Nicole Edwards can’t play her guitar anymore.
But she’s still making music.
Her most recent CD, Sage and Wild Roses, is her fourth album. It is being released this Friday, and she considers it a milestone.
“There was a period where I was quite sick and all I was really doing was getting through,” she says. “I stopped writing. I didn’t know how to fulfill those ideas without an instrument. I ended up approaching Dave Haddock about co-writing.”
This is the first time Haddock and Edwards have collaborated like this.
In just over a year, the two have played some small gigs and recorded 14 tracks.
Generally, Edwards would bring the words and basic melody and Haddock would accompany, filling them out.
“It was malleable,” he says. “But she brought that raw idea. We made an effort to have things musical and danceable and have a good groove … because it’s hard to be that raw. It’s difficult for people to take in. So if you give them something that allows them to appreciate the experience in a musical way then the idea behind the song gets in sort of surreptitiously and it doesn’t feel like its just someone talking about their problems.”
Edwards has a rare disease called scleroderma, which, in her case, causes a build up of collagen that causes a hardening of the connective tissue, or a tightening of the skin. It affects her face and hands the worst.
Edwards’ hands are now deformed. She can’t bend her fingers and, along with severe fatigue, her mobility is greatly diminished.
There is no known cause or cure.
But the key is to adapt, Edwards says.
Finding new ways to do things and think about things: like collaborating with people and being open to co-writing – it’s rewarding as much as it is challenging, she says.
Plus, the type of music really helps.
“Blues is an excellent genre to be able to let stuff out,” Edwards says.
More Than A Diagnosis Blues is one track Haddock did not co-write and, as Edwards says, it let her vent, as well as rock out.
The overall R&B feel on the album is a bit of a return, she says.
Her first few albums were all over the place, mainly drawing on elements of rock and pop, she says.
And then she got into jazz.
While she hasn’t retired her jazz hat, this CD lets Edwards explore music that really makes her groove and dance, she says.
Edwards is not from Memphis, but the blues have always felt natural.
“I’m this petite, white girl who grew up in Northern Ontario listening to CBC radio,” she says, laughing. “But somehow I ended up feeling the blues.”
However, not all the CD’s tracks delve into her battle with the health industry and her own sickness.
Her passions for gardening and cooking find melody in some tracks while others bluntly embrace her ever-optimistic outlook on life.
And this is the first album that is really funny, she says.
“Maybe it’s just me laughing at my own jokes,” Edwards says, pointing out a few lines and double entendres.
The track Grumpy Pants, for example, makes light of the hard days of living with such a draining condition.
“I’m not writing fiction,” she says. “But I don’t like the way it sounds: that it defines me. I guess that’s what I’m fighting against. It’s an undeniable aspect of who I am and I live with this loss and limitation, but I think being able to write about the experience puts it in its place.”
“I think she’s amazing,” says Haddock. “It’s hard not to think about it and be aware of it and wonder, ‘Wow, how would I deal with that?’ because it seems like an overwhelming thing. Obviously it’s difficult, but she keeps doing her music and keeps making it happen.
“In spite of everything, she’s still living her life and loving the people around her and making music and finding the joy in it – in the midst of the pain – which we all need to do. She’s a great example.”
And one that Haddock has started to follow.
The musician, who has been a professional in the industry for over 30 years, admits he has let songwriting slip from the forefront of his work.
After working with Edwards, Haddock has been inspired to start writing again, for himself.
Being unable to do a national tour is another setback Edwards has to accept, but again, she is making the most out of what she can do.
In April, while on her regular, biennial trip to Ontario for alternative health treatments, Edwards will be having two CD release shows: one in Toronto and another in her home town of South River.
And this summer she plans on doing a small tour of the territory and Alaska, she says.
But there are no dates or places set yet.
“I don’t want to be too far away from my garden this summer,” the songstress says, chuckling.
The CD release, this Friday, will be at the Old Fire Hall.
Advance ticket sales are available at Aroma Borealis and Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters. They cost $22 for adults and $17 for youth.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Brandon Isaak will open the show at 8 p.m.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at email@example.com