Country Spotlight: Edens Edge

June 27, 2012 at 11:54 am , by

Courtesy of Big Machine Records/Jeremy Cowart

Edens Edge members Cherrill Green, Hannah Blaylock and Dean Berner might not be related by blood, but the talented trio from Arkansas certainly have made their Nashville journey—and recent successes—a family affair. “This morning, Dean’s mother texted all of us and told us we’re on Editor’s Choice on iTunes,” lead singer Blaylock told me during the band’s visit to LHJ last week. “And then she sent me the sweetest text the day our album was released. It was so beautiful. All three of our parents give encouragement not only to their child, but to all three of us. We’re all each other’s parents’ kids.”

And when Green brings her 2-year-old nephew to their shows? “He’s like our nephew,” Blaylock says. “We’re all so excited. He plays football with us. He’s the coolest kid!” And he also happens to have great taste in music. “He’s constantly having my dad pull up YouTube videos of us,” Green reports. “He sings ‘Amen’ and he does Hannah’s hand motions to it while he’s watching. He calls Hannah and Dean ‘Anna and Beans,’ and he has a little ukulele that he plays. He’ll flip it like a dobro and play it like Dean does. He’s already showing lots of musical aspirations.”

Luckily for the little guy, he’s chosen some talented role models. The band’s self-titled debut CD brilliantly blends traditional country and bluegrass influences with today’s more modern Nashville sound. The result is a winning collection of uniquely fresh-sounding songs. With harmonies and strong musicianship from Green (mandolin and bouzouki) and Berner (acoustic guitar, dobro, lap steel) behind her throughout, Blaylock’s versatile vocals are irresistible, effortlessly shifting from sounding like a down-home sweetheart on “Amen” to letting you hear her mischievous grin on the playful teaser “Skinny Dippin’.” She oozes vulnerability on the stellar breakup song “Last Supper” then boldly bellies up to the musical bar and wails away on the raucous “Who Am I Drinking Tonight,” making it clear there’s no vocal territory she won’t tackle. The CD’s final track, “Christ Alone,” puts the trio’s harmonies front and center and they are nothing short of heavenly. (Insider tip: To get three excellent bonus tracks, be sure to get the Edens Edge Deluxe Edition, available exclusively at Cracker Barrel.)

On a brief break from playing on the Rascal Flatts’ Changed tour, the band kindly popped by the LHJ offices to chat with me and treat us to a stripped-down set of songs, including their current single, “Too Good to Be True.” More than one staffer left fighting tears after the last song, “Cherry Pie”, so be warned when you watch it after the jump!

Hear Edens Edge perform live in the LHJ offices after the jump.

You guys have an opening spot on the Rascal Flatts “Changed” tour, which has just started. How’s it going so far?
Hannah: The production is breathtaking, the stage is beautiful and the show is so captivating. It really does take my breath away. And we’re going to learn so much so we’re very, very thankful. And everyone on the tour is so wonderful, nice and welcoming, which means the world to us. Rascal Flatts’ fans are incredible and country music fans are the best fans in the world. Being an opener, we’re on when there’s still daylight outside but those people out there are so unaffected by it. They’re just there to have a good time and hear music.
Dean: This is our first tour on the main stage with a full band, so it’s a big step for us. The first show, you’re just kind of going out there and trying not to trip on the stage. By the second show I found myself getting a lot more used to it. I felt like we all got into the groove a lot more. It’s really a fun thing to feel our band locking in together, to feel all the production elements coming together and the three of us really getting into the performance.

You’ve been on some high-profile tours with the likes of Brad PaisleyRebaLady Antebellum and now Rascal Flatts. What have you found were your biggest misconceptions about what it was like to be on a big tour?
Cherrill: I think one of mine was that people get rest. (laughs) We’re blessed to be in country and I think it’s interesting just to see how welcoming the country music world is to new artists. The big A-list artists are just really sweet, so I think that was really refreshing.
Hannah: I didn’t know the level of, like, not rest that there would be. I knew that it was not glamorous. Behind the scenes is not glamorous. The only kind of glamour that you see is actually onstage. (laughs)
Cherrill: And those are the moments that keep you wanting to do it.
Hannah: They are! At this level in our career, we travel 12 hours for a 30-minute set. And that keeps us going, those 30 minutes. I don’t know that the people out there realize how much of a blessing they are to us. They’re the reason we continue to do what we do—literally the only reason, because we could be playing music on our back porches. And we would be if we weren’t doing this.

Continue on after the jump to watch Edens Edges LHJ musical performance and to find out their real-life Too Good to Be True” stories, complete with exclusive photos! Plus, Dean tells us the important life lessons Hannah and Cherrill have taught him and the trio share a list of artists who theyd love to collaborate with on a CMT Crossroads special.

What about stuff you’ve learned about each other through being on the road and touring?
Hannah: It’s chaotic. We’ve sometimes got 11 people in a bus with 12 bunks, and the other bunk is being used for luggage. It can get really, really crowded. You have to learn how to learn to live in really tight spaces. We’ve been together for 8 years and we actually lived in a house together in Nashville for two years.
Cherrill: We came into each others’ lives at the time, I think, between the ages of 18 and 25, when most people probably experience the most change and growth. It’s just so much different now because it’s literally like we’ve been in a marriage together and we’ve learned how to communicate. You learn boundaries and it’s been nice that we’ve found a safe way to communicate. We’ve taken the things that we’ve learned in this relationship and taken it to other relationships. It’s just been great.
Hannah: You’re in this lifestyle with two people that you wouldn’t—if you had a normal life—you wouldn’t necessarily marry these two people. But you are married to them in a sense. And you’re also best friends. And you’re also business partners. And you’re also siblings. And you’re also roommates, and all these different things. It creates such a unique bond.
Cherrill: We do carry boxing gloves, just in case, though …
Hannah: I have pink ones.

Dean is outnumbered two-to-one gender wise in this band, which isnt the norm for most other high-profile trios like Lady A, the Band Perry, Gloriana and the Farm. What have your experiences been, Dean, touring with these two? What have they taught you?

Dean: I’ve always said that this has been educational. I grew up with two brothers, so my house was very different from what I’ve experienced in the last few years. But it’s been pretty awesome to learn about the whole other side of … humanity. (everyone laughs) What I’ve kind of said jokingly is that you learn when not to say anything and when to say “yes.” Those are the two things you learn. But it’s true: You really have to learn how to communicate. For guys a lot of the time, communicating is very basic and there aren’t a lot of feelings. To really get into this relationship and be the best that we can be, we all have to get to each other in a way that we need.
Cherrill: His future wife owes us a lot!

Does a two female/one male dynamic carry over to how you function or create musically?
Dean:
 We have Hannah as our dedicated lead singer, which is different from some of the other trios and groups that are out there. So we obviously gear a lot of our music to the female perspective, but we also try to pick songs that anybody can identify with. I think the Dixie Chicks did it, Alison Krauss has done it—they found a way to have their music be something that everybody can identify with, even though it’s specifically coming from a woman’s perspective.

Your song “Cherry Pie” touches on this, but are there any people in your lives that have helped you get to where you are today, yet they might not know how exactly how important they were to you?
Hannah: We got to write thank yous in our album and that was one of our favorite things to do. It was so cool. When we debuted at the Opry last March, 150 people from Arkansas drove seven hours to hear us play two songs.
Cherrill: There wasn’t enough space [on the album liner notes] to name them individually, of course.
Hannah: But we did as many as we could, and that’s a wonderful problem and blessing. But the guy that started the band with me and my parents and introduced me to Dean and Cherrill and had them come into the group, his name is Steve Smith and he wrote the last song on the record called “Christ Alone.” It’s an a cappella piece that sounds like it’s 500 years old, yet he wrote it eight years ago. We’ve been closing our sets with it ever since we met each other, so it’s a very vital part of our music and who we are and our connection with each other, with life and what’s truly important. He’s really taught us all that. Your parents teach you that, too, but if there’s a secondary person, it’s Steve Smith! He texted us on the day of the album release and he said, “We’re all sitting here at Cracker Barrel reading the thank yous and crying in our pancakes.” It was so awesome! We do our best to thank and show gratitude, love and appreciation for every single person that comes into our path. I feel like that’s one of the biggest blessings of this journey that we call life. You just can’t even put into words what people do for you, but we do our best.

So if Edens Edge, down the road, does a CMT Crossroads, who would be top of the list for you guys to perform with?
Cherrill: I love Paul McCartney. He’s awesome.
Hannah: I would really love to sing with Vince Gill …
Cherrill: Dolly.
Hannah: Vince Gill, Dolly PartonPatty Griffin. I think it’d be really fun, honestly, to sing with Katy Perry. I think that would be awesome. I love her record. We actually cover “Teenage Dream” in our Rascal Flatts set. We do a little pop medley—a pop and modern country medley—during our set on this tour and I love it when people sing along. I love that medley because everyone’s just screaming and it’s really fun.
Dean: James Taylor would be amazing.
Hannah: I would die. Oh, my gosh.

Edens Edges real-life Too Good to Be True moments:

Dean: “It was my first electric guitar, and I was just over the moon about it. It’s a Fender Stratocaster with just the perfect neck. It just felt so good in my hands. I was a senior in high school there and I had gotten it a few years earlier. I learned on my dad’s old classical guitar that was just sitting around the house. I was really into Eric Clapton and older blues artists, so that was when music had really become a huge part of my life. When I was a kid I played piano and I played trumpet, but the guitar really just opened up a whole new world for me. It really became my major passion in my life. Through college, the guitar and the passion I had for playing music was the thing that kind of carried me through. And then right after I finished college is when I started playing with the girls. There are a lot of doctors in my family—my dad’s a doctor, both of my brothers are doctors, my grandfather and uncle. My mom was a nurse, so there’s a lot of family in the medical field and other very highly respected professions as well. Stepping out and playing music for a living was something that the family wasn’t accustomed to people doing but they were very supportive and really encouraging and everything. But it was a big leap of faith for me to branch out and do something I knew nothing about and something that was very different from what I’d seen my whole life.”

Cherrill: “That’s my nephew, Canan Ray. My family’s really close. I grew up in a family in a bluegrass band my whole life and my sister is only 17 months older than me, so she and I grew up like twins, really. Like, we had our own language and we’re just really, really close. Still are to this day. When she got pregnant I was such a part of it and we were both so excited. And if she hurt, I hurt. If she was happy, I was happy. I planned my world around just making sure I was there for the day he was born. And when he was, I said that I felt like I’d had a baby. And she said, ‘I thought you might feel like that.’ So I always joke with her that she had him for me. I’m not in the place to have kids right now anyway but I plan my life around buying things for him. I plan my year around getting him awesome stuff for Christmas. He’ll be 3 in August and I got him a drum kit last year. He’s already showing lots of musical aspirations. And he’s athletic. He’s so perfect. Really, he reminds me to just simplify life. When I’m around him I stop caring about other stresses. I was thinking the other day about it: A kid’s biggest stress is, like, I don’t get to go to the pool today because it’s raining. How simple is that? I think sometimes you have to strip down to that childlike happiness and being around him reminds me of that.”

Bombs Over Betty Photography

Hannah: “On a personal level I’m on a beautiful adventure with my soul mate. His name is Justin Wakefield. I didn’t expect to find him this young, but I’m very blessed that I did. The year that I moved to Nashville, my parents got divorced—and I’d started the band with my parents. They were married for 26 years. After several years of living in Nashville, I met Justin and it was like I had gained that foundation where family should be and through all of this amazing whirlwind, that foundation has been my biggest lifesaver. He has one of the most beautiful hearts I’ve ever met in a human being ever. In the same way that Canan reminds Cherrill of how simple life should be, Justin reminds me of what love can truly do for human kind and people. He’s a huge rock and foundation for me. We got engaged last September and we were all on a kind of a family/friends vacation. He really wanted to go walk on the beach during sunset so he woke me up from a deep sleep. Everybody was hiding behind bushes and those boxes where you can rent umbrellas and chairs and stuff, and they were all secretly filming us. He actually downloaded a recording app to put in his pocket so he could record our conversation, which is so awkward by the way. No one will ever hear that conversation, it is so weird! But we ended up walking up to this sign that said ‘Will you be my wife?’ and he proposed. It was just such a simple way of showing his love. It really was beautiful. So I’m really excited to embark on this adventure with him. Like I said, I didn’t know that this was going to happen this soon, but I’m very blessed that God knows the bigger picture and I don’t. We learn that every single day. Let go and let God, for real, right?”

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  2. Wow, thanks for this excellent write up on Edens Edge. It’s always refreshing to read up new groups and people. These three are all so unspoiled by success. They all great btw. And the little guy Canan Ray is just too sweet for words. He is already into music and that’s no surprise.