Best Living Songwriters: Richard Edwards

The “Best Living Songwriters” column features a true hodge-podge of singer-songwriters. Some will be famous, some will be undiscovered, and some will fall in between. The majority will be songwriters who just don’t get the publicity or recognition that Blue Collar Songwriting thinks they deserve.

Today we focus on Richard Edwards, the brainchild behind Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s.

Though they certainly have a significant following (and even a level of fame), too often Margot… are written off as just one of the many post-Arcade Fire, overly-precious chamber pop groups that oversaturated the indie market from 2005 to 2010. To be fair, their debut The Dust of Retreat did have a little bit of that sound. Their follow ups Animal and Not Animal had a much sharper edge. Then, with their 2010 release Buzzard, their sound expressed both a reinvention and an arrival. This record was (and, of course is) at once a flat out rock record, stretched out with some Velvet Underground-like experimentation and bruised with the best punk has to offer. It’s a rough-around-the edges but somehow flawless record. Their 2012 release Rot Gut, Domestic followed in a similar vein, both continuing and refining this more authentic sound. Finally, their most recent release Sling Shot to Heaven salvaged the best of their earliest pop sounds while keeping the true rock backbone of their later releases.

Musically, Richard and his cast of rotating musicians know how to compose great songs. Lyrically, Mr. Edwards has a gift of phrasing and an urgency with his songs that, I believe, places him far above a majority of his indie contemporaries. Without a second thought, I think he is one of the best young singer-songwriters to appear over the last ten years.

He can pen abstract verses, like in the track “Claws Off”:

Superstitious grave robber
Keep your claws off me and mine
Lead the part, make ’em sick
Set fire to their eyes

At the same time, his songs aren’t afraid to take grainy-but-focused, unflinching snap shots of life at its ugliest, scariest. Here’s an example from the song “Getting Fat”:

She had tumbleweed time,
For all of ‘em
Even her bad dreams,
Shivered when she fell asleep

She spent ten months,
in Nashville
Running from old ghosts
Taming up her wild bones

And baby’s got a hole in her head
She’s howling at the moon
Singing her tune
Don’t worry
I’m sorry
For everything I’ve ever done

And finally, with grace and even humour, Richard’s able to write about the mundane, lovely stuff of life that more grandiose lyricists too often ignore completely. Perhaps the best example comes from the relatable track “When You’re Gone.”

I miss you when you’re gone.
But I get so much done.
I get whole TV series watched,
Finish bottles of lemonade,
Run through snow with holes in my socks,
And I stay up for Conan.
When you’re gone.

So I urge you do dig into their music. If you haven’t heard it, give it a chance. If you have heard it, give it a second chance. Here are some songs to start you off:

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