By 2014, the singer-songwriter had released four studio albums and amassed widespread critical acclaim. She had been touring since the release of her 2012 album, Voyageur, and the prospect of returning home—only to start writing her way toward another album, and another tour—felt impossibly daunting. She put her guitar away, at least for awhile: she moved back to her hometown of Ottawa and settled down in Stittsville, an old village on the western edge of town. A running inside joke with bandmate Jim Bryson about opening a coffee shop and naming it “Quitters” became reality. For years, the only new music she heard was playing in the background while she served her regulars at the shop, where she slowly started to fall in love with music again.
“I had no desire to write, no desire to play,” she says of what she refers to as her “working sabbatical.” “It allowed me all the time and space I needed to even just enjoy listening to music again. There were so many times where, if I was thinking about my own writing or playing, my heart just wasn’t in it. Opening a cafe gave me such a clean break from the weight of what I was carrying, I worked my ass off building a shop, I didn’t have to be ‘just a singer’ anymore.”
But in 2018, she received an unexpected phone call that changed that. Maren Morris, a longtime fan, invited her to Nashville for a songwriting session. Edwards accepted, and “Good Woman,” their collaboration, wound up on Morris’ 2019 album, GIRL. “It reminded me that writing and creating music is entirely my wheelhouse, and it was so easy to just jump back in and do that,” she says of her fortuitous time in Nashville. “Funny enough, the third person in the room for those two days was Ian Fitchuk, and [we] ended up starting the process of producing a record.”
Edwards will make her long-anticipated return to music with Total Freedom, her fifth studio album out August 14th via Dualtone Records. Written and recorded in Canada and Nashville with longtime collaborator/guitarist, Jim Bryson, and Grammy-winning songwriter/producer, Fitchuk, Total Freedom is both a return to form and a “hard reset,” one that empowered Edwards to write and perform entirely on her terms.
“I didn’t want to write songs that were going to keep me in a dark place on stage every night,” she says. “I didn’t have to carry a lot of the pressure of whatever course I was on previously… There’s a pressure sometimes to keep that ball rolling, and that’s what was so freeing about stopping altogether. I have this whole other experience now that grounded me and helped me rebuild my relationship with myself, and writing music. I’m entirely in control and deciding what my course of action is.”
For inspiration, she turned to Bob Seger, whose “Against the Wind” struck a chord with her: “The song just reveals itself in such an effortless way. I was like, ‘That’s how I want to feel on these songs being written: that’s how I want it to feel when I play it start to finish.’” Edwards’ cloud-grazing voice and strumming achieve that as she revisits old loves, losses and heartaches in a fresh context, from nostalgic notes of appreciation (“Glenfern,” inspired by her relationship with ex-husband, collaborator and friend Colin Cripps) to treatises on grief (“Ashes to Ashes”) and slowly disintegrating romance (“Feelings Fade”). Unhesitating in her willingness to confront life’s toughest challenges, Edwards finds the beauty in it all — a radical optimism that isn’t lost on her as she prepares to release her first album in eight years, and navigate a complete shift in how she runs Quitters, in the midst of a global pandemic. Total Freedom proves that she’s ready to adapt—and that she’s got staying power, too.
“I finally had this exhale from a year that was really hard,” she says of the forces shaping Total Freedom. “I went through a scary experience, extricating myself from someone, and it was this wonderful moment of resilience when I finished the album. I am super resilient. I’m always finding ways to adjust what’s not working. I’m not gonna let someone take me down in the process. I think that calling [the record] Total Freedom was a reminder that I am a really strong person.”
Mick Flannery & Susan O’Neill
With his warm, textured voice and rootsy songwriting aesthetic, Ireland’s Mick Flannery burst onto the international scene in 2005 with his debut album, Evening Train. The record won praise and showcased Flannery’s sound, which was drawn from American folk, rock, and Irish traditions. He built upon his initial buzz, hitting the Top Ten in Ireland with albums like 2008’s White Lies, 2012’s Red to Blue, and 2016’s I Own You.
Born in 1983, Flannery grew up in Blarney, County Cork, where he was introduced to folk and blues music at a young age by his mother, a singer/songwriter. By his teens he was writing his own songs inspired by an eclectic mix of artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Nirvana. After high school, he worked days as a stone mason while further developing his talents by taking a music management and production course at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork. Following his time at school, Flannery embarked on a tour of America, a trip that found him spending time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Nashville, where he earned grassroots praise for his evocative, literate songs. Returning to Ireland, he issued his debut album, 2005’s Evening Train. Written as part of a project for Flannery’s music production course and initially conceived as a musical about two brothers, Evening Train was released to widespread acclaim and helped land Flannery a contract with EMI.
By the RuleHe followed up with 2008’s White Lies, which showcased an even more introspective sound and debuted at number six in Ireland. The album eventually went platinum and found Flannery further gaining widespread attention after it picked up an RTE Choice Music Prize nomination. In 2012, he issued his third full-length, Red to Blue, which spent three weeks on top of the Irish album chart and spawned the singles “Gone Forever” and “No Way to Live.” Flannery also hit number one with his fourth and fifth albums, 2014’s By the Rule and 2016’s I Own You.
The songwriter’s sixth long-player, the eponymously titled Mick Flannery, arrived in 2019. Produced in Los Angeles with Australia’s Tony Buchen, the album peaked at number one in Ireland. Also that year, he saw Evening Train turned into a stage musical that debuted at the Cork Midsummer Festival. In May 2020, Flannery released the single “Run a Mile” to help raise awareness of domestic abuse. All proceeds from the track went to support the Women’s Aid charity organization. A concert album, Alive: Cork Opera House 2019, arrived that July and documented Flannery’s sold-out performance at the venue.