Rising country singer/songwriter Madeline Edwards made her Bluebird Cafe debut on Wednesday (March 29) during Tin Pan South, the world’s largest songwriters festival. The 29-year-old headlined the early show at the Amazon Music Stage and brought along her co-writers to perform and discuss the songs on her 2022 major-label debut album Crashlanded.
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Four-time Grammy-nominated songwriter Laura Veltz, who served as both a co-writer and one of the producers on the project, as well as songwriters Kate York and Oscar Charles, assisted with harmonies throughout the evening. Edwards’ guitarist Nick DiMaria and Charles also provided guitar accompaniment.
“This is such a special, special record to me,” Edwards said of Crashlanded. “I have this motto that everything I put out has to be done with excellence. I don’t make music for TikTok. I don’t make music for anything that’s popular. I always want things to be timeless and meaningful and these people really trusted me with that vision. This is a really, really special time for me to showcase why we did that and these songs in this environment.”
Edwards, one of American Songwriter’s 16 Artists to Watch in 2023, performed 10 songs from Crashlanded with her collaborators. From the story behind her anthemic debut U.K. radio single “Mama, Dolly, Jesus” to the emotional message behind “The Wolves,” here are the top five moments from Edwards’ Bluebird debut.
“Mama, Dolly, Jesus” Almost Namedropped Another Singer
While Dolly Parton is beloved by many, including Edwards and Veltz, “Mama, Dolly, Jesus” almost paid tribute to another country icon.
“So, crazy fact. That song was actually potentially going to be called ‘Mama, Shania, Jesus,’” Edwards admitted. “So y’all are in on this secret that not a whole lot of people know about.”
Added Veltz: “We tried to rewrite the ‘Jolene’ line and it just did not come out right. But yeah, we love Shania, that is real. There’s no doubt.”
Tell me did you walk on water / Do you know a woman named Jolene / Can you claim me as your daughter / Did you rock me to sleep, pray for my soul to keep / No, no, no / I don’t think so, Edwards sang on the first verse.
Kate York Convinced Edwards to Record “The Biggest Wheel”
Edwards described the Nashville songwriting community as one of camaraderie. In one example, co-writer York convinced her to record a song she didn’t write because she loved it so much. Following Edwards’ moving performance of “The Biggest Wheel,” penned with Rob Persuad and Morgan Nagler, the singer and York discussed a night where they traded demos back and forth.
“She played me that song and I’ve listened to it 100 times. It kills me, those lyrics,” York said. “I was like, ‘Put this on your record!’”
Edwards further explained how encouraging it was to hear York’s praise. “Kate didn’t write on that song and … it’s so cool to hear that from another songwriter especially when they didn’t write on it,” the singer said. “It’s just one of those things, this camaraderie. It’s this encouragement of, ‘This song moved me and I didn’t have to be a part of it for it to move me.’ That was always really encouraging when you said things like that and you’re the reason it made the record.”
Laura Veltz Fangirls Over “Hold My Horses”
In continuing the communal spirit of Nashville, Veltz also praised the supportive community. “I feel like people who love songs just unite around their beauty,” Veltz said. “Songs are just so wonderful and it’s such a nice non-competitiony kind of energy in this town. I love that about Nashville.”
Veltz then admitted she wanted to work with the singer for a long time. She recalled Edwards sharing “Hold My Horses” during a writing session with Luke Dick.
“This song completely blew me away,” Veltz recalled. “I think this song is so fucking fantastic. And it was written by three bitches. I don’t know the other two women who wrote this song with you, but it brings me a level of joy I can’t express that three women did this. I love this song. I didn’t write it. I’m just fangirling.”
Edwards then explained that the song, which she wrote with Joy Hanna and Klare Essad, is “about being unhinged” and “coming loose.”
Getting Thrown to “The Wolves”
Edwards discussed her “whirlwind two years” of performing at the 2021 CMA Awards, meeting her manager, and signing with Sony Music Publishing and Warner Music Nashville. In a writing session with Emma-Lee Doty and Gavin Slate, the songwriters asked her what it felt like.
“I told him I felt like I was getting thrown to the wolves because I never liked doing anything the industry wants me to do,” she said. “I like doing things my own way and I have always been confident with that, especially as I get older.”
So, the trio wrote about it. In “The Wolves,” Edwards chose to take a more uplifting approach and stand her ground. As she detailed no longer being scared of bad things or good things that come her way, Edwards became visually emotional and encouraged everyone at the Bluebird that they are “strong enough to handle anything.”
“I know this has been a very tough week,” she said, addressing the Covenant School shooting in Nashville that killed three children and three adults. “I know that we are all always going through hard things. Death, sickness, divorce. Losing a child. You are strong enough to get through any of that and I know it doesn’t feel like it. … I promise there’s light and I promise there’s hope and I know that sounds cliche, but it’s not.”
“Playground” Is “Our Body Is a Wonderland Energy”
Veltz and Edwards matter-of-factly introduced another song they penned with Dick called “Playground.”
“This is a song about sex. Essentially, it is our body is a wonderland energy,” Veltz said, referencing John Mayer’s 2001 hit and Grammy-winning “Your Body Is a Wonderland.”
Added Edwards: “Yes, but a female version, which is even cooler.”
Guitarist DiMaria then played the opening lick to Mayer’s “Your Body Is a Wonderland” as the listening room erupted in laughter. Veltz and Edwards both promised it’s “not an X-rated song.”
“This song is cool … especially being a female in the country music space. Especially being a Christian woman too,” Edwards said. “I have always been this very sexual person and I’ve always wanted to express those parts of myself. Especially in Southern culture, it’s an oppressed part of women and we don’t get to express those parts very often. I was excited that we wrote this song and I get to encourage other women. … Women just need to build each other up. We need to tell each other that you are these beautiful, sexual incredible beings and I’m glad we have a song that does that on the record.”
Tin Pan South runs through Saturday, April 1.
(Photo Credit: Annie Reuter / American Songwriter)