Taking the stage for what’s easily the 100th time in almost as many days, Edwin McCain casually joins his band as they start off another set that’s impossibly tight and laid back at the same time. By the time his vocals kick in, it’s clear that this is no ordinary troubadour on the club circuit. This is Edwin McCain, the voice that is romance incarnate, has launched a thousand marriages and stirred up Southern soul for over 20 years.
For the guy who always dreamed of a life on the road, Edwin’s massive pop hits “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask For More” were like pulling into glamorous, exciting towns along his never-ending tour. They were life changing and sent him off with incredible memories and nifty souvenirs but were always just a part of the journey, not the destination. “I’ve been lucky enough to experience a pretty broad range of stardom, and the lack thereof, throughout my journey as a musician,” he once said with a chuckle. “I’ve been on television shows and won awards, but I’ve also lived in the back of a truck, and I’ve even worked the Drive-Thru at Krispy Kreme singing wedding songs.”
Surprising to him more than anyone else, those very songs have endured beyond all wildest expectations, turning into wedding anthems and misty-eyed soundtracks to countless wedding proposals. Over a million Dr. Phil viewers voted “I’ll Be” as the best wedding song ever written, the New York Times dubbed him the “great American romantic,” and at any given moment on this very day a radio station in America is playing one of his songs. “They’re kind of emotional road maps,” Edwin explains, “and each one, especially if you’re connected to it in some real way, can change and grow and lead you in new directions of thought.” “But the highlight of what I do is playing for and connecting with the people that come out to see me live. The fans - and I hate to call them fans - the friends of music that survive the advertising campaign long enough to understand what music is truly about, and have incorporated my music into their lives to the point where it is are part of their memories and emotions - those are the ones I do it all for."
This philosophy, this innate ability to write songs that somehow every listener claims as their own, is not just reserved for the love songs but also in the soul-drenched party songs that fans fill the clubs to hear. The ones that weave seamlessly in and out of Edwin’s versions of his own personal favorites like the Drifters’ “Some Kind of Wonderful” and the Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next To You,” his unabashed love for vintage soul is worn on proudly on his guitar strap.
His reverence – and talent - for great songwriting eventually found a partner in fellow tunesmith Maia Sharp. The two have played a musical game of ping pong throughout the years, writing songs for each others’ albums then returning the favor, then back again. Among their favorites are “Say Anything,” which Maia also sings on, and the new “Walk With You.” “When Maia and I decided to write together again,” recalls Edwin, “I said let’s just start out with this song for a friend’s daughter who’s getting married, do a little song not for public consumption, just a nice song he can have for his daughter and a it’ll be a good warm up for us to start writing the ‘real stuff.’”
But “Walk With You” quickly took on a life of its own. “We had one of those ‘wow’ moments,” he continues, “and it sort of grew from that. By the end of the recording session, even the engineer in the studio was tearing up and you can’t get a more jaded guy that the engineer who hears every single song out there.” But the real test was putting it before an audience. “Performing it at the wedding wasn’t a really fair gauge,” McCain admits. “So I started putting it into my touring set list, and was floored when the crowds erupted mid-song. That just doesn’t happen with new songs.” A new classic in the making, “Walk With You” is already looking like a shiny new town beckoning to Edwin on his latest tour.
“It’s not about chart positions or record sales or anything like that,” insists the man with 11 albums, a wall of platinum and gold albums that have sold in the millions, and reams of Top 10, 20 and 40 hits, “it just has to do with people coming together and sharing a moment, that´s it. And that’s all I ever wanted to do. I just love that moment in the small club and bar where every single person in there has a moment where it’s silent and they get it and it’s beautiful, that moment where the music that’s coming off the stage is much more than the players and much more than the audience and something happens and you’re sitting there and your hair stands up. That’s it, man. I love it.”