If I Don't Try
Some artists need a fair amount of hit-and-miss time to develop their songwriting acuity, while others have a clear sense of self and know exactly how to put their best foot forward with the words they pen and the music they make, right out of the box. Nashville-based singer-songwriter Wyatt Edmondson is planted firmly in the latter category.
The proof can be found deep within the grooves of his five-track If I Don’t Try EP, which is set for independent release on all digital platforms as well as on CD and vinyl on February 21, 2020. From the hopeful resonance of the aurally enticing opening title track “If I Don’t Try” to the understated acoustic shimmer of “Amber” to the intimate-partner travelogue of “Lovers Lake,” Edmondson displays an original voice that’s much wiser beyond his years. “I think it’s really important to be authentic to yourself,” Edmondson believes. “As long as you put your heart and soul into your music and make it your own, people will see that — and they’ll respect you for it. And they’ll identify with it, too.”
Born in Montgomery, Alabama 25 years ago, Edmondson ultimately moved to Nashville to pursue his dual songwriter/performer dream, albeit in the midst of facing one particular obstacle along the way. Despite being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a teenager, Edmondson decided not to let his degenerative eye condition slow him down in the least. “I remember so clearly being 15 and finding out I was losing my vision. But something in me was like, ‘This is your chance to use what’s been brewing and stirring up inside you to help prove that people can do anything they want to in spite of the cards they’re dealt.’ For me, that was music. It’s really been the thing that gets me up in the morning. It keeps me going, and I’m really thankful for that. I hope it can inspire others as well.”
Early on, Edmondson gravitated toward guitar players like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (“the first rock god I worshiped!”) and Dave Matthews (“as soon as I heard Dave play, I put down the electric guitar and picked up an acoustic”), but one artist in particular sparked him onto another path. “I don’t think I ever knew there were lyrics in songs before Bob Marley, since I was only listening for the guitars!” he says with a laugh. “Listening to Bob, I fell in love with the idea of songwriting, and it was only a week after I had gotten into his music that I started writing songs myself.”
Wyatt’s knack for the art of storytelling is evidenced by the depth inherent in the aforementioned “Lovers Lake,” which chronicles teenage star-crossed lovers and their secret rendezvous. “I tried to capture a sense of timeless romanticism in relaying the story of two young people who are told by their superiors and their families that they shouldn’t be together — but they run off and do it anyway,” he explains. “I picture a happy ending with those characters staying together in the long run.”
Edmondson leaned more toward his own personal experience in the case of “You Said It, I Meant It,” a song that delineates the sorrowful arc of two people falling apart. “It follows what happens in a serious relationship after you have the carpet ripped out from under your feet, and you don’t really know what to do with the feelings you’ve been told are fading,” he notes. “But at the same time, it also touches upon this essential essence of hope and light. There’s a sense of, ‘I’m going to make it through this. I just want you to know that I would have been there for you.’ It’s a ‘best wishes’ kind of song, but it’s also, ‘I want you to know this was everything I was prepared to do for you.’ That was where I was at when I was writing it.”
Edmondson’s songcraft goes one step further in the way he adds his own individual spin on the Bruce Springsteen/Clarence Clemons-like saxophone fade-out at the end of “You Said It, I Meant It,” which is the avenue where the comparisons end. “When it comes to that fade or any of the other patterns we’re seeing, or not seeing, in modern pop music — well, I don’t have any interest in following the book,” he confirms. “I mean, I believe music should be what you want it to be. There’s a lot of pressure to ‘be commercial.’ But I want to capture my music in a way that makes me feel good, without trying to follow anybody’s rules.”
The songwriter felt strongly that putting forth an EP first was the right way to go before diving into making a full album’s worth of his original material. “One of the things I love about albums is the concept of linearity. That’s something I want to move forward with as I grow into my career,” Edmondson explains. “Going into the EP, I found myself with a significant collection of unrecorded songs. These five songs all have unique styles, and I felt that if paired together, they would hopefully give listeners a broader sense of what’s next. I still have a lot of tunes that we are ‘road testing’ and will be recorded when the time is right.”
Another way of building that album-making muscle is by playing his music onstage on a regular basis. To that end, Edmondson has made his bones by appearing three times at the 30A Songwriters Festival (2020 will denote his fourth performance there), twice at River Jam Music Festival, and at the Mississippi Songwriters Festival (to name but a few), but he wants to branch out even further. “I’ve been lucky to get some great festival slots and play some great venues around the Southeast, but in 2020, we are working to take it to the national scale. I’m excited to get out to the West Coast, into Texas, and up Northeast, and just make that mark as a true national touring songwriter. It’s important to me to share my music more widely in a live setting.”
Indeed, Edmondson sees the art of playing live as a two-way give-and-take between performer and audience. “The most important thing to do in any performance situation is to make it become a conversation,” he believes. “It’s not me up here on a pedestal and you at the bottom of a mountain looking up. In buying a ticket, you are forever a part of the shared experience that is a live performance. Whenever we’re playing in a new area, I want people to leave knowing my name — but I also want to leave knowing theirs. There’s nothing like being in a room to where you can get to know the audience just as much as they’re getting to know you.” And that’s not a one-time goal, either. “As much as we’re on the road, a lot of the people we see out there we may not see again for six months, but I want to see them again,” Edmondson continues. “I want them to know they have a home at one of our shows, and with our music. It’s a home for me, and I want that to be a bigger and bigger place of community.”
Edmondson knows he has a long way yet to go, but he couldn’t be more excited to share the new music on this EP with anyone and everyone who wants to listen. “It’s been a long road so far. I’m only 25, but we’ve been road-dogging it pretty hard the past couple of years — just trying to hone my music and get that connection with people,” he concludes. “Night after night, I get up onstage and try new things, hoping to find out what’s going to light the fire. That’s what drives me. It’s my passion. And that’s what I want to do with my life — I want to get up there and surprise not only the audience, but myself.”
Without a doubt, Wyatt Edmondson knows exactly what he wants, and he knows exactly how to get it. Or, in other words — he said it, and he clearly meant it. Catch him on his rise.