Free your ears and your mind will follow.
Ponder that for a few moments. Yes, it’s a catchy phrase and perhaps a bit over simple, but there is a lot of truth to it. All too often as music lovers we get stuck in our favorite genre and close our ears (and therefore our minds) to something outside of our comfort zone that we might actually find new and refreshing.
Jeremy Edge aims to help us break out of that rut with his new album, simply titled The Jeremy Edge Project. Edge was the guitarist for Candlelight Red, and he has enlisted vocalists Brandon Yeagley of Crobot and Brett Hestla from Dark New Day. All three of those bands fall comfortably in the hard rock/alternative metal category, and while the sum of those three parts bring the familiar, they also deliver the unexpected.
According to Edge, this project was the result of his desire to explore his early guitar influences such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Billy Gibbons, Ritchie Blackmore, Toni Iommi and Jimmy Page. “I wanted this to be a melting pot of influences so there is some classic rock, blues, classic metal and alternative.” However, the project had a rough beginning and almost didn’t get off the ground. “This was going to be a band project with a female vocalist,” he says. “We got almost done with the initial recording and our vocalist had to bow out because she had a lot of life things going on. Career and family stuff, but she was very cool enough to say ‘Hey, you really need someone who can knock this out of the park and I’d rather you find someone to work with and finish this than have me give you 50%, which is all my time allows.’ That was a very noble thing, but it was also a setback. I just started calling friends who might be interested in working on this. I had a few people say no, but I also had some others say yes, and we were off to the races.”
The album was recorded via a hybrid of live in-studio sessions and remotes emailed back and forth. “As far as the basic tracks, we did everything live,” explains Edge. “Guitar, bass and drums. Myself, bassist, John Delowery, and drummer, Dave Shaffer. There were two tracks that we felt we needed real Hammond B-3 organ, so I had a friend Jeremy Baum come in and do those.”
The first single off the album is Lies, with Edge’s friend Josh Smith guesting on guitar. The track is a scorching blues/rocker, with Smith and Edge trading solos distinguishable by both style and guitar tone. Smith uses a Fender Telecaster while Edge’s instrument of choice on this track was a Gibson Les Paul. The song sounds like both guitarists were in the same room dueling away with their instruments, but thanks to modern recording technology, the impossible became a reality. “I just wanted to have fun and do something close to a traditional blues jam. That vibe where you walk into a dark bar and order your beer and the guys are saying ‘OK, blues in B minor! Let’s go!’ But I also wanted it to be a song and Brandon brought that home with his great vocals. When I got to the point where I was doing the guitar solos, there was so much open space that it sounded very one-dimensional with me doing all the guitar work. I had talked to Josh about recording in a studio in L.A. at one point and we just couldn’t make the schedules happen. I happened to hit him up and asked if he was interested in doing some guitar work on the track and he said ‘yeah, I’ll do that,’ so I sent the track to him. Next thing you know he sent it back and it turned out great. It sounds like two guys in the same room trading licks back and forth, one with a Les Paul, one with a Tele. He played his solos and I played mine then we put both tracks together and it sounds like it does. Nice, beautiful accident there.”
The Jeremy Edge Project has a total of ten tracks with varying musical styles. While it might be fairly easy to experiment and stretch one’s musical legs, so to speak, putting a record together in a way where it all works exceptionally well is a very different challenge. Without proper discipline, the finished project could very easily feel unfocused and disjointed. When commended on how well the record works, Edge laughs. “It’s great to hear someone say that because I was afraid it was going to be too schizophrenic. It’s all stuff that I like. I get bored with records that are formulaic and everything seems too predictable. I like to mix things up where you’re going from track to track saying ‘Wow! That doesn’t sound like the song I heard three songs ago.’ I like to do that, and I imagine we’ll continue to do that.” Edge mentions an example of that musical philosophy, the song Sing My Blues Away. “I wanted to stretch this out a bit and not just use pentatonic scales or minor keys or stuff like that. I wanted to use blues progressions and use major and minor and shift the key back and forth and feature different major pentatonic keys. The verse is in one, the bridge is in another and the chorus is in still another. It’s subtle, but if you listen to Brandon sing, the key shifts are in there. I like doing that kind of thing. Keeps us out of that predictable rut.”
Is it gratifying when fans of Candlelight Red comment on how this album has turned them on to material they normally wouldn’t haven’t explored? “Oh, absolutely,” Edge answers. “Brandon and I were going to have a jam session and we were discussing what to cover and he was talking about stuff like Aretha Franklin Chain of Fools. There’s so much off the wall stuff he listens to. I think the really good bands have that array of influences. Even the Candlelight Red stuff, if you listen to a couple of tracks , have bluesy solos and Middle Eastern note stuff and Ritchie Blackmore Snake Charmer, stuff like that. On the song Broken Glass, the solo is basically You Shook Me by Jimmy Page. Whether you’re doing a metal record or a rock record it always makes it more flavorful when you have those influences. When I was 12, my dad would bring me records, some I would like and others I would think ‘I really don’t get that.’ Now I’m going ‘I get it!’ I get Chet Atkins. I get Django Reinhart. I get Merle Travis and Jerry Reed and Wes Montgomery and all those players he was trying to turn me on to. If he was still around, he’d be saying ‘I told you so!’
“To me, I think it’s cool for people to use modern instruments and modern tones and modern recording techniques, but to be also very influenced by all the great music that’s been made decades and decades ago. I think that’s a great formula for us to create a new generation of music.”