J Edwards: Songs Written on the Road Less Traveled – Miles from Nashville’s Music Row

What would a grizzly bear sound like if it could sing? That’s a question asked when referring to the deep, barreling whiskey voice of musician J Edwards. His vocals have also been described as a combination of Bob Seger and Chris Stapleton. And we’re pretty sure that if either of them have heard him sing, they’d probably appreciate the comparison. 

Edwards takes all the feedback he’s gotten over the years in stride, including the one about the grizzly bear. AND of course, we all know that a bear could never write, record and build a catalogue of heart-felt songs… or play a mean guitar night after night, connecting with audiences in venues around the country. For over 30 years now, J’s been doing that, while building a fan base that’s as loyal to him as he is to them.  “We’ve had people drive over 100 miles to see us play somewhere. They’ve heard me perform live before and they know we’re gonna put on a heck of a show. We’ve got some great stories to share through our music.”

His own story began in Paragould, Arkansas, where he was born into a Pentecostal family. His father was a preacher, and they traveled state-to-state, performing in churches far and wide. The family still established a home in El Dorado, Arkansas, where Edwards was raised.

He continued to perform Christian music into adulthood, however his artistic journey would eventually have him exploring a wider range of genres, like Blues, R & B and Classic Country from the 70s and 80s. These were all the sounds that had influenced him growing up.

Through it all, Edwards has worked hard to stay true to himself and not be changed by the music industries’ latest trends. It’s even a bit ironic that while he grew up singing a lot about heaven and hell, over the past few decades, he’s written a lot of songs about someone getting through hell. And these days, heaven for the singer, songwriter is expressing himself through his work, helping audiences get to the other side of whatever their going through.

We spoke with J Edwards about his new album, due out at the end of February called “Running on Fumes”. While he’s not referring to the fire and brimstone kind, you know the album is almost guaranteed to bring the heat.

J, how many years have you been performing? 

It has been a while. It started at a very young age with my parents traveling around the country playing and singing gospel music. 
We went from church to church, my dad preaching and both of them singing. When my sister and brother came along we made our own trio and chorale.

When did you decide that music would be the ONLY career option for you, because you loved it so much.

That’s easy. As soon as I realized you could make a career out of something you loved that much. It’s basically the same thing my dad did, maybe with a little different audience. I also never wanted to go back to roofing houses. I wasn’t very good at that either, so I just stuck with something I liked.

At what point did you decide to live in Nashville?

Over the years, I had visited Nashville hoping to find a break, management or a friend, but nothing had ever come of the trips. In 2009 I met 
Rickey Godfrey, and he invited me up to meet a few friends and play some Blues. I started making the trips back and forth from South Carolina then, and 
soon after got a place here. I’ve been kicking rocks around here ever since, still trying to get that break like everybody else.

What changes have you seen in Nashville, since you moved here?

Nashville goes through ups and downs and always has. Right now, Nashville has gotten pretty low. It’s become a Mecca for folks wanting to get their first start in the music business. It used to be that a person started out at home and then in their region or state, then got some recognition out on the road and then moved to Nashville, but that is not how it is any more. Social Media was supposed to kind of level the playing field, but what actually happened is that everybody and their cousin got a participation trophy and flooded the market. It’s not about talent anymore, or songwriting, or stage performance, or relating to people. It’s all about your headshot or do you look good in a video.  Folks want to know. do you have the “Whole Package”?

You’ve got a gift for songwriting. Give us some insight into the process?

It’s always different. I definitely won’t do the grocery list type writing that has taken over Nashville. I’m a concept writer and then the song has to be relatable. 
If the song is not causing a reaction in people, then it’s not finished. If it’s not bringing a tear to your eye, causing change in your heart or kicking you in the butt a little bit, you are just making noise or just making beats.

How has your sound evolved over the years?

I think the basic sound or Southern Soul has been there from the get go, I sang like this leading the church choir when I was 12 years old. I have sang in different genres, but kept the same vibe in my music from the beginning. I’ve been fascinated with the old school country stories my whole life, and I love writing that style of music, but I know that I have grown up with a lot of blues in my voice too. I always say that if Travis Tritt could get into Country music and could make it, then I could too.

You always look like you’re right at home on stage. Does a pro like your self ever get stage fright?

  You have to know that something is gonna go wrong at the last minute with almost every show and you have to be prepared for an 800 lb. gorilla charging you from the side of the stage at any given minute. I don’t have any problem singing in front of a lot of people or to an empty room, but I do lose it sometimes when nothing is going right on the stage.

For people who are not musicians or don’t realize, describe the difference in performing your music acoustically verses having a band

Well, I think that it should be the same. I know sometimes it’s not. Playing acoustic to some feels like you should be able to get a little closer to your audience and relate a little bit more, but an artist, and especially singer/songwriter should be able to do that on a bigger scale with a little bit of backup instruments. If my band will follow my lead we can motivate people on any scale.

What’s one of your most requested songs fans want you to perform?

The good thing is that the audiences we are playing to now are requesting my songs and it’s a list. “Young Again” is a throwback Bob Seger type song and then I have “I Don’t Wanna Know” that gets requested a lot. If it’s long-time fans then I know they will not go home until I play “One Last Place To Stop” (Before I Get Home). The majority of the time someone is gonna call out “Another Cold Shoulder” before they will go home.

Tell us about the new album you’re working on.

I’ve decided that I’m gonna put out as much music as I want, for as long as I can and the only thing keeping us from releasing multiple albums a year is being on the road. 

“Running On Fumes” is the new record with 17 songs coming out hopefully by the end of February. It will be a solid old school Country album with a lot of flavor and some songs that the fans have been wanting recorded for a long time. My catalogue of un-recorded music is pretty long. I guess we need some folks to cut a few of those songs or spend a little more time in the studio.

Check out J’s most recent albums “Cold” and “Average Guy” found on many of the streaming platforms. Visit his website by clicking here. You can also find him on Instagram and Facebook.

Photo Credits: Kimberly Craig

About Jimmy Star 174 Articles
Host of the #1 Television/Radio Webshow in the world, The Jimmy Star Show With Ron Russell ( 4 million weekly viewers), PR Maven, Celebrity Interviewer, Entertainment Blogger, Actor/ TV/Radio Host

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