedom is both a return to form and a “hard reset,” one that empowered Edwards to write and perform entirely on her terms.
“I didn’t want to write songs that were going to keep me in a dark place on stage every night,” she says. “I didn’t have to carry a lot of the pressure of whatever course I was on previously… There’s a pressure sometimes to keep that ball rolling, and that’s what was so freeing about stopping altogether. I have this whole other experience now that grounded me and helped me rebuild my relationship with myself, and writing music. I’m entirely in control and deciding what my course of action is.”
For inspiration, she turned to Bob Seger, whose “Against the Wind” struck a chord with her: “The song just reveals itself in such an effortless way. I was like, ‘That’s how I want to feel on these songs being written: that’s how I want it to feel when I play it start to finish.’” Edwards’ cloud-grazing voice and strumming achieve that as she revisits old loves, losses and heartaches in a fresh context, from nostalgic notes of appreciation (“Glenfern,” inspired by her relationship with ex-husband, collaborator and friend Colin Cripps) to treatises on grief (“Ashes to Ashes”) and slowly disintegrating romance (“Feelings Fade”). Unhesitating in her willingness to confront life’s toughest challenges, Edwards finds the beauty in it all — a radical optimism that isn’t lost on her as she prepares to release her first album in eight years, and navigate a complete shift in how she runs Quitters, in the midst of a global pandemic. Total Freedom proves that she’s ready to adapt—and that she’s got staying power, too.
“I finally had this exhale from a year that was really hard,” she says of the forces shaping Total Freedom. “I went through a scary experience, extricating myself from someone, and it was this wonderful moment of resilience when I finished the album. I am super resilient. I’m always finding ways to adjust what’s not working. I’m not gonna let someone take me down in the process. I think that calling [the record] Total Freedom was a reminder that I am a really strong person.”