This week on the Tomboy Musicians Series, we chat with Edison—singer/guitarist Sarah Slaton who shares her experiences about life on the road as a travelling musician and how the band has been able to maintain a packed touring and recording schedule since their formation in 2014.
We’re stoked to have Edison—singer/guitarist Sarah Slaton chat more to us about life in touring band, their music inspirations and even some tips on surviving the road on the Tomboy Musicians Series this week. Slaton, along with drummer/vocalist/trumpeter/mandolinist Dustin Morris, and Grammy nominated guitarist Maxwell Hughes (formerly of The Lumineers) is a dynamic acoustic trio from Colorado that has quickly emerged as a unique musical force.
When it comes to describing Edison’s music, you can say it’s like cruising down the Colorado country highways with the band and the Indigo Girls sitting at the back. Edison writes liltingly melodic, emotionally resonant songs filled with vivid storytelling, playful harmonies, and irresistible hooks. It’s something if you’re a classic folk music lover that you can’t resist.
Although they’ve only been a band since 2014, they’ve already built a substantial national fan base, thanks to the their upbeat, high-energy live shows and tireless touring efforts. In addition to countless club gigs, they’ve earned attention at such music-industry conferences as SXSW, CMJ and Folk Alliance International.
“We’ve been on the road non-stop for over a year,” Slaton notes. “We didn’t have a lot of releases out there, so we decided to hit the road and meet as many people as we could and foster those relationships.”
The strategy worked, winning the band a devoted national audience as well as support slots with the likes of Iron & Wine and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats. It also led to a deal with the Rhyme & Reason label, which will release Edison’s first full-length album in late 2016.
“The stuff that we’re working on for the album is really exciting, because it will be the first thing that’s a representation of the three of us making music in a room together,” Sarah asserts. “I’ll get a melody or a thought in my head, like I’m gonna explode if it doesn’t come out of me. I’ll hum it to Max or Dustin, and then Max will play a guitar part that’s exactly like what I’m hearing in my head and I’ll go ‘Yeah, that!,’ and then Dustin will grab one of the other ten instruments he plays, and it all comes together into something that none of us could do on our own. It’s like combustion.”
Until then, look for Edison out on the road. “It’s hard to be in the van all the time and never be home, but the little victories make it worth it,” she explains. “You might play to a room full of people in Joliet, Illinois who know all the words to every song, and then drive seven hours to play to the bartender in Lexington, Kentucky. We just take things as they come and hold on to the good nights. We live for the nights that everyone in the room is experiencing the song and everybody’s feeling connected. We just try to remain as open as we can, and invite people to come in.”
We chat with Sarah Slaton, front woman and lead vocalist for the band and asked her more about her experiences being in the band and her personal tomboy style.
TT: How did the band Edison come together and how long have you guys been performing together?
SS: Serendipity played a huge role in our formation since it happened so naturally. I was a solo artist in 2013 and opened up for my bandmate, Dustin, and his former project on a tour to South by Southwest. By the end of the tour Dustin was playing on my set and we became a duo under the moniker, Edison. A year later Maxwell Hughes (formerly of The Lumineers) came on tour with us to do his solo stuff on the way again to South by Southwest. We all started jamming together and he was the final missing piece. I guess it makes sense why we’re always out touring since we really became a band on the road. It’s our home.
TT: What is that one record that set you off on your current journey as musicians?
SS: For me it would be Counting Crows’ – ‘August and Everything After’ album.
TT: We love the haunting, yet lazy Sunday sound of the ‘Ghosts’ EP. How long did it take you to work on the album?
SS: The curation of lyrical content spans far before we hit record, but the album itself took a couple months of intermittent visits to our friends basement that had some equipment. We had no money and made it for next to nothing. It’s definitely a raw basement record that we’re proud of.
TT: What were the inspirations for the album because we hear so much longing in all the songs?
SS: A lot of the songs on the ‘Ghosts’ EP were written shortly after my mother passed away from her year long battle with brain cancer. The song “San Jose” is about the childhood street I grew up on and the home that we had with my mom my whole life. “Be Someone” was written about feeling lost and instead of dealing with the grief immediately, I got a one way flight to Madrid and took off to backpack Europe for a bit. In some ways, getting lost helped me find myself again.
TT: It’s been almost a year since you’ve released ‘Ghosts’ – where does the album sit with you right now from a creative perspective, after the tour?
SS: We all love ‘Ghosts’ since it was our first record together. The songs and how they’re performed have definitely evolved though since making the album last year.
TT: We’re taken back to early Suzanne Vega, Tanita Tikaram, KD Lang and Indigo Girls on this album. What were your musical influences growing up and in your current musical style?
SS: My main musical influences lyrically are Chris Carraba (Dashboard Confessional) Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) Dallas Green (City and Colour). I think my current musical style is a mashup of loving songwriting strength from the likes of Greg Laswell, William Fitzsimmons and strong lead presence on stage by Florence & The Machine, Counting Crows and Nico Vega.
TT: What is Edison’s working style like when recording an album?
SS: This new album we took a new approach where the guys (Dustin and Max) worked in the downstairs studio with one engineer while I was upstairs doing vocals with our producer. We tried to get out of our comfort zones and test the boundaries of our current songs. We just finished recording in Austin, Texas with our producer, Frenchie (Wild Child,Vance Joy, Santana) who challenged us in all the right ways.
TT: What do you like about being on the road and can you share any highlights from being on the road this past year touring Ghosts?
SS: I think it’s safe to say we all feel the most at home on the road. Every night we get to play in a new city and make new friends. There are so many stories to be heard from each pocket of the country and you return home from each trip having learned more about the world and yourself. Highlights from the last year include writing on the Chesapeake Bay, playing at festivals like South by Southwest and signing our first record deal with Rhyme & Reason Records in the French Quarter in New Orleans after our show at The House of Blues.
TT: Everyone loves a good road trip. What are your 5 survival tips for a band on the road? 🙂
SS: 5 tips to survive the road are:
1. Always pack your most comfy sweatpants for those long day drives.
2. Podcasts are a lifesaver for passing time. My favourites are Rachel Maddow and TEDtalks.
3. Bring headphones and download an app with relaxing sounds to block out noise when needing to nap.
4. Say YES to as many new things you can on the road. New food, new experiences. All of it.
5. Always stop to take in the beauty around you. You’re never in too much of a rush to stop and smell the flowers along the way.
TT: Do you enjoy being in the studio or performing on the road?
SS: They’re both beautiful in their own way. The studio allows you to challenge yourself creatively and make a tangible piece of art. The road brings the most organic experience of looking people in the eyes and sharing the music in the most present of moments.
TT: Outside of music, what do you guys like to do to chill out?
SS: Dustin does a lot of Kung Fu and camping. Max almost always has a guitar in his hands and I love to snowboard, camp and catch other bands out live.
TT: Sarah, how does your feminine perspective ‘affect’ the songs on ‘Ghosts’ in terms of the writing, recording and touring?
SS: I’m not sure if me being female has much to do with it in terms of writing / recording. I think it’s a human perspective of loss, longing and hope. On the road, I take a bit more time to get ready, but aside from that I suppose I’m just one of the boys.
TT: Sarah, we really love your classic folk tomboy style and image. Who are your style inspirations?
SS: Thank you! I had a subscription to GQ since I was 18 and have always had a more androgynous style. I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I was little which might explain my affinity for hats. The British Teddy Girls from the 50’s also have such a classic tomboy style that I admire as well.