Singer-songwriter Edwin McCain will be at The Birchmere on Friday using his Southern charm to entertain the audience with his indie rock-tinged music.
“It’s singer-songwriter, but we cover a lot of genres within that,” McCain said. “I was influenced heavily by soul music and folk music.”
McCain began professionally playing music in the early ‘90s and broke out in 1998 with his top-40 hit song “I’ll Be” and followed it up the next year with “I Could Not Ask For More,” another hit. Since then he has kept the ball rolling releasing a total of 10 albums from the beginning of his career to his most recent 2011 release “Mercy Bound.”
Although McCain and his band have played many seated venues and performing arts centers, he said the Birchmere provides him and the audience with a unique experience. Because of how long the venue has been around and the audience it has cultivated over the years, he notices that the audience is very concentrated on what is happening on stage.
“The Birchmere itself has its own sort of protocol,” McCain said. “A lot of people play the Birchmere differently because it really affords you the ability to focus on dynamics in a way you wouldn’t normally. The tiniest sound can be heard. It’s quiet and everyone is so attentive.”
McCain is excited to play the Birchmere again because it is a unique venue.
“It really lets you explore songs in a way you wouldn’t normally,” he said. “You can delve into what was going on and what you were thinking when you wrote the song. It’s a walk through the processes of songwriting and a walk through performing. It lets you go a lot deeper.”
McCain will be performing with his band, but he also does a range of different types of shows — from ones with just him and a guitar all the way up to him singing with a full symphony.
“We play in every setting you can think of, weddings, funerals, really anything,” he said with a laugh.
While he explained that he does have a core group of songs that the audience always wants to hear, he usually just picks music from any of his 10 albums based on the atmosphere and what kind of mood he feels that the audience is in.
“I rarely make a plan,” McCain said. “I feel like these days what I’ve gotten fairly good at is gauging the audiences and figuring out where they want to go.”
Although he does not have any set timetable for releasing new music at this point, he is always writing and recording. McCain thinks the music industry is going through another one of its big shifts, similar to the shift from cassette tapes to CDs and then eventually from CDs over to digital releases.
“How do you release songs to the public? Do you go back with a CD?” McCain said. “It’s a head scratcher for me at this phase in my career, I haven’t decided how I’m going to get it out there.”
McCain said it’s nice having the freedom to be able to wait and see how the industry “is going to shake it out” before he decides what direction to go in next. For now, he said he and the band are in a “constant state of tour.”
“There’s parts of touring that are always going to be like ‘Groundhog Day,” McCain said, adding that he and the band like to joke that they’re seeing the world “one parking lot at a time.”
Although he said some aspects haven’t changed over the years, like the parking lots and waiting around to play, other things have gotten better. The band used to tour in a UHaul truck and sleep on floors, but they’ve upgraded since then and don’t tour as extensively as they did when they first started out.
McCain loves playing on stage with his band because he has been performing with them for so long and feels a connection with them.
“Even though we’ve played these songs over and over again they take us in a different direction sometimes,” McCain said. “It always surprises me after all these years that something new musically will happen and it just reinforces my decision to do this for a living.”