Behind the Music: Interview with Micah Edwards

‘It has always been my goal as an artist to write songs that transcend eras and generations.’

Following the release of his incredible debut studio album ‘Jean Leon’, I chatted to Mr Texas Soul himself, Micah Edwards, to discover what directs his sound, how he achieves the timeless quality within his tracks, and when he realised music was going to be in his life.

Hi Micah, please introduce yourself to your future listeners. 
Hello, hello! My name is Micah Edwards. I’m a Texas soul artist based out of Houston, TX, and I’m so excited to share my debut album with you.

Which 5 words best describe your sound?
Soulful, nostalgic, authentic, honest, relatable

What are your main musical/non-musical inspirations? 
I draw inspiration from so many different genres, but the main ones would have to be retro soul/R ‘n’ B and country, Americana. It’s so hard to narrow my influences down to a shortlist. There’s such a wide spectrum of sounds in those few genres alone that have influenced my sound greatly.

‘The delicate subject matter of this project meant it could only be entrusted with people I knew would respect it.’

So turning to your stunning debut album, what’s the story behind the title and what made now the right time to release it? ‘
Jean and Leon are my parents’ middle names. The track ‘Jean Leon’ on the record personifies my parents’ failed marriage into a woman, outlining the lies I came to believe through this dysfunctional relationship. I believed lies that I would be “Just like my father” or my marriage would suffer the same adulterous fate as I witnessed. But the truth I ultimately choose to believe? “I know the good Lord has far more for me, and I’m not gonna take the gravity that’s weighing you down.”

As I threw around the idea of finally working on a full-length project, I thought “If I’m going to pour so many resources into a big project, I want it to sound uniquely Micah.” I didn’t want to sound like another Leon Bridges or another John Mayer. So I had a heart-to-heart with myself and really explored what that “uniquely Micah” sound even is. So I’m daring to almost create a new sub-genre: Texas soul – retro soul embellished with pure country tones. Horn sections trading off solos with a steel guitar. Muted trumpet and fiddle on the same track. Acoustic rhythm guitar and rhodes on another.

I love how the release kicks off in such a full-throttle way with Water & Oil. What led to you choosing this as the opener? 
Man, I love this one too. It’s the perfect opening song for the record because I’m just pissed. It gives the listener a bird’s eye view of the situation and drops them right into the story. It’s really the only track on the album that doesn’t have any hope. I question: “Do I even have a shot at knowing what real love looks like? Or am I doomed to fail too?” I kinda get all the angst out of my system before the other tracks address the reality of hope.

There is an incredible blend of these moments and softer ones such as Girl From the Valley, She Will, and Time. How did your creative approach differ when writing in these contrasting styles?
I’m really trying to create something unique in this Texas soul sound. With every track, I was very intentional about incorporating a little ‘Texas’ and a little ‘soul’. So even though the full-throttle songs differed dynamically with the softer ones, the approaches were pretty similar with me keeping both the ‘Texas’ and the ‘soul’ front of mind. Trying to sprinkle in a little twang where there wasn’t any (ex. adding blues chords to the ending gospel hymn), and smoothing out otherwise Americana moments with a little soul (ex. adding muted horn to the outro of a train shuffle track).

Who else was involved in the creation of the release and why did you choose to work with them?
Boy, am I blessed for the talent on this record: Ty Robins, Theo Juarez, Joel Mathew, Jake Sebren, Ryan Stueckemann, Ellen Story, Russ Willis, Madeline Edwards, Jarvis Hooper, James Murphy, Jeremy Nuncio, Katie Beth Harry, Zach Montasser and Steve Christensen. Everything you hear is homegrown Houston talent. The rhythm section on this record dedicated nearly half a year of pre-production before we cut anything to tape.

We met up in Ty Robins’ garage-turned-studio and polished up my dusty Logic demos together. Ty Robins also co-produced and mixed the album. Lots of long nights and deep talks with Ty, that’s for sure. I chose this group of musicians not only for their talent and ability to execute my vision, but also because I consider most of my band as family at this point. The delicate subject matter of this project required some serious “handle with care”. A level of vulnerability that could only be entrusted with people I know would respect it.

What’s the most surprising thing about a Micah Edwards recording session? 
The snacks. The snacks are always gonna be on point. Forget cheese puffs and slim jims – I make sure my crew is energized and at their best. I pretty much raid Trader Joe’s of their best snacks and fruits and call it a day. Everyone’s happy.

And linked with this, there is such a timeless quality to the sound we hear. Was this always the plan and how was this achieved? 
Oh wow, I really appreciate that comment. You know, that has always been and always will be my goal. Timelessness. It’s probably the one thing I keep front of mind. I think of songs like My Girl by The Temptations, or At Last by Etta James, or Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. It has always been my goal as an artist to write songs like that – ones that transcend eras and generations.

‘With every track, I was very intentional about incorporating a little ‘Texas’ and a little ‘soul’.’

Thinking back, when did you first know that music would be such an important part of your life? 
I’ve always been such a student of music. Digging into artists’ discographies and nerding out over their stories. I’ve been writing songs for fun since I was in high school, and I even performed at some restaurants and private parties as side income in college. But it wasn’t until I was out of college that I realised how much I needed music. Baseball was my main passion for most of my life. I was a pitcher in college too. But once I hung up my cleats and said goodbye to that chapter, I realised I never stopped songwriting. In fact, it was songwriting that started to bring me the most joy. It was then that I realised I needed to pursue this recording artist thing before I regret it later.

What is the most memorable performance you’ve seen and has this impacted your own performance style in any way? 
I’m not sure if I’ll ever go to a more memorable performance than Khruangbin opening for Vulfpeck at Red Rocks. It was a clear, starry night but it just snowed all day. So everything around the stage was snowcapped, and the moon and stars were shining down on us all. It was heavenly. Other than that, every time I see Chris Stapleton live, he rocks me to my core.

Which artists and/or releases are you loving right now? 
Lately, I’ve been bumping some new releases from The Black Keys, Thee Sacred Souls, Paolo Nutini, and Watchhouse.

And finally, with us being over halfway through 2022, what are your plans for the rest of it? 
2022 has been an unforgettable year. Not only did my musical baby drop this year, but my actual human baby did too. My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world in May. So my plans, you ask? Get as much sleep as possible. And maybe squeeze in some live shows when I’m awake.

Thanks Micah Edwards for chatting with Listen to Discover

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