South Carolina native Edwin McCain will perform Saturday at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach with Charleston-based acoustic rock band opening.
McCain, a frequent visitor to the Grand Strand, will return to town for the first time since opening for REO Speedwagon here in March.
ListenUp spoke with McCain recently about finishing up his new album, the mid-90s music boom in the southeast and his time at Coastal Carolina University.
You sometimes joke about that all you do is sit around and write wedding songs. Are you proud to be able to sort of fill that niche?
- When | 8:30 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 7:30 p.m.)
- Where | House of Blues, Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach
- How Much | $15-25
- www.hob.com or 272-3000
Honestly, I never thought it’d be that way. “I’ll Be” which is one of the biggest ones wasn’t written from that place. It was more of a Hail Mary prayer and it wasn’t really written in the wedding sense. But it’s kind of cool to see it take off that way.
It really reinforces the fact that it’s not really up to the artists where the music goes. We are there assembling our understanding of how the world is, but what people take from it is up to them.
That’s what art really is and it really belongs to the masses in that way. It’s all in the interpretation of what it will be. I don't guide it all, it’s like I just write the diary and you read from it what you will.
Do you ever get asked by friends or anyone to come play live at their wedding?
Oh yeah. I play weddings all the time, all over the place, especially for friends and family. But I get a lot of requests. I actually have one sitting here right now. At least once a day someone asks me.
It’s been awhile since your last major release, where are you at in that process of making new music?
Tomorrow night actually, I’m meeting Warren Haynes to record the last song at his place in New York, so that will be cool.
Putting the new album together has been over the course of three years assembling some songs that I can really get behind.
I used to really hurry and rush to have a deadline and then I realized — I went to a Songwriters in the Round with people like John Hyatt and Lyle Lovett there and someone asked him when the new record was coming out and he said “When I have 10 songs I like.” And I thought that’s exactly the way it should be.
I think have rushed through some things in the past and made some mistakes, and that’s kinda what happens when you pay more attention to the numbers than the music. But not this time.
It’s been 15 years since your first album “Honor Among Thieves” was released, what do you to make sure your music still sounds fresh?
I don't know if I’m actually doing that, but I try. My goal is to try to play like its the first time I’ve ever played it.
I start each show like I’ve never played that song before and I think that helps me have a personal and an emotional connection with the song. It’s like I’m reliving the memory of what inspired me in the first place and it gives me a motivation to perform the song.
That and I just like playing and I’m needy enough to want the attention of getting out there and doing it.
How do you think the landscape has changed for people making your style of music over the years?
I think it’s actually better now. We were kind of the last hurrah of the gluttonous, giant big record company that could spend gargantuan amounts to promote the music and artists.
And being part of that last hurrah, I remember just being blown away by the sheer force of the companies to spend so much doing what they were, it was impressive and cool to see the impact it made on the music.
But it’s more like the 50s these days, with all these small companies gathering around good artists and just working really hard in getting them out there and playing and inspiring fans.
It’s like once the brass ring of that big record company money is gone, the people that are left playing are the ones that love it so much they'd do it for anyone, and I cant help but think it’s better that way and it makes me happy that music still has the power to inspire young hearts like that.
I look back on those early days as the best of my career, because we just had to be more imaginative and dedicated. We were starving to death and all we had to go on was believing in what we were doing, driving 15 hours to play a frat gig.
How would you describe your time coming up in S.C.? What was it like trying to grow a fanbase and make it big in this region?
Well it was easy for me, because we just kinda coat tailed with Hootie and they were like this giant icebreaker and we were a little rowboat happily paddling along and scooping up little ice cubes.
Dave Matthews and Hootie were paving the way for the Southeast and all the bands in this region and there were a lot of really great club owners and clubs at the time — places like Windjammer, and The Music farm and House of Blues when it came along — that it was just primed for success.
Then for us in the 90s it really cranked into this southeastern mode where we hadn’t had major labels looking at our area — it was always N.Y. or L.A. or even Austin or Athens — and all of a sudden here we were.
I think we owe a great bit of thanks just like all the bands who came out of here during that time to bands like Drivin’ N Cryin’ and The Black Crowes and a bunch of others who don’t get enough credit for paving the way for a lot of what the Southeast became.
Do you think there’s more avenues these days for bands from this region to get noticed on a larger scale?
I think absolutely the bands now have the ability to make music at fraction of the cost as what we did at that stage. The ability to shoot and edit video and upload all your promo stuff and your music into a worldwide medium is incredible and when its used properly can really jumpstart careers.
That being said, the playing field is pretty competitive now. I wouldn’t tell you that I think I would be successful if I had to do it all over again. I think the bands are getting better and competition is tougher.
The gigs are harder to come by, but I think that the music that perseveres is powerful because of that trial by fire. It may not be as commercially successful, but the quality is greater.
What if anything, do you know about your opening act Crowfield?
I’ve been listening to their stuff and read a little about them and I like it a lot. I got in touch with them through Gus Gussler and just got the rundown.
I’m a fan, I think its just inspiring and cool music and I want to see them do some big things.
I’ve heard you co-own a recording studio out in Greenville. Tell me a little bit about that studio and what’s it been like to have that.
Yeah, we recorded some of “Lost in America” there and a lot of stuff for this record there.
My ownership of that place is a labor of love, because it’s not really a money making thing. I look at it as a donation to the arts each month keeping that place open.
It’s not a good business decision, but spiritually to give people a place to make music and do what they do is important.
I grew up in Greenville without a place to record and I had to go to Atlanta or Charlotte to do it and I think it’s important give folks the ability to do that so that they can compete on that level.
I’m constantly picking off little pieces of gear from shows or other places to throw in there for sessions. We’ve got lots of great vintage gear and we’re always adding to the collection.
You’ve been a frequent visitor to our area over the years, what is it that brings you back to Myrtle Beach each time?
The most important thing is that people show up to hear us there.
We’ve been working with some of those folks for twenty-some years, and its rare that you have a relationship with someone in this industry that’s worked as well as ours and its one of our foundational gigs.
What was your time at Coastal Carolina University like?
I went to Coastal for one semester. I think I’ve probably said this a million times, but there was a guitar teacher there named Tom Yoder that really stoked the fire for me as an artist.
I was in bands and I took a guitar class with him and he would tell me “You need to get out and play gigs” and he started pushing me out and do what I was doing. So I blame him alot.
He’s a very talented human being.
Each Christmas I still pull out this weird Christmas album he gave me by John Anderson from Yes! and I can honestly say it’s one of the oddest things I’ve ever heard.
What can folks expect from your show Saturday?
We’ll cover a lot of things from a lot of records. We’ll do some acoustic stuff, Latin, R&B and some Soul.
Basically it’s just all the stuff we like. All the interests of everyone in the band come together and I like that. I think it’s kinda fun. We have a good time no matter what we play.