An analog guy
Jonathan Edwards on stripping away noise and overly polished veneer of digital ageBy JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor May 10. 2017 12:50PM
If you go...WHO: Jonathan Edwards
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
INFO: 437-5100; tupelohall.com
Jonathan Edwards, whose smash hit “Sunshine” became a symbol of counter culture during the tumultuous ’70s, talks about staying positive, stripping away the digital age’s processed veneer, and the inspirations behind his most personal album to date, “Tomorrow’s Child.”
Edwards, 70, corresponded with NH Weekend from his home in Portland, Maine, for a Q&A in advance of his show Friday night at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry.
From your counter-culture hit “Sunshine” in 1971 to “Tomorrow’s Child,” the title track off your 2015 album, there’s this resilient current of hope amid the chaos and confusion.
Edwards: We’ve got to have hope. Without hope there would be no exploration, no discovery, no invention or innovation and no creativity. Nature loves chaos and confusion but she proceeds in an orderly fashion with certain intentions and fairly predictable results, often despite meddlesome human intervention.
Where do you suppose that optimism comes from?
Optimism lives deep within my cells, thanks mainly to genetics ... The seasonal renewal this time of year is all about the faith-based initiative so crucial to creativity and prolific production.
So, does it come out in the creative process or is it a mindset you carry in everyday life?
My optimism is tempered with a firm grip on realism and a burning need to know all that I can about everything I encounter in my “everyday life.” Having driven and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles in my career has not diminished my worldly curiosity one tiny bit, and out of curiosity comes knowledge and then creativity.
Your clear voice and pared-down acoustic adornment makes songs often feel like earnest conversations. Are you intentionally turning down the “noise” in hopes people can hear what you’re saying?
There is SO much noise out there in this digital info-age culture and SO little real inspiration that I hunger for the clear, clean natural musical sounds that emanate from the joy of a shared intimate creative experience. And that means to me the kind of music you can literally get into and hear the subtleties and nuances of the human voice and the acoustic guitar.
So, are you inclined to stay away from digital advances?
I’m an analog kind of guy and have no patience for autotune and all the digital processing that seem to be part and parcel of modern commercial “music.” Give me the real, heartfelt messages of truly inspired lyrics and provocative music with a groove to deliver those messages directly from the soul of the artist to the soul of the listener.
On a lighter note ... in an age of instant messaging and social media rants on everything from politics to pop culture, do you ever find yourself text-yelling in capital letters or blasting off an angry tweet?
Sure! Amidst the control and discipline required to persevere through 50+ years of writing and performing, I am still occasionally subject to negative passions and reaction to inequality, unfairness, selfishness and above all, hypocrisy. I think I have acquired the wisdom to save the ranting and raving for more appropriate venues than Facebook.... But it remains difficult to ignore a question like, “What’s on your mind?”
“Tomorrow’s Child” seems very personal, and I understand it involved a lot of soul-searching and specific references to people. Can you tell me about some of these songs to Maria, Sandy, Brenda and Gracie?
I’m a bit reluctant to talk about the songs, and let them stand on their own, however, maybe a little illumination would be helpful. This collection of songs came together so organically and naturally as a collaboration of like-minded musicians and kindred spirits that for me it took on an identity greater than the sum of its parts.
“Sandy Girl” is just a little romp inspired by my beautiful wife and her manifold gifts. It grew out of my love of double-Dutch jump-rope and the singing chants that go with it.
My amazing daughters, Grace and Brenda, are constant inspirations to me and our world, and this album coalesced around adoption and reunion and the positive possibilities that can happen to those of us with open hearts and minds.
I was fortunate enough to find my birth mother and a family I never knew I had when I was 40 years old and “Jonny’s Come Home” attempts to convey some of the feelings and thoughts surrounding this reunion and having to offer Brenda for adoption, and that eventual reunion put me in a unique position of reflection upon both sides of this very personal equation.