Updated: Jul 22, 2019
As J Edwards sits on a stool in a downtown honky-tonk playing his original songs, tourists wander in from the street to see where the rich, gravelly voice is coming from. Sounding like a cross between Chris Stapleton and Bob Seger, J Edwards is the epitome of “old school” Nashville. You won’t hear any cover songs in his set list. J has found a niche providing the old Nashville experience -- singing his blend of folk, blues, country, and rock.
J has a standing gig at Bootleggers on Sundays from 11 AM to 3 PM. “I’m the only guy down here on Broadway doing a 3 or 4-hour shift of all original music.” Most downtown bands are playing cover songs that people are familiar with. “Tourists are hearing the same music that their cousin’s band played back in Wisconsin; they could have stayed home for that.” While the party crowd likes to hear songs they can sing along to, many people come to Nashville to discover music that they haven’t heard on the radio or Spotify. “So if I get you in there with my old gruff growly voice, and then you realize you’re listening to original music, I’ve had people sit there for several hours.”
In addition to his weekly gig at Bootleggers (and filling in at other Broadway venues), J spends 200+ days per year on the road. “Most of the traveling I get to do is because people came to Nashville and saw me here and asked me to bring my music to their home town.” He has played in almost every state (somewhere between 43 and 45), and says “Lord knows I love that road,” (which is a lyric from his song “Rambling Fever”).
When packing for a road trip, there are a couple things that J considers to be essential (in addition to his Cole Clark acoustic guitar). First: GHS strings. “I go through strings about every two shows.” Second: pork skins. “There’s probably two to three bags in my truck right now.” Heath bars and Mountain Dew used to be staples on his packing list, but his doctor advised J to cut back on calories and caffeine.
As part of the family entourage and ministry, J learned how to play a variety of instruments, including guitar and piano. “It just depended on which musician didn’t show up for church that night. So if the bass player didn’t show up for church, I would play bass.” He studied trumpet in junior high, and also picked up some saxophone and clarinet from his siblings. But, J confesses, “I’m not a drummer.”
For nearly three decades, J continued on the path of traveling and playing Christian music, then eventually settled in South Carolina. Soon after, he felt it was time to make a change. “I made a break from that and started playing harmonica at old blues bars and honky-tonks, and that took off. I was already doing music for a career; I just switched genres.” J says he had to learn a totally different kind of music.
He visited Nashville in August 2009, and as time went on, those trips to network with other musicians and songwriters in Music City became more frequent. It got to the point that J was spending half of his life away from home -- sleeping on friend’s couches. His wife Diana convinced him to make the move, and they’ve called Nashville home for the past seven years.
But all those road trips from I-26 in South Carolina to I-40 in Tennessee paved the way for future songs. “It was on that long road that a lot of thinking goes on. I’ve written what I felt were some great songs on that old road, just one lyric at a time sitting there with my recorder and driving up and down that road.” The song “Another Cold Shoulder” – a song about being on the road – was inspired along that stretch of highway. “Another Cold Shoulder” is the 7th track on the album “Cold,” which was released last September. Listen on iTunes
More recently, J was in the studio with John Schneider (aka Bo Duke), adding harmonies to an inspirational country album John is recording. The pair met a couple months ago when songwriter Greg Barnhill invited J to play at a booth at CRS (Country Radio Seminar). John introduced himself after he heard J sing at the event, and they have been friends ever since. The current project also includes musicians Jacob Lyda, Cody McCarver (Confederate Railroad), Christian Davis, and Larry Hall. (see photo)
For J’s tour schedule and more information, go to jedwardsmusic.net
FUN FACTS AND TRIVIA
Musical Influences: Andrae Crouch & The Disciples, T.G. Sheppard, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams
J’s daughter Cricket is a local singer-songwriter
Restaurant: Golden Coast Chinese (on West End Avenue)
Movie: anything with Bruce Willis
Book: A Cry of Angels by Jeff Fields
Local show: Music Row Freak Show (songwriter event) hosted by Terri Jo Box at The Local
Concert: tie between Eric Clapton and George Strait
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