Art Edwards
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Art Edwards

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THE SONGS ARE BACK: Art Edwards found himself writing music again after publishing his first novel. His also has a second novel and a solo CD.

While there are plenty of novelists who’d love to be rock stars, you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find a rock star who wants to be a novelist.

But Art Edwards, bassist for Tempe’s now-defunct band The Refreshments, just released his first solo CD, “Songs From Memory,” which he’ll support at a show in Tempe this weekend, and his second novel, “Ghost Notes,” a sequel to 2003’s “Stuck Outside of Phoenix.”

“Being in The Refreshments was kind of an all-or-nothing deal, and I think that went for everybody in the band,” explains Edwards, whose exit from the band in 1998 prompted its breakup.

“I think I was wrestling with having the good fortune to have (The Refreshments) in my life, and at the same time having this need to fulfill these other creative outlets.”

Thomas Hardy’s novel “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” which Edwards read at 18 in an Illinois junior college class, spurred his interest in writing.

“It seemed at the time like rock ’n’ roll as I knew it had come to kind of an endgame — you can only buy so many Husker Du records, so many Rush records and so many Stevie Ray Vaughan records before there were no more to buy,” he says. “I sat down with (Hardy’s novel) on the first night (of class) and read 50 pages and I said, ‘This is the most fantastic thing ever. I want to do this someday.’ ”

After quitting The Refreshments, Edwards earned a master’s degree in writing from the University of San Francisco and began working on his first novel, getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to write before going to his day job.

After scrapping his first draft, Edwards released “Stuck Outside of Phoenix,” a rock ’n’ roll novel that any fan of the fertile Tempe music scene of the early ’90s will feel a kinship with.

But while Edwards was concentrating on writing novels, a funny thing happened: Songwriting came back into his life.

“I didn’t play music for five years while I was learning to write novels,” says Edwards. “Then I was watching a movie one night called ‘Charade,’ and in my head I said, ‘We’ll pass oranges with our necks just like “Charade”/and with our drinks we all make lemonade.’ 

“I said, ‘I gotta stop this movie right now,’ and I told my wife, ‘Just give me 10 minutes’ and all of a sudden I had this new song that I wasn’t even trying to write,” Edwards says. “As much as I love writing (novels) and as much as it’s me, there is no more magical moment than to be sitting there and 10 minutes later to have this song that came from nowhere.”

The culmination of Edwards’ newfound enthusiasm for songwriting is “Songs From Memory,” a lively 10-song CD of power-pop gems that will leave more than a few old Refreshments fans giddy. - Mesa Tribune, Arizona


Arthur Edwards, former bassist and founding member of the Refreshments, returns to the Valley this weekend to promote the release of his first novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix. Edwards will read excerpts and sign copies of his book Sunday at Changing Hands in Tempe.

Stuck Outside of Phoenix humorously chronicles the travails of 21-year-old Phoenix native Josh Hotle. Hotle, a rock and roll bass player in a lower tier local band, wants desperately to leave the Valley for the fertile musical pastures of the Pacific Northwest. Before he can make it out of town, he is asked to play what amounts to his dream gig at the best club in town, has his car stolen, and has a romantic interlude with his dream girl, a clerk from the local convenience store.

Although there are a few similarities between Hotle and Edwards, he insists that his book is not an autobiography. "I started the book as an escape during the waning years of the band," he said. "I didn't want there to be anything to do with music or my life at all. The protagonist was a paperboy, not a musician."

After discussing his first draft with one of his professors, Edwards decided that the story would benefit from there being some similarities between Hotle and Edwards. "I couldn't write about a 21-year-old who didn't love music and want to be in a rock band. That was me, that was who I was," he said. "That is where the book really took off. At that point I began pulling more and more from myself and from people that I've known.

"The beauty of fiction is that you have your experiences, the experiences of others and stuff that you've made up," Edwards said. "I found that the closer I came to writing about people and circumstances I was familiar with, the more it worked."

Edwards, 34, moved to the Valley to attend Arizona State University from his hometown of Moline, Ill., in 1990. While attending ASU, Edwards played in several local bands including the Solemines and the Hanson Brothers.

After earning his bachelor's degree in English in 1993, Edwards teamed up with drummer Dustin Denham, guitarist Brian Blush and singer/guitarist Roger Clyne to form the Refreshments.

The band's lighthearted tales of life on both sides of the Mexican border earned them an almost immediate following that grew with each performance. Within two years, the Refreshments were signed to Mercury Records where the group made two full-length recordings, Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy in 1996 and The Bottle and Fresh Horses in 1997. The band also wrote the theme to Fox TV's King of the Hill.

The Refreshments appeared twice on Conan O'Brien and had two videos that received regular play on MTV, and all appeared to be going well. Then in true VH-1 Behind the Music fashion, things began to unravel. Despite sales of its two releases totaling nearly 500,000, the band was released by Mercury. Substance abuse problems and outside interests complicated matters further.

The band was forced to replace Denham and was on the verge of firing Blush when Edwards decided to call it quits.

"I didn't like that someone had helped us build this thing and we were throwing him out," he said. "We had already done that once before and I never felt right about it."

Edwards said there were other contributing factors.

"The Refreshments was an all-or-nothing type of thing," Edwards said. "I had creative interests outside of the band that became more important as time went on. I couldn't stay in the band and yet distance myself from it enough.

"When I think of Rog, Brian and myself, I think of three very different people who had this narrow way of communicating, which was the Refreshments. Outside of the band our lives were very un-Refreshment-like and over time that crept its way in. It was easy to overlook early on because things were so exciting."

Edwards married fellow ASU English major Raquel Berry in July 1995. Six months after the breakup of the band, Edwards and his wife relocated to San Francisco where he earned his master's in creative writing from the University of San Francisco in 2002.

When asked to compare making music with writing, Edwards has a clear favorite.

"Writing suits me the most because of the solitude," he said. "Writing is also something you do every day. With music it's more about waiting for inspiration and when it comes you write it and you don't mess with it too much beyond that." Edwards said he hasn't played with a band since the Refreshments and that he rarely even picks up a guitar.

Stuck Outside of Phoenix should be particularly appealing to any who have had even a peripheral association with the local music scene over the past decade. Many of the bands, individual musicians and venues are based on real people and places.

Edwards also stays geographically correct when describing streets and landmarks. "At times it was like taking a drive through Tempe," said Sandra Quijas, 37, assistant manager of Long Wong's on Mill Avenue. "It's a fun story and I really liked the attention to detail."

For Lawrence Zubia, 39, lead singer of the Pistoleros, reading the book brought back good memories.

"He really captured what it was like when we were young and hungry and how badly we wanted to play the cool venues," Zubia said. "I really liked it because it's a local thing, but he also has a real nice delivery as a storyteller."

Over the telephone from one of his stops on his current promotional tour, Edwards sounded at ease with and in control of his new career.

"I am approaching it as independently as possible right now," he said. "I am using a print-on-demand company, which makes it possible to walk into any book store and order this book, and I spend every free moment promoting."

Edwards is nearly 100 pages into a sequel tentatively titled The Jitters due out in late 2004, and is hoping to expand his marketing capabilities.

"This first novel was all about reaching all the people that I can reach," he said. "This next one I'm going to need some kind of support, like a publicist, a conventional publishing company or an agent."

- Arizona Republic


Spraygraphic’s Chuck b. interviews Musician and Novelist Art Edwards about The Refreshments and his most recent book Ghost Notes.

Spraygraphic Interview with Art Edwards

SG: Where do you currently live and work?

AE: St. Charles, Chicagoland, IL.

SG: What mediums do you work with?

AE: I write novels, songs, and perform both solo and as the front man of a band.

SG: Describe your working process when creating a new work.

AE: It’s very different from novel to song. Songs come as they come. Sometimes I get the whole thing in about ten minutes. Other times I plunk away at it for months to get the right lyrics or arrangement. Nothing I do as a songwriter feels like work. I either get the lyric that day, or I wait until tomorrow.

Writing novels usually feels like work. I have a set time every day to sit down, and a set amount of pages to write or edit. I rarely come up short of my (modest) daily writing goal, which is generally two pages, and I rarely write more. Do that for a few years and in the end you’ll have something you might want to show someone else.

SG: What kind of things do you do when you get blocked or find it hard to create something?

AE: I never push a song. It comes when it wants to. I record and release everything myself, so the only pressure to finish something comes from me, and I’m a push-over.

I’m lucky because, after a decade or so of daily writing, the concept of writer’s block has yet to descend upon me. My theory of writing is essentially this: the only way you can fail is not to fill up two pages a day. I find it easy to come up with something to fulfill that goal, even if it’s bad and needs to be excised in the next draft. Often, writing the wrong thing is the first clue to finding the right thing. As a writer, you’ll find there’s very little difference in your actual work when you write from an inspired place and from a place when you’re struggling. To the outside reader, it’s almost the same. So, get your words down and worry about the rest later.

SG: Where are you currently finding your inspiration?

AE: John Austin’s new CD Satellite Boulevard. A DVD made in the 90s about Noam Chomsky. Fritz Lang and Dr. Mabuse.
I’ve made it to the last part of the new translation of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I waiting for the right time to start Finding Time Again. It might be tonight, or it might be October.

SG: Can you please tell us about your playing experience with The Refreshments?

AE: How much space do you have? How about this? There were moments onstage when, for a moment, I was convinced we were the best band in the world.

SG: What is your dream concert?

AE: I’m a huge Dead Hot Workshop fan. Bret Babb is Dylan via Judas Priest and The Facts of Life.

SG: What is your favorite kind of music?

AE: Any pop song without bad lyrics and no more than one “clever” line.

SG: Where is your favorite place to play out?

AE: I had a great time at the Walnut Room in Denver this past week. That’s my favorite place right now, but that might change at my next gig.

SG: Can you please tell us a little about your first solo CD, Songs from Memory?

AE: I’d always planned on having a theme song for my second novel, Ghost Notes. A song of mine, “Riverboat Captain,” had made its way into my novel as a song written by the protagonist, and I wanted a real life version to help promote the novel. A long-lost friend of mine from high school, Bret Hartley, contacted me, and I asked him if he’d play a little guitar on a clunky demo version of “Riverboat” I’d managed to record. Bret got intrigued by the project, hired a studio and session drummer Kevin Leahy, and a week later I had a full rock version of “Riverboat” sitting in my inbox.

Then it was my turn to get intrigued. I called Bret and said, “Do you want to do it nine more times?” We made it happen, and now we have Songs from Memory to show for it. I’m thrilled with the results.

SG: Can you please tell us a little about your newest book, Ghost Notes?

AE: It’s the book I’ve been trying to write for a decade. It’s mostly about a character named Hote, who’s a successful rock bass player, but who’s doubting whether that path is right for him. More broadly, the novel is about what I call the rock ‘n’ roll heart, and the conflicts therein. There are many characters struggling with the part of themselves that is free-wheeling, versus the part of them that ought to be getting on with life. Every other chapter is narrated by a different character, so we get to hear from many who struggle with this conflict, even Digs Ven, a suicide guitar player/songwriter who resides in Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven.

SG: How have you changed as a writer since your first book?

AE: My goal with the second novel was to take what I’d learned from the process the first time (writing a first novel is inherently about learning to write a novel) and expand upon it. I put a great deal of pressure on myself to raise the bar with my writing. I wanted Ghost Notes to be fuller and deeper, and to take on more difficult subjects, which I’d managed to avoid entirely in Stuck (the prequel of Ghost Notes). I think I did that.

SG: What is your favorite color?

AE: Orange crops up everywhere in my (limited) visual work.

SG: Who is your favorite artist? And Why?

AE: Probably James Joyce. I love how each book gets increasingly more difficult and esoteric. In a commercial sense, and as a person, Joyce is exactly the wrong model for any young writer. As an artist, he was as true and moral as one can be.

SG: What book/magazine are you reading this week?

AE: Hear, There and Everywhere by Geoff Emerick, engineer of all those famous Beatles records.

SG: What cd/mp3 are you listening to this week?

AE: The Pillows “Sweet Baggy Days”

SG: Where is your favorite place to hang out?

AE: Anywhere with my wife.

SG: Any final words of advice?

AE: The best advice I’ve ever heard for artists came from Blackie Lawless, the lead singer of WASP. It goes something like this:

This industry isn’t for people who what to do it. It’s for people who need to do it.

I think that applies across the board to anyone interested in a career in the arts and/or entertainment. If there’s anything else you can do, for God’s sake do it. If not, jump into the muck with the rest of us. - Spraygraphic.com


Discography

Songs from Memory (2008)
Ghost Notes (2008)
Stuck Outside of Phoenix Re-issue (2008)

Photos

Bio

A decade since the break-up of his seminal Arizona band, Art Edwards--co-founder, co-songwriter and bass player of the Refreshments, the band that recorded two albums for Mercury Records in the 1990s which sold combined in excess of 400,000 copies; wrote and recorded the top fifteen alternative radio hit Banditos (1996); and wrote and recorded the theme song for the Fox television series *King of the Hill*--emerges with his first ever solo CD, *Songs from Memory*, along with his second novel, *Ghost Notes*.

Edwards's musical collaboration with high school classmate Bret Hartley (Sugarland, Billy Pilgrim, Clay Cook) has resulted in *Songs from Memory*, which includes the single "Riverboat Captain" and nine other songs featuring Edwards's infectious pop melodies and Hartley's at times searing, at other times textured and elegant, guitar playing.

The first single from *Songs from Memory*, "Riverboat Captain," is also present in *Ghost Notes* as a song written by one of the characters, making *Ghost Notes* and *Songs from Memory* companion pieces.

Edwards toured extensively in 2008, participating in everything from readings to solo acoustic events to full band gigs in Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Chicago.