Earlier this year Kathleen Edwards released “Voyageur,” an intimate album born of her divorce and the emotionally charged months that followed. Still, it wasn’t until the Canada-born singer-songwriter started doing press for the record that she was truly able to comprehend the revealing nature of these new songs.
“When you start doing interviews and you’re answering questions about your ex-husband and your new boyfriend, it’s like, ‘Whoa, this is maybe not what I intended. Maybe I did put too much out there,’” said Edwards, 34, who performs at the Majestic Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 27. “But even now I don’t think I could have done it any other way. It’s genuine, and good art comes from true pain — and true joy, too.”
The raw-nerve “Voyageur” documents these emotional highs and lows in unsparing fashion, with Edwards offering unvarnished glimpses of one relationship coming to an end (“I don’t know you, not the way I thought I did,” she sings on the introspective “House Full of Empty Rooms”) and another gradually taking root (“Sidecar,” a comparatively sunny tune about finding another to accompany you on life’s journey).
With an assist from producer and then-boyfriend Justin Vernon of Wisconsin-based indie-rockers Bon Iver (the two have since parted ways), Edwards worked to distance herself from the roots-rock of earlier albums, incorporating a wider range of musical textures and sounds, including graceful piano, atmospheric electronic textures and gorgeous swaths of violin.
“With this record, for sure, I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to be the catalyst for change,” she said. “I really wanted to try things I had not yet. I’d hear (songs) back and go, ‘That’s not what I wanted. This isn’t different enough at all.’ This time I went back to the drawing board as many times as it took to get the songs exactly where I wanted them.”
Despite the heavy-hearted subject matter, much of “Voyageur” remains driven by an inherent sense that things will get better — “I don’t want to feel this way,” Edwards offers hopefully on the otherwise devastating “Pink Champagne.” So while a handful of songs might have been informed by the singer’s split from longtime collaborator Colin Cripps, the album is actually less about divorce than it is about learning how to pick up the pieces and continue to soldier onward.
“And that’s how I felt, too,” said Edwards. “There’s this wonderful, euphoric feeling in life when you have this fear of doing something and you finally confront that fear and realize it’s nowhere near as bad as you thought it would be.”
As proof, the singer said Cripps remains a close friend to this day, adding, “When the storm cleared there was still love.”
One thing that has been more of a challenge, however, has been living with the emotional toll these songs can levy as she performs them day in and out on the road.
“Sometimes it’s a struggle because you want to move forward and then you get up there every night and sing these songs,” she said. “My relationship to the record is still challenging. I still feel pretty vulnerable about a lot of the material, probably because I’m still trying to figure out my life, which is a never-ending process for everyone.
“Someone said to me last night, ‘People are paying to feel something by watching you feel it onstage.’ And it’s true. As flattered as I am people are moved by the work I do, sometimes it feels like I have to pay the brunt of that emotional cost.”
But even these once-heavy burdens have gradually eased with time, and Edwards said she feels “less like an open wound” now than at any point since the album’s January release.
“I’ve gone through a great few months where I feel a lot less raw about a lot of things,” she continued. “I’m happier than I’ve been for quite a few months, which really has been a nice way to play music.”