Through a smudged window, the setting sun slices the tree line like a dull knife, coloring tired eyes tangerine. The moon will be up soon, ready for a chase from city to city – another restless night in a borrowed town, having emptied the soul to a crowded room. Such is the life of a musician on tour.
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“When you come off the road …. it takes a little time to decompress,” L.A. Edwards tells American Songwriter. “You’re out there in front of all these people and you’re driving from town to town and it’s just kind of a wild ride out there.”
The singer/songwriter began work on the first half of his third album, Out of the Heart of Darkness, fresh off of a month-long European leg with his band of brothers, Jay and Jerry Edwards. The project was created in between tours with much of the writing and demoing taking place while the songs were still road-bitten and raw.
“Coming home you’re reflecting on a lot of those experiences and kind of just unpacking them,” Edwards explains of the inspiration gained from life on tour. “Trying to emancipate yourself, and however that relates to people, is kind of one of the more present themes.”
The map to Edwards’ trademark Americana – warm and endearing in its stomping beat and crisp strings – was blown out an open window somewhere along the way. Out of the Heart of Darkness is a left turn that turned out to be the right one.
“We wanted it to be a little less pretty than our previous stuff,” the artist says, reflecting the sound of his 2018 debut LP, True Blue, and the 2021 release of Blessings From Home. In letting go of trying to follow one certain sound, the album was freed, able to become a gritty, grimy, carefree collision of attitude-filled anthems, courageous ballads, and moody, yet muscular soon-to-be hits.
The neon sythns of “Hi Right Now!,” the silvery whistles of “Now You Know,” the shotgun percussions of “Let It Out,” all penetrate through the guitar-heavy fog that wafts over much of the album and ties the songs together. While all wildly different, the 11 tracks are connected in their emotionally driven lyrics and vivid narratives, reminiscent of an open road and a long way home.
Creating the album, Edwards describes the process as unplanned and unforced. “[Out of the Heart of Darkness] seemed a little bit more spontaneous than the previous two [albums],” he says. “The songs just started flowing naturally whereas sometimes you’ll go and book the studio time and you’re not prepared for the songs.”
This release marks Edwards’ first full-length album of self-produced material, an endeavor that took the band of brothers back to what he describes as their “demo days.”
“That was pretty enjoyable to just be in there and just be kind of behind the helm,” he adds. Recorded at his recently finished home studio, he was able to take the reins on his turf in an environment conducive to creating.
Calling the shots for this record afforded the band time and room to breathe, the freedom to create on their own terms. Ridding the room of an overflow of creative input, proved to be the ticket. “You can just have an idea, put it down,” he says of the perks of producing. “If you like it, keep it. If you don’t, throw it away again.”
Other than Grammy-award winning mixer Tom Lord-Alge, not many outside players were brought in. “I think [that] benefited the creative process,” he explains, describing being able to just “follow the muse.”
“It was just nice to work with the brothers and just one engineer,” he continues, “but that being said, I’ve learned so much from working with other producers where I don’t think it would have been possible before now to know how to come out with a good product and stay disciplined.”
Creating Out of the Heart of Darkness with his brothers, getting to write and record with abandon, and letting the muse lead, Edwards speaks of the album fondly, reflecting on the joy of it all. “I think that can be heard,” he says. “It sounds a little more free, maybe.”
The album was wrapped up before Edwards and his brothers embarked on a four-month-long fall tour. The holidays brought little respite as they are once again set to trek across Europe in early January alongside Lucinda Williams.
Travel with them in spirit, listening to their latest batch of songs. L.A. Edwards’ Out of the Heart of Darkness is out now.
Photo Courtesy of Bitchin’ Music Group