Edens Edge’s Unconventional Nashville Journey Shaped by Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs and Joni Mitchell
If Edens Edge seem more mature, more prepared and more polished than most country newcomers it’s because the trio has had a lot of help, and been given good — if unconventional — advice. The group seemingly popped out of nowhere in 2010 and soon released their first single ‘Amen.’ It was like a stork just dropped the angel voices of Hannah Blaylock, Dean Berner and Cherrill Green on Music City, and another followed with guitar, mandolin and dobro.
Of course, that was the plan. The Arkansas born and raised trio had been in Nashville for three years prior to signing with Big Machine Records, but they’d been hiding. Under the advice of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Kye Fleming (‘Smokey Mountain Rain,’ ‘I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool) the 20-somethings didn’t play local bars or the famous honkytonks that line Broadway. They didn’t chase every offer and they didn’t desperately arrange label showcases.
The waited, and practiced, and waited some more. Along the way they befriended Lady Antebellum, and Ricky Skaggs. “One time I got to ride in the car with him on the way to lunch,” Berner remembers during a conversation with Taste of Country. “He was so helpful in telling me his story and just giving me the sense that it’s not about one thing. It’s about working at it at multiple fronts. On songwriting, on musicianship, on your vocals, on your recording skills, on your performance skills … If your quality of music is at a level that’s good enough than you’re gonna get your chance, so you just gotta stick with it.”
The message has been reinforced by mainstream superstars like Reba McEntire and Brad Paisley, who Blaylock recalls constantly tinkering and honing his craft while the group shared a bill with him. “He was constantly working on it.”
Edens Edge’s new single ‘Too Good to Be True’ is new to country radio, but the group has released their self-titled debut album anyways. The timing, it seems, is right. It’s all part of a plan.
Upon moving to Nashville, most aspiring artists play any and every gig they can, sometimes for free. But your story is different because you tucked away and hid and perfected your craft before you emerged.
CG: When we moved to town we were developed by a woman named Kye Fleming … and she really encouraged us to just kind of not go out and play downtown because what happens a lot of times I think with acts, you’ll play out downtown and three years later you’ve taken your performance and your songwriting and everything to a whole new level but you know it could be someone out there had seen you back then.
We’d sit at home and invite our good friends over and we’d play five or 10 or 15 of our new and favorite songs, see what they thought about them and try to feed our performance hunger that way.
It seems like that would take an amazing amount of patience and confidence to turn down gigs. Was it difficult?
DB: It was. It was difficult. We got to that point where we were really itching to play. After you write a lot of new songs you really wanna show those around and see what people think of them. So we started playing some shows back in Arkansas. We’d travel back home once every few months and play shows for our family and friends, and hopefully an ever growing fanbase. And then in 2010 we started to play a lot of shows at colleges, just all over the country. Then we worked into fair and festival season where we were opening for a lot of bigger acts.
There’s a gospel undercurrent to the album, but no one listed gospel as a major influence.
HB: You know all three of us grew up in church, but you’re correct that gospel may be one of those things we’ve been raised around a whole lot. We’ve been raised in the Arkansas church our whole life, so Christian music and hymns are really what have been influences. I grew up with a hymnal in my hand.
Talk about the story behind ‘Last Supper’ and who inspired it.
CG: I like to tell this story on Hannah. Mainly this song … we’d go through these spells where we’re at home and we’re writing a ton during the week, and maybe sometimes a couple times a day. What we usually try to do at the end of a writing session is email the songs out to each other.
For whatever reason … she forgot to send it out to us and a few weeks went by and we got together to listen through some songs to share musically with each other. This song comes on that I had never heard. It was called ‘Last Supper.’ I said “Hannah, where has this song been?”
Is it about an ex-boyfriend?
HB: Yeah, you know what it is … I’ve written a couple of songs inspired by (heroes like) Patti Griffin. As a songwriter I listen to her songs and I’m inspired by how she writes songs and stories as an actress. And she writes situations that are obviously not her. She’ll write stories from a male perspective. So I really love that and I’ve written a couple of songs from a male perspective that I still love and are some of my favorites. And this song is a good example of that. I’m a child of divorce, my parents got divorced after 26 years of marriage and I try to imagine what it must be like to be in that place where it’s kind of that heart-broken, what happened kind of place where you just kind of look at each other and almost feel nothing.
What is the most important song on the album to each of you?
DB: I really love the song ‘Cherry Pie’ because it’s a song that I wrote talking about Hannah’s story. We called her up and were asking her questions about her life and her story and that song just kind of fell out. Really, all three of us had a very similar childhood growing up in small towns, having close family around us that were really supportive and really nurtured our dreams.
HB: ‘Liar.’ None of us were a part of the writing in that song … Sometimes you get a song that comes into your life and your knees hit the floor. And it inspires you more than you ever knew that you could be inspired and it’s almost kind of a rejuvenation.
When she (songwriter Laura Veltz) showed me that song, I just broke down. It just made me cry in the most wonderful way. It still does.
I had so much fun in a sad way, actually I was in the vocal booth and people would try to cut up and laugh in between takes and I’d be like “We can’t do this. I’m an actress right now. I am heartbroken right now because my best friend is about to get married and I’m in love with him and I don’t know what to do.” I’m in there and I’m actually tearing up singing this song.
CG: A song called ‘Roots’ (from Cracker Barrel Deluxe Edition). It’s very throwback to my background growing up in a bluegrass band and my dad actually gave me the idea for the song and I held onto the idea for a couple of years before I actually wrote it. It was such a fun song to right.