Dark, Soulful & Timeless: A Talk With David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand

David Eugene Edwards has been a unique voice in this humongous world of music. First with 16 Horsepower and more recently with Wovenhand. A rhythm-based rock sound that incorporates a myriad of elements ranging from country to old-time music, folk, Americana, etc. We talked with David to know more about his course as a musician and Wovenhand’s latest album, Star Treatment.

As with almost everything in life our relation with something and someone changes through time, and sometimes we can even say it evolves. How did your relationship with music start and how it has changed throughout the years?
It started basically in the home with my mother. My mother who basically was a really good singer and she played guitar and then with the music of the Church, which was the next thing. And then just at home just with my family with whatever my grandparents were listening to, which was country basically. Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and… mostly Johnny Cash. The typical American stuff.

Did you end up singing in the choir of the Church? Was it any helpful for what you’re doing now with Wovenhand?
Yeah, I did sing in the choir. I’m sure it helped me to figure out what my voice was. I remember it fairly well and I enjoyed it. I didn’t do it very long, only for a short period of time, but I really liked it. I also started playing drums. I played the drums, for eight years or something like that, while I was in the school marching band. Drums was what I wanted to do, but then someone just ended up giving me a guitar or something – I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I just started teaching myself how to play the guitar and I kind of left the drums behind after that. All the instruments that I play, I play them in a rhythmical fashion.

Yeah, that’s very transparent listening to your playing guitar.
Yeah, exactly. Still very rhythm-oriented rather than melody per se. The rhythm was the motivation to do all the different instruments.

How it has evolved, your relation with music throughout the years?
Well, music is very elusive to me. [laughs] It’s hard for me to create what I want to just because of my lack of ability, but I do it at the best of my abilities to create the music that comes out of me. I’m fairly limited in it, but I’ve gotten comfortable with this limitation. It’s something I learned to live with and I’ve managed to work within this framework that I have that I can be somewhat happy with.

You’ve once said that “The longer I make music, the more I realize that music is not sacred.” What did you mean by that?
I’m not sure what I was saying at the time [laughs] but… there’s different things people think about music. When people think about sacred music they think about maybe the music in the big church with the choir, the specific words, and this kind of solemn experience. I don’t believe it to be sacred in that way. It’s between you and God and doesn’t matter what it sounds like.

What’s behind the title Star Treatment and what were you hoping to convey with it?
There’s a lot of different things going on. I’m speaking a lot about religion, basically, and when people think of religion they think of it as something that’s in one corner of the world or life, or not even in their life at all, but in reality religion is everywhere and for me it’s everything whether you believe in it or care about it or not, it’s still a part of your life in the sense that all men are the same and the religions are based on the stars. Everything is based on the movement of the starts, the celestial bodies in the heavens, and man’s relation to God or his supposed relation to that in his thinking and making decisions accordingly to where the stars are or what’s happening in the sky. All of these things are just kind of the bases for religion as we know it, and I mean all religions. That’s one element to it.

On Wovenhand’s last album, Chuck French wrote two songs and you did write everything else. How was the creative process this time around?
It was pretty much exactly the same. Chuck brought two songs of his to what I had and we put them together again. Basically the same way as last time. It was a good continuation of what we have started.

I’m curious to know how you approach the writing process and how it has evolved throughout all these years.
Well, it starts usually on tour when we’re playing music live, when we’re doing sound check or whatever, we just start doing other things and mess around with other ideas and then I come home and continue to work on those ideas – some small melody or some small rhythm that I record on my phone, since I use a lot of different tunings and if I don’t record them I end up forgetting about them. But I do sit down at a certain point when I know we want to make some new music. I take some time to play guitar, or banjo, or piano, or whatever it is that I’m interested in at the moment. The words… it’s always the same. They just come very slowly and overtime. I just collect them and piece them together, a bit like a puzzle.

You were saying that you record those first ideas on your phone. Can we assume that you have a lot of unreleased ideas/songs?
Not so many, to be honest with you. I use pretty much everything that I have. I don’t have a lot of extra material. This is the first album, in a long time, where we had more music than we actually put on the album. So there’s maybe three or four songs that I just didn’t feel ready to use or whatever. That’s a rare thing for me. Usually I use everything.

Once again you worked with Sanford Parker (engineer). How has that relationship evolved throughout the years and what does he bring to the table?
He’s just really good at what he does. He’s a good engineer, he’s good at all the machines, and he also has a good musical sense being a musician himself. He knows how to bring out the best of our sound.

I was fortunate enough to see you live at Amplifest, two years ago. It was incredible not only hear you playing the music but watching you being truly affected by it. I remember thinking that it was more a spiritual expression than a musical expression. Is that a fair assessment of how you see and experience your live performances?
That’s for sure. I don’t even really think of it as music, to be honest with you. I don’t even consider what I do to be music. I use music to the best of my ability to do another thing. Musically is my way to get to another place to talk about something other and… it’s just the way that I do it. But yeah, it’s much more something different for me when I’m playing up there. Not that it’s better than someone else, but it is just different. It’s just the way it comes out and the songs just kind of take over and have their own intentions to me and to those experiencing it.

Words: Tiago Moreira // Photo: Joni Hietanen – Star Treatment is out now via Glitterhouse/Sargent House.
You can also read the interview here:

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