With his 1998 single “I’ll Be,” Edwin McCain’s soulful southern crooning pumped through radios across the country. The track has since become a radio play mainstay – as well as the emotional crux of countless wedding play lists and mix tapes – but the alt rocker is more than his most widely recognized single. Since releasing his first album, the independently released Nomadic Logic in 1991, McCain has recorded 10 albums and toured the country with his band.
Now two decades into his career, McCain is still recording, and having recently been signed to 429 Records, will release his next album, Mercy Bound on Aug. 30, a collaboration with fellow singer-songwriter Maia Sharp. McCain has been playing shows this summer to promote his upcoming album, giving audiences a taste of his new tracks, as well some of the beloved songs from the singer-songwriter’s catalog. The tour will bring McCain to The Birchmere this Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The News-Press spoke to McCain about recording his latest album, as well as the song that made him a household name.
LP: What inspired you to pursue this album, again collaborating with Maia Sharp?
EM: I just love her to death. My relationship with her has just been ongoing and I think she is underappreciated as a writer and as a performer. I just really love working with her. It makes it easy when you love who you are working with.
LP: What are the pros and cons of working with another musician?
EM: The relationship of two writers can be challenging but for us, it sort of forces the creativity to be better. For she and I both, the argument is always “prove it.” This is why I think this is a good lyric to the song? Well, prove it, why is that a good lyric and why isn’t there a better lyric. So we challenge each other to develop every idea to its fullest, and the reason why is that if you don’t develop each idea to its greatest conclusion, then it’s disrespectful to another writer who would have.
LP: You’ve been called the voice that launched a thousand weddings. How big a part of your musical legacy are those romantic ballads?
EM: I would say that that classification for me is a perfect example of interpretation being different than intention. The song “I’ll Be” has been this huge wedding song for a long time, but when I wrote it, it wasn’t intended that way. It was more of a Hail Mary prayer. It was something different for me and I think that’s again a really beautiful thing that people can interpret music in the way that they need it to be, and it’s not up to me to tell people how to interpret a song, but I say it all the time: It’s like giving credit to the lightening rod for the lightening.
LP: Did you find your success with the song “I’ll Be” opened doors for you, or did you find it limiting?
EM: Obviously it opened plenty of doors. It opened all the doors to the executives at the record companies, that was what we were lacking up until that point. It really did change everything for us as far as the way the label saw us, and it did hamstring us into a little bit of a category. I think everyone thought I was just uniquely a balladeer – but I’ll take that any day and twice on Tuesdays. The song has been a gift because it still gets airplay all over the place and as a result we can travel and play and see people in the venues. It’s been very … I can’t even describe it; it’s been an incredible blessing.
LP: What does the future have in store for Edwin McCain?
EM: If I could tell you that, boy, it would be amazing. I don’t have any idea what the future holds for me. I never expected to be a father, and now I’m a father of three, and I love that. I’ve learned a lot, and I hope to keep learning and going and enjoying and just being a part of it. If someday the option to tour isn’t there anymore, then I’ll do something else, but so far so good.