Their Library: Kathleen Edwards

Literary influences explored...

There’s something about Canadian artistry which allows them to get to the heart of American identity.

Perhaps it’s being one step removed from the cultural narrative. Perhaps it’s the shared roots of the two countries, fusing tradition in different ways.

Take Kathleen Edwards. The songwriter’s latest album ‘Voyageur’ was a stunning collection of Americana which had a real sense of depth. Produced by Justin Vernon, the album found Edwards gaining a renewed sense of focus.

Leading to a lengthy spell on the road, Kathleen Edwards has not lost her lust for songwriting. Pegging down the Canadian artist, ClashMusic decided to sketch out just how her literary and musical tastes are inter-twined.

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What is your favourite book and why?
‘A Prayer For Owen Meany’ by John Irving. It was the book that sparked my passion for reading when i was in my last year of high school. Until then, reading books was for school work, and this book turned the tide for reading becoming a joyful and meaningful thing. I’d never laughed out loud reading before, I’d never had the feeling of NOT being able to put the book down. And I became a passionate reader from that moment on.

What other authors do you like?
Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Alistair MacLeod, Barbara Kingsolver, Joseph Boyden, Charles Bukowski,

What draws you to certain books?
A dark journey of some kind. Animals. Wilderness. Love. Loss. But characters are the drug I keep coming back for.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I had such an intense experience reading the Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and I am not sure if that makes it a classic, but it has never left my mind. I am sure that Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden will become a Canadian Classic. It’s the most stunning book.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
Not so much. I see songwriting as such a different craft as short stories or novels. I am in awe of the elaborate process that writing a book or short story must entail. I feel like a sprinter, and authors the marathon runners.

What are you reading at the moment?
I recently read Out Stealing Horses by Per Peterson, Fauna by Alison York, Half Broke Horses, by Jeanette Wells (yeah, I know… into animals)

What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
I remember my father reading “the Hobbit” to my brother and I at a very young age, and being completely still. But I had a real love affair with Calvin and Hobbs.

Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
For school projects, yes. But I never went there to sit and read books. For some reason I have that feeling at book stores. I want all the pretty bindings in my house.

How do you think literature achieves timelessness?
Reading is the most still I’ve ever felt. It’s a cliche of sorts, but it’s as though you get to experience the Alice in Wonderland feeling where you step through a door in your mind and are somewhere else when you’re engrossed in a book. Literature is the most meaningful opportunity to be alone with yourself, because you get to live in your imagination and it lets you be truly alone in that experience. Especially now, where there seems to be a correlation between anxiety, technology, information overload, interaction using technology, the experience of reading is more important than ever.

Do you read book reviews?
Sometimes, but having the perspective of having read reviews of my album, or other people’s music, I don’t always see reviews as a helpful reason to read or NOT read something. I think everyone likes different things, we all have a different aesthetic, and I’d rather be the judge of a book. I also find book reviews odd because it’s writers writing about writers and writing and that seems like a mixed motive. They’re writing a review and thinking also about how their writing will be judged. So… I know that sounds silly, but….

Would you ever re-read the same book?
Too many books I haven’t read yet. I’ve NEVER wanted to re-read a book. (I’ve wished many books would never end, though).

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
Isn’t that why we are so captured by characters? Because we want to see ourselves in them?

Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
Joseph Boyden. He’s the shit.

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‘Voyageur’ is out now.

Photo Credit: Justin Vernon

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